speaks about his latest book
“Congress at War”
Tuesday, July 14, 2020
6:00 pm ET: Social Zoom
6:30 pm ET: Presentation

Meeting URL:

Meeting ID: 886 942 2793
(a password will be sent to via a separate email)

About the Topic:

Fergus Bordewich’s latest book is Congress at War: How Republican Reformers Fought The Civil War, Defied Lincoln, Ended Slavery, And Remade America (Alfred A. Knopf, 2020). It tells the story of how Congress helped win the Civil War–a new perspective that puts the House and Senate, rather than Lincoln, at the center of the conflict. His research overturns the popular conception that Abraham Lincoln single-handedly led the Union to victory and, thuss, gives us a vivid account of the essential role Congress played in winning the war.

Congress at War builds a narrative around four influential members of Congress – Thaddeus Stevens, Pitt Fessenden, Ben Wade, and the pro-slavery Clement Vallandigham – to show how a newly empowered Republican party shaped one of the most dynamic and consequential periods in American history. From reinventing the nation’s financial system to pushing President Lincoln to emancipate the slaves to the planning for Reconstruction, Congress undertook drastic measures to defeat the Confederacy and, in the process, laid the foundation for a strong central government that came fully into being in the twentieth century.

Brimming with drama and outsized characters, Congress at War is also one of the most original books about the Civil War to appear in years and will change the way we understand the conflict.

Our Past President and Book Reviewer extraordinaire has a piece about his new book, posted at

About the Speaker:

Fergus M. Bordewich is the author of seven non-fiction books aside from Congress at War, including
America’s Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise that Preserved the Union; Washington:
The Making of the American Capital; Bound for Canaan: The Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America; and
Killing the White Man’s Indian: Reinventing Native Americans at the End of the Twentieth Century.
Mr. Bordewich is a frequent book reviewer for the Wall Street Journal and other popular and scholarly periodicals, mostly on subjects in 18th and 19th century American history. He has published an illustrated children’s book, Peach Blossom Spring (Simon & Schuster, 1994), and wrote the script for a PBS documentary about Thomas Jefferson, Mr. Jefferson’s University. He also edited an illustrated book of eyewitness accounts of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre, Children of the Dragon (Macmillan, 1990).

Mr. Bordewich has been an independent historian and writer since the early 1970s. In 2015, he served as chairman of the awards committee for the Frederick Douglass Book Prize, given by the Gilder-Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, at Yale University. He is a frequent public speaker at universities and other forums, as well as on radio and television. His articles have appeared in many magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Smithsonian, American Heritage, Atlantic, Harper’s, New York Magazine, GEO, Reader’s Digest, and others.

As a journalist, Mr. Bordewich traveled extensively in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa, writing on politics, economic issues, culture, and history, on subjects ranging from the civil war in Burma, religious repression in China, Islamic fundamentalism, German reunification, the Irish economy, Kenya’s population crisis, among many others. He also served for brief periods as an editor and writer for the Tehran Journal in Iran, in 1972-1973, a press officer for the United Nations, in 1980-1982, and an advisor to the New China News Agency in Beijing, in 1982-1983, when that agency was embarking on its effort to switch from a propaganda model to a western-style journalistic one.

Mr. Bordewich was born in New York City in 1947, and grew up in Yonkers, New York. While growing up, he often traveled to Indian reservations around the United States with his mother, LaVerne Madigan Bordewich, the executive director of the Association on American Indian Affairs, then the only independent advocacy organization for Native Americans. This early experience helped to shape his lifelong preoccupation with American history, the settlement of the continent, and issues of race, and political power.

In the late 1960s, Mr. Bordewich conducted voter registration for the NAACP in the still-segregated South; he also worked as a roustabout in Alaska’s Arctic oil fields, a taxi driver in New York City, and a deckhand on a Norwegian freighter.

Mr. Bordewich holds degrees from the City College of New York and Columbia University. He now lives in San Francisco, CA with his wife, Jean Parvin Bordewich.

For additional information about Mr. Bordewich and his books, visit: