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Abstract

Over a million and a half tourists visit Gettysburg every year, finding the quintessence of American history in the borough and surrounding battlefields. Had the great battle been fought elsewhere, it is likely that Gettysburg's legacy in American history would instead be the town where Thaddeus Stevens spent the formative years of his legal practice and political career. As the subtitle to Dr. Bradley R. Roch's new book, Thaddeus Stevens in Gettysburg: The Making of an Abolitionist, makes abundantly clear, it is also the town where the man often put forward as the most radical of Radical Republicans formulated his views on slavery and race relations. For this alone Dr. Roch's work is an important contribution for those looking for an understanding of the Civil War era. But the first fifty years of Stevens' life - the period covered in depth in this book - presents a microcosm of the time, including a rough and tumble litigious society, splinter political factions, challenges to duels, and the last remnants of frontier-style violence. For this, Dr. Roch's book is worthy of a larger audience. [excerpt]

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