• Lincoln's Spies

  • Their Secret War to Save a Nation
  • By: Douglas Waller
  • Narrated by: Danny Campbell
  • Length: 18 hrs and 53 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (100 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

This major addition to the history of the Civil War is a “fast-paced, fact-rich account” (The Wall Street Journal) offering a detailed look at President Abraham Lincoln’s use of clandestine services and the secret battles waged by Union spies and agents to save the nation - filled with espionage, sabotage, and intrigue.

Veteran CIA correspondent Douglas Waller delivers a riveting account of the heroes and misfits who carried out a shadow war of espionage and covert operations behind the Confederate battlefields. Lincoln’s Spies follows four agents from the North - three men and one woman - who informed Lincoln’s generals on the enemy positions for crucial battles and busted up clandestine Rebel networks.

Famed detective Allan Pinkerton mounted a successful covert operation to slip Lincoln through Baltimore before his inauguration after he learns of an assassination attempt from his agents working undercover as Confederate soldiers. But he proved less than competent as General George McClellan’s spymaster, delivering faulty intelligence reports that overestimated Confederate strength.

George Sharpe, an erudite New York lawyer, succeeded Pinkerton as spymaster for the Union’s Army of the Potomac. Sharpe deployed secret agents throughout the South, planted misinformation with Robert E. Lee’s army, and outpaced anything the enemy could field.

Elizabeth Van Lew, a Virginia heiress who hated slavery and disapproved of secession, was one of Sharpe’s most successful agents. She ran a Union spy ring in Richmond out of her mansion with dozens of agents feeding her military and political secrets that she funneled to General Ulysses S. Grant as his army closed in on the Confederate capital. Van Lew became one of the unsung heroes of history.

Lafayette Baker was a handsome Union officer with a controversial past, whose agents clashed with Pinkerton’s operatives. He assembled a retinue of disreputable spies, thieves, and prostitutes to root out traitors in Washington, DC. But he failed at his most important mission: uncovering the threat to Lincoln from John Wilkes Booth and his gang.

Behind these operatives was Abraham Lincoln, one of our greatest presidents, who was an avid consumer of intelligence and a ruthless aficionado of clandestine warfare, willing to take whatever chances necessary to win the war. Lincoln’s Spies is a “meticulous chronicle of all facets of Lincoln’s war effort” (Kirkus Reviews) and an excellent choice for those wanting “a cracking good tale” (Publishers Weekly) of espionage in the Civil War. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2019 Douglas Waller (P)2019 Simon & Schuster
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about Lincoln's Spies

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  • Overall
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Review of Lincoln’s Spies

Was amazed at how many place names the narrater mispronounced. His only job was to read and get pronunciations correct and he failed to do that.

9 people found this helpful

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It felt like fiction

This book was hard to put down. It’s so interesting to learn everything that these spy master did to help win the war. The direct quote from diaries and letter make it that much more real. For any one who loves to read/learn about the Civil War this is a must have.

8 people found this helpful

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Intriguing History!

Fascinating story of spies during the American Civil War. The reader's voice is flinty, but good.

1 person found this helpful

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Not riveting

This book is obviously well-researched, and the author took pains to give each main character (and lots of other players) a solid backstory that often included ancestral stories. The exploits of each main character were presented in as much detail as is likely available. Fine. But, the book is more a group of disconnected biographies than it is the story of Union spycraft. Events are not put in perspective relative to what else was happening at that time. The information provided by the “spies” is never followed up by the story of decisions made or outcomes changed based on that information. Listener is never sure what year it is when reader says (for example) “in July, …..” and then later “by late summer….” Etc. In short, there is no cohesion, no storyline. I could never fit these narratives into my framework of understanding of the war. So, I quickly lost interest, even though I am a Civil War buff, and did not finish the book.

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Lincoln's Spies is a great book

As a history buff of both the Civil and Revolutionary War periods, I have read MANY books and studied much of the period. I was, however, not aware of many of the events that are covered in this book. The detailed research, the development of the character of the various people and personalities involved in the clandestine work by the union (and some from the Confederacy) was woven with great skill. Not only did I feel like I better understood the motivations of the people involved, but the author also skillfully inserted the "why"s and the potential alternate motivations, when the precise ones are not known.

Mr. Waller also included many little known details of the events that we've all learned about. And he provides the sources of where his information was gleaned.

Overall, a FANTASTIC and revealing telling of a story that has as much responsibility for the outcome of the Civil War as any of the fighting men and war strategists. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!

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History from a different perspective.

I found the story helpful in understanding the change in warfare and the reasons that the decision to fight was often so difficult during the war.

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Evan's Review

Good book. One of the most interesting facts i learned was I always thought Allen Pinkerton was the head of of Lincoln man in charge of this operation he wasn't. I recommend the to see how different players were jnvolved.

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Good history, tolerable narration

This is a good work of history that highlights how the decisions of Civil War politicians and generals were affected by espionage and information gathering. It also shows how the Union and Confederacy were essentially starting from scratch when it came to espionage management and trade-craft. There were a LOT of shocking missteps!

I bought this book on sale and was dubious about whether it would make a mess of attempting a multi-thread story with many "characters" AND if it would end up trying to stretch its material too far. Thankfully, this book did not suffer from either of those problems!

I enjoyed learning about these different figures and appreciated the places where their stories overlapped or intertwined. Heck, I found myself looking for some other works on these figures like Elizabeth Van Lew so that I could learn more about them!

The narration is tolerable. It's not great but neither did it put me off the book. Campbell's narration felt very slow and dragging, so I ended up speeding it up to make it more tolerable on my ears.

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Very interesting and informative

Excellent book on the Civil War, but difficult to follow. I would have needed to take notes.

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this should be required reading.

It shows the birth of a United States, abolishment of slavery, and the great minds behind the birth of modern Military Intelligence! Background and Information presented in a brilliant way!