The North Star: Canada and the Civil War Plots Against Lincoln

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The North Star examines the complicated and often forgotten position Canada held during the American Civil War. It follows the story of some ordinary Canadians and Americans who found themselves on different sides of the conflict. In this fascinating book, we learn about Emma Edmonds, a farming girl from New Brunswick who disguised herself as a man to serve as a nurse in the Union Army, as well as accomplished men like Alexander Augusta, the first Black Canadian doctor, whose parents had fled slavery in my home state of Alabama, and his student Anderson Abbot. Both men wanted to serve their communities and fought on the Union side in the cause against slavery, but they were not always immune to the racial prejudices of the time.

The author also exposes the deep connections between Canadian financiers and other members of the establishment who sympathized with and supported the Confederacy, a fact that was unknown to me. These fascinating details are presented as he follows the path of war and destruction across the country, showing us just how divided the nation was and the role Abraham Lincoln was forced to play in order to keep the Union together. He also details the role John Wilkes Booth played in Lincoln’s assassination and examines whether he was a lone actor or if he had a band of followers who had the backing of the leaders of the Confederacy. And, of course, he follows the intriguing story of Canadian Edward P. Doherty, a Union Army member tasked with tracking down John Wilkes Booth.

Overall, I found this a riveting and fascinating read that makes one think about how the Civil War affected the nation and its lingering role in the South’s development. All of which the author discusses toward the end of the book. And I loved the attention to detail throughout. One fact that stood out was that Jefferson Davis was greeted like a hero when he traveled to Canada in 1867 before Andrew Johnson issued an amnesty. And, I don’t ever remember learning that his family was already in relative safety in Canada as Union troops marched through the South, leaving a trail of destruction behind.

I appreciated part five of the book, where the author follows up on the lives and events that beset many of the figures mentioned in the book after the war. The North Star is a book I highly recommend to anyone interested in American and Canadian history. This one will remind readers why knowing and remembering our past is essential.

Reviewed By:

Author Julian Sher
Star Count /5
Format Hard
Page Count 480 pages
Publisher Knopf
Publish Date 25-Apr-2023
ISBN 9781039000292 Buy this Book
Issue April 2023
Category History