The Demon of Unrest

The Demon of Unrest Image

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Splendid and the Vile brings to life the pivotal five months between the election of Abraham Lincoln and the start of the Civil War—a simmering crisis that finally tore a deeply divided nation in two.

A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF THE YEAR: The New York Times, Time, Los Angeles Times, Men’s Health, New York Post, Lit Hub, Book Riot


On November 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln became the fluky victor in a tight race for president. The country was bitterly at odds; Southern extremists were moving ever closer to destroying the Union, with one state after another seceding and Lincoln powerless to stop them. Slavery fueled the conflict, but somehow the passions of North and South came to focus on a lonely federal fortress in Charleston Harbor: Fort Sumter.

Master storyteller Erik Larson offers a gripping account of the chaotic months between Lincoln’s election and the Confederacy’s shelling of Sumter—a period marked by tragic errors and miscommunications, enflamed egos and craven ambitions, personal tragedies and betrayals. Lincoln himself wrote that the trials of these five months were “so great that, could I have anticipated them, I would not have believed it possible to survive them.”

At the heart of this suspense-filled narrative are Major Robert Anderson, Sumter’s commander and a former slave owner sympathetic to the South but loyal to the Union; Edmund Ruffin, a vain and bloodthirsty radical who stirs secessionist ardor at every opportunity; and Mary Boykin Chesnut, wife of a prominent planter, conflicted over both marriage and slavery and seeing parallels between them. In the middle of it all is the overwhelmed Lincoln, battling with his duplicitous secretary of state, William Seward, as he tries desperately to avert a war that he fears is inevitable—one that will eventually kill 750,000 Americans.

Drawing on diaries, secret communiques, slave ledgers, and plantation records, Larson gives us a political horror story that captures the forces that led America to the brink—a dark reminder that we often don’t see a cataclysm coming until it’s too late.

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Readers' opinions about The Demon of Unrest by Erik Larson

The themes of resilience and hope resonated deeply with me. This book taught me valuable life lessons that I'll carry with me for years to come.

I loved the powerful messages hidden within the story. The book tackled important social issues and made me ponder the world we live in. It's a must-read for everyone.

This book has reignited my passion for reading. It reminded me of the sheer joy that can be found in losing oneself in the pages of a good story. I can't wait to explore more books now.

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