Originally Featured on St Augustine Register.com 02/06/2016
The story of Martin Davis Hardin provides more than a combat record — in fact, it comprises a tour through 1800s America, with its most costly war only the centerpiece.
Abraham Lincoln was a close friend and political ally of Hardin’s father, who died a hero in the Mexican War. The family were also relatives of Mary Todd.
Made brigadier general at age 27, Hardin fought with distinction at Malvern Hill, Second Bull Run, Gettysburg, Grant’s Overland Campaign and the Jubal Early’s 1864 raid on Washington. He was wounded four times, nearly died on two occasions and lost an arm during the war. Hardin himself took part in the hunt for John Wilkes Booth after Lincoln’s assassination.
In “Lincoln’s Bold Lion,” Huffstodt walks the reader through Hardin’s life as it reveals the progress of a century. After the war, Hardin survived the Chicago Fire and the Gilded Age, with all its newfound fascinations.
Like many wealthy Northerners in the late 1800s, St. Augustine became the Hardins’ winter refuge. Martin and his wife, Estelle, stayed in hotels in the beginning, but eventually leased a winter “cottage” at 22 St. Francis St., known today as the Tovar House.
Anyone who is interested in the Civil War will surely want to read “Lincoln’s Bold Lion,” but locals will also enjoy the riveting tale that connected a decorated Civil War general to Henry Flagler’s elite Southern tourist haven.
Q&A with author
What inspired you to write the book?
I love biography. I love telling stories about people. I love giving history a human face. When I learned about Gen. Hardin’s fascinating life many years ago, I was stunned to learn that he had been almost completely forgotten. From that point on, I resolved to write his biography.
What type of research was involved?
Hunting down Gen. Hardin’s story led me to research his personal letters, photos, journals, photos, official Army reports and contemporary newspaper articles preserved at The National Archives in Washington, the St. Augustine Historical Society Research Library, the Saratoga Springs Walworth (Memorial) Museum, and the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois. The research took the better part of six years.
Describe your writing process.
Research until you know the subject like a family member. Then put words on paper. Rewrite. Cut. Add. Prune. Rewrite again. Like someone once said: It’s 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. You keep rewriting until you get it right, not before.
What do you hope readers get out of the book?
My hope is that my readers meet and get to know this long-forgotten American hero who lived a remarkable life during a crucial span off American history. Despite the cynics, I believe strongly that America needs heroes; perhaps we need them more now than ever before. Gen. Hardin is such a hero: a soldier, a Christian and a gentleman.
Who is your favorite author?
As a lifelong reader, my list of favorite authors would probably top 100. But, if forced, my favorite historians would include David McCullough, Hampton Sides, T.J. Stiles, Eric Larson, Diane Preston, Iris Chang, Barbara Tuchman, Lloyd Lewis, Francis Parkman, William Manchester and Bruce Catton.
LINCOLN’S BOLD LION IS AVAILABLE AT WWW.CASEMATEPUBLISHERS.COM and everywhere fine books are sold.