For one brief period in history, from 1861 to 1865, there were two American presidents, one in the North and one in the South. Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis led their nations through a bitter civil war which changed the course of American history. Both were brilliant. Both were patriots. Both were convinced they were right. Yet Abraham Lincoln is remembered as a beloved leader who preserved the Union and ended slavery, and Jefferson Davis is remembered merely as the head of a failed rebellion.In this, the first dual biography of the two leaders, Bruce Chadwick argues that one of several reasons why the North won and the South lost can be found in the drastically different characters of the two presidents. The electric and flexible personality of Lincoln enabled him to build coalitions among warring political factions and become one of the strongest and most successful presidents in U.S. history. The inability of the uncompromising Davis to do the same contributed to the South losing the war. There were other sharp differences between the two men
— Davis was incredibly wealthy; Lincoln was born in poverty
— Davis was very well educated; Lincoln had less than a year of schooling in a log cabin
— Davis was an acclaimed war hero; Lincoln was a militia captain who never saw battle Ironically, there were also striking similarities
— Each was born in a log cabin
— Each man's first love died ... within a month of each other
— Each lost a young son during his presidency. Three of Lincoln's four children died before the age of nineteen; all three of Davis's sons died before the age of twenty-two
— Both men were married to strong, aggressive women who weresnubbed and scorned by society women throughout the war.

This is the first comprehensive, heavily researched study to compare the two leaders, and to reach firm conclusions about the war that transformed the United States from a slave empire into a model of democracy for the world.