While conducting research for his many books, Charles Bracelen Flood has labored in some of the world’s greatest depositories of knowledge: the Widener Library at Harvard, his alma mater; The New York Public Library, where he worked for three years; Sophia University in Tokyo; the Library of Congress; the Quebec Archives; and the Vatican Archives, among others.
But his favorite haunt is as close to his home as it is to his heart: Eastern Kentucky University’s Crabbe Library, where the Richmond author has performed most of his research the past 34 years, including the work leading up to his latest celebrated book, “1864: Lincoln at the Gates of History,” published by Simon & Schuster and now available in area and online bookstores.
“All the paperwork research, so to speak, about (the Lincoln book) was done in the EKU library,” Flood said. “The only other kind of research was in the form of field trips to see places associated with Lincoln, such as Springfield, Illinois.
“In relation to its mission, the EKU Library is the best library in which I’ve ever worked,” Flood continued. “It is a particularly user-friendly facility with an excellent, helpful staff, easily accessible collection, Internet work stations, the best lighting I’ve ever seen in any library … comfortable, attractive surroundings, and even a Java City café in which I and others of all ages can relax … and, in my case, have an excellent café latte.”
“Lincoln at the Gates of History,” which chronicles the Kentucky-born icon’s role in one of the most pivotal years in American history, has earned rave reviews from numerous sources.
Writing in The New York Times, Janet Maslin said Flood “brings a ready assurance to describing the major external events of 1864. He writes knowledgeably yet intimately, and with a vigorous sense of what it must have been like to experience such serial crises each day. (The author) compresses the multiple demands upon Lincoln into a tight time frame and thus captures a dizzying, visceral sense of why this single year took such a heavy toll.”
Fellow Kentuckian and Civil War author Kent Masterson Brown said Flood’s work makes Lincoln “walk off the pages as in no other book. This is writing at its absolute best about a subject that is as gripping and absorbing as any in the annals of American history.”
Author Thomas Fleming called “1864” the “best book about Lincoln that I have read in a long time. Even though we know how it will end, (Flood’s) masterful narrative often leaves you breathless.”
Flood emphasized two qualities about Lincoln sometimes overlooked – his ability to connect with people, and a vision that extended well beyond the war at hand.
“The word got out there that a real person lived in the White House, a man who could laugh or cry with you, whoever you were, and do all he could for you,” Flood said. “He stiffened the spine of the people of the Union, in the Union’s most critical and uncertain hour.”
Despite a war that threatened to rip the young nation asunder, Lincoln “never lost sight of his vision for the future. In the middle of the bloodiest American war to date, he still got through legislation that pushed the railroads and telegraph lines deep into the West. His other landmark legislation led to the creation of our public state university systems, gave free land to farmers willing to work the land, and brought hundreds of thousands of immigrants here to help settle the west.
“I see him as this homespun genius,” Flood said, “sent to save the United States in its convulsive hour.”
In his Acknowledgements, Flood names more than 30 past and current EKU library employees who have assisted in his research, citing in particular Carol Tudor Thomas, who works in Government Documents. “On her own time, Carol has acted as my assistant throughout every step of the development of this book, taking home work on hundreds of nights.”
Whenever the resources of the 700,000-volume Crabbe Library are exhausted, Flood often turns to the “excellent” Interlibrary Loan service, managed by Pat New.
“I am (in the Library) so much of the time that I regard the staff as my friends,” Flood wrote in his Acknowledgements, “and (I) express my thanks to all of them for their efficient service and constant encouragement and support.”
Flood said it was out of gratitude to the Library that he accepted a leading role in Friends of the EKU Libraries, serving as president of the organization 2006-08.
“He actually was the leader who spearheaded the revitalization of the group,” Carrie Cooper, dean of libraries, said. “We began with a handful of supporters from years past and now have nearly 200 Library supporters and members of our Friends group thanks to his leadership.”
Cooper noted that “Bracelen is in many ways a pseudo-staff member. He is in our library many days as soon as the doors open and typically doesn’t leave until late into the evening. He eats lunch with our staff, celebrates the achievements of our staff both personally and professionally, and has made many dear friends within our organization.”