By Karen Schultz Anderson
Last Thursday evening, August 8th, author-historian Dr. Amy Greenberg spoke before a packed house of about 150 people in the Chapel of El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park. Greenberg spoke about her recent publication, A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico. The lecture was co-sponsored by SBTHP and UCSB History Associates.
Greenberg, a graduate of Santa Barbara High School, followed by U.C. Berkeley and then Harvard, is currently a professor at Penn State University. As SBTHP Executive Director Jarrell Jackman told the audience, Greenberg’s brother is his son-in-law’s best friend. Jackman recently saw Greenberg on C-SPAN Book TV discussing A Wicked War and thought “I have met this person!” He invited her to speak at the Chapel on her next visit to Santa Barbara, and she graciously agreed.
Greenberg spoke about the viewpoint of the few previous books on the Mexican American War, the general lack of awareness of the significance of the war and its scant of coverage in school curricula, and her desire to tell the story with a more balanced point of view. The title of her book is a quote from Ulysses S. Grant, who charged that the war between the U.S. and Mexico was “a wicked war.” In her talk, Greenberg summarized the major themes of her project, including a description of the powerful anti-war movement among both average citizens and political leaders, which she credits for ending the war more swiftly than it would have been otherwise. Her many colorful and persuasive anecdotes about the war and opposition to it entertained and intrigued the audience, and hands leapt up with up questions during the Q&A following her talk.
When the audience adjourned outside for a reception, Greenberg chatted with attendees and signed copies of her book. SBTHP sold out of the book that night, and staff was pleased to overhear many comments about how much audience members enjoyed listening to her speak about this “wicked” war and its cast of characters.
Karen Schultz Anderson is the director of education at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.