Carl Sandburg was an American poet, writer, and editor. He won three Pulitzer Prizes: two for his poetry and one for his popular multivolume biography Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years, 2 vols. (1926) and Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, 4 vols. (1939).
Sandburg’s Lincoln scholarship had an enormous impact on the popular view of Lincoln. Some historians suggest more Americans learned about Lincoln from Sandburg than from any other source. But Sandburg’s works on Lincoln also brought substantial criticism. William E. Barton, who had published a Lincoln biography in 1925, wrote that Sandburg’s book “is not history, is not even biography” because of its lack of original research and uncritical use of evidence, but Barton nevertheless thought it was “real literature and a delightful and important contribution to the ever-lengthening shelf of really good books about Lincoln.” Others criticized Sandburg’s failure to document sources and factual errors. Others complain The Prairie Years and The War Years contain too much material that is neither biography nor history and is instead “sentimental poeticizing” by Sandburg. He may have viewed his book as an American epic more than as a mere biography, a view mirrored by other reviewers as well.