Without rifles, infantry or cannons, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin brought into focus the turmoil of the Civil War and the leader who helped bring our fractured nation through it.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author and noted historian spent Thursday night at Northampton Community College discussing the legend of Abraham Lincoln, the subject of her most current work “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.”

Goodwin displayed a muscular intellect to a large audience as she expertly weaved stories of her love of history with the life of the president who is credited with saving the union in its darkest hour.

“I woke up every morning and went to bed every night with him on my mind,” said Goodwin with a grin of studying Lincoln for her book.

Goodwin is gifted with a flair for storytelling that is easily conveyed through a blistering vocabulary that left many in the audience captivated and transported to a bygone era more than 150 years ago.

Her message about Lincoln was complex, yet in essence rather simple.

“Lincoln’s greatness rested in the richness of character,” Goodwin said.

It was that character, Goodwin noted, which led Lincoln to become one of the greatest presidents in our nation’s history.

That character and humility allowed Lincoln to appoint some of his most bitter rivals, who publicly and privately lambasted him, to his cabinet when he became president in 1861. And that spurred Goodwin to explore the topic in this politically divisive era.

“He never let personal interests cloud his judgment of what was best for the country,” she noted.

Goodwin’s lecture was among several discussions in a series entitled, “The Meaning of Freedom: Civil War 1865 to Today” at the community college.

The programming was made possible by the largest challenge grant, $800,000, awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2008, according to the school.