Tried by war : Abraham Lincoln as commander in chief /

Evaluates Lincoln's talents as a commander in chief in spite of limited military experience, tracing the ways in which he worked with, or against, his senior commanders to defeat the Confederacy and reshape the presidential role.

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Main Author: McPherson, James M.
Format: Book
Language:English
Published: New York : Penguin Press, 2008.
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Review by Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Recalling one of the classic works on Honest Abe, T. Harry Williams' Lincoln and His Generals (1952), McPherson's fluid narrative renders balanced judgments of Lincoln's performance as a war president. As with the law, Lincoln was a self-taught strategist whose political acumen, McPherson illustrates in instance after instance, was vital to his conduct of the Union cause. Lincoln's political skills factored into several levels at which a commander in chief functions, specified as the setting of policy, national strategy, military strategy, military operations, and, occasionally, military tactics. Though it has assumed the look of lore in Civil War literature, Lincoln's dealings with generals become exceptionally vibrant in McPherson's prose, rewarding even buffs who've seen it all about McClellan or Grant. Suggesting Lincoln stuck too long with McClellan, McPherson shows how unsatisfactory alternatives, as well as the Young Napoléon's political strength, compelled Lincoln to go once more to the well with McClellan. Equally effectively, McPherson depicts the North's shifting political moods toward the war's cost and length and toward emancipation as crucial to the environment in which Lincoln made his decisions. No surprise coming from the immensely popular McPherson, this is first-rate reading for the Civil War audience.--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2008 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Starred Review. Given the importance of Lincoln's role as commander-in-chief to the nation's very survival, says McPherson, this role has been underexamined. McPherson (Battle Cry of Freedom), the doyen of Civil War historians, offers firm evidence of Lincoln's military effectiveness in this typically well-reasoned, well-presented analysis. Lincoln exercised the right to take any necessary measures to preserve the union and majority rule, including violating longstanding civil liberties (though McPherson considers the infringements milder than those adopted by later presidents). As McPherson shows, Lincoln understood the synergy of political and military decision-making; the Emancipation Proclamation, for instance, harmonized the principles of union and freedom with a strategy of attacking the crucial Confederate resource of slave labor. Lincoln's commitment to linking policy and strategy made him the most hands-on American commander-in-chief; he oversaw strategy and offered operational advice, much of it shrewd and perceptive. Lincoln may have been an amateur of war, but McPherson successfully establishes him as America's greatest war leader. (Oct. 7) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved All rights reserved.

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Review by Library Journal Review

McPherson proves that Lincoln succeeded in rallying and sustaining support for the Civil War and emancipation because he understood that military action serves national interest and recognizes political needs, that personal interest gives way to public service, and that leadership demands imagination, honesty, and courage. (LJ 9/1/08) (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A leading Civil War authority assesses Lincoln's performance as head of the Union armed forces. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian McPherson (This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War, 2007, etc.) notes that Lincoln studies have examined nearly every aspect of his administration except his constitutional role as commander in chief of the armies opposing secession. The author proceeds chronologically, beginning with Lincoln's election, at which point the secession of several Southern states immediately confronted him with the decision of whether to let them go or take action to restore the Union. His first instinct was to calm passions; several speeches given before his inauguration show him reassuring his listeners that he has no intention of abolishing slavery, and that he will use force against the South only if the seceding states give him no other option. The scenario at Fort Sumter demonstrated the necessity of force, and subsequent events--especially the attack on Union troops passing through Baltimore--presented him with several other difficult choices. Finding a way to keep border states loyal was a key decision. So was finding a commander for the Union forces. Winfield Scott, the senior U.S. general, was opposed to an invasion of the South, as were several cabinet officers. Lincoln's first choice, George McClellan, proved insufficiently active and suspicious of the president's intentions. McPherson follows the course of the war, quoting from original documents, including private letters and diaries, to show the evolving strategy that led to the ultimate Union victory. The decision to abolish slavery was fundamentally strategic and political--as much as humanitarian--in its intentions. Lincoln's determination to restore the Union became stronger as the war progressed, and Southern attempts to buy peace at some lesser price were rebuffed. McPherson's portrait of the commander in chief is brilliantly detailed, full of humanizing touches, and it provides fresh insight into his unparalleled achievement. Fluid and convincingly argued--one of the best Lincoln studies in recent years. For more information about Lincoln's relations with the Navy, see Craig L. Symonds's forthcoming Lincoln and His Admirals (2008). Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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