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Lincoln and McClellan: The Troubled Partnership between a President and His General Hardcover – May 11, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this enjoyable study of Civil War leadership, Waugh (Reelecting Lincoln) has less to say about the oft-analyzed Lincoln than about Gen. George McClellan, the war's great military failure. Hailed as the Union's savior when he took command of the Army of the Potomac in 1861, McClellan was a brilliant organizer and strategist with just one flaw: he was afraid to fight. Desperate for excuses to avoid battle, he habitually overestimated Confederate numbers by a factor of three, issued incessant demands for reinforcements—his army always heavily outnumbered the rebels—and once refused to march for weeks because the horses were tired. Though the author's accounts of McClellan's battles are sketchy, he convincingly paints McClellan as a paranoid narcissist who considered Lincoln a baboon. Waugh's Lincoln is a long-suffering sage (lacking better generals, he could only prod McClellan to action while shielding him from critics) whose barbs are more penetrating: surveying the Union army's vast encampment, Lincoln called it McClellan's body guard. The dynamic between Lincoln and the toweringly neurotic McClellan makes for a revealing case study of the importance of personality and character in war. 8 pages of b&w photos. (June)
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From Booklist

This is a useful but somewhat strange work about a pair of mismatched men who briefly controlled the fate of our nation during its greatest trial. Waugh, a journalist and historian, repeatedly refers to the partnership between President Lincoln and General George McClellan and then shows again and again that they were more antagonists than partners. Lincoln was born dirt poor, lacked formal education, and could be crude in manner and speech. McClellan was well born, well educated, and looked down upon those who were not, including Lincoln. But their mutual antagonism was mostly fueled by McClellan’s conduct of the war while general in chief. Lincoln initially met virtually all of McClellan’s demands for men and material, he did so expecting his general to move swiftly and effectively against Confederate forces in Virginia. Instead, McClellan, although showing superb organizational skills, constantly moved slowly or not at all, and wildly overestimated the number of Confederate troops opposing him. Civil War buffs will find little new here, but general readers who wish to learn more about the Civil War will find this work informative and easily digestible. --Jay Freeman

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; First Edition edition (May 11, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230613497
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230613492
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #99,190 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
LINCOLN AND McCLELLAN is more about George Brinton McClellan than it is about Lincoln. It is an account of how one of the brightest stars of the U.S. Army fizzled out. In July 1861, after the rout of the Union Army at the First Battle of Bull Run, Lincoln placed McClellan, then only 35 years old, in charge of the Union Army in the East. It was a position of enormous responsibility and it crystallized within McClellan what can fairly be characterized as a messiah complex. McClellan then did a nigh Herculean job of re-organizing and re-energizing the Union Army, transforming it into not only the largest Army on the planet but probably the best as well. But in the next 15 months that McClellan was in charge, the Army of the Potomac achieved no significant victories.

Its greatest moment during that time was Antietam (or Sharpsburg), where McClellan (with a good bit of luck and contrary to his basic instincts) managed to corner Lee, who had just invaded the North, with his forces divided and his back to the Potomac. After a day of ferocious battle, the most lethal day in American military history, the two armies paused to catch their breath and gather their wits. Then Lee and the Confederate Army turned, re-crossed the Potomac, and limped back to deep Virginia and safety. Many then and now believe that McClellan - by allowing Lee to slip away - also let slip away a splendid opportunity to end the Civil War in late 1862. The issue is still debated among Civil War buffs, but the only one whose opinion really mattered was Abraham Lincoln. Two weeks after the battle, he visited the Union Army, still spread out around Sharpsburg. Standing on a hill overlooking the vast encampment, Lincoln asked an old friend, "Do you know what this is?
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By James W. Durney VINE VOICE on May 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Doing a book on Lincoln and McClellan is akin to running naked through a minefield. On one side, is a beloved President universally acclaimed and highly respected. On the other side is a general that is less than a complete success with an ego problem that is highly disliked. Unless an author is willing to do "Lincoln is always right", something is going to go BOOM!
Subtitled "The Troubled Partnership between a President and His General", the author carefully traces that partnership from the dark days after First Bull Run to November 1864. While this is a pro Lincoln book, the author never demonizes McClellan. In common with many authors, he may not like him but respects the good work McClellan did. This produces a more balanced history that is closer to what happened.
Where McClellan is concerned, the glass is usually half-empty. However, Lincoln's fears for Washington and the impact they have on the Peninsula Campaign are covered. The section on the Maryland Campaign is well done and generally fair to both parties. What emerges is two men under intense pressures unable to understand or appreciate the other's position. While there are many items not considered. Overall, this is an excellent summary of their relationship.
John C. Waugh is an excellent writer producing an easy to read book that is both informative and enjoyable. The book is fully footnoted with a comprehensive list of sources. Fully prepared to dislike this book, I brought it home after seeing it in the store. This is not a detailed military and political in-depth study. It is a good examination of these areas, touching on all the major questions and many of the minor ones. It is either an introduction or an excellent review.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By rlweaverii on August 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

I thought so much of this title that I acquired it for my father-in-law, Edgar Willis, who is a Civil War buff, an historian, and a Lincoln "authority." I put that in quotation marks simply because he may not agree with my use of the word authority, here. He is -- and would agree with my assessment -- an authority (without quotation marks) on Shakespeare or the history of humor in the media or even how to construct a joke (see his How to be Funny on Purpose: Creating and Consuming Humor). He has read widely on Lincoln.

He thoroughly enjoyed this book and spoke highly of John C. Waugh's writing. He was unfamiliar with any previous works written by Waugh but would read any future books by him based simply on his enjoyment of this one.

Several things caught his attention in this book -- things he shared with me in discussions after he finished it. He thought the book was more about George McClellan than it was about Lincoln. And, he realized too, that anyone who has read extensively on Lincoln or on the Civil War would probably not learn anything new from this book. On the other hand, for anyone seeking an introduction to the Civil War, would find this great introductory material.

I found this last piece of information (the last sentence) fascinating for this reason. Willis's memoir of World War II, Civilian in an Ill-Fitting Uniform, although a memoir, serves as a wonderful introduction to World War II, and for those who want introductory information, Willis' book would be a great beginning.

Willis enjoyed the contrast between Lincoln and McClellan.
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