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Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief Paperback – September 29, 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
"In his conception of military strategy," writes McPherson, "Lincoln was Clausewitzian. The Prussian theorist of war had written that 'the destruction of the enemy's military force is the leading principle of war,' and it "is principally effected only by means of the engagement' that is, by 'hard, tough fighting.'"
Lincoln was often frustrated by his generals' lethargy, especially by George McClellan, a pompous prima donna with a messianic complex who preened himself as being "The Young Napoleon." Strutting about like a bantam rooster, McClellan boasted that he, and he alone, was destined to save the Union. True, by means of seemingly endless formation drills, he whipped the Union army into a formidable fighting force, but then stubbornly refused to budge against the enemy. Whining and complaining, inaccurately, that the Confederate forces arrayed against him were at least twice the size of his Army of the Potomac, he postponed, time and again, an offensive campaign, to which cowardly inactivity Lincoln tartly retorted, "If you don't plan to use the army, may I borrow it for a while?"
Only in the last year of the war did Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, George Henry Thomas, and Philip Henry Sheridan grasp Lincoln's insight that the Union's concentration in time (simultaneous coordinated attacks) trumped the Confederate superiority in space (by using interior lines).Read more ›
McPherson had two basic choices in approach. He could have focused on the details of specific military decisions and relationships with generals and drawn broader conclusions therefrom. Or he could tell the narrative and fit it into his broader interpretations and analysis of the basic controversies fought over this subject. McPherson chooses the latter, but he short-changes the reader on the interpretation and analysis.
His best contribution is the notion that Lincoln grasped the advantage the Union had in "concentration in time" -- the ability to overwhelm the South by attacking on mulitple fronts at once. This trumped the South's advantage in "concentration is space." That is, Lee had the advantage of familiarity of terrain and interior lines of supply and communication. He seemed able to concentrate more men at focused points. In McPherson's estimation, Lincoln's generals (except for Grant) did not sufficiently appreciate this lesson and Lincoln was a better strategist than his generals.
McPherson is also effective in characterizing Lincoln as better grasping Clausewitz's principle that war was "politics by other means" and the need to appreciate war not as set piece battles but as a struggle to suppress the political movement in the South.Read more ›
I'd purchased "Tried by War" because of my long held admiration for Mr. McPherson writings - particularly his book,"Battlecry of Freedom", which is perhaps the finest one-volume history of the American civil war ever written - and to feed my continual hunger for orignal scholarship. Unfortunately,there is not a fact, story or theory in McPherson's latest work that has not been mentioned, rehashed or retold by any number of prominent Civil War historians, including Foote, Catton, Donald, Oates or even Kearns in her wonderful, "Team of Rivals".
Now having said that I will say "Tried by War" for a first time reader or someone who's just discovered the allure of American Civil War history is an excellent introduction to the subject.
This book is also about how Lincoln changed his attitude toward slavery during the war. When the war started Lincoln preserved slavery in the border states in order for them to remain in the Union.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book is a very good introduction into the military policy of Abraham Lincoln, during the Civil War. Read morePublished 19 days ago by B. Adducchio
Well written text that reminds us how close the Union came to a permanent division that would have reshaped the history of western civilization.Published 1 month ago by Bill Amick
I knew Lincoln haunted the telegraph office during the war, Now I know why. He was running the war!Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
There are a lot of names in this book. Once I get past Linclon, Grant, Lee, Sherman, and Gettysburg, the names are kind of a blur. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Steve Kusheloff
A must read if you enjoy historical fiction. Not a huge fan of history myself but I surprisingly loved every minute reading this war novel.Published 9 months ago by K. A. Murphy
I stumbled upon this book on a discount shelf at Barnes & Noble. I read the book and enjoyed it. I have listened via Audbile several times and absolutely love the book and its... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Dan D Anderson