From Publishers Weekly
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)
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Reviewers indicated that they would have embraced any new book by James McPherson on any aspect of the Civil War period. But current events likely compelled them to recommend this highly readable, informative book with special enthusiasm. The nature of the president's war powers, particularly the precedent set by Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus, has been a central question of the Bush presidency. And as the highest office in the land is passed to Barack Obama, who is both a great admirer of Lincoln and who will become the only other president to hail from Illinois, McPherson's analysis should be particularly timely. Critics agreed we could have no better guide; as Timothy Rutten wrote in the Los Angeles Times
, McPherson is "one of those scholars whose ingrained integrity simply precludes him from stacking the historical deck."
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