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Union General John A. McClernand and the Politics of Command [Paperback]

Christopher C. Meyers

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Book Description

October 13, 2010 0786459603 978-0786459605 0
John A. McClernand was a career politician, and those ambitions and qualities continued during his Civil War service. A member of the Illinois General Assembly and a U.S. Representative for 10 years, McClernard was connected to other prominent figures of the time such as Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. However, he is best known for his rivalry with Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, and this biography balances McClernard's political career with his military leadership and his place in the Union command structure.

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General John McClernand invites historians’ vitriol. T. Harry Williams called him “a stupendous egotist,” and that’s one of the milder epithets. Meyers, however, considers him one of the better political generals Lincoln commissioned. Acquainted with him from years in Illinois politics, Lincoln knew what he was getting: a popular orator, recruiter, and pro-Union Democrat. After dispensing with the two pols’ antebellum connections, Meyers recounts McClernand’s military rise and fall due to politicking and public proclaiming. An early omen might have come at the 1861 Battle of Belmont. An elated McClernand gave a premature victory speech to his men; then counterattacking Confederates forced them to fight for their lives. A recurring problem Meyers acknowledges was McClernand’s habitual submission of reports and self-advertisements to Lincoln, circumventing military protocol and annoying professional soldiers like Ulysses Grant. Nevertheless, Meyers maintains McClernand was a relatively effective combat leader through the 1863 Vicksburg campaign, when a characteristically self-congratulatory proclamation gave Grant an excuse to relieve him. A conditional rehabilitation of a controversial figure, Meyers’ study supplies buffs with well-grounded debating points. --Gilbert Taylor

About the Author

Christopher C. Meyers is professor of American history at Valdosta State University. He has contributed articles to The Georgia Historical Quarterly, The Journal of Southwest Georgia History, and Columbiad.

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