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Lincoln and His Generals (Vintage Civil War Library) Paperback – January 11, 2011
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“Authoritative. . . . A seminal work. . . . Williams’s assessment of Lincoln’s military prowess has never been seriously challenged.”
—The Washington Post
“Fascinating. . . . A full-bodied, swift-paced narrative. . . . The reader will gain as clear and shrewd an overall comprehension of the Northern effort from this volume as from any other in print.”
—Allan Nevins, Saturday Review
“Convincing. . . . As a story-teller [Williams] displays a craftsmanship that holds the reader in suspense even when he knows exactly how the incident ends.”
—The New York Times
“An admirably planned and executed work which well fulfills the author’s expressed hope that it will contribute both to the history and to the understanding of the American system.”
—American Historical Review
From the Publisher
Top Customer Reviews
William's views Lincoln as a genius - a man, who came into office with no military knowledge, yet had the flexibility of mind to adapt and learn from his mistakes to guide his country to victory through its greatest wartime crisis. He states that, "Lincoln, by the power of his mind, became a fine strategist...a better natural strategist than were most of the trained soldiers." He claims that Lincoln grasped the war's big picture from the very beginning, and even claims that Grant's final end-game strategy from 1864 on was fundamentally Lincoln's plan, though the details and execution were Grant's. I believe that he overreaches with some of these claims, yet he still makes a great case for Lincoln's genius, and his role as the indispensable man behind Union victory.
Williams also writes of the generals who were Lincoln's tools for winning the war.Read more ›
If you've seen pictures of Lincoln when elected in 1861 and compared them to pictures from 1865 and wondered why he looked so worn, here's the answer: he had generals (and oh what generals they were!).
The fault I find is that it gives too much emphasis to Mclellan and most of the remaining attention to Grant. While these were the major Generals in Chief, I would have liked to have seen more on the other generals who served under them.
Williams argues most eloquently the thesis that Lincoln was a brilliant military strategist. His generals did not understand this, wedded as they were to older Napoleonic battlefield tactics that were outmoded with the weaponry available during the Civil War. The drama in this book, and it is considerable, revolves around the controversies between Lincoln and the Union Army's leadership. The central foil for Lincoln's brilliance was Gen. William B. McClellan, the first commander of the Army of the Potomac and overall a superb general, at least as measured against the standards of Napoleonic warfare. He brought together an army, trained it well, organized its logistics, and failed to use it effectively during his time in command. Lincoln was not pleased at his reticence to fight, complaining that "He has got the slows" in his willingness to take the field.
Conversely, Williams describes the effectiveness of Gen. U.S.Read more ›
The book also does an excellent job of detailing Lincoln's involvement in strategic policy for the Union armies. Surprisingly for a man who'd never held a high military rank, Lincoln displayed an incredible grasp of strategy and frequently understood things generals such as Meade did not. Williams also expands into how upon the appointment of Grant to general in chief, the Union high command evolved into a modern military command, the first of its kind in the world, even more advanced than anything seen in Europe until Moltke the Elder, with the Union army high command consisiting of Commander in Cheif, General in Chief, and a new office designed for Halleck and to keep Grant from having to be in Washington, Chief of Staff. Williams also makes clear the different military culture of the 19th century, in stark contrast to most instances today, a general who disagreed with Lincoln or thought his plan to have dissatisfied the president or simply disliked somone they were told to collaborate with in a battle, instead of trying to work out differences, asked to be relieved of command.
The one major drawback to this book is its lack of maps. There are no maps to follow the action along, so its advisable to have a Civil War atlas at hand in order to be able to place some of the places the battles take place. Also, if you're looking for a detailed "what happend" in the many battles, in most cases you won't get it with this book.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent Read…if you are a history buff…you will find this book fascinating and very informative...Published 10 months ago by Bacini
A detailed, insightful, well-written book that puts the reader inside the civilian-military decision making process during the Civil War. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Minfar
As an avid Civil War history reader I will give most anything at least one read. I had heard of Mr. Williams but never read anything by him prior to this and this was absolutely an... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Marty R
Very enjoyable book. Was already a fan of Lincoln after reading Team of Rivals. This book gives further information about the wisdom of Lincoln. Read morePublished 17 months ago by eism
It's hard to believe this isn't more widely read, even in spite of its age. It's such a well researched view of our greatest President as a Commander in ChiefPublished 17 months ago by Mark Higgins
Advice never allow politicians to serve in decision making positions in the military. Book was an easy read and revealed facts never before focused on by other books.Published 20 months ago by WG
One my favorite Civil War reads. First read while in high school. Recent purchase of two copies were for special friends. Not a real heavy read. Read morePublished 20 months ago by r stewart