Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief Hardcover – October 7, 2008
|New from||Used from|
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Bookmarks Magazine
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."
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
Early in the introduction (p. 5), McPherson teases us by breaking down the five functions of the commander in chief power in brilliant fashion between policy, national strategy, military strategy, operations, and tactics. Later, on p. 70, he dissects Lincoln's prodding his generals to focus more on a "concentration in time" approach which would hit Southern forces with the North's superior numbers and disrupt their clever interior line movements, instead of his generals' tired focus on "concentration in space," whereby the Union was concerned more with winning ground than engaging the enemy head-on. Similarly, on p. 142, McPherson briefly discusses Lincoln's strategy as based on his the work of Clausewitz, the leading military theorist of the age.
These sections were excellent, and whetted my appetite that McPherson would dedicate considerable energy to dissecting the bases for Lincoln's military strategies and to what extent they were ultimately the right approach for the Union. Unfortunately, aside from these instances, he never really went any further. No doubt, McPherson is a historian, and a tremendous one at that, so perhaps that explains his lack of analysis on Lincoln's leadership of developments on the battlefield and his treatment of his generals. But I was hoping for much more given the ballyhoo that accompanied this book. The book ultimately suffers for this deficiency. More generally, what about how Lincoln individually handled his generals? McPherson's look at the relationship between Lincoln and George B. McClellan is exhaustive, particularly the fascinating analysis provided on p. 47-48 which tries to impute McClellan's inaction to his privileged life up to that point:
"Having known nothing in his meteoric career, McClellan came to Washington as the Young Napoleon destined by God to save the country. These high expectations paralyzed him. Failure was unthinkable. Never having experienced failure, he feared the unknown."
Awesome stuff. But beyond that, McPherson doesn't go much further as it relates to Lincoln's bond with other generals, even with Grant. Was Lincoln too impulsive in his relieving generals like Buell, Hooker, Rosecrans, et al? What was the basis of the broader "concentration in space" outlook? Were their slow movements destined to failure, or was Lincoln's leadership perhaps too impulsive at times? Why did he take so long to promote George Thomas? There are no hard answers to these questions, but I would have loved McPherson's views on them. Overhaul, these omissions don't doom the book -- it's great history and a nice read -- but they unquestionably limit its scope.
Lincoln's own military experience was slender, his 1832 service in the militia. However, as McPherson puts it (Page 5), he was ". . .a more hands-on commander in chief than any other president." He assumed or presided over five war-making functions (in declining order of importance, as the author judges matters): policy, national strategy, military strategy, operations, and tactics.
McPherson observes that Lincoln read a great deal about military issues, to become more informed and to develop grounding in strategy and tactics. Indeed, as the book argues, he needed to, since so many of his military leaders were passive and did not "take charge." Thus, the thesis of this book makes sense, given the context of the times while Lincoln served as president.
The book covers the war, year by year, Lincoln's frustrations with his military commanders, his desire to find someone who had "it," the will and ability to triumph, to share Lincoln's vision of what had to be done. Of course, in the end, U. S. Grant and his subordinates, such as Sherman, Sheridan, and Thomas played that role, after the years of failure with the likes of Buell, Halleck, Rosecrans, Sigel, Banks, Butler, and so on.
For those not so familiar with the Civil War, this book will be most useful. For those steeped in the study of the Civil War, there is not a great deal that is new. However, what such readers know is put into useful context, as per the book's focus. So, in the end, this is a handy volume, especially for those who are not deeply read in the relevant works.
Lincoln was in a tough position. The best military commanders were split between the Union and Confederacy. A new President with little knowledge of the Union's military commanders ( and untested military commanders at that) did not know who was competant and capabile. He did know the depth and breadth of his own capabilities.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If you have read lots on Lincoln there is nothing really new in this book. One thing this book does do however is gives an interesting overview of how...Read more