Lincoln's Generals

Lincoln's Generals

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by Gabor S. Boritt
     
 

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From the moment the battle ended, Gettysburg was hailed as one of the greatest triumphs of the Union army. Celebrations erupted across the North as a grateful people cheered the victory. But Gabor Boritt turns our attention away from the rejoicing millions to the dark mood of the White House--where Lincoln cried in frustration as General Meade let the largest…  See more details below

Overview

From the moment the battle ended, Gettysburg was hailed as one of the greatest triumphs of the Union army. Celebrations erupted across the North as a grateful people cheered the victory. But Gabor Boritt turns our attention away from the rejoicing millions to the dark mood of the White House--where Lincoln cried in frustration as General Meade let the largest Confederate army escape safely into Virginia. Such unexpected portraits abound in Lincoln's Generals, as a team of distinguished historians probes beyond the popular anecdotes and conventional wisdom to offer a fascinating look at Lincoln's relationship with his commanders. In Lincoln's Generals, Boritt and his fellow contributors examine the interaction between the president and five key generals: McClellan, Hooker, Meade, Sherman, and Grant. In each chapter, the authors provide new insight into this mixed bag of officers and the president's tireless efforts to work with them. Even Lincoln's choice of generals was not as ill-starred as we think, writes Pulitzer Prize-winner Mark E. Neely, Jr.: compared to most Victorian-era heads of state, he had a fine record of selecting commanders (for example, the contemporary British gave us such bywords for incompetence as "the charge of the Light Brigade," while Napoleon III managed to lose the entire French army). But the president's relationship with his generals was never easy. In these pages, Stephen Sears underscores McClellan's perverse obstinancy as Lincoln tried everything to drive him ahead. Neely sheds new light on the president's relationship with Hooker, arguing that he was wrong to push the general to attack at Chancellorsville. Boritt writes about Lincoln's prickly relationship with the victor of Gettysburg, "old snapping turtle" George Meade. Michael Fellman reveals the political stress between the White House and William T. Sherman, a staunch conservative who did not want blacks in his army but who was crucial to the war effort. And John Y. Simon looks past the legendary camaraderie between Lincoln and Grant to reveal the tensions in their relationship. Perhaps no other episode has been more pivotal in the nation's history than the Civil War--and yet so much of these massive events turned on a few distinctive personalities. Lincoln's Generals is a brilliant portrait that takes us inside the individual relationships that shaped the course of our most costly war.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
YA-A collection of five essays presented at the 1993 Gettysburg Civil War Institute. The first three consider and measure Lincoln's skill as a military strategist, including his frustration with his generals' lack of aggressive, offensive attacks and his final decision to remove McClellan, Hooker, and Meade from command. Stephen Sears's essay depicts McClellan as a complex, talented man who delivered a very flawed performance as Commander of the Army of the Potomac. The influence of the political situation on him and the president is discussed. Michael Fellman emphasizes Sherman's differences with Lincoln in personality and in attitudes toward slavery, blacks in the military, and the Union's approach to reconstruction of the defeated Confederate states after the war. These lucid essays will serve as excellent resources on any of the men under discussion.-Clodagh Lee, Pohick Regional Library, Burke, VA
Gilbert Taylor
If you live near Gettysburg, as does editor Boritt, you write about Father Abraham and commission others to do likewise, piling ever higher the interpretive literature on the savior of the Union. So much of that pile is dross, but thankfully, as with this set of five essays, some is golden. The subjects are McClellan, Hooker, Meade, Sherman, and Grant; the interpreters, Stephen Sears and Mark McNeely (both top-notch Civil War historians) plus three lesser but no less concise lights in the field. Overall, these authors refine, rather than define anew, the standard perceptions about the generals' relationship with their commander. As a long bibliographic essay hints, the writers are sitting atop evolving interpretations of, for example, the Little Napoleon's "slows," the blame for the Chancellorsville defeat, why Meade didn't "bag" Lee after the Gettysburg battle, and the secret to Grant's success. That success came from eschewing politics, according the author John Simon, a lesson Sherman didn't heed (which maybe explains his contempt for politicians). Yup, in one way or another, all five officers learned who was boss.
Choice

“This is a splendid volume, highly recommended for all levels, from general readers to academic specialists.”—Choice
David Herbert Donald
"Fascinating and provocative. . . . Each of these gracefully written and intelligently argued essays is a little gem."

-David Herbert Donald, author of Lincoln

Book-of-the Month Club News

“Full of unexpected portraits and anecdotes, Lincoln’s Generals gives us a surprising glimpse of Lincoln himself as a leader often more astute in his strategic assessments than the professional soldiers who fought this war.”—Book-of-the-Month Club News
Booklist

"So much of that pile [of Civil War books] is dross, but this [one] is golden."--Booklist

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199923571
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
09/29/1994
Series:
Gettysburg Civil War Institute Books
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
3 MB

Meet the Author


Gabor S. Boritt, founder of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College and former Robert Fluhrer Professor of Civil War studies there, has authored, coauthored, or edited sixteen books about Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War and received the National Humanities Medal in 2008. Today he serves on the boards of the Gettysburg National Battlefield Museum Foundation and the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.

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