Mr. Lincoln's High-Tech War: How the North Used the Telegraph, Railroads, Surveillance Balloons, Ironclads, High-Powered Weapons, and More to Win the Civil War


Thomas B. Allen’s expertise in military history and strategy is combined with Roger MacBride Allen’s knowledge of technology to reveal a lesser-known yet fascinating side of the 16th president of the United States. Their authoritative narrative reveals Lincoln as our nation’s first hands-on Commander-in-Chief, whose appreciation for the power of technology plays a critical role in the North’s Civil War victory over the less developed South.

Readers meet Lincoln as he exchanges ...

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Thomas B. Allen’s expertise in military history and strategy is combined with Roger MacBride Allen’s knowledge of technology to reveal a lesser-known yet fascinating side of the 16th president of the United States. Their authoritative narrative reveals Lincoln as our nation’s first hands-on Commander-in-Chief, whose appreciation for the power of technology plays a critical role in the North’s Civil War victory over the less developed South.

Readers meet Lincoln as he exchanges vital telegraph messages with his generals in the field; we witness his inspection of new ship models at the Navy Yard; we view the president target-shooting with the designer of a new kind of rifle; and we follow Lincoln, the man of action, as he leads a daring raid to recapture Norfolk, VA.

The book’s historic sweep also sets Abraham Lincoln in the context of his military era: we learn about the North’s Anaconda Plan, the South’s counter strategies, and how the concept of total war replaced the old Napoleonic way of fighting. Readers will come away with a rich sense of a leader who lived through one of the most exciting ages of technological and social change in America. With archival photographs, artwork, and maps, Mr. Lincoln’s High-Tech War brings alive a time when the railroad brought soldiers and to and from the battlefields, when hot-air balloons were used for surveillance, and when ironclad warships revolutionized naval warfare.

The Allens’ detailed study demonstrates why Lincoln’s appreciation of the importance of technology, his understanding of the art of war, and his mastery of military strategy were key elements in the winning of the American Civil War.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Phyllis J. Perry
In twelve chapters, a prologue, and an epilogue, the reader learns about the technology that was available and used by President Lincoln during the Civil War. Lincoln is portrayed as a curious and inventive man who held a patent of his own and who sensed the importance of new technology to warfare long before his generals did. The text looks at the first six months of Lincoln's presidency, when he immediately faced a crisis at Fort Sumter as well as an attempt to cut off Washington from the rest of the county. The authors detail Lincoln's responses as Commander in Chief, showing him moving swiftly to take control of railroad and telegraph lines, introducing aerial surveillance, producing advanced weapons and ironclad ships, and beginning a naval blockade. The text is set up in two columns, and uses blocks of information to break up pages of print. Black and white archival illustrations and diagrams introduce readers to the newest technology available in 1861, including printed telegraph messages, long-haul railroads, rifles that could shoot three rounds a minute, ironclad warships, and surveillance balloons. Giving a somewhat different perspective on the Civil War and presenting another side of Lincoln as a leader, this recommended book contains sources for each chapter, a bibliography, online resources, and an index. Reviewer: Phyllis J. Perry
VOYA - Stacey Hayman
This easy-to read, picture-filled book will excite both Civil War buffs as well as students required to write yet one more paper on this historically important era. Part of what makes this entry unique is its focus on how President Lincoln sought out new technology and used it to his and the North's advantage, such as when balloonist Thaddeus Lowe proposed observation balloons to spy on the enemy and telegraph their findings. Lincoln made sure a reluctant General Scott listened to Lowe. The other special part of this book is the authors' recognition and explanation of how mundane mechanical details critically impacted both sides of the conflict. For example, trains were drawn through downtown Baltimore by horses, thereby offering pro-South sympathizers the opportunity to fire on Northern Army volunteers, which resulted in the first four casualties of the Civil War. Some of the more difficult ideas to understand are given full-page treatments with illustrations. In the chapter discussing the development of rapid-fire weapons, the flintlock and percussion-cap firing systems, muzzleloading, and bullet types are featured in-depth to explain the overall progression to guns that could shoot more bullets more quickly. It is difficult to imagine a reader not finding something worth learning from this book. Reviewer: Stacey Hayman
School Library Journal

Gr 5 Up

This volume examines Lincoln's lifelong interest in technology and inventions and how he introduced these "new and useful things" to the nation. The 19th century saw transformations in transportation and industry, and many of these innovations were utilized by the North in its victory over the South. Offering an overview of the war, the book presents chapters on topics including Lincoln's pre-inauguration train trip to Washington in February 1861, the North's Anaconda Plan for blockading Southern ports, surveillance balloons, the ironclads, new guns and ammunition, and-most importantly-the telegraph and railroads. The lively, well-researched text makes it clear that Lincoln grasped the concept of "total war" and did not hesitate to exploit the latest know-how to ensure victory. Nineteenth-century photos, reproductions, and political cartoons appear throughout, each with an informative caption. Time lines and numerous sidebars treating topics such as the Emancipation Proclamation or Morse code are also included. An outstanding section of online resources sifts out sites of "especially high value." This book is a vital addition to the Lincoln shelf and an exceptional and novel approach for students investigating the Civil War.-Patricia Ann Owens, Wabash Valley College, Mt. Carmel, IL

Kirkus Reviews
According to the authors, Abraham Lincoln was part of the last generation of Americans who didn't expect technology ever to change. The cabins, farm tools, guns and cooking utensils of his day were not significantly different from those of his great-great-great-great-grandfather. But the Industrial Revolution changed everyone's lives, and since war was the defining feature of Lincoln's presidency, technology changed the way war was waged. In its course, the Civil War was both the last ancient war and the first modern war. Each chapter of this handsome volume looks at a different technology and its role in the the war, including railroads, observation balloons and aerial telegrams, ironclad ships, rifles and early machine guns. Clear, matter-of-fact writing and an abundance of photographs, maps, magazine illustrations and political cartoons make this a fascinating read and a fine resource for Civil War collections. An older technology-the magnifying glass-will be necessary for reading the bibliography and source notes. (online resources, index) (Nonfiction. 10 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426303791
  • Publisher: National Geographic Society
  • Publication date: 1/13/2009
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 732,140
  • Age range: 10 - 15 Years
  • Lexile: 1180L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.80 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas B. Allen has written several military history and espionage titles, including the highly acclaimed Remember Pearl Harbor and George Washington, Spymaster for National Geographic Children’s Books. He lives in Takoma Park, MD.

Roger MacBride Allen is the author of 17 science fiction novels. This is his first book for National Geographic Children’s Books and his first book for children.

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