Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief

Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief

by James M. McPherson


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143116141
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/29/2009
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 467,522
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

James M. McPherson is the George Henry Davis '86 Professor of History Emeritus at Princeton University. He is the bestselling author of numerous books on the Civil War, including Battle Cry of Freedom, which won the Pulitzer Prize, For Cause and Comrades, which won the prestigious Lincoln Prize, and Crossroads of Freedom. He lives in Princeton, NJ.


Princeton, New Jersey

Date of Birth:

October 11, 1936

Place of Birth:

Valley City, North Dakota


B.A., Gustavus Adolphus College (St. Peter, MN) 1958; Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University, 1963

Table of Contents

Preface 15

Introduction 19

1 The Quest for a Strategy, 1861 33

2 The Bottom Is Out of the Tub 78

3 You Must Act 122

4 A Question of Legs 164

5 Destroy the Rebel Army, If Possible 194

6 The Promise Must Now Be Kept 233

7 Lee's Army, and Not Richmond, Is Your True Objective Point 274

8 The Heaviest Blow Yet Dealt to the Rebellion 316

9 If It Takes Three Years More 352

10 No Peace Without Victory 386

Epilogue 438

Acknowledgments 447

Notes 451

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Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 56 reviews.
jdm1968 More than 1 year ago
February 12, 2009 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States. Consequently, over the next year and a half, the average bookstore browser will be buried underneath an avalanche of new books on the most written about figure in all of American history.

¿Tried By War: Abraham Lincoln As Commander In Chief,¿ by James M. McPherson, noted Civil War historian & the George Henry Davis '86 Professor Emeritus of United States History at Princeton University, is among the newest in the crop of the Lincoln Bicentennial titles.

In ¿Tried By War¿ Dr. McPherson highlights how Abraham Lincoln came to understand and define the largely undefined role of commander in chief. He takes us through each phase of Lincoln¿s development into the role: from first deferring to General Winfield Scott, then to prodding George B. McClellan into action. After studying military tactics, Lincoln felt confident enough and wondered if he might borrow the army when McClellan fell ill with typhoid fever. In the end McClellan was a disappointment to Lincoln, as were Henry Halleck, Don Carlos Buell, John Pope, Ambrose Burnside, Joseph Hooker, William Rosecrans and George Meade. Through each successive general Lincoln learned and grew into the role of commander in chief, not largely because he wanted to, but because he had to. Finally, with Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman & Philip Sheridan, Lincoln found generals who understood the defeat of the Confederate armies and not the surrender of Richmond, the Confederate capital, would bring the rebellion to an end.

Sadly there is little, if anything, new in fact or interpretation in this book. Dr. McPherson seems to have relied on the tried and true. Most of the content between the covers of ¿Tried By War¿ can be found in a number of other books on Lincoln.

The Lincoln-McClellan relationship is complicated, and one worthy of a book of its own. Dr. McPherson seems to have ¿cherry picked¿ every negative word and action of McClellan¿s for inclusion in his book. To be fair, McClellan has served up these quotes and snubs toward Lincoln (not to mention his overestimates of Confederate troop strength, his constant pleas for more men and his apparent lack of will to send the Army of the Potomac into battle) on a silver platter for historians. But I think Dr. McPherson¿s diagnosis of McClellan¿s ¿messiah complex¿ goes a bit too far.

If anything, at 270 pages of text, the book is too short. It is a great survey of Lincoln as commander in chief, but an in depth review of the facts and analysis of them it is not. On its merits, the book it well researched, and well written. Dr. McPherson¿s narrative flows effortlessly from topic to topic and is easily read. Though ¿Tried By War¿ may not be the book for the well read student of the Civil War it would serve as a great introduction for some one just developing their interest in the subject.
armchaircritic More than 1 year ago
James McPherson has the uncanny ability to put you right into history, and feel the pulls and tugs of the contemporary issues of the Civil War times. Lincoln is my favorite history subject, and McPherson is my favorite historical nonfiction writer. He doesn't just give lists of dates and battles, but gets you into the heads of the movers and shakers, and the common soldiers. And he does this without fictionalizing anything. He uses the actual words and diaries of 19th century people, and contemporary observations of their friends and colleagues, and seamlessly blends it all into a very readable narrative. The extent of his knowledge and research are awesome, and he's a good writer, too! I highly recommend this book, and I'm buying it for gifts to the history buffs in my own family.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read Battle Cry of Freedom a few months ago and found it to be possibly the best one volume history of the Civil War out there. The only problem was that I put it down wishing I knew a little more about Lincoln's role. Tried by War served this purpose well. Those who wrote reviews saying that McPherson didn't build up suspense have a point, but that was not the author's goal. If you want to understand the battles read another book; the battles themselves are not an important part of this book's thesis, the consequences were. I put down this book feeling I had a better understanding of Lincoln's role in managing the most important war in this country's history. And with that, McPherson did his job.
dg68 More than 1 year ago
The book presents the war from the perspective of Lincoln as the Commander in Chief. Therfore, if you are a war battle buff this book will leave something to be desired. However, if the politcis and political implications put upon the President by the Congress, People and the Generals themselves and Lincoln's handling of these trials - the book is excellant reading!
Ozarkian More than 1 year ago
I have a couple of James McPherson's volumes on my shelves--"Battle Cry of Freedom" and "Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution"--and I've profited greatly from reading them both. In "Tried By War", the author sets out a most intersting thesis..."[Lincoln] proved to be a more hands-on commander in chief than any other president. He performed or oversaw five wartime functions in this capacity, in diminishing order of personal involvement: policy, national strategy, military strategy, operations, and tactics." Thanks to an extensive 100+ years of scholarship, the cards in both the Lincoln and the Civil War decks are all pretty much out on the table. What remains is largely a re-shuffling of them for new perspectives. This book by McPherson does a good job of rearranging the cards but I wonder why he wanted to make a book-length treatment of this rather than publishing it as a journal article. Perhaps to get this perspective into the "bloodstream" of popular as well as professional discussion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Extremely well researched. As a retired military senior officer, I found it to be very thorough and enlightening.
Gunz More than 1 year ago
An awesome, very easy to read, page turner that puts school history books to shame. A great insight to what Lincoln did for his country...for our country...regardless of what some decisions could have done to his presidency and re-election. This book shows what an elected official should do while serving his/her citizens...serve those who elected you, your country, and make decisions that are the best for the greatest number...not your base or to lock a re-election bid.
hawkFL More than 1 year ago
This book is very interesting and written from a unique perspective. It also has some very interesting and informative source material. No matter how much you think you know about Lincoln this book proves that there is always more to learn. Unlike a lot of history related books it is not dry and moves along at fairly good pace. No question about it McPherson is a pro and this book is well worth your time.
cyderry on LibraryThing 2 days ago
The most amazing point of interest regarding this book about Abraham Lincoln is that it is the first book that basically analyzes Lincoln's position as the Commander-in-Chief. His entire administration was impacted by war starting with letters from Fort Sumter requesting aid on the day of his inauguration and ending with his assassination 6 days after General Lee surrendered at Appomattox. We have books about Lincoln's writings, his humor, his views on religion and slavery, and his ideas of how to reunite the nation, but nothing that had centered on his military role as Commander-in-Chief.Lincoln spent more time during his Presidency with matters of war - communications with his Generals in the field, visiting the troops and battlefields, international relations, and military strategy then any other aspect of his policies. Never having been a soldier (he actually only served in the military for a short period and saw no action), Lincoln spent hours studying military strategy. He had to deal with incompetent Generals who were either filled with their own thoughts of supremacy or with Generals who were afraid to move their troops. Not until Ulysses Grant was placed in the position of the General in charge did Lincoln have a leader that would eventually end the Confederacy's drive toward separation from the Union.I found this book fascinating in that the reader can see all the abilities that Lincoln had to put in place to prevent the Southern forces from completely demolishing the morale of the North and at the same using the knowledge that he had gathered from his military studies to instruct the officers in the Union Army to do what was need to win the war.After reading this book, I am really glad as an American, that at this time, Lincoln was the President of our nation. He was the man that was needed at the time and he truly completed the task that was given to him.
wildbill on LibraryThing 2 days ago
This book is touted as a look at Abraham Lincoln as the commander-in-chief during the Civil War. James McPherson, the author, has a reputation as one of America's finest writers on the Civil War based to a large extent on his authorship of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, one of the volumes in the Oxford History of the United States. In the foreword McPherson states that this aspect of Lincoln's presidency has never been adequately covered, neglecting a very good book, Lincoln and His Generals by T. Harry Williams. Having read this I will have to go back and review Williams book which as I remember was much better than this book.Much of the focus of the book is on the relationships between Lincoln and the commanders of the Army of the Potomac. George McClellan was the commander until late 1862 and McPherson added little information or insight to my knowledge of what passed between the two men. McClellan was a great trainer of men but was always hesitant to take them into battle. The quote of Lincoln regarding McClellan that McPherson uses "He has a case of the slows" is repeated in many other sources. The generals who succeeded McClellan had were not much better. Of course they had to face Robert E. Lee.Lincoln had similar frustrations with generals in other theaters. They all wanted everything just perfect before making an attack.McPherson did add one specific item to the understanding Lincoln developed about the best strategy for the Union armies. Lincoln figured out that the Union had used their superior numbers and attack the Confederates at many points so the Confederates could not use their interior lines to transfer their forces to defeat individual attacks. It was only when Grant took supreme command of the Union armies that this strategy was adopted and the Confederates finally defeated.McPherson added very little to my knowledge of Lincoln as an individual. Lincoln is simply portrayed as a man who is continually frustrated and depressed by the failures of the army. This is how Lincoln appears in any number of books about the Civil War. In short, Mr. McPherson does not live up to his reputation as an excellent Civil War scholar in this book. I cannot give any recommendation of this book. The author only repeats what can be learned in any number of books about the subject. I have the feeling that Mr. McPherson is coasting on his reputation and had to get a book out for the anniversary year of Lincoln's birth. One star.
Mahdi1ray More than 1 year ago
This is a well written and well researched novel. It holds the reader's attention in a compelling manner. Easy to read. A must for all Civil War enthusiasts. Of great value to military historians. Of general interest to the public
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I never understood the intricacies of the Civil War to the extent that this book describes it. The level of detail regarding what Lincoln was faced with and how he managed the war effort was very interesting. It should be required reading for history students.
spun13 More than 1 year ago
Highly Recommended - you must check it out!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although it rarely focuses on the specifics, McPherson creates a very readable account of Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief. A nice quick read.
susanMT More than 1 year ago
Is there a discussion guide?
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breezembhm More than 1 year ago
I have an interest in history, but I've found many of the history books to be very dry. I could barely put this book down! The way the information is presented keeps the reader enthralled! Will get more books by this auther!!
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JohnAndLibby More than 1 year ago
Really good analysis of Lincoln's direction of the war and his relations with his generals. (Good to read in tandem with Doris Kearns Goodwin's book about Lincoln, "Team of Rivals")