➱ [Read] ➬ Lincoln and His Generals By T. Harry Williams ➼ – Dailytradenews.co.uk

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10 thoughts on “Lincoln and His Generals

  1. says:

    William s views Lincoln as a military genius a man, who came into office with little knowledge of military affairs and almost no military experience other than brief militia service and yet he was mentally flexible enough to adapt to the rapidly shifting situation and learn from his errors to guide his nation to victory through its greatest national crisis Some of Williams claims seemed over the top he claims, for example, that Lincoln grasped the war s big picture from the very beginning, and even claims that Grant s final strategy for victory from 1864 on was fundamentally Lincoln s plan, although the details and execution were Grant s I think these claims are a bit of a stretch, but Williams makes a good case for Lincoln s wartime genius, and his role as the indispensable man behind the ultimate Union victory.Williams also describes the generals under lincoln s command McClellan and Grant, of course, receive dense coverage, the former because, despite his gifts, he was ultimately a failure and Lincoln s greatest disappointment and the latter because Williams believes, as do I, that he was the greatest general and the most effective strategist on either side of the war Of Lincoln s other generals, Williams writes about the the incompetent ones such as Fremont and Banks than he does of effective generals like Sherman and Thomas, which is somewhat irritating Williams writes in his preface that the reason for this is that the incompetent generals were problems for Lincoln, forcing him to have closer command relationships with them, while he had to interfere very little with the moves of effective generals.The book is not focused on a speedy narrative or a specific story but rather turns attention to strategy and those who made it This story is told rather well The narrative slows when the war moved slow, concentrating an lot of attention on McClellan We get introduced to characters, like Grant, who will play a bigger role later in the war but he doesn t give into the temptation to be diverted too soon Williams lets them stay on the sidelines as the story ripens He also doesn t feel the need to go into details about the battles and numbers about the loss of life There are other books that fill that void well He lets you sit in the tension of the war s gloomy years His commentary on matters is perceptive and well informed He gives people their due when deserved and doesn t seem interested in Lincoln myths It s an honest and absorbing book I think the last chapter is the highlight The narrative moves with flourish and light, suitable to the changing tide of events.While Williams concludes that Lincoln was our greatest war president, there is, thankfully, no hero worship in this book The author relies on facts, as shown by telegrams Lincoln pretty much lived at the telegraph office during battles , letters, journals and memoirs Lincoln wrote some wonderfully pithy telegrams, like the one to Grant as he was flanking Lee s army down to Petersburg Hold on with a bulldog grip, and chew and choke as much as possible.Williams provides an interesting discussion of the Second Battle of Manassas, where McClellan failed to send reinforcements to Pope, while Halleck, as General in Chief, refused to take control of the situation, allowing McClellan to do as he pleased Williams also discusses Burnside s failure at Fredericksburg, in part due to Halleck s delay in getting the pontoon bridges ready for crossing over the Rappahannock by Union troops, and in part due to Burnside s failure to concentrate all his available troops, instead using useless piecemeal attacks against Lee s impregnable fortifications.Lincoln proved masterful in combining war and politics He would appoint political generals, such as Butler, Banks, Fremont and McClernand, recongnizing their value in raising popular support for the Northern war effort Yet he would not hesitate to cashier them or remove them to lesser involved positions when their military usefulness had been exhausted or military necessity demanded it.Lincoln finally found the generals he needed to win the war in Grant, Thomas, Sherman and Sheridan These generals proved quite willing to fight They possessed that dogged determination and self reliance which was often lacking in many of the generals of the Army of the Potomac Rosecrans was an exceedingly talented general, who seemed to have lost his poise and equilibrium during the crisis at the Battle of Chickamauga Lincoln came to lose confidence in Old Rosy and replaced him with Major General George Thomas, The Rock of Chickamauga, soon after the Battle of Chickamauga, noting that since Chickamauga Rosecrans acted confused and stunned like a duck hit on the head Whether Lincoln may have been a bit precipitous in coming to that conclusion was difficult to determine based on the amount of information presented by the author on this particular issue It was Rosecrans first loss after a consistent string of victories I think Old Rosy deserved a second chance, though if there was anyone to replace him, I can t think of a better general than Thomas.I found few problems with the book, but allow me to touch on the ones I did The first problem with the book is that Williams somewhat misleads the reader He contradicts his own guidelines for the book by writing about things that he says he is not going to focus on He claims in the preface that the book is an account of Lincoln as commander in chief, not a history of the Civil War This is false Most of the book is a detailed, chronological account of events during the Civil War Specific events and how Lincoln and his generals faced those events are described in the book He discusses McClellan s Peninsula Campaign, the Shenandoah Valley Campaign, the Battle of Antietam, and many others The book focuses on Lincoln as commander in chief, but his generals, and the elements of a chronological history of the war, are still very large portions of the book.Williams also writes that the book is not a collection of biographies on specific generals This is also false McClellan, Pope, Halleck, Fremont, and many other generals are described in detail.So not only is Williams s statement very misleading, but also the title of the book contradicts this statement As the reader finds out through the course of the book, Williams individually describes many of the generals On the whole, time is spent describing generals and their command decisions than is spent describing Lincoln and his functions as commander in chief In fact, for most of the first third of the book McClellan upstages Lincoln as the focus of the book Williams takes a lot of time in describing the relationship between Lincoln and McClellan, and Lincoln s growing realization that McClellan is inept as a commander.Finally, Williams says that the book is not going to give a description of the organization or the command structure of the Northern armies This is not totally truthful either Many paragraphs are devoted to describing the inefficiency of the command system and Lincoln s annoyance with the problem In actuality, Lincoln is not even mentioned in the book until after all the organizational issues have been covered Prior to that, the book gives details on the unorganized and inadequate command system This is exactly what Williams said he was not going to focus on.But, in all, I enjoyed.


  2. says:

    This book, one of quite a few spoken of my my local congregational pastor 1 , is one of many books about Abraham Lincoln that have been written over the years, and like many books written since its publishing in 1952, it seeks to differentiate itself from other books on the subject of Abraham Lincoln and the American Civil War, about which many books have been written 2 In the Preface, which is important for readers to seriously examine, the author notes that his particular focus on generals is based on Lincoln s involvement with them, which explains why much is said about generals like McClellan, Banks, Fremont, and Hunter, despite their mediocre to poor military record, and why comparatively little is said about able generals like Sherman and Thomas who Lincoln did not deal with as closely Understanding the author s focus, in this case the demonstration of Lincoln s genius as a military and political grand strategist, is vital to correctly understanding and evaluating this book.In terms of the book s organization and contents, the book follows a chronological order but one that is heavily slanted towards the beginning of the Civil War, with far fewer pages given to the second half of the war when the Union war machine was functioning far smoothly The first chapter covers the pattern of command at the beginning of the Civil War, looking at its conduct from a fair perspective and not an anachronistic one The next chapter looks at Fremont in the West and McClellan in the East as self professed men of destiny, while the next five chapters focus on Lincoln s troubled relationship with McClellan and his efforts at prodding McClellan to advance, while also discussing the failures of generals like Banks, McDowell, and Pope, the problems of cooperation between Halleck and Buell before Halleck s rise to the position of General in chief, and the early successes of Grant After this the author discusses the choice of new generals like Burnside and Rosecrans, the desire for victories from those generals, and General Hooker, in early 1863, the victories of Grant at Vicksburg and the barren victory of Meade in Gettysburg, by which point the book is than two thirds complete, and then the failure of Rosecrans to recover after Chickamuga and the failure of Meade to advance in the autumn of 1863 The last three chapters discuss the modern command system overseen by Grant, the eventual success of coordinated movements with a great deal of input by Lincoln in 1864, and a short closing chapter that examines Lincoln at the hour of victory in the aftermath of his reelection win in late 1864 The book as a whole covers slightly than 350 pages of text, and although it is largely unadorned text, it does contain intriguing photos of many of the leading generals it discusses.While some readers may fault the balance in this book, it admirably serves its point in discussing the role of Lincoln in overseeing and directing the Union war effort to a greater degree than would be acceptable to the military establishment in contemporary warfare The author is at some pains in correcting certain hagiography of Grant, as well as Grant s occasional misstatements in his memoirs, but is generally very positive towards Grant, and even to Halleck, relative to the view of many other historians Aside from Lee, the author has comparatively little to say about rebel generals Among the noteworthy and praiseworthy aspects of this book is the way that the author takes a great deal of text from Lincoln s letters and telegrams and from the diaries of contemporaries, including the generals themselves, noting where variant accounts exist of a particular situation or interaction, and finding a great deal to praise in Lincoln s humility as well as his natural strategic genius For those authors who wish to understand the sorts of strains that the North was under and the mostly deft way in which Lincoln handled the situation, this book is an excellent and worthwhile examination of the difficult but ultimately successful relationship between Lincoln and his generals, once he found the right generals to put into place his grand strategic vision for Union victory 1 See, for example 2 See, for example


  3. says:

    Having been very favorably impressed by his Huey Long biography and having this earlier book by him on the shelf, I picked up Williams Lincoln and His Generals immediately, reading it in two days While good, Lincoln is not as excellent as the Long book, Williams writing abilities having apparently improved substantially during the years between their dates of composition Still, it s a good book.This is not suitable as an introduction to the Civil War Prior knowledge of the war is necessary Nor is this a general overview of military activities during the war The focus is entirely on Lincoln s relations with his generals and on Lincoln s accomplishments as commander in chief and, occasionally, as a hands on director of military actions.The thesis of this book is that Lincoln not only established the modern command structure of the U.S military and that only towards the war s conclusion but that he was a gifted military strategist, far involved in military command than he is often credited as being Generals Grant and Sherman also come across well unlike virtually every other senior officer in the GAR , but even Grant himself, after being named supreme commander, was, in Williams opinion, often correctly overruled by his presidential superior.As stated, I read this because of the Huey Long book In so doing I learned something about the author Both books are similar in that they examine effective leadership and the qualities of character and the actions which make for such efficacy As with Long, Lincoln was exemplary in being a pragmatist who was capable, when necessary, of subordinating means to ends, the ends in both cases, Long s and Lincoln s, being of such merit that such compromises with convention, even ethics, are defensible.I m not certain I agree with Williams values, personally, but it is always good to challenge one s own beliefs as both of his books have done.


  4. says:

    T Harry Williams 1909 1979 was an American historian who taught often to overflow lectures at Louisiana State University from 1941 to 1979, and who won both a National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for his 1969 biography of Louisiana governor Huey P Long Williams s Lincoln and His Generals is a fine study, carefully and wittily crafted for general readers with none of academic posturing and of course, political correctness that would be de rigueur for a professorial production seventy years later Another reason why this work retains its freshness is that Williams made no comparisons between the Civil War and the Eisenhower era nothing about, say, the Cold War, television, or Levittowns so the reader remains focused in the Civil War past rather than also having to bridge the gap between his own time and the T Harry Williams past.


  5. says:

    Good discussion of the development of modern command structure


  6. says:

    It is a very good book, in a topic I m not terribly interested in the Civil War Lincoln and His Generals is of a biography of Lincoln and his Generals than it is a history book The bios are limited to the war, but it reads like a biography, so that it is not simply facts and dates, but has some personal interest It is also interesting for ideas of leadership For instance, the best generals were those who could adapt General Lee was a general of the past, Ulysses S Grant was a modern general Some of these observations can serve anyone in leadership.


  7. says:

    In Lincoln and His Generals, T Harry Williams concentrated on telling the story of Lincoln as commander in chief during America s greatest and most devastating war In the preface he states his goals clearly my theme is Lincoln as a director of war and his place in the high command and his influence in developing a modern command system for his nation Williams expertly develops this theme throughout this fascinating book Though many may disagree with some of his conclusions about how effective Lincoln was in this role, few, after reading this book, would dispute the fact that it is a well written and reasoned account of the topic, and that it is an important contribution both to Civil War and Lincoln studies.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 strategista 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 McClellan and Grant get the most ink, the former because, despite his great talent, he was ultimately a failure and Lincoln s greatest disappointment and the latter because, in William s estimation, he was the greatest general on either side of the war Of Lincoln s other generals, Williams writes about the ineffective, incompetent ones such as Fremont and Banks than he does of effective and even great generals like Sherman and Thomas He explains in his preface that the reason for this is that the incompetent generals were headaches to Lincoln, forcing him to have intimate command relationships with them, while he had to interfere very little with the moves of the effective Sherman and Thomas.Whether or not you agree with all or even any of the author s conclusions, he has written what still stands as the definitive work on this topic the launching point for discussion and debate on Lincoln s role as commander in chief Not only that, he has done it in fine style, creating a clear, interesting, and well written book that stands as a masterpiece in its field I give it my highest recommendation.


  8. says:

    I had heard quite a bit about this book before reading it I picked up an original 1952, red cover copy of this for probably just a couple of bucks at a thrift store After reading this, I m left feeling a bit disappointed in the book The author does so much speculating throughout the book, using terms like probably , most likely , must have been , ect Williams clearly holds Lincoln in the highest esteem in his book and in using these terms of speculation, always errors on the side of making Lincoln look his best Williams presents Lincoln as the ultimate micro manager probably a term not used when this book was written and as the supreme commander calling every little troop movement through out the war If this is actually true, and I hesitate to believe it to the extreme Williams takes it, then Lincoln has to be blamed for appointing utter imbeciles such as McClellan, Hooker, and Rosecrans Even Grant is not held in the esteem that most modern authors place on him and Sherman.For those looking for a Civil War book on tactics and troop movement, this isn t it There is just blip mentions of battles won and loss Gettysburg gets about ONE page of detail in the book Every battle is just mentioned as a win or loss with very little detail to the battle itself This book is much about the relationship between Lincoln and his generals Tons of correspondence is laced throughout the book All in all, a bit disappointing for me in how the author approaches Lincoln and ultimately Grant and Sherman in the book I m a big fan of Lincoln, but I question how much of a role Lincoln really had in controlling these generals According to Williams, Lincoln was the chess player while the generals were the pawns on the board.


  9. says:

    I think this is an under appreciated book in the Lincoln cannon It s not concentrated on flashy narratives or dramatic events It turns attention to characters and strategy But what makes it compelling is just how masterfully Williams crafts the story He moves slow through the events of the war that moved slow, concentrating an overwhelming amount of attention to McClellan We get introduced to characters, like Grant, who will play a bigger role later in the war but he doesn t give into the temptation to be diverted too soon He lets them stay in the shadows as the story ripens He also doesn t feel the need to go into details about the battles and numbers about the loss of life There are other books that fill that void well He let s you sit in the tension of the wars gloomy years His commentary on matters is perceptive and well informed He gives people their dur when deserved and doesn t seem interested in Lincoln myths It s an honest and absorbing book I think the last chapter is the highlight The narrative moves with flourish and light, suitable to the changing tide of events.


  10. says:

    On the NY Times Bestseller List the week I was born for that Shelfari group challenge This was an interesting look at Lincoln s role in the military conduct of the war, especially before Grant took the top command The author spends much time explaining the problems with McClellan et al on the basis of their personal characters, as well as the lack of a modern command structure, but what comes through between the lines is that the basic problems were political Lincoln chose conservative generals to placate the opposition Democrats and they had a different view of what was needed to win the war perhaps a different concept of what winning the war meant I haven t read much US history since high school, and always preferred political to military history, but this book shows clearly that the two cannot be separated, even if that was not exactly the author s intent.


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