Synopses & Reviews
James McPherson, a bestselling historian of the Civil War, illuminates how Lincoln worked with and often against his senior commanders to defeat the Confederacy and create the role of commander in chief as we know it.
Though Abraham Lincoln arrived at the White House with no previous military experience (apart from a couple of months spent soldiering in 1832), he quickly established himself as the greatest commander in chief in American history. James McPherson illuminates this often misunderstood and profoundly influential aspect of Lincoln's legacy. In essence, Lincoln invented the idea of commander in chief, as neither the Constitution nor existing legislation specified how the president ought to declare war or dictate strategy. In fact, by assuming the powers we associate with the role of commander in chief, Lincoln often overstepped the narrow band of rights granted the president. Good thing too, because his strategic insight and will to fight changed the course of the war and saved the Union.
For most of the conflict, he constantly had to goad his reluctant generals toward battle, and he oversaw strategy and planning for major engagements with the enemy. Lincoln was a self-taught military strategist (as he was a self-taught lawyer), which makes his adroit conduct of the war seem almost miraculous. To be sure, the Union's campaigns often went awry, sometimes horribly so, but McPherson makes clear how the missteps arose from the all-too-common moments when Lincoln could neither threaten nor cajole his commanders to follow his orders.
Because Lincoln's war took place within our borders, the relationship between the front lines and the home front was especially close and volatile. Here again, Lincoln faced enormous challenges in exemplary fashion. He was a masterly molder of public opinion, for instance, defining the war aims initially as preserving the Union and only later as ending slavery when he sensed the public was at last ready to bear such a lofty burden.
As we approach the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth in 2009, this book will be that rarest gift genuinely novel, even timely, view of the most-written-about figure in our history. Tried by War offers a revelatory portrait of leadership during the greatest crisis our nation has ever endured. How Lincoln overcame feckless generals, fickle public opinion, and his own paralyzing fears is a story at once suspenseful and inspiring.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"No surprise coming from the immensely popular McPherson, this is first-rate reading for the Civil War audience." Booklist
"Those familiar with McPherson's earlier Civil War books will recognize the thrust of his arguments, but readers in general will appreciate McPherson's graceful style, balanced assessments, and commonsense conclusions based on a complete command of the sources. Highly recommended." Library Journal
"Once again [McPherson] does not disappoint....[A] superb new book, destined to become a classic on the subject." Boston Globe
"McPherson is one of our greatest narrative historians." Los Angeles Times
"[A] perfect primer, not just for Civil War buffs or fans of Abraham Lincoln, but for anyone who wishes to understand the evolution of the president's role as commander in chief." New York Times
"McPherson offers up a little gem of a book." Cleveland Plain Dealer
"[A] solid outline of the growth of the role of commander in chief under Lincoln." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"[E]xcellent examination of what Lincoln was up against and how he overcame all those obstacles." Rocky Mountain News
"McPherson offers an authoritative and highly readable overview of Lincoln as a military leader....McPherson's narrative is richly informed by his extensive research in fifty years as a practicing historian, but it also distills the work of a wide range of other Lincoln scholars into a volume that can inform the practiced student of the subject even as it welcomes the novice into Civil War history." Drew Gilpin Faust, The New Republic
(read the entire New Republic review
A bestselling historian of the Civil War illuminates how Lincoln worked with and often against his senior commanders to defeat the Confederacy and create the role of commander in chief as we know it. Tried by War offers a revelatory portrait of leadership during the greatest crisis America has ever endured.
Revisionist history at its best. A master Civil War historian re-creates the final year of our nationand#8217;s greatest crisis. WithTarnished Victory,William Marvel, whom Stephen Sears has called "the Civil Warand#8217;s master historical detective," concludes his sweeping four-part seriesand#8212;beginning with the Virginia and Atlanta campaigns in May 1864 and closing with the final surrender of Confederate forces in June 1865. In the course of that year the war grows ever more deadly, the home front is stripped to fill the armies, and the economy is crippled by debt and inflation, while the stubborn survival of the Confederacy seriously undermines support for Lincolnand#8217;s war. In the end, it seems that Lincolnand#8217;s early critics, who played such a pivotal role in the beginning of the series, are proven correct. Victory did require massive bloodshed and complete conquest of the South. It also required decades of occupation to cement the achievements of 1865, and the ultimate failure of Lincolnand#8217;s political heirs to carry through with that occupation squandered the most commendable of those achievements, making it ultimately a tarnished victory.
The Pulitzer Prize?winning author reveals how Lincoln won the Civil War and invented the role of commander in chief as we know it
As we celebrate the bicentennial of Lincoln?s birth, this study by preeminent, bestselling Civil War historian James M. McPherson provides a rare, fresh take on one of the most enigmatic figures in American history. Tried by War offers a revelatory (and timely) portrait of leadership during the greatest crisis our nation has ever endured. Suspenseful and inspiring, this is the story of how Lincoln, with almost no previous military experience before entering the White House, assumed the powers associated with the role of commander in chief, and through his strategic insight and will to fight changed the course of the war and saved the Union.
Unabridged CDs ? 9 CDs, 11 hours
James McPherson, a bestselling historian of the Civil War, illuminates how Lincoln worked with?and often against?his senior commanders to defeat the Confederacy and create the role of commander in chief as we know it.
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.