Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln As Commander in Chief

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Thorndike Press, Feb 1, 2009 - Biography & Autobiography - 539 pages
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James McPherson, a bestselling historian of the Civil War, illuminates how Lincoln worked withaand often againsta 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 Lincolnas 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 Unionas 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 Lincolnas war took place within our borders, the relationship between the front lines and the home front was especiallycloseaand 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 slaverya when he sensed the public was at last ready to bear such a lofty burden.
As we approach the bicentennial of Lincolnas birth in 2009, this book will be that rarest giftaa 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.

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Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief

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Pulitzer� Prize-winning Civil War historian McPherson (Battle Cry of Freedom) concentrates here on Lincoln's performance as a largely self-taught military strategist. Obie� Award ... Read full review

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User Review  - jdm1968 - Borders

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 ... Read full review

About the author (2009)

James M. McPherson is the author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, which won a Pulitzer Prize in history, and For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War, a Lincoln Prize winner. He is the George Henry Davis Professor of American History at Princeton University in New Jersey, where he also lives. His newest book, entitled Abraham Lincoln, celebrates the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth with a short, but detailed look at this president's life.

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