Book Review on Lincoln’s General

Book Review on Lincoln’s General


From the period the war came to an end, Gettysburg was viewed as one of the most successful of the generals. People from the North began celebrating the victory of Gettysburg and his generals. However, in his book, “Lincoln’s Generals”, Gabor Boritt diverts people’s attention from the celebrations to the sad mood at White House in the United States. He points out that Lincoln wept in disbelief as General Meade allowed the biggest army confederate to safely run away into Virginia. He describes the relationship between the commander in chief of the civil war and his five top generals. These five generals are George Meade, Ulysses Grant, Joseph Hooker, William Sherman and McClellan (Boritt & Stephen Sears 37). In a deep analysis, it describes the relationship of each general with their commander-in-chief. There were some generals whom their cordial relationships worsened so much while there were some few soldiers who had the privilege of having a good relationship with the president. He was viewed by the opponents as a dictator and an unintelligent leader.

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Chapter one of the book is written by Stephen Sears and analyzes the relationship between Lincoln and George McClellan. It portrays a daunted relationship as Lincoln required to put everything in order as the head of state and commander in chief. Lincoln had a bad relationship with General McClellan, whose psychological idiosyncrasies did not assist him. According to the book, McClellan was fired in the end due to bad performance as a field general.

Joseph Hooker is also described in the book as an intriguer, a good division as well as the police commander. He did also not succeed as an army commander where he was posted to work at Chancellorsville. The chapter written by Mark Neely criticizes Lincoln’s pressure seeking tough actions that lead to the failure of Hooker as he exercised his duties aggressively. In chapter three, Gabor Boritt looks into the relationship between Meade and Lincoln. A lot of tension was created between Meade and Lincoln due to the desire by Lincoln for Meade to apply an aggressive attack on the rebellious forces of Robert E. Lee (Boritt & Stephen Ambrose 56). Gabor fully believes that truly Lincoln was right to call for aggressive attack; nevertheless General Meade was a very cautious soldier. The next chapter describes the relationship between Lincoln and General Grant and General Sherman.

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Chapter five, Mr. Michael Fellman writes about General Sherman. This is the only general whom Lincoln had infrequent and distant contact. Despite the fact that he was advised by the commander-in-chief to spare the South during the war, he ignored the advice and fought both the North and South. Nevertheless he tried to assist Lincoln to win his re-election. He moved to the South to show them sympathy and appeal to them to re-elect the incumbent. Even though it seemed impossible before, Fellman writes in the book that it succeeded and Lincoln won another term in office as the commander-in-chief. He really benefited from his change of mind of dictatorship and began reconciliation with his generals.

Finally, John Simon explores about General Grant who was the only general whose relationship with Lincoln was the best. The book explores it further that it was only a real comparison with the other fractured relationship amongst other generals.

This is an interesting platform to explore into the relationship between Lincoln and some of his top generals. It is written by five great writers who described about the possibility of another war in the history of America. The book “Lincoln’s General” can be very helpful to those who want to get more information on Lincoln, generals and their interactions (Boritt 24). However, for historians who want extensive history about the book, then this is not the most relevant site for them.

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People should know that the effort by the union was unplanned and therefore it was an affair of learn-as-you-fight. At the start of the war, professional American commanders moved to the Confederacy and the highly regarded commanders of the North were still intact. Winfield Scott was the union general-in-chief who had occupied the job since the commencement of the Mexican war. Similarly, the idea of Lincoln as head of armed forces was mainly in development. At the beginning of the war, the type of authority that Lincoln possessed in the war field over his generals was not fully established.

Many of the above developments rose due to individual behaviors. Most people from the North viewed Lincoln as a brainless, useless and rustic buffoon. Some of his generals like Sherman and McClellan could turn to be rebellious to him. Whereas Sherman was so much aggressive and won many battles, McClellan was an extremely cautious general. He was usually convinced that the opposing enemies were much better than them. General McClellan did not keep his commands while Sherman did keep his commands (Boritt & Stephen Ambrose 43).

Despite the fact that Lincoln had the best generals in history of the United States, they could not plan their attack effectively to fight the rebels from the North. This caused them so much that most of his generals were defeated. Additionally, the fact that there was strange relationship between Lincoln and his generals also contributed much to the defeat of his troops. As a leader and commander-in-chief, he could have organized his army effectively due to the financial muscle he had. Conflict was the main argument in those strange relationships between the generals and the commander–in-chief. For example, according to Boritt, Lincoln advised his generals to fight the North while sparing the South where he was residing (Boritt & Stephen Ambrose 35).

As a commander-in-chief, one of Lincoln’s themes during his rule was the search for a capable, aggressive and fighting soldier. In many cases, army officers who were perfect as the corps or divisional commanders feared when they were faced with the task of making critical decisions in the war field. For example, the book points out that despite the fact that General Meade defeated Lee, he failed to pursue his triumph by forcefully hunting and crushing the Lee Northern part of the Potomoc River.

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The fear and cautious approach by the little general Mac also led to the failure by Lincoln’s generals. As Stephen Sears writes in the book, Mac feared that he never had adequate forces or army to fight with the Confederates. His removal was also not a good move during the period of civil war. Lincoln also faced criticism from the fact that he removed Mac who was a cautious soldier only to replace him with his friend who would listen to him and do what he had instructed. This great defeat as per the book was the main reason that made Lincoln to feel infuriated and consider getting out of Washington to go and lead the war himself (Boritt 23).

At the end, Grant was appointed by Lincoln as the head of the Union forces. The supporters of both Lincoln and Grant later showed their relationship as the best partnership, nonetheless it changed after sometime. Both Grant and Lincoln had misgivings on each other. However, they were of similar opinion on strategies and tactics. Soon after the end of the Civil war, Grant would not willingly defect to politics to proceed on with the policies of Lincoln. He was being advised by Lincoln’s supporters to succeed him after the end of the World War II but his conscience could not allow him to make the decision immediately (Boritt & Stephen Ambrose 52).


According to the book, there are some important things that enlightened Lincoln’s era. First, the understanding of Lincoln that the territory of the rebellious forces was not to be the main target of the Union forces really helped his administration. Instead, he motivated his generals by encouraging them that the confederate forces should be their main target. This really helped Scott, Meade and McClellan to have courage and face the rebellious forces without fear or favor (Boritt & Robert 35).

The other enlightenment in the book and during Lincoln’s era is his appeal to little McClellan to spare the South. As a leader whom the Confederates viewed as ignorant, this was an outstanding move to reach to his enemies during his tenure. Even though some may argue that he was appealing to McClellan just because of the election, it was a good move for reconciliation in the country. Lincoln also went through a serious learning process as he went ahead to liberation and accepting the black soldiers who were rebellious. This was another good move to unite the country even though there were some unresolved issues between him and Sherman. Sherman was for Afro-Americans while Lincoln was against his stand. It had to take time for Lincoln to agree with his view and accept the black soldiers. Both Sherman and Lincoln could not work without one another so they were to look for a formidable way to resolve their outstanding conflicts (Boritt & Stephen Sears 26).

Lincoln also operated as if he was in command of the general when Grant was appointed general just like how he was when McClellan was the general. The view that he was not involved in much work on the forces when Grant was the commanding general was due to the fact that Grant was doing what he wanted. There was constant communication between Lincoln and Grant and this improved the general relationship between the commander- in-chief and his generals. In the end, there was a stable relationship between Lincoln and his generals that made the rebellious groups to wonder what was happening. To them they viewed Lincoln as a person who could not be trusted and lacked knowledge on how to manage his troops effectively (Boritt 43).

The fear of Lincoln was also another important enlightenment in the book. He feared grant politically and just looked at him carry out his duties without intervening. It was a very relaxed association between the two due to the trust that existed between them. This creates eagerness to ask more questions than you will listen at the answers. This is because Lincoln was viewed as a president who could not surrender for anyone and due to the fact that he surrendered for Grant, it brought another character of Lincoln. It even went up to the extent of Lincoln appealing to Grant to show mercy to the South by sparing them during the civil war. This appeal benefited both Grant and Lincoln since Lincoln was re-elected as president while Grant was mandated to manage the army as the general. He was even proposed to take over from Lincoln when his tenure ended. People really changed their perception about Lincoln and began taking him as their leader of both the North and the South (Boritt 67).

This book review about Lincoln’s Generals is a perfect place to learn about the strange relationship between Lincoln and his generals.

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