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Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief (2008)

af James M. McPherson

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Evaluates Lincoln's talents as a commander in chief in spite of limited military experience, tracing the ways in which he worked with, or against, his senior commanders to defeat the Confederacy and reshape the presidential role.
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(2008)Very good concentration by McPherson on Lincoln's hands on management of the Civil War. His struggle to find a competent and collaborative General in Chief of the Army persisted all through the war until he finally puts Grant in that position. PW-Without Lincoln not only would we have not survived as a country, but the war would not have kept on track and finally won by the Union.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.
  derailer | Jan 25, 2024 |
Mér fannst mjög fróðlegt að hlusta á hljóðbókina Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief eftir James M. McPherson. Höfundurinn einsetur sér að skoða hvernig Lincoln stendur sig sem æðsti yfirmaður hers Norðurríkjanna í borgarastríðinu við Suðurríkin 1861-1865. McPherson bendir á í inngangi að yfirstjórn stríðsins hafi verið umfangsmesta svið Lincolns og að enginn Bandaríkjaforseti hafi þurft að glíma við hernað allan sinn stjórnunarferil. Lincoln varð líka að móta hlutverk sitt sem æðsti yfirmaður hersins en það var illa skilgreint í stjórnarskránni og hann setti fordæmi sem síðari forsetar hafa fylgt.
Það er margt athyglivert sem kemur fram í umfjöllun McPhersons. Lincoln skipti grimmt um foringja ef honum fannst þeir ekki standa sig, afnam margvísleg borgaraleg réttindi undir því yfirskyni að forsetinn færi með alræðisvald á stríðstímum, nokkuð sem Obama og Bush hafa fært sér mikið í nyt. Lincoln lagði mikið á sig til að mennta sig í hernaðarfræðum til að geta sinnt sínu hlutverki. Hann barðist stöðugt við herforingja sína sem honum fannst oft á tíðum vera of værukærir og ásælast frið um of. Hann lagði ofuráherslu á sameiningu Norður- og Suðurríkjanna og friður og kyrrstaða var því óásættanleg.
Um leið og bókin er upplýsandi og ágætlega skrifuð má finna að umfjöllun McPhersons. Hann skrifar í raun línulega frásögn af framgangi stríðsins en reynir lítt að tækla upphafsspurningar sínar um frammistöðu Lincolns þematengt fyrr en í stuttum lokaorðum. ( )
  SkuliSael | Apr 28, 2022 |
Tried by War, Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief by James M. McPherson (pp. 272). McPherson fills what he perceives is a gap in the innumerable Lincoln biographies and histories by specifically addressing the President’s actions as Commander and Chief. Given the exhaustive Lincoln bibliography it is unrealistic to think his book brings new information to the table, so the value of this narrow look would be if the author provides any great insights not otherwise covered by others. To me he didn’t. That is not to say I did not learn a thing or two (or 100), but those were interesting by largely inconsequential details. Regardless, Tried by War was interesting and, frankly, I love reading about the trials Lincoln endured trying to find generals who would actually fight. It’s also nice to read about the political considerations that guided and sometimes shackled the President far more than most of us realize. All the familiar names crop up: Generals McClellan, Butler, McClernand, Meigs, Burnside, Sherman, Sheridan, Rosencrans, Meade, Grant, Hallet, and many more (including those prominent on the other side). For those not otherwise immersed in all things civil war, this fine volume provides an excellent overview of military operations as well as political considerations and actions directly related to them. McPherson is one of the better authors about this period and this book evidences his skill in writing. ( )
  wildh2o | Jul 10, 2021 |
After reading Stamped from the Beginning, I wanted to compare what others said about Abraham Lincoln and his approach to slavery. Since my husband already listened to Tried by War by James M. McPherson, I took the opportunity to do just that. Unfortunately, Mr. McPherson’s portrayal of Lincoln as the commander in chief is exactly what I expected.

Tried by War is not for anyone looking to learn more about Lincoln’s presidency. In essence, Mr. McPherson does nothing but look at Lincoln as the commander in chief. There is the requisite fawning over Lincoln’s ability to teach himself everything he needed to know, especially as his utter lack of military experience meant he had to learn the basics of combat strategy. More importantly, Mr. McPherson explores the limitations of being commander in chief while fighting a war from long-distance.

Mr. McPherson breaks down each of Lincoln’s Army commanders, their subsequent wins as well as their spectacular losses, and his frustrations with each of them. Moreover, he discusses the politics behind each assignment and the party machinations that were at the core of Lincoln’s decisions. In this case, we learn that everything Lincoln did had two end goals – to keep the Republicans in power and to reunite the country.

Since the slavery “issue” directly impacted Lincoln’s two goals, Mr. McPherson does spend some time discussing his evolving opinion about slavery. He even acknowledges that Lincoln’s shift from ignoring the “issue” to abolishing slavery was less ideological and more politically expedient. Still, Mr. McPherson continues to perpetuate the idea of Lincoln as slaves’ savior rather than someone making a calculated decision and even sometimes forced to take action before he was ready because his commanders backed him into a corner.

I can’t say I learned much from listening to Tried by War. There was a time in my late teens where I was obsessed with the Civil War and read everything I could about it. So, the detailed exploration of the various Army commanders Mr. McPherson includes did not provide new insight. If anything, it reiterates the incompetence of those commanders and the prolonging of the war their ineffectiveness ended up achieving. Still, those without extensive background knowledge of the Civil War may find Tried by War interesting. Mr. McPherson’s approach is welcoming while his explanations of each battle are clear enough for most people to understand. Given the severe political division separating the country right now, his descriptions of the politics of the war are particularly interesting. ( )
  jmchshannon | Feb 6, 2021 |
Very enjoyable and interesting. The author creates an interesting and very human picture of Lincoln. The portrayal of Lincoln's generals shows distinct contrast to today's military. ( )
  SMBrick | Feb 25, 2018 |
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"The insurgent leader ... does not attempt to deceive us. He affords us no excuse to deceive ourselves. He can not voluntarily reaccept the Union; we can not voluntarily yield it. Between him and us the issue is distinct, simple, and inflexible. It is an issue which can only be tried by war and decided by victory." -- Lincoln's annual message to Congress, December 6, 1864
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To Pat, for fifty years of marriage and history
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From the moment of his election as president on November 6, 1860, Lincoln confronted issues of policy and strategy even though he would not take office for almost four months -- Chapter 1
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Abraham Lincoln was the only president in American history whose entire administration was bounded by war.
Not only Lincoln’s success or failure as a president but also the very survival of the United States depended on how he performed his duty as commander in chief.
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Evaluates Lincoln's talents as a commander in chief in spite of limited military experience, tracing the ways in which he worked with, or against, his senior commanders to defeat the Confederacy and reshape the presidential role.

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