Thursday, April 30, 2009

[Book Review] TRIED BY WAR by James McPherson


Philip Williams reviews TRIED BY WAR: Abraham Lincoln As Commander in Chief by James M. McPherson (Penguin, 2008)

Leading Civil War Historian James McPherson offers this narrative of Abraham Lincoln’s role as Commander-In-Chief during America’s greatest time of crisis. With no real military background, Lincoln educated himself in military strategy and theory. He proved, during the course of the war, to have a better understanding than most of his generals of the military advantages the Union had over the South and the strategy needed to defeat it. Lincoln’s iron resolve to save the Union is known to all, but McPherson shows that by 1863 Lincoln had transformed the conflict into a War of Emancipation. Tried by War is certainly not a paean to Lincoln. McPherson does not gloss over the Lincoln’s controversial actions, namely Lincoln’s willingness to violate civil liberties during the war. But McPherson shows why Lincoln, despite facing monumental odds, was able to lead the United States to victory and establish himself as America’s greatest Commander-In-Chief.

Readers who enjoy Tried by War may also like McPherson’s one-volume history of the Civil War, Battle Cry of Freedom.

Philip Williams, Cordova Branch Library

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