From the moment the battle ended, Gettysburg was hailed as one of the greatest triumphs of the Union army. Celebrations erupted across the North as a grateful people cheered the victory. But Gabor Boritt turns our attention away from the rejoicing millions to the dark mood of the White House--where Lincoln cried in frustration as General Meade let the largest Confederate army escape safely into Virginia. Such unexpected portraits abound in Lincoln's Generals, as a team of distinguished historians probes beyond the popular anecdotes and conventional wisdom to offer a fascinating look at Lincoln's relationship with his commanders.
In Lincoln's Generals, Boritt and his fellow contributors examine the interaction between the president and five key generals: McClellan, Hooker, Meade, Sherman, and Grant. In each chapter, the authors provide new insight into this mixed bag of officers and the president's tireless efforts to work with them. Even Lincoln's choice of generals was not as ill-starred as we think, writes Pulitzer Prize-winner Mark E. Neely, Jr.: compared to most Victorian-era heads of state, he had a fine record of selecting commanders (for example, the contemporary British gave us such bywords for incompetence as "the charge of the Light Brigade," while Napoleon III managed to lose the entire French army). But the president's relationship with his generals was never easy. In these pages, Stephen Sears underscores McClellan's perverse obstinancy as Lincoln tried everything to drive him ahead. Neely sheds new light on the president's relationship with Hooker, arguing that he was wrong to push the general to attack at Chancellorsville. Boritt writes about Lincoln's prickly relationship with the victor of Gettysburg, "old snapping turtle" George Meade. Michael Fellman reveals the political stress between the White House and William T. Sherman, a staunch conservative who did not want blacks in his army but who was crucial to the war effort. And John Y. Simon looks past the legendary camaraderie between Lincoln and Grant to reveal the tensions in their relationship.
Perhaps no other episode has been more pivotal in the nation's history than the Civil War--and yet so much of these massive events turned on a few distinctive personalities. Lincoln's Generals is a brilliant portrait that takes us inside the individual relationships that shaped the course of our most costly war.