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Lincoln's Political Generals
At the beginning of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln sought to bind important political leaders to the Union by appointing them as generals. The task was formidable: he had to find enough qualified officers to command a military that would fight along a front that stretched halfway across the continent. West Point hadn't graduated enough officers,...
At the beginning of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln sought to bind important political leaders to the Union by appointing them as generals. The task was formidable: he had to find enough qualified officers to command a military that would fight along a front that stretched halfway across the continent. West Point hadn't graduated enough officers, and many of its best chose to fight for the Confederacy. Lincoln needed loyal men accustomed to organization, administration, and command. He also needed soldiers, and political generals brought with them their constituents and patronage power.As the war proceeded, the value of the political generals became a matter of serious dispute. Could politicians make the shift from a political campaign to a military one? Could they be trusted to fight? Could they avoid destructive jealousies and the temptations of corruption? And with several of the generals being Irish or German immigrants, what effect would ethnic prejudices have on their success or failure?In this book, David Work examines Lincoln's policy of appointing political generals to build a national coalition to fight and win the Civil War. Work follows the careers of sixteen generals through the war to assess their contributions and to ascertain how Lincoln assessed them as commander-in-chief. Eight of the generals began the war as Republicans and eight as Democrats. Some commanded armies, some regiments. Among them were some of the most famous generals of the Union--such as Francis P. Blair Jr., John A. Dix, John A. Logan, James S. Wadsworth--and others whose importance has been obscured by more dramatic personalities.Work finds that Lincoln's policy was ultimately successful, as these generals provided effective political support and made important contributions in military administration and on the battlefield. Although several of them proved to be poor commanders, others were effective in exercising influence on military administration and recruitment, slavery policy, and national politics.
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