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Lincoln and His Generals

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  507 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
Since it was first published in 1952, Lincoln and His Generals has remained one of the definitive accounts of Lincoln’s wartime leadership. In it T. Harry Williams dramatizes Lincoln’s long and frustrating search for an effective leader of the Union Army and traces his transformation from a politician with little military knowledge into a master strategist of the Civil War ...more
Paperback, 363 pages
Published January 11th 2011 by Vintage (first published 1952)
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Jun 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
William's views Lincoln as a military genius: a man, who came into office with little knowledge of military affairs and almost no military experience (other than brief militia service) and yet he was mentally flexible enough to adapt to the rapidly shifting situation and learn from his errors to guide his nation to victory through its greatest national crisis. Some of Williams’ claims seemed over the top; he claims, for example, that Lincoln grasped the war's big picture from the very beginning, ...more
Nathan Albright
Apr 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: challenge
This book, one of quite a few spoken of my my local congregational pastor [1], is one of many books about Abraham Lincoln that have been written over the years, and like many books written since its publishing in 1952, it seeks to differentiate itself from other books on the subject of Abraham Lincoln and the American Civil War, about which many books have been written [2]. In the Preface, which is important for readers to seriously examine, the author notes that his particular focus on generals ...more
Mary Ellen Woods
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good discussion of the development of modern command structure
Theo Logos
In Lincoln and His Generals, T. Harry Williams concentrated on telling the story of Lincoln as commander in chief during America's greatest and most devastating war. In the preface he states his goals clearly; "my theme is Lincoln as a director of war and his place in the high command and his influence in developing a modern command system for his nation." Williams expertly develops this theme throughout this fascinating book. Though many may disagree with some of his conclusions about how effec ...more
Erik Graff
Mar 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Civil War fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
Having been very favorably impressed by his Huey Long biography and having this earlier book by him on the shelf, I picked up Williams' Lincoln and His Generals immediately, reading it in two days. While good, Lincoln is not as excellent as the Long book, Williams' writing abilities having apparently improved substantially during the years between their dates of composition. Still, it's a good book.

This is not suitable as an introduction to the Civil War. Prior knowledge of the war is necessary.
Justin Poe
I had heard quite a bit about this book before reading it. I picked up an original 1952, red cover copy of this for probably just a couple of bucks at a thrift store. After reading this, I'm left feeling a bit disappointed in the book.

The author does so much speculating throughout the book, using terms like "probably", "most likely", "must have been", ect. Williams clearly holds Lincoln in the highest esteem in his book and in using these terms of speculation, always errors on the side of makin
Jul 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think this is an under-appreciated book in the Lincoln cannon. It's not concentrated on flashy narratives or dramatic events. It turns attention to characters and strategy. But what makes it compelling is just how masterfully Williams crafts the story. He moves slow through the events of the war that moved slow, concentrating an overwhelming amount of attention to McClellan. We get introduced to characters, like Grant, who will play a bigger role later in the war but he doesn't give into the t ...more
James F
Feb 04, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, us, civil, war
On the NY Times Bestseller List the week I was born (for that Shelfari group challenge.) This was an interesting look at Lincoln's role in the military conduct of the war, especially before Grant took the top command. The author spends much time explaining the problems with McClellan et al. on the basis of their personal characters, as well as the lack of a modern command structure, but what comes through between the lines is that the basic problems were political; Lincoln chose conservative gen ...more
Mar 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book! Mr. Williams gives an insightful glance into the relationships between President Lincoln and his generals during the Civil War. The focus of the book is mainly on the generals that most frustrated the Commander In Chief, those with cases of 'the slows' or those that constantly asked for supplies and reinforcements and yet could never entirely be ready to engage the Confederates. Lincoln takes a paternal tone with some of the younger generals, and was patient beyond be ...more
Jul 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My brother-in-law lent this book to me....we both are Civil War/Lincoln readers. This is an excellent read but only for those truly interested in the subject and the strategy that went into the Civil War battles. I learned so much from reading this book and the author was able to capture a side of Lincoln readers rarely see..... that of a brilliant war strategist and manager of military men with a variety of personality quirks and degrees of competence of leading men on the battlefield. I am ver ...more
Williams provides what it still today the best study of Lincoln as commander-in-chief of the Union armies. The author's grasp of the political dimensions behind strategy and personnel issues makes it a rewarding read, and his fascinating judgments on individual commanders are mostly sound. One walks away from "Lincoln and His Generals" thankful that a man with such aptitude for command as Abraham Lincoln occupied the White House during those four crucial years.
Chuck Russo
Jan 31, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Outstanding history of Lincoln's struggle to find a general who could competently execute his Civil War strategies. Read this book and you will acquire an even deeper appreciation for Lincoln's greatness (along with an appreciation for the utter incompetence of the first several generals in command of Union forces)
Leslie Tyler
Jun 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really good view of the civil war from the lens of leadership and the creation of the modern role of the commander-in-chief and military organization. Good lessons in leadership even in non-military contexts as well.
John Minster
Williams crafts an interesting Civil War narrative coming almost entirely from the perspective of Lincoln as a military commander. He shows Lincoln had a skillful strategic mind, while at the same time demonstrating Lincoln's capacity for managing generals, and by proxy, people.
Chris Chard
Apr 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good stuff
Mar 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Interesting perspective of Lincoln's role during the War and his interactions with certain generals. I would recommend this book!
Oct 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This really shows what went wrong with the Union Army until Grant. Lincoln's very rocky road as Commander-in-Chief and all the personalities involved.
Very nice review of the relationship of President Lincoln with his military generals and the ultimate forging of a mature civilian-military command structure.
Kate Willis
Jan 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ended pretty aburptly, but had some really interesting insights.
May 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting book with great theories on the life of Lincoln and argues for his tactics in leading the country and the military through the Civil War.
Good basic Civil War history.
Jul 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For anyone wanting to understand Lincoln and the military strategy of the Civil War, this is the place to strt. It is a classic that I constantly refer to when teaching the Civil War
Apr 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
great reference book
Joida Tala
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Cindy Lang
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Aug 09, 2016
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David W.
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Cody Fitzgerald
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Feb 16, 2018
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T. Harry Williams (Thomas Harry Williams) was an historian at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge whose writing career began in 1941 and extended for thirty-eight years until his death in 1979. Williams is perhaps best known for his American Civil War study, Lincoln and His Generals, a "Book of the Month" selection from 1952, and Huey Long, winner of both the National Book Award and the Puli ...more
More about T. Harry Williams...

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