Lincoln the Unexpected “Trailblazer” as “Political General”

Abraham Lincoln as President was a surprise to many, perhaps including himself.  The exigencies of leading a nation under unprecedented stress brought forth not only the significant decision to end slavery, but also many talents.  In my book, Civil War Trailblazers and Troublemakers, I discuss one that many people do not focus on:  Lincoln as a military leader.  Here are some excerpts, and I hope you will enjoy the remainder of this essay and the book.

“The Civil War revolutionized the American army and military practice in many ways.  The ascendancy of the professional soldier to all command positions was accompanied by a realization that “citizen-soldiers” and Political Generals were critical to victory at a time when 98% of the army was made up of volunteers.  While there were many successful Political Generals like John Logan, Joshua Chamberlain, and Jacob Cox, by far the most talented Union Political General was Abraham Lincoln.

Perhaps Lincoln’s most important political-military decision was to implement a “hard hand of war” policy in 1862.  That included issuing the Emancipation Proclamation and ordering the creation of black regiments.  Early on, unlike many of his generals, he concluded that victory would come by defeating Confederate armies, not by taking their cities or pushing them back from Northern invasions.

Esteemed scholar T. Harry Williams wrote the following about Lincoln as a military leader: ‘Lincoln stands out as a great war president, probably the greatest in our history, and a great natural strategist, a better one than any of his generals.  He was in actuality as well as in title the commander in chief who, by his larger strategy, did more than Grant or any general to win the war for the Union.'”

50 men and women who inalterably changed the civil war era


Author: geneofva

Author of "Citizen-General: Jacob Dolson Cox and the Civil War Era," and of seven more Civil War books -- with more to come!!

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