Books by Gabor S. Boritt

Released: Oct. 1, 1994

An intriguing collection of essays covering much familiar ground, but with enough new insights and fresh perspectives to interest both Civil War buffs and casual readers. Boritt (Civil War Studies/Gettysburg College; Why the Confederacy Lost, 1992) assembles five essays by top specialists in the field, exploring the relationship of wartime Commander-in-Chief Lincoln to his leaders on the battlefield. The common denominator in those relations, the volume argues, was conflict, in part because of the inherent tension between civil and military authorities but also due to the personalities of Lincoln and those he chose to command. Stephen Sears (George B. McClellan, 1988) again examines ``little Mac,'' a supremely cautious man who never thought he had enough men or matÇriel to fight the Confederates; Lincoln removed him from command after he failed to exploit the narrow Union victory at Antietam. Mark Neely (The Last Best Hope of Earth, 1993) assays ``Fighting Joe'' Hooker, who led Union forces into a blundering defeat on bad terrain at Chancellorsville. Boritt looks at George Meade and the Battle of Gettysburg; like McClellan, Meade was cautious and slow, a trait that infuriated Lincoln and led him briefly to consider leaving Washington to take command of the Army himself. Michael Fellman (History/Simon Fraser Univ., British Columbia) writes about William Tecumseh Sherman, with whom Lincoln had distant and infrequent contact. Lincoln counseled Sherman to show mercy to Southerners—advice the general ignored, but his March to the Sea helped clinch Lincoln's re-election, which for a time seemed doubtful. Finally, John Y. Simon (History/Univ. of Southern Illinois) discusses Ulysses S. Grant, the general with whom it is often assumed Lincoln had the best relationship: The volume makes it clear that was true only in comparison with the president's other fractured ties. Five thoughtful and well-written essays, further grist for the mill of seemingly endless fascination with America's costliest war. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1992

Seven sterling essays that assess the nature of Lincoln's leadership as commander in chief. Written by an impressive constellation of historians, including five Pulitzer winners, all the pieces but the one by Boritt (Civil War Studies/Gettysburg College; ed., Why the Confederacy Lost, p. 151) are drawn from lectures given annually at Gettysburg College to commemorate Lincoln's address. As James M. McPherson writes in his perceptive ``Lincoln and the Strategy of Unconditional Surrender,'' Lincoln was ``the only President in our history whose entire administration was bounded by the parameters of war.'' Yet his purpose in prosecuting the Civil War, and the war's implications for his posterity, remains as elusive as other aspects of his contradictory personality. Inevitably, this collection's mainstream perspective on Lincoln is refracted through the prism of more recent, convulsive conflicts, including the civil-rights movement (David Brion Davis's ``The Emancipation Movement''), the Vietnam War (Boritt's ``War Opponent and War President''), and the overthrow of Communism and the flowering of East European nationalism (Kenneth Stampp's ``One Alone? The United States and National Self-Determination''). Arthur Schlesinger's piece comparing Lincoln and FDR as war leaders, while written with his customary grace and political incisiveness, also betrays his tendency to minimize the failings of his heroes. The comprehensive overviews in these pieces, however, especially in Carl Degler's examination of 19th-century national unification movements, inspires deepened appreciation for Lincoln's ``new birth of freedom.'' Particularly for Boritt and Robert Bruce (``The Shadow of the Coming War''), Lincoln emerges as a compellingly paradoxical figure: a hater of violence who refused to back away from the bloodiest war in American history; a practical politician whose resort to emancipation ennobled a gory struggle. First-rate commentary by some of our finest historians on the President tested more than any other by war. (Twenty b&w illustrations.) Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1992

In this slender but sensibly argued group of essays edited by Boritt (Civil War Studies/Gettysburg College), five outstanding Civil War scholars offer their views of what led to Robert E. Lee's appointment with Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox. The authors emphasize military operations as opposed to industrial, demographic, psychological, or other factors—almost counterrevisionism, given recent trends in Civil War scholarship. In the linchpin essay, Battle Cry of Freedom author James M. McPherson provides a roundup of some of these chic theories (e.g., that states' rights doomed a coordinated Confederate war effort) before dispatching them with his usual cool, crisp authority. The other essays aim to counteract what they see as faulty logic that makes Union battlefield success the result rather than the cause of Confederate failure. Taking a more or less traditional view of the key generals, Gary W. Gallagher sees Grant and Sherman as the indispensable architects of Union victory, while defending Lee's much-criticized concentration on the eastern theater as the best strategic course for the rebels. Reid Mitchell contrasts the increasing cohesion of the Union rank-and-file with Johnny Reb's fears for the welfare of his family. Without exaggerating their importance, Joseph Glatthaar gives one of the most succinct yet magisterial explanations to date of how blacks tipped the balance to the Union as the two armies teetered on the brink of exhaustion. Even the least impressive essay—Archer Jones's on strategy- -skillfully discusses tactics like raids and concentration of forces—although, by finding that neither side really got the better of the other, it begs the question of why the South lost. A stimulating, authoritative, and persuasive contribution to Civil War historiography. Read full book review >