THE WAR FOR THE UNION: The Improvised War 1861-62 by Allan Nevins

THE WAR FOR THE UNION: The Improvised War 1861-62

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

This is Vol. 5 of Ordeal of the Union, Nevins' projected 10 volume survey of America from the Mexican War to the end of Reconstruction. In 1947 the first two volumes appeared, in 1950 with The Emergence of Lincoln, the second two. Four volumes- of which this is the fifth- will compass the years of war. Here we have the first blundering steps,the reluctance to face first the inevitability of actual warfare, second the conviction that war, if it came, would be short. Then- following Sumter- came the period of uncertainty regarding border states, where neutrality could not endure, but where local civil war split families and friends for years. Preparation was spasmodic and unorganized, improvisation stemming from reluctance and inexperience. Leadership fumbled and collapsed. In the Army, Scott proved too old, McClellan's mask of self confidence covered profound self-distrust, lesser officers proved of mediocre quality or worse, 90-day enlistments and drafting a three year army came head on into conflict with state pride and the policy of state militias. Equipment was inadequate, transportation and communication still in a stage of infancy, the atmosphere in Washington was electric with disunity, some pushing for more speed, others stumbling and hesitant, and Lincoln bucking his warmongering Seward, at odds with his Cabinet, slow to seize the reins of power. But at the first grim year's close, when the Union saw more of failure than achievement, the appointment of Stanton marked a step forward in statesmanship. The President was taking over direction. Once again, as in the earlier volumes, Nevins shows his ability to hold the threads of a many faceted performance in his hands, to keep the emphases where they belong, to etch sharply the moods, the regional differences, and to make the human factors come alive-key figures in a giant struggle.

Pub Date: Aug. 31st, 1959
Publisher: Scribner