LINCOLN, THE WAR PRESIDENT by Gabor S. Boritt

LINCOLN, THE WAR PRESIDENT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 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.)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-19-507891-8
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1992




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