CRUCIBLE OF COMMAND by William C. Davis
Kirkus Star

CRUCIBLE OF COMMAND

Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee—the War They Fought, the Peace They Forged
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

“The cheering proved to be our folly.” Thus said Robert E. Lee, chiding Southern vanity at the outbreak of the Civil War, the setting for this thoughtful study of command.

Recognizing that plenty has already been written about the generals who led the Civil War on both sides, Davis (History/Virginia Tech Univ.; The Rogue Republic: How Would-Be Patriots Waged the Shortest Revolution in American History, 2011, etc.) takes an interesting approach, using secondary sources and correcting them where applicable and relying on first-person, contemporary accounts of Lee and his formidable adversary, Ulysses S. Grant. The men had met in the field in the war with Mexico but had traveled in different orbits, Grant in particular having a flair for, if not always success in, business. Both, however, inclined to the depressive and carried the burden of the literally countless men who died in their service. Lee, writes the author, was opposed to secession and, by his account, was a reluctant slaveholder; moreover, he professed that his country was Virginia, a sentiment radical South Carolinians returned by suspecting Lee of lukewarm devotion to the cause. Yet Lee was a faithful lieutenant to the Southern government, and Jefferson Davis in particular, even though his “mistrust of politicians kept him aloof from the political morass.” Grant was less aloof, carefully gauging political mood swings, though Lee was no slouch, either, as when he instructed his Virginia troops in battle in Maryland to pretend “to be Marylanders holding their own ground,” thus rallying their allies and evidencing “a neat bit of political and diplomatic camouflage showing Lee’s subtlety in areas other than military.” Indeed, one of Davis’ chief contributions in this accessible, well-written study is to show how thoroughly politicized the war was—as was its aftermath, revealed by a charged but by no means unfriendly meeting the two had in 1868, when Grant was in the White House.

A fresh look at the sources and a careful eye to leadership and character places this book high atop the list of recent Civil War histories.

Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-306-82245-2
Page count: 688pp
Publisher: Da Capo/Perseus
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2015




THIS WINTER'S BEST BETS:

FictionGOD LOVES HAITI by Dimitry Elias Léger
by Dimitry Elias Léger
NonfictionCRUCIBLE OF COMMAND by William C. Davis
by William C. Davis
ChildrenHELLHOLE by Gina Damico
by Gina Damico
NonfictionTHE PARTNERSHIP by Pamela Katz
by Pamela Katz

MORE BY WILLIAM C. DAVIS

NonfictionTHE ROGUE REPUBLIC by William C. Davis
by William C. Davis
NonfictionTHE PIRATES LAFFITE by William C. Davis
by William C. Davis
NonfictionLONE STAR RISING by William C. Davis
by William C. Davis

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

NonfictionTHE CIVIL WAR IN 50 OBJECTS by Harold Holzer
by Harold Holzer
NonfictionA SAVAGE WAR by Williamson Murray
by Williamson Murray
NonfictionCLOUDS OF GLORY by Michael Korda
by Michael Korda