Sample Book Review on Lincoln and his generals

Book review

Lincoln and his generals is a book that was written over fifty year ago. It has effectively given a definitive account of Lincoln’s leadership style by creating drama, which tells stories of Lincoln’s search for able commanders of the American Union Army. Lincoln and his generals trace transformations of Abraham Lincoln from a Politician with little knowledge of military affairs to a master strategist who effectively headed a civil war. This book has extensively explored Lincoln Fraught relationships with army generals, for example, McClellan, Pope, Burnside and Hooker, It gives an account of Lincoln’s engagement with Military affairs plus how they became crucial to Northern military activities; this engagement utterly brought transformations to Lincoln’s role as commander of the army. Lincolns and his generals is an important book, since it has used some important themes that can be applied to officers in today’s army. Some of the major themes highlighted in the book include, the power of leadership, significance of strategy, role of leaders during  war, the power of  command, development of a modern command system and the significance of morale.

One main theme evident this book is the effect of good leadership. William has described the American civil war, as an example of a modern day war and Lincoln’s function in this war in relation to the position of being president is explored. William speaks about the Union Army as a group with no shape. He contends that, the group lacked plans to attack; war thoughts had not been translated into any type of scheme. The Union Army did not have the efficient organization and communication; the existing qualified generals were old and immensely inept. Lincoln’s imperative role was to select generals, the selections, in many times were based  on political plus personal grounds, Lincoln was in the position of selecting from a pool of  generals that did not have any knowledge of leading  large armies.[1] The author suggests that the selection of army generals should have been based on political reasons. Lincoln had national cohesion at his heart. He goes on to explain that if Lincoln had competent generals in his army, then he could not have interfered with this process. Lincoln chronicles, presents his ability as a willing amateur leader, who had ability in bringing out what was best in some individuals and learn from these same individuals. Lincoln’s skills in leading the Union army are exceptional; they reveal a need for transformational leadership in army leadership. The army is all about leadership; absence of effective leadership thwarts significant operations.

It is apparent in the historical chronicle that Lincoln was navigating through a very steep curve he was an astute war strategist; the significance of war strategy is clearly depicted in this book giving it a central position in the success that was observed.[2] Effective strategy should be the primary principle of doing things in a correct way; since without strategy, there is no direction. William claims; concerning the concept of the total war as a way of causing destruction to the enemy army, that it was identified earliest by use of enthusiasm by Lincoln, who was able to come up with an improved image than most of his commanders and staff. Apart from Lincoln, there is no other person that had the ability to lead war on either side.

One characteristic that marked both sides was the need to share equal innocence of knowledge in war making, this said, the performance of Lincoln when compared to that of Davis is super impressive. William explains that Lincoln as a master strategist possessed many qualities as a leader, for instance, he was not swift in claiming credit of the success of Sherman, despite the fact that he could not be justified to do this in consideration of the direction that he provided. [3] In his strategy, Lincoln utilized the principle of vigilance and self-reliance found in his commanders, all these qualities were found in Grant; one of his commanders. Lincoln not only has the political skills to control people, but thought in a global and comprehensive way, his tactics conceived an immense success as a piece of a massive puzzle.

The theme of the modern command system in this book is exemplified through the powerful presidency, actual structures of the centralized authorities that Lincoln used, to complement himself, and the structure of his army. William analysis of modernity did not focus on economic development, but rather governmental organization and roles, which it played in the Northern army. It is evident that Lincoln men started the war with very little and inefficient war infrastructure, there were good leaders that had little experience, a few soldiers and very little idea of organizing and administering an efficient military force.

The North could not have made much of its advantages in population plus industrialization until modern command systems were created.[4] The modern system was inclusive of the commander in chief, the general in chief and chief of staff. All these factors presented the modern system of command in the United States. Modern command approaches are important for administration purpose. They also helped the general to have a focus on the war without necessarily having to concentrate on details himself, at one time, Lincoln said to Grant; one of the commanders that, “Those not skinning can hold a leg” Grant knew that Lincoln meant total war by his phrase and absolute destruction of the Confederate army.[5]

The significance of morale politics in military operations has been emphasized; it is important, noting that war is not entirely based on purely military activities. In democratic countries where concepts of war are solely dependent on people’s resolution to support and also fight, morale is immensely important. Sherman’s destruction of Atlanta brought back flagging masses from North; Mr. Tecumseh’s rampage in the south worked a parallel damage on Southern Psyche. The move was significant in crippling the Southern Society, it also contributed immensely in political and psychological terms of the war completion, and this aided the reelection of Lincoln and weakening of the confederates. Morale is made of many factors, this includes confidence in the use of equipment, better training, and having a sound administration, but of ultimate importance is confidence that exists between commanders together with their subordinates and between individual soldiers. High morale can be obtained by creation of close bonds plus personal trust.

Themes in Lincoln’s and his general can be used by officers in today’s army, for example,  morale politics are very significant in the army, this is because they entails all characteristics that are needed to make an efficient soldier, acts of obedience, will power and self discipline. Through morale, officers can pursue common objectives; morale can be utilized through commanders in pooling officers to come together. The reason that morale can be important today is the fact that they improve group cohesion, the absence of moral in a unit will make the unit to give up or even surrender during war. These approaches should be analyzed by collective levels not individual levels. Many army commanders use morale principles to look for fighting spirits of divisions, battalions, plus ships.

As a leader Lincoln did not dwell much on his weaknesses he always looked for ways to learn and improve on his weaknesses. Army officers should be open to learn and receive harsh criticism they should understand that this is supposed to make them better. Even when faced with difficult situations.

This book book passes a very important message to today’s army officers, it contends that army officers just like Lincoln should be able to adapt and put more interest in learning from mistakes. Officers are expected to become fine strategists, as this will determine their ability to handle war issues with ease. Good leadership is paramount in the army, Lincoln success can be attributed to his application of good leadership. The army today should be headed by people who have been proven to have exemplary leadership qualities. Without leadership, the army cannot make good strategic decisions.

Lincoln and his generals have influenced the mandate of the president as the commander in chief of the armed forces, presidents today still shapes and define national policy. This policy functions to preserve the U.S as one nation, indivisible and as a country that is based on majority rule. Many critics questioned Lincoln in his military decisions, they argued that he did accord political context in decisions that he made, this still happens today, however, presidents understand the difference between national and military strategy.

Lincoln’s use of command approach affects present army strategies in various ways. Today, modern command approaches involve practicing authority plus direction using commanders designated for unique purposes. Modern command approaches have aided designation of tasks among officers through command systems. Information flow should be a major priority, information which is vital plus contingent can be communicated to lower staffs by commanders. Strategy plus good leadership should be regarded as key tools for creation of efficient army units. Currently, leadership in the army has begun with what leaders must be. Leaders should have values plus attributes, which should help shape leader’s character. Effective leaders in the army have influenced army officers in doing what is necessary; through operations, leaders have taken actions in influencing others for purposes of accomplishing missions and preparing stages for future operations.


Williams, H. (2011). Lincoln and His Generals. New York: Vintage.


[1] Williams, H. (2011). Lincoln and His Generals. New York: Vintage.


[2] Williams, H. (2011). Lincoln and His Generals. New York: Vintage.


[3] Williams, H. (2011). Lincoln and His Generals. New York: Vintage.


[4] Williams, H. (2011). Lincoln and His Generals. New York: Vintage.


[5] Williams, H. (2011). Lincoln and His Generals. New York: Vintage.