For a Kinder, Gentler Society
Abraham Lincoln: Letters to His Generals, 1861-1865
  • Brett F. Woods
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Abraham Lincoln: Letters to His Generals, 1861-1865.
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From a historical perspective, Abraham Lincoln emerges as an extraordinary individual—one who was clearly many things to many people. The most comprehensive portrait of noteworthy public figures can generally be seen in their personal letters and journal entries. Lincoln’s wartime correspondence is no exception, and the letters he penned to his Civil War generals—through one of the most critical episodes in American history—are of singular importance.

While Abraham Lincoln is responsible for a significant body of correspondence, this is the first time an editor has focused principally on the strategic and analytical comments to his generals during the course of the American Civil War.


About the Author

Brett F. Woods is a professor of history for the American Public University System. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Essex, England.

He has written widely on political, military, and diplomatic history, with his work appearing in numerous academic and mainstream publications including the Canadian Journal of History, the Asian Studies Review, the California Literary Review, and the Richmond Review (London). He is a regular contributor to ABC-CLIO’s military and political history reference collections and maintains an active research agenda, primarily directed to the Anglo-American colonial experience and British imperial studies.

Dr. Woods has published five books with Algora: Thomas Jefferson: Diplomatic Correspondence, Paris, 1784–1789 (2016); Abraham Lincoln: Letters to His Generals, 1861–1865 (2013); Thomas Jefferson: Thoughts on War and Revolution (2009), Neutral Ground: A Political History of Espionage Fiction (2007), and Letters from France: The Private Diplomatic Correspondence of Benjamin Franklin, 1776–1785 (2006).

His associations have included The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, the American Historical Association; and the North American Conference on British Studies, among others.

About the Book

I have long believed that the most comprehensive portrait of historical figures might be seen in their personal correspondence and journal entries. Abraham Lincoln is certainly no exception, and those letters and telegrams he penned as...

I have long believed that the most comprehensive portrait of historical figures might be seen in their personal correspondence and journal entries. Abraham Lincoln is certainly no exception, and those letters and telegrams he penned as commander-in-chief—throughout one of the most critical episodes in American history—are of singular importance.

This is particularly true when one reviews them in their entirety, as opposed to selected excerpts that, if indeed they have been reprinted at all, have been available only in part, reduced to excerpts, citations, or references which, in many instances, have been repeatedly cited as the foundation for a particular interpretation of events, or conclusion of fact.

Additionally, the selected pieces of correspondence are specifically directed to Lincoln’s observations on command and military operations, topics that have not been singularly addressed in previous Lincoln books. Accordingly, in this selection of a comparatively few items from the voluminous body of Lincoln correspondence that has been preserved, my intention is twofold: first, to add to the body of literature exploring leadership and governance during the American Civil War; and, secondly, and perhaps more importantly, to provide an additional glimpse into the character and thought processes of Abraham Lincoln as president and commander-in-chief.

Admittedly, interpreting the thoughts and actions of Abraham Lincoln can be a challenging exercise for, from a historical perspective; he emerges as an extraordinary individual—one who was clearly many things to many people. Precisely because of this complexity, he has become so much a part of America’s ongoing search for itself, so deeply entwined in the tapestry of American history, that in many instances succeeding generations have been largely unable to picture him clearly and objectively in his own life and times.

Against this backdrop, the letters collectively provide a unique glimpse into the character and thought processes of Lincoln as a military commander. Lincoln was not a natural strategist. He worked hard to master the subject, just as he had done to become a lawyer. Still, despite being forced to learn the functions of a commander-in-chief on the job, he demonstrates an oftentimes striking understanding of the issues. And, whether the subject might be a general memorandum of military policy, a reflection on the sentencing of a deserter, or pressing the attack on Confederate forces, he writes with remarkable clarity, insight, and concise eloquence.

This text is both a comprehensive reference resource and a unique supplement to the existing literature. The original written communications, which succeeding generations of historians have repeatedly cited as the basis for the interpretation of events or conclusions of fact, are reproduced in their entirety. While more recent Lincoln books—Generals in Blue and Gray (Jones); Lincoln’s Generals (Boritt); Lincoln and his Generals (Williams); and Lincoln on War (Holzer); among others—offer either general or specific examinations of selected aspects of Lincoln’s presidency, any correspondence is usually treated as brief excerpts that may be cited out of context, or incorrectly interpreted by the reader. Here, by contrast, the format of the selected letters, as Lincoln wrote them, is preserved whenever possible, and they are presented for the interest of a general readership as well as for students of military, cultural, or political history. The addressees are identified, particularly those who have been lost to history, and, where indicated, explanatory notes are provided to assist the reader in placing the correspondence in its particular historical, political, or conceptual context. Readers are encouraged to arrive at their own conclusions as to the intention of a specific piece of correspondence.



Year: 2013
BISAC: BIO011000
BISAC: BIO006000
Soft Cover
ISBN: 978-1-62894-000-8
Price: USD 24.95
Hard Cover
ISBN: 978-1-62894-001-5
Price: USD 34.95
eBook
ISBN: 978-1-62894-002-2
Price: USD 24.95
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