Reflections of a Civil War Historian: Essays on Leadership, Society, and the Art of War

By Herman Hattaway | Go to book overview

LINCOLN'S PRESIDENTIAL EXAMPLE
IN DEALING WITH THE MILITARY

Much of this paper was originally written, and delivered, as a
speech for the 1986 meeting of the Abraham Lincoln Association
in Springfield, Illinois. I was quite involved in working with
Archer Jones at the time, researching and writing what became
Why the South Lost the Civil War, and I am sure that he helped me
with this piece too, if only in shaping my thoughts on military
strategy, his special forte. The Association eventually published
my speech in Papers of the Abraham Lincoln Association. Footnotes
were cobbled together for the printed version, but all of the quo-
tations are from rather standard and well-known sources (well-
known to scholars and specialists in the field, at least). I have
therefore opted to present it here much as it originally was—a
paper in speech format—though I have retained a few footnotes
that might be of interest. I have also added some passages from
“Lincoln as Military Strategist,” an essay I wrote with Jones that
covers some of the same ground.

We ask, and expect, a great deal of our presidents. While we demand they be civilians—at least while they are serving as president—they must also be commander in chief of all the armed forces of the United States. This has great significance and importance because the civilian president actually is part—indeed, he is at the top—of what the military calls the chain of command. He issues orders, salutes and is saluted, and makes ultimate military decisions. He either himself formulates—with any help he can exploit—or must approve of whatever strategy is employed. He is responsible for approving the selection of all the top generals and admirals.

Portions of this essay are excerpted from “Lincoln as Military Strategist,”
which first appeared in Civil War History 26:4 (1980) and is reprinted by per-
mission of the Kent State University Press.

-78-

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