IF ONE wishes to know something about one's own country, it is often a very good idea to ask a foreigner what he thinks of it. He may not be quite as well informed as a native, and he may not have all his details straight; but the details he does have enable him to form a judgment unaffected by local prejudices and local controversies. That is, by seeing things from a distance, he will have a better grasp of the whole picture.
In the present case, that grasp is practically the whole book; and it is not observable that General Ballard has missed any essential details. Also, in setting them out, he has produced what amounts to an extremely good short history of the war. It perhaps does not rest quite enough weight on the importance of the Western campaigns, but the primary purpose is to examine Lincoln's influence on strategy, and as Lincoln had a couple of pretty good strategists, named Grant and Sherman, out there, his influence was limited to keeping them on the job, and seeing they got what they needed.
General Ballard has also perhaps somewhat underestimated the part factional politics played in Lincoln's selection of generals, and especially in his retention of McClellan in command, after that officer had demonstrated his incapacity for anything but leading a parade. But this is not really germane to the subject of the book. General Ballard proves convincingly that Lincoln chose good generals whenever there were good generals to choose, the striking case being the retention of Grant in the face of criticism. But the main concern here is with the higher strategy of the war as a whole, the sort of thing that was worked out during the late conflict by the heads of states meeting at various places around the world for conferences with peculiar names. Lincoln had