Lincoln and Leadership: Military, Political, and Religious Decision Making

By Striner, Richard | The Journal of Southern History, February 2014 | Go to article overview

Lincoln and Leadership: Military, Political, and Religious Decision Making


Striner, Richard, The Journal of Southern History


Lincoln and Leadership: Military, Political, and Religious Decision Making. Edited by Randall M. Miller. The North's Civil War. (New York: Fordham University Press, 2012. Pp. [xvi], 135. Paper, $18.00, ISBN 978-0-8232 4345-7; cloth, $55.00, ISBN 978-0-8232-4344-0.)

This collection of essays on Abraham Lincoln's leadership resulted from a conference sponsored by the Union League of Philadelphia's Abraham Lincoln Foundation in 2009. The volume includes a long introduction by the editor, Randall M. Miller, an afterword by Allen C. Guelzo, and the following essays: "Sowing the Wind and Reaping the Whirlwind: Abraham Lincoln as a War President," by Gregory J. W. Urwin; "Seeing Lincoln's Blind Memorandum," by Matthew Pinsker; and "Abraham Lincoln as Moral Leader: The Second Inaugural as America's Sermon to the World," by Harry S. Stout. The preface states that the collection's "purpose [is] not to debunk or celebrate Lincoln's leadership but, rather, to understand its foundations and functioning" (p. xii).

The goal of dispassionate analysis proves hard to sustain. Urwin's assessment contains assumptions that are baseless or one-sided. For instance, in his quarrel with the "tendency to reduce history to an inspiring pageant," he imputes to Americans generally an obliviousness to the human cost of the Civil War. He writes that the legacy of postwar prosperity "inclines Americans to regard the Civil War simply as a slight detour in the republic's irrepressible rise to greatness" (p. 45). But how can one presume such a thing when American popular culture is rife with imagery that makes the goriness of this war very clear? …

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