Review: Lincoln and His Admirals

by James Durney on November 19, 2008 · 0 comments

Lincoln and His Admirals by Craig L. Symonds

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (October 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195310225
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195310221

If this book is not a finalist for a major award in Lincoln and Civil War history, we will have a gross injustice. This intelligent, interesting, readable book is one of the most original informative Civil War histories I have read this year. The author is retired from the U.S. Naval Academy after 30 years of teaching. During that time, he won both the Naval Academy’s “Excellence in Teaching” award (1988) and its “Excellence in Research” award (1998). This shows in his ability to construct a sentence that contains a lot of information without boring or losing the reader.

His portraits of the players are excellent. We never lose sight of the fact that they have not read the history book and do not know what is happening. Each crisis has the feel of current events unfolding as we read. Lincoln’s management style is fully developed and we understand what a masterful politician he is. The fighting between the departments of State, War and Navy are fully developed and completely understandable. While the book is written from the Navy’s perspective, the author never takes sides and faithfully reports the whole story.

Most Civil War history ignores the Nay’s role. This book gives us a detailed history of naval operations and the development of combined Army Navy actions. Lincoln never had a quite day as President. He had just sat down when the problem of supplies at Fort Sumter dropped on him. The author provides a detailed account of the decision-making and the problems associated with that action. His account of the Trent Affair could be one of the best accounts in existence. The same can be said of his Red River Campaign and his discussion of the impact of cotton on the war.

This is not a book of blazing guns! It is a book of politics, technology and personalities interacting during war. Ambition, personal preferences and personality quirks make up the story. This is not a view of the war we often see but it is a very important view that we need to be aware of. Craig L. Symonds gives us this view in an entertaining and informative book that belongs in every library.

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