Civil War Book Review: Lincoln and McClellan: The Troubled Partnership between a President and His General

by James Durney on June 28, 2010 · 0 comments

Lincoln and McClellan: The Troubled Partnership between a President and His General
by John C. Waugh

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230613497
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230613492

Doing a book on Lincoln and McClellan is akin to running naked through a minefield.  On one side, is a beloved President universally acclaimed and highly respected.  On the other side is a general that is less than a complete success with an ego problem that is highly disliked.  Unless an author is willing to do “Lincoln is always right”, something is going to go BOOM!

Subtitled “The Troubled Partnership between a President and His General”, the author carefully traces that partnership from the dark days after First Bull Run to November 1864.  While this is a pro Lincoln book, the author never demonizes McClellan.  In common with many authors, he may not like him but respects the good work McClellan did.  This produces a more balanced history that is closer to what happened.

Where McClellan is concerned, the glass is usually half-empty.  However, Lincoln’s fears for Washington and the impact they have on the Peninsula Campaign are covered.  The section on the Maryland Campaign is well done and generally fair to both parties.  What emerges is two men under intense pressures unable to understand or appreciate the other’s position.  While there are many items not considered.  Overall, this is an excellent summary of their relationship.

John C. Waugh is an excellent writer producing an easy to read book that is both informative and enjoyable.  The book is fully footnoted with a comprehensive list of sources. Fully prepared to dislike this book, I brought it home after seeing it in the store.  This is not a detailed military and political in-depth study.  It is a good examination of these areas, touching on all the major questions and many of the minor ones.  It is either an introduction or an excellent review.


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