45 pages 1 hour read

James M. Mcpherson

Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution

Nonfiction | Biography | Adult | Published in 1983

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Chapter 4

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 4 Summary: “Lincoln and the Strategy of Unconditional Surrender”

Although peaceful by nature, Lincoln understood the Civil War as necessary, and he had always insisted on the unconditional surrender of Confederate forces as a condition of peace talks. Lincoln’s presidency was dominated by the war, and Lincoln studied military strategy intensively, making many crucial decisions in deciding the course of battles. In 1864 Lincoln made Ulysses S. Grant (67) the general in chief, allowing himself to step back slightly from war decisions. Grant’s actions at Petersburg, the Valley, and the Carolinas are held as the three events that defeated the Confederate army and forced its surrender.

Though a huge part of his presidency, very little Lincoln scholarship deals with Lincoln as a war leader. Scholarship that does focuses only on military strategy without considering the larger political strategy that enfolded it. McPherson explains that “national strategy is the shaping and defining of a nation’s political goals in time of war. Military strategy is the use of armed forces to achieve those goals” (69-70).

Lincoln elected several “political generals” (70), generals wholly inexperienced in war command who received their posts to secure political support for Lincoln. For example, Lincoln elected a German American named Schimmelfennig based solely on the sound of his name to appease the large German American population supporting him.