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Mr. Lincoln's Army (1951)

by Bruce Catton

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1,0101114,947 (4.16)29
A vivid account of the early battles, first in the Pulitzer Prize-winning trilogy: "One of America's foremost Civil War authorities" (Kirkus Reviews). The first book in Bruce Catton's Pulitzer Prize-winning Army of the Potomac Trilogy, Mr. Lincoln's Army is a riveting history of the early years of the Civil War, when a fledgling Union Army took its stumbling first steps under the command of the controversial general George McClellan. Following the secession of the Southern states, a beleaguered President Abraham Lincoln entrusted the dashing, charismatic McClellan with the creation of the Union's Army of the Potomac and the responsibility of leading it to a swift and decisive victory against Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Although a brilliant tactician who was beloved by his troops and embraced by the hero-hungry North, McClellan's ego and ambition ultimately put him at loggerheads with his commander in chief--a man McClellan considered unworthy of the presidency.   McClellan's weaknesses were exposed during the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day in American military history, which ended in a stalemate even though the Confederate troops were greatly outnumbered. After Antietam, Lincoln ordered McClellan's removal from command, and the Union entered the war's next chapter having suffered thousands of casualties and with great uncertainty ahead.   America's premier chronicler of the nation's brutal internecine conflict, Bruce Catton is renowned for his unparalleled ability to bring a detailed and vivid immediacy to Civil War battlefields and military strategy sessions. With tremendous depth and insight, he presents legendary commanders and common soldiers in all their complex and heartbreaking humanity.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
After ignoring the Shenandoah Valley and giving a a very short synopsis of the Peninsula Campaign, Catton proceeds to skip over Second Bull Run and Cedar Mountain to get to the heart of the book, Antietam. From here on out the storytelling is terrific and I enjoyed it very much. Still, to attempt to tell the story of the Civil War while ignoring it's most important theater where the war was actually won is curious and misleading. ( )
  5hrdrive | Aug 11, 2020 |
This was devoured during my Shelby Foote feast. I likened Catton to Hemingway if Foote were Proust. I find that apt. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
The rating for this book really doesn't reflect the degree to which I enjoyed reading it. I've read a lot of American Civil War related books and this definitely has something to offer interested readers, but it is also the most unevenly written book I have encountered. The author is particularly skilled -- outstanding even -- at presenting narrative vignettes surrounding historical events, such as battles. Unlike, Stephen Ambrose, for instance, whose work I have read, seemed like a middle schooler during a book report rushing through index cards he had pieced together of bits and pieces of information he had come upon, this author comes close at times to getting his vignette gems to nearly outshine the major events to which they are attached. He's like the best campfire story teller ever in that regard. He falters somewhat when he starts to get philosophical about events and personalities, not always justifying his positions or stating them clearly. In many regards, he is the ultimate Civil War history buff. Extremely well versed (much of this book assumes a certain level of prior knowledge by the reader on the subjects he discusses), he has positions to take, but I don't think he reaches the level of academician in all he proposes. Most odd about the book is the way the author jumps around and about several early battles, Bull Run, Ball's Bluff, the Seven Days, Second Bull Run, without ever going into much, if any, depth, and then, almost out of nowhere, he dives head first into the battle of Antietam, oozing with detail. What made the other battles so insignificant to not deserve more detail? Finally, it should be said that the books title is inappropriate. Very little is discussed about how the Army of the Potomac is "Mr. Lincoln's Army", not to mention the fact that there were multiple Union armies for which Lincoln was Commander in Chief, while this book is all about General McClellan's army, and that's what it should have been called. ( )
  larryerick | Apr 26, 2018 |
Let me be open, clear and honest here at the start - I am not a Civil War buff whatsoever. My knowledge of the Civil War comes from the old, musty lectures of History teachers in my Junior High School and High School classes - along with a single US History class early in my collegiate career. My knowledge of the Civil War is essentially truncated neatly into an relatively small understanding of why, names of primary individuals of interest, and the dates/locations of major military engagements.

This particular book that I have had in my hands for about a half a month, comes from my father. My father IS a Civil War buff. My father DOES understand much more about the Civil War then the surface edge that I comprehend. This particular book, and the other two books of "The Army Of The Potomac" series by Catton, were purchased by my father around the time I was born (1965) during the centennial celebration of this particular time frame of American history. I have inherited these books - along with several other Civil War books - from my father in this past year. I have looked at these books on his bookshelves in many places of residence (we were a military family - USAF - and moved quite a bit), but have never gotten the urge to pick them up to read. My forte' is Roman History, and have a couple of bookshelves cluttered with this particular topic. I was produ to obtain my father's Civil War collection, add it to my own, and now pick it up to read.

Mr. Cattons' reputation as a very skilled writer whose evocative method can literally place in the middle of the battlefields is well deserved. There were many times I could commiserate with the misery of the soldiers' on the battlefield. Given that the book is about The Army of the Potomac, its is stilted to a great degree to the story from the side of the Union. The Confederate Army is mentioned slightly, mostly in comparison points of battlefield conditions and overall morale of the combatants. Catton's true moments of genius come in the small side-stories that he pockets into paragraphs in the unfolding battle scenario. Here and there, he details a small set of details on this particular man or that particular unit. The one that stands out in my mind the most is how General R.E. Lee's Special Order #191 is found by two enlisted Union soldiers relaxing in a meadow - the orders being the paper that wrapped three cigars. Catton laments that while the story concerning what happened to the orders is a given in history, there is no recorded instance on exactly what happened to the three cigars. Little caveats such as this, make this book a sheer treasure to read. ( )
  TommyElf | Mar 14, 2015 |
An absolute classic. Catton's prose soars. The series follows the Army of the Potomac through the war; this book covers the start of the war up through Antietam. Catton mixes thematic commentary with digressions on the histories of the major players as he follows the campaigns. He is particularly masterful exploring McClellan's meteoric rise while analyzing the complicated general's thinking. ( )
  JLHeim | Jun 10, 2014 |
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To my sister Barbara
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Everybody agreed that the Washington's Birthday ball was the most brilliant event of the winter.
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This lanky soldier [a Confederate prisoner] looked with interest at the full packs carried by Gibbon's boys and remarked: "You uns is like pack mules--we uns is like race horses. All Old Jackson gave us was a musket, a hundred rounds, and a gum blanket, and he druv us like hell."
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A vivid account of the early battles, first in the Pulitzer Prize-winning trilogy: "One of America's foremost Civil War authorities" (Kirkus Reviews). The first book in Bruce Catton's Pulitzer Prize-winning Army of the Potomac Trilogy, Mr. Lincoln's Army is a riveting history of the early years of the Civil War, when a fledgling Union Army took its stumbling first steps under the command of the controversial general George McClellan. Following the secession of the Southern states, a beleaguered President Abraham Lincoln entrusted the dashing, charismatic McClellan with the creation of the Union's Army of the Potomac and the responsibility of leading it to a swift and decisive victory against Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Although a brilliant tactician who was beloved by his troops and embraced by the hero-hungry North, McClellan's ego and ambition ultimately put him at loggerheads with his commander in chief--a man McClellan considered unworthy of the presidency.   McClellan's weaknesses were exposed during the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day in American military history, which ended in a stalemate even though the Confederate troops were greatly outnumbered. After Antietam, Lincoln ordered McClellan's removal from command, and the Union entered the war's next chapter having suffered thousands of casualties and with great uncertainty ahead.   America's premier chronicler of the nation's brutal internecine conflict, Bruce Catton is renowned for his unparalleled ability to bring a detailed and vivid immediacy to Civil War battlefields and military strategy sessions. With tremendous depth and insight, he presents legendary commanders and common soldiers in all their complex and heartbreaking humanity.

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Mr. Lincoln's Army is the first volume of Catton's Army of the Potomac trilogy. This volume covers the Army of the Potomac from its formation through the command of George B. McClellan to the Battle of Antietam.
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