Monday, January 13, 2020

Booknotes: Lincoln Takes Command

New Arrival:
Lincoln Takes Command: The Campaign to Seize Norfolk and the Destruction of the CSS Virginia by Steve Norder (Savas Beatie, 2020).

From the description: "On a rainy evening during the Civil War’s second May, President Abraham Lincoln and two of his cabinet secretaries boarded a treasury department ship to sail to Union-held Fort Monroe in Hampton Roads, Virginia. The trip resulted in the first and only time in the country’s history that a sitting president took direct control of military forces, both army and navy, to wage a campaign with wide-ranging consequences." The story of the Commander-in-Chief's Southside Virginia adventure has been repeated often in the literature, but Steve Norder is the first author to devote an entire book to the topic.

Over seven chapters comprising the heart of the study, Norder's Lincoln Takes Command: The Campaign to Seize Norfolk and the Destruction of the CSS Virginia examines the period between May 5 and May 12, 1862 on a day-by-day basis. More from the description: "For five days that May, Lincoln studied maps, suggested military actions and—in his quiet, respectful way—issued direct orders to subordinate commanders. Helped by movements farther up the Virginia peninsula, the president’s decisions resulted in a host of military actions and successes, including: a naval bombardment of a Confederate fort, the sailing of Union ships up the James River closer to the enemy capital, an amphibious landing of Union soldiers, the capture of Norfolk and the vital Portsmouth and Gosport navy yards, and the destruction of the Rebel ironclad CSS Virginia."

According to Norder, this productive week in May 1862 proved to be a seminal moment in Lincoln's development as a war leader. "The successes that crowned his short time in Hampton Roads changed the nation’s commander in chief by giving him more of an understanding and confidence in his ability to see what needed to be accomplished, insight that sustained him through the rest of the war." New book-length treatments of important episodes of the 1862 Peninsula Campaign still pop up only infrequently, and Lincoln Takes Command looks to be a welcome contribution to the Civil War literature on that level as well.

2 comments:

  1. "New book-length treatments of important episodes of the 1862 Peninsula Campaign still pop up only infrequently,..."

    Ain't that the sad, sorry truth. Waiting for Krick on GM, O'Reilly on Malvern, and Newton on revised/expanded FO/SP.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for noting this, Drew. It is one of my favorites. Really jazzed about this one. It is a History Book Club selection, they had it for a week and just doubled their order. It is very original.

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