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Extended Audio Sample Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief, by James M. McPherson Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (1,519 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: James M. McPherson Narrator: George Guidall Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2008 ISBN: 9781440613043
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Though Abraham Lincoln arrived at the White House with no previous military experience, he quickly established himself as the greatest commander-in-chief in American history. James McPherson illuminates this often misunderstood and profoundly influential aspect of Lincoln’s legacy. In essence, Lincoln invented the idea of commander-in-chief, as neither the Constitution nor existing legislation specified how the president ought to declare war or dictate strategy. 

In fact, by assuming the powers we associate with the role of commander-in-chief, Lincoln often overstepped the narrow band of rights granted the president. Good thing too, because his strategic insight and will to fight changed the course of the war and saved the Union.

For most of the conflict, he constantly had to goad his reluctant generals toward battle, and he oversaw strategy and planning for major engagements with the enemy. Lincoln was a self-taught military strategist (as he was a self-taught lawyer), which makes his adroit conduct of the war seem almost miraculous. To be sure, the Union’s campaigns often went awry, sometimes horribly so, but McPherson makes clear how the missteps arose from the all-too-common moments when Lincoln could neither threaten nor cajole his commanders to follow his orders. 

This book provides a genuinely novel, even timely, view of the most written about figure in our history. Tried  by War offers a revelatory portrait of leadership during the greatest crisis our nation has ever endured. How Lincoln overcame feckless generals, fickle public opinion, and his own paralyzing fears is a story at once suspenseful and inspiring.

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Quotes & Awards

  • Winner of the Lincoln Prize

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Howard | 2/15/2014

    " Particularly good on dealing with some of the Constitutional issues that Lincoln dealt with. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Shan | 2/10/2014

    " New view of the war as Lincoln defines the role of "commander in chief" in his attempt to keep a united country while military leaders play their own agenda wars. Listened to with father and husband on trip to Vegas. Both enjoyed it and learned from it as well. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lynn Green | 1/25/2014

    " Great book on the Civil War by a great author. James McPherson emphasizes Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief during the Civl War, something that has not be adequately explored. I was particularly impressed by the fact that Lincoln had many opportunities to rescind the Emancipation Proclaimation. Many people, including the arch-abolitionist Horace Greeley, incouraged him to do just that. But Lincoln held true to his resolve, and in doing so transformed the war from a question of federalism vs. states rights to a test of human justice. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ingrid Warren | 1/9/2014

    " A quick read with new insights into Lincoln' political savvy. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rick | 1/1/2014

    " Nice insight into Lincoln. This is about the fifth biography on Lincoln I've read in the past couple of years, Doris Goodwin still ranks the best. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Paul | 12/31/2013

    " James McPherson states that there have been hundreds of books written about Lincoln, but not one particularly on the role that occupied his entire presidency, that of Commander-in-Chief. Who better to write this book that an expert author of the Civil War. He keeps the narrative moving through the four year war while filling in just enough history to keep you engaged. Next year is the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth and this is a great book to honor the President and all who admire his perseverance and courage and humanity. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Greg Miller | 12/26/2013

    " Great book about Lincoln's battles with advisors and generals who wouldn't fight to win the war. (audio) "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jennifer | 12/18/2013

    " I listened to this book on CD. It gave a detailed description of the civil war, specifically of Lincoln as commander. It gives a good idea of the kind of person he was and what the war meant to him and the country. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Chad | 12/13/2013

    " I was not a huge Abraham Lincoln fan before I read this book. This book did almost nothing to improve my love for Lincoln. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Andrea | 12/2/2013

    " This is an excellent book about Abraham Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief! I did not realize how hands-on the President was during the Civil War. How he managed so many problems/issues during his tenure is hard to fathom. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dad | 11/13/2013

    " Have read a lot of books about Lincoln & The Civil War, but this was one of the best. If you think that the primary reason for freeing the slaves was humanitarian, you should read this book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jeremy | 11/12/2013

    " Good bio on Lincoln's war years, but not necessarily a lot of new info. McPherson's great writing style makes this an extremely seamless read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Scott | 11/8/2013

    " Lincoln was his best general. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ari | 6/16/2013

    " Much of this book is a straight overview of Civil War military history, told from Lincoln's point of view. But I actually learned quite a bit. Lincoln was much pushier towards his subordinates, particularly in 1862/63, than I had realized. McPherson is a fine writer, and the book flows well. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 George | 12/1/2012

    " Hard to imagine that anything new could be written about Lincoln. Yet, James McPherson has managed to present Lincoln from an entirely different perspective - as Commander in Chief. How Lincoln managed to deal with the trials and tribulations of the war is a fascinating read and remarkable story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Maggie | 10/24/2012

    " This is a history of Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief of the Union Army and Navy. Though the writing was a little dry (and it could have used someone who knows how to use commas), it was a fascinating look at the Civil War from another point of view. Recommended. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tina | 8/29/2012

    " Good book - detailed "blow by blow" of what happened from a Civil War standpoint when Lincoln was president, and how he really set the precedent for "commander in chief" that it is today. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Katiebeach | 8/21/2012

    " Great account of Lincoln's relationship(s) with the Union generals; great insight on how the war was won (&almost lost) "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 John | 8/12/2012

    " An amazing & concise read about Lincoln's leadership during the Civil War. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sestearns | 3/18/2012

    " A good look at Lincoln as a leader for the military and a manager for his generals. You get details on letters he did write and send to them and at other times, he holds them back. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rich Pliskin | 10/7/2011

    " Best nonfiction book I've ever read. This really humanized Lincoln. It'll be made into a movie. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tim Mccaffrey | 9/30/2011

    " Not bad. Thought it was a bit fluffy, although it gave me some insight into the period. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jim | 8/25/2011

    " The admirer of Lincoln learns another admirable trait, his abilities as a hands-on commander chief. He self taught himself on miltary strategy and tacits and out-thought and out-strategized his generals. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dave | 8/5/2011

    " Quite good look at Lincoln's military and political depth of genius "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Lewis | 7/22/2011

    " Eh, I agree with all the other reviews. This material has been covered better by others; but, if you're new to the subject matter it would be an acceptable introduction. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alex Bauer | 4/21/2011

    " So far, it's been excellent! A great inside look at the military problems Lincoln faced as President. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Katiebeach | 3/28/2011

    " Great account of Lincoln's relationship(s) with the Union generals; great insight on how the war was won (&almost lost) "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Nikole | 1/22/2011

    " Review will post on my blog when husband is done with it. I'm enjoying it so far. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rick | 1/14/2011

    " Nice insight into Lincoln. This is about the fifth biography on Lincoln I've read in the past couple of years, Doris Goodwin still ranks the best. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dan | 1/13/2011

    " This was a solid history of Lincoln as military leader. There's nothing earth-shattering here, but it's worth the read if you're interested in the topic. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Leann | 1/4/2011

    " Eye-opening view into this period of history and the role Abraham Lincoln played as commander-in-chief. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mark | 12/27/2010

    " Really piqued my interest in Civil war. Never paid much attention before. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jeff | 12/12/2010

    " Absolutely Amazing. James M. McPherson just tied for first as my favorite author. The detail and flow in his books can't be rivaled. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alex | 10/26/2010

    " So far, it's been excellent! A great inside look at the military problems Lincoln faced as President. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 ML | 9/11/2010

    " Abraham Lincoln as military strategist and Commander-in-Chief! I can't believe that I was fascinated by military strategy - but the story of Lincoln's military expertise is skillfully told by McPherson and my respect for this remarkable President continues to grow! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Todd | 8/20/2010

    " As with "Battle Cry of Freedom", McPherson is eminently readable and fascinating. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rick | 8/3/2010

    " Wow. We've all heard about "Honest Abe", but I was really impressed by Lincoln's integrity, humility in dealing and working cooperatively with people who couldn't stand him, and always putting preservation of the union first. Can't wait to read much more about Lincoln and the civil war. "

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