Decided on the Battlefield
Grant, Sherman, Lincoln and the Election of 1864
By David Alan Johnson
(Prometheus Books, Hardcover, 9781616145095, 319pp.)
Publication Date: January 24, 2012
This lively narrative, full of intriguing historical facts, brings to life an important series of episodes in our nation’s history. History and Civil War buffs will not want to put down this real-life page-turner.
"I’m going to be beaten . . . and unless some great change takes place, badly beaten."
President Abraham Lincoln,August 1864
In the summer of 1864, Abraham Lincoln made this gloomy prediction about the outcome of the upcoming presidential election. The American Civil War had dragged on for over three years with no end in sight. Things had not gone well for the Union, and the public blamed the president for the stalemate against the Confederacy and for the appalling numbers of killed and wounded. Lincoln was thoroughly convinced that without a favorable change in the trajectory of the war he would have no chance of winning a second term against former Union general George B. McClellan, whom he had previously dismissed as commander of the Army of the Potomac. This vivid, engrossing account of a critical year in American history examines the events of 1864, when the course of American history might have taken a radically different direction. It’s no exaggeration to say that if McClellan had won the election, everything would have been different—McClellan and the Democrats planned to end the war immediately, grant the South its independence, and let the Confederacy keep its slaves. What were the crucial factors that in the end swung public sentiment in favor of Lincoln? Johnson focuses on the battlefield campaigns of Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman. While Grant was waging a war of attrition with superior manpower against the quick and elusive rebel forces under General Robert E. Lee, Sherman was fighting a protracted battle in Georgia against Confederate general Joseph E. Johnston. But then the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, made a tactical error that would change the whole course of the war.
David Alan Johnson is a freelance writer and the author of many popular histories, including Betrayal: The True Story of J. Edgar Hoover and the Nazi Saboteurs, Righteous Deception: German Officers against Hitler, Union (Images of America Series), and seven other books.
"A revealing look at the influences, from the battlefield to the halls of government, that shaped a wartime presidency, sweeping the reader along with crisp narrative and a rapid pace. For students of both political and military history, this work is not to be missed."
-Michael E. Haskew, author of De Gaulle: Lessons in Leadership from the Defiant General
"Few things are as dramatic as the distinct parts of this book: Grant, then Sherman, then Grant again, gnawing away at the enemy, while Lincoln’s high-wire policy somehow holds his party together. Readers of David Alan Johnson’s deft treatment won’t want to cut to the chase of the re-election—each chapter follows this daring team of survivors. And Johnson’s epilogue on twentieth-century repercussions of the war is an apt lesson for writers and readers alike."
-James M. Cornelius, PhD, curator, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum