The Sword of Lincoln: The Army of the Potomac

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9780743225069: The Sword of Lincoln: The Army of the Potomac

An authoritative history of the Army of the Potomac's contributions to the Civil War draws on previously unpublished sources to document such events as their defeat at Bull Run, their victory at Gettysburg, and the leadership changes that directly influenced their effectiveness. By the author of Gettysburg: Day Three. 40,000 first printing.

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Review:

Created at the outset of the Civil War to defend Washington, D.C., the Army of the Potomac had to contend not only with the skilled Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee, but the political pressures of the capital as well. In reading Jeffry Wert's The Sword of Lincoln, it's sometimes hard to determine which was worse. Though the largest and best-equipped Union army, the Army of the Potomac lost more battles than it won, certainly due in part to poor and inconsistent leadership. Yet in the end, the army prevailed due to the dedication of the foot soldiers who held on until final victory. Wert analyzes the battles of Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg, and others, but his main focus is on the army itself. Based on diaries and letters, many never before published, Wert closely examines the motivations, morale, and fortunes of the enlisted men and junior officers and shows how and why they held on despite dismal circumstances. He also studies the generals who led the army and offers fresh critiques of their service. Abraham Lincoln's role is also a major theme in the book as Wert discusses how the success of the Army of the Potomac was closely intertwined with Lincoln's own political fortunes. This cut both ways--Lincoln was able to directly inspire and encourage the troops stationed near the capital, but he also became so involved with day-to-day operations that he often interfered with commanders, creating resentment and ineffectiveness in the process. The Sword of Lincoln is the first in-depth study of the Army of the Potomac in over 50 years, and Wert has done an admirable job of condensing a substantial amount of scholarship into one lively volume. --Shawn Carkonen

About the Author:

Jeffry D. Wert is the author of eight previous books on Civil War topics, most recently Cavalryman of the Lost Cause and The Sword of Lincoln. His articles and essays on the Civil War have appeared in many publications, including Civil War Times Illustrated, American History Illustrated, and Blue and Gray. A former history teacher at Penns Valley High School, he lives in Centre Hall, Pennsylvania, slightly more than one hour from the battlefield at Gettysburg.

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