A Republic in the Ranks: Loyalty and Dissent in the Army of the Potomac

Univ. of North Carolina. Apr. 2020. 336p. ISBN 9781469654454. $45. HIST
Fry (military history; U.S. Army Command and Staff Coll., KS) has delivered a revealing look at the politics of the Army of the Potomac during the Civil War. His observation is that the Army both practiced democracy and came to evolve politically from the onset of the Civil War through Lincoln’s reelection. Fry examines which politics were practiced among the troops, and how that impacted soldier ideology, from privates to lower officers. His evidence comes from newspapers, family correspondence, and soldier diaries/journals. Fry effectively describes how the biggest casualty of the Army of the Potomac and its political participation was General George McClellan. McClellan was initially viewed as almost untouchable at the beginning of the conflict, yet his embrace of the 1864 Democratic presidential nomination against Abraham Lincoln, who was running for reelection, was deemed traitorous to many within the ranks. Later, Fry also succeeds in showing how local politics affected troop morale, especially when it came to issues such as the absentee ballot and immigration.
VERDICT Highly recommended because of the insights on the time period, and a valuable contribution to understanding the common Civil War soldier.

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