Stanton: Lincoln's War Secretary

S. & S. Aug. 2017. 720p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781476739304. $32.50; ebk. ISBN 9781476739328. BIOG
OrangeReviewStarTwo years after the release of William Marvel's Lincoln's Autocrat, biographer Stahr (Seward: Lincoln's Indispensable Man) provides another in-depth study of President Lincoln's secretary of war, Edwin M. Stanton (1814–69). This book outshines Marvel's by offering a broader context for Stanton's actions during the Civil War. Here, Stanton's many faults become apparent, particularly his frequent disregard for civil liberties. Stahr is at his best highlighting Stanton's adroitness in manipulating people, organizational structures, and budgets to accomplish the goal of winning the war. We learn, for instance, about the secretary's central role in turning the Union's technological superiority to practical advantages for battle and making sure that telegraphs and railroads efficiently provided men and material to field commanders. Stahr portrays Stanton's strong personal relationship with Lincoln yet also reveals how Union generals and fellow cabinet members frequently clashed with Stanton, sometimes attempting to circumvent or curb his authority. Stahr is especially effective in demonstrating how Stanton served as a political ally of Lincoln's, using the president's considerable influence to his advantage.
VERDICT Highly recommended for novice and experienced Civil War readers alike. Larger libraries will want to have both Stahr's and Marvel's fine recent works.
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