The Washington Times - November 17, 2008, 08:48PM


 Lincoln and His Admirals by Craig L. Symonds



As reviewed by Jm Durney of the Suncoast Civil War Round Table of Florida


• Hardcover: 448 pages

• Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (October 17, 2008)


• ISBN-10: 0195310225

• ISBN-13: 978-0195310221


One of the best books of 2008


If this book is not a finalist for a major award in Lincoln and Civil

War history, we will have a gross injustice. This intelligent,

interesting, readable book is one of the most original informative

Civil War histories I have read this year.


The author is retired from the U.S. Naval Academy after 30 years of teaching. During that

time, he won both the Naval Academy’s “Excellence in Teaching” award

(1988) and its “Excellence in Research” award (1998). This shows in

his ability to construct a sentence that contains a lot of

information without boring or losing the reader.


His portraits of the players are excellent. We never lose sight of

the fact that they have not read the history book and do not know

what is happening. Each crisis has the feel of current events

unfolding as we read. Lincoln’s management style is fully developed

and we understand what a masterful politician he is.


The fighting between the departments of State, War and Navy are fully developed

and completely understandable. While the book is written from the

Navy’s perspective, the author never takes sides and faithfully

reports the whole story.


Most Civil War history ignores the Navy’s role. This book gives us a

detailed history of naval operations and the development of combined

Army Navy actions. Lincoln never had a quite day as President. He

had just sat down when the problem of supplies at Fort Sumter dropped

on him. The author provides a detailed account of the decision-

making and the problems associated with that action. His account of

the Trent Affair could be one of the best accounts in existence. The

same can be said of his Red River Campaign and his discussion of the

impact of cotton on the war.


This is not a book of blazing guns! It is a book of politics,

technology and personalities interacting during war. Ambition,

personal preferences and personality quirks make up the story. This

is not a view of the war we often see but it is a very important view

that we need to be aware of. Craig L. Symonds gives us this view in

an entertaining and informative book that belongs in every library.



Thanks to Wayne Bengston of the FL CWRT for calling my attention

to this book.