Book Review: Lincoln’s Informer: Charles A. Dana and the Inside Story of the Union War


by Carl J. Guarneri

Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2019. Pp. xii, 416. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 0700628460

Lincoln’s “Eyes” in the Armies

Early in the Civil War Charles A. Dana (1819-1897), journalist and anti-slavery advocate, was appointed a “Special Investigating Agent” by Secretary of War Stanton, with a commission to serve, in Lincoln’s words, as “the eyes of the government” with the armies. Later appointed Assistant Secretary of War, Dana uncovered corruption, followed the armies in the field, evaluated senior commanders, pressed for a “harder war”, and, significantly, became a staunch supporter of U.S. Grant, though he would later become a severe critic of him when he was in the White House.

Surprisingly, despite Dana’s contributions to the war effort, Prof. Guarneri (St. Mary’s of California) has penned the first real biography of this most interesting “minor” actor in American history. Although primarily covering Dana’s role in the war Guarneri gives us a look at his background and personal life, and his influence on American journalism, serving as an editor of two of the most influential New York papers of the day, The Tribune and The Sun.

Guarneri’s pages covering Dana’s time with the armies are liberally seasoned with many of the man’s own observations, anecdotes, and comments on people and events. Dana often gives perceptive and often insightful evaluations of various generals, politicians, and others, as well as events, making for an enjoyable, informative read.

Lincoln’s Informer is an important work for anyone interested in the conduct of the war or American journalism.


Note: Lincoln’s Informer is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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