by Geoffrey Perret
New York: Random House, 2004. Pp. 470 pages.
Illus., map, notes, index. $35.00. ISBN:0-375-50738-8
I’ve read many books on the Civil War, and I was looking forward to this one because it promised an interesting perspective (that of Lincoln as War President) on the whole of the conflict. The book does present the war from that perspective, but unfortunately the history is much of the time incorrect, and even when he has his facts straight some of his judgments are suspect. George Thomas didn’t win the battle of Franklin and annihilate a Confederate army as a result, any more than John Bell Hood won the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. Since there are so many inaccuracies, whenever you run into a statement that you’ve not read before you’re immediately suspicious: is he right this time, or did he garble this one too, and I just don’t know enough facts to reject what he’s saying?
Geoffrey Perret has a good reputation, on the whole, as an historian. He’s done biographies of Grant, Macarthur, and Kennedy, and books on various aspects of World War II and other American conflicts. To say that the current book came as something of a shock is an understatement, at the least. This book is overwhelmed by its errors, to the point of irrelevance.