Book Review: Commander of All Lincoln's Armies : A Life of General Henry W. Halleck


by John F. Marszalek

Cambridge, Ma.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2004. Pp. ix, 324. Illus, notes, biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 0674014936

In Commander of All Lincoln's Armies, Prof. Marszalek (Emeritus, Ole Miss), has given us a well-rounded biography of Henry Halleck, who, if today largely relegated to the background, was among the most influential soldiers in the Civil War. 

A brilliant scholar, successful businessman, able politician, and seemingly capable soldier, Halleck, although the nation's leading authority on military art and science, proved at best an indifferent field commander, as demonstrated by his conduct of the Corinth Campaign in 1862, or his performance while general-in-chief from late-1862 until replaced by U.S. Grant in early 1864. Thereafter, however, Halleck shined brightly as what was effectively the chief-of-staff of the army, handling the administrative details while Grant commanded the field forces. In the process of telling this story, Marszalek shows us Halleck the man, a complex individual, with a surprising sense of humor, family man, and citizen, as well as soldier. 

Although marred by an absence of maps, this is a valuable work for any student of the Civil War.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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