1864 by Charles Flood Book Review

1864- Lincoln at the Gates of History

1864 by Charles Flood is a book that focuses on the pivotal year of 1864 in American history. It tells the story of Abraham Lincoln’s struggle to win the Civil War and his own re-election as President of the United States.

The book examines the intense pressure Lincoln faced both internally and externally, and how he managed to navigate the multiple crises of the year.

Flood provides vivid descriptions of the battles of 1864, as well as Lincoln’s political canniness in dealing with potential rivals for the presidency.

He also looks at Lincoln’s versatile approach to crisis management, and his often humorous interactions with visitors to the White House.

The main themes of the book are Lincoln’s leadership during the Civil War, his political acumen, and his ability to manage multiple crises.

Flood paints a picture of a man who was able to balance the demands of the war and his own re-election campaign, while still finding time to be humorous and compassionate. He also shows how Lincoln was able to use his political skills to outmaneuver his opponents and secure a second term in office.

What I Liked

I loved how well this book addresses the most likely counter-factual of the Civil War – that the Union could have simply given up fighting. All war is political. And a democracy’s greatest weakness in waging war is keeping a majority of voters in favor for an extended period of time.

The book lays out all of Lincoln’s key moves to keep voters believing in the Union – and choosing the Generals would understood the political meaning of the battlefield (Grant & Sherman).

Even though the book is about the Civil War, the lessons transfer to so many other episodes in history – World War II, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan…and even to today in Ukraine.

Also – the book goes into the political campaigns and…wow. Ok – every political campaign in US history has been awful and weird and vicious.…but even during the actual Civil War, we muddle through.

What I Did Not Like

Not a whole lot – solid book all around.

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