“Few things are as dramatic as the distinct parts of this book: Grant, then Sherman, then Grant again, gnawing away at the enemy, while Lincoln’s high-wire policy somehow holds his party together. Readers of David Alan Johnson’s deft treatment won’t want to cut to the chase of the re-election–each chapter follows this daring team of survivors. And Johnson’s epilogue on twentieth century repercussions of the war is an apt lesson for writers and readers alike.”
—James M. Cornelius, PhD, curator, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
"In Decided on the Battlefield, David Alan Johnson provides a revealing look at the influences, from the battlefield to the halls of government, that shaped a wartime presidency, sweeping the reader along with crisp narrative and a rapid pace. For students of both political and military history, this work is not to be missed."
—Michael E. Haskew, author of De Gaulle: Lessons in Leadership
from the Defiant General
“I’m going to be beaten … and unless some great change takes place, badly beaten.” In the summer of 1864, Abraham Lincoln made this gloomy prediction about the outcome of the upcoming presidential election. The American Civil War had dragged on for over three years with no end in sight. Recently, things had not gone well for the Union, and the public blamed the president for the current stalemate against the Confederacy and for the appalling numbers of killed and wounded. Without a change in the fortunes of the war, Lincoln was thoroughly convinced that he had no chance of being elected for a second term, and that he would be defeated by the former Union general whom he had dismissed—now Democratic candidate George B. McClellan.
In this vivid, engrossing account of a critical year in American history, historian David Alan Johnson examines the events of 1864, when the course of American history might have taken a radically different direction. It’s no exaggeration to say that if McClellan had won the election, everything would have been different: the Democrats planned to end the war immediately, grant the South its independence, and let the Confederacy keep its slaves.
What were the crucial factors that in the end swung public sentiment in favor of Lincoln? Johnson focuses on the battlefield campaigns of Generals U.S. Grant and William T. Sherman. While Grant was waging a war of attrition against the rebel forces under General Robert E. Lee, Sherman was fighting a protracted battle in Georgia against Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston. But then the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, made a tactical error. He replaced Johnston with John Bell Hood, a general who was aggressive to a fault. At the end of the day, Sherman inflicted heavy losses on Hood’s forces and finally conquered Atlanta.
When Atlanta fell, the northern populace grew more confident about Lincoln’s war strategy and by November, he was reelected by a majority of 400,000 votes. The war would go on for another five months, but now it was clear that the Union would be preserved and the shattered South would eventually be reunited with the North.
Johnson’s lively narrative, full of intriguing historical facts, brings to life an important series of episodes in our nation’s history. History and Civil War buffs will not want to put down this real-life page-turner.
Pages: 319 (photos, illustrations)
Shipping Weight: 2lbs
David Alan Johnson is a freelance writer and the author of many popular histories, including Betrayal: The True Story of J. Edgar Hoover and the Nazi Saboteurs; Righteous Deception: German Officers against Hitler; Union: The Archives Photographs Series; and seven other books.