Monday, November 10, 2008

James McPherson On Virtual Book Signing

I just finished watching the anticipated (at least by me) interview of Dr. James McPherson on He was discussing his new book "Tried by War". What a blast it was, listening in and taking notes along the way to set up this post and also to help cement some of the salient points for my upcoming period of study of President Lincoln. I figure I'll start sometime late next year and into the next in anticipation of the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's election.
So whither McPherson and his new book? The impetus behind this book was the idea that little attention has been paid to Lincoln as commander-in-chief. He spoke about how Lincoln spent inordinate amounts of time studying, evaluating, and prosecuting the war, and how his process as commander in chief mirrored the way he both became and worked as an attorney.
Lincoln was not a great natural strategist, he had to work hard at it, just like he was a self-taught attorney. He spent time reading and cross-examining those around him who were knowledgeable, he could probe to depths of an issue and get to its essence, then utilize probably his greatest strength, his ability to communicate these complex ideas to any person at any level, from his own cabinet to far-flung regions of the Union.
In this effort, Lincoln not only satisfied his stated war aims, but extended the powers of the Executive branch and helped define the idea of war powers. In fact, he was the first president to ever use that term.
It's pretty amazing listening to Dr. McPherson discuss Lincoln and the Civil War. He clearly has an unparalleled command of the subject and also happens to have a great speaking voice. It is little wonder he is such a highly sought-after speaker and professor.
Virtual Book Signing and the Abraham Lincoln Bookstore did a fantastic job presenting this lecture, and of course my signed copy is in the mail. I also think I saw Mr. Triathlon's name in the list of patrons who bought a signed copy of the book. I ordered mine yesterday, so my order fell in the "many others" category. Anyway, if you missed it, it should be archived soon and available for free.

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