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Decided on the Battlefield: Grant, Sherman, Lincoln, and the Election of 1864

David Alan Johnson,  Prometheus Books

David Alan Johnson interweaves the personalities and events that shaped the outcome of what was arguably the nation’s most pivotal presidential election into a story that underscores why it has long intrigued readers. His study highlights the importance of military campaigns in shaping Northern sentiment.

Union Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman are central to this history. Johnson portrays Grant as an able general with an innate ability to view the broader picture of command. While Sherman’s predilection to wage a psychological war against the South takes center stage, Johnson devotes considerable attention to Confederate leaders too.

Johnson sees Abraham Lincoln as a decisive, forceful commander in chief who recognized how the military campaigns and home front morale were intertwined with politics. For example, in describing Lincoln’s meeting with Maj. Gen. Phil Sheridan prior to the Shenandoah Valley Campaign, Johnson notes that the president made it clear Sheridan must not be defeated, lest the election—and by extension the war—be lost.

Decided on the Battlefield will likely inspire readers to reassess the 1864 presidential election, and it might also help them recognize the influence of the military on public sentiment in the North.


Originally published in the December 2012 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.