Our Reconstruction History class has spent a great deal of time trying to
accurately construct a picture of the Antebellum Period, the Civil War, and the following
reconstruction and reunion. I say an accurate picture, because many ideas and
conceptions about these eras are at the very least blurred. They’re blurred by bias and
time. Biases alter facts and create varied interpretations. Time erodes nuance and creates
misconceptions between now and then.
If you ask most Americans for a short list of the greatest Presidents, the lists
usually include Washington, both Roosevelts, and Lincoln. Lincoln makes the list
because he won the Civil War and freed the slaves. Some people might give a more
nuanced answer, which they retained from a high school history class, and say he
preserved the Union. This idea reflects a failure of bias and time. Bias, because there are
still Southerners today that interpret his actions differently, and characterize Lincoln not
as a savior, but as a war monger with aims to destroy the Constitution. Time has allowed
me to boil down various opinions in short sound bites that make sense on the surface, but
can lack a firm foundation in truth.
I hope to stem the tide of time, and develop a deeper understanding of Lincoln as
a wartime President that transcends fortune cookie logic and broad strokes. Lincoln was
an exceptional wartime President, based on his ability to make decisions, and steer the
country. By utilizing Doris Kearns Goodwin’s, “Team of Rivals,” Mark Neely’s, “The
Fate of Liberty,” Gabor Boritt’s, “Lincoln’s Generals,” and William Davis’, “Lincoln’s
Men,” I will provide snapshots of time that accurately explain Lincoln the wartime
President, with a focus on his personal interactions and leadership.