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356CIVIL WAR HISTORY book is aptly titled. "Building the Myth" can be taken as referring not solely to the idealized, half-legendary life of Lincoln as it was constructed by the victorious North and its self-congratulatory Republican leadership; it also points to the American myths of special virtue and global responsibility—a larger, more potent construct, which retains its hold to the present. James M. McPherson, author of the acclaimed Battle Cry ofFreedom, addresses not only the meaning of Lincoln's life but the significance of the Civil War for blacks, for the United States as a whole, and for the world. This is a daunting labor expertly accomplished. The first essay makes a strong case for the truly revolutionary character of the war. That view, taken for granted by most contemporaries and by such overseas authorities as Karl Marx and Georges Clemenceau, has been questioned by more recent historians including Thomas Cochran and McPherson's own mentor, C. Vann Woodward. While we must suppose that this historiographical debate, like others, will shortly be resumed, for the moment, McPherson has the last word, and it is a persuasive one. And exactly what role should be assigned to Lincoln in accomplishing that revolution? He was not, as some would have it, "a conservative statesman but a revolutionary statesman" (42). It was Lincoln, the pragmatist—his consummate leadership as president, commander-inchief , and head of the Republican party—who brought success to the Union war effort and thus to the revolution. His endorsement of the concept of positive liberty, which involves governmental action on a scale unthinkable in pre-Civil War America, likewise marks him as a revolutionary leader, an architect of the modern world. If all this is so, what happened to the revolution? Why the need for a Second Reconstruction? McPherson's final essay is poignant on the subject. His explanation is complex, but it involves a number of elements that others have ventured: the nature of the American federal system, implacable racism, the revival of the concept of negative liberty as expounded by the Supreme Court, growing popular distaste for military intervention in the South, and, above all, a stubbornly resistant Southern white population. These essays are valuable for reflecting the newest views of Lincoln as war leader; Braden's speeches provide a useful record of earlier thought. Merton L. Dillon Ohio State University Winfield Scott Hancock: A Soldier's Life. By David M. Jordan. (Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 1988. Pp. 408. $29.95.) This clearly written, ably researched biography is an important addition to Civil War and Gilded Age literature. David M. Jordan places Winfield BOOK REVIEWS357 Scott Hancock in the front rank of Union generals, detailing his key role in the often frustrating campaigns of the Army of the Potomac with skill and an obvious mastery of the subject. This biography, however, fully covers Hancock's long career from West Point to the battlefields of Mexico, from the Civil War through the rigors of Reconstruction and frontier service, and to the final political campaigns that almost put Hancock into the White House. The author's chapters on the Civil War are particularly fine, and he builds a strong case for his hero's obvious battlefield skills. It is, in fact, quite astonishing that a commander of Hancock's abilities, despite his politics, did not rise to command of the Army of the Potomac. Although he never received an independent command, and in the final days of the war was shunted aside, Hancock nevertheless left a stirring record of battlefield achievement. The author manages to present a strong case for Hancock's underappreciated contributions without wasting time attacking the competency of the general's peers. Hancock's postwar career, which properly takes up a third of the biography, is dealt with with mixed results. Two chapters on frontier service are surprisingly shallow, displaying no grasp of current work on the military frontier or the Indian wars. Hancock's incompetent 1867 Southern plains campaign is defended when no defense is possible or necessary. Even more amazing is the author's characterization of the ghastly 1870 massacre of Piegans by Hancock's troops as a battle. The author fully...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 356-358
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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