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Then came the Civil War that made them both commanders of armies, leaders of men, and heroes to the multitudes of Americans then and since who rightfully place them in the pantheon of our greatest soldiers. Forged in battle as generals, these two otherwise very different men became almost indistinguishable in their instincts, attributes, attitudes, and skills in command.
Each the subject of innumerable biographies, Generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee have never before been paired as they are here. Exploring their personalities, their characters, their ethical and moral compasses, and their political and military worlds, William C. Davis, one of America's preeminent historians, uses substantial, newly discovered evidence on both men to find surprising similarities between them, as well as new insights and unique interpretations on how their lives prepared them for the war they fought and influenced how they fought it.
Crucible of Command is both a gripping narrative of the final year of the war and a fresh, revealing portrait of these two great commanders as they took each other's measure across the battlefield with the aid of millions of men.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-01-26
- Reviewer: Staff
The two great opposing generals of the Civil War, who had both served in the Mexican War 15 years earlier, were largely active on different fronts and met only at Appomattox (and briefly at the White House four years later). Davis, a specialist in Civil War and Southern history, focuses on their respective military styles, largely by examining particular campaigns, though he also looks at their personalities and early achievements or failures. In the process, he draws a multi-dimensional portrait of each man, succinctly capturing their particular skills, and uncovers some little-known facts: at the Battle of Gettysburg, “Lee maintained only moderate control of his army,” and “in more than a dozen instances... his orders were not obeyed,” while in May 1865, the magnanimous Grant intervened with President Andrew Johnson to save Lee from civil prosecution. Davis also examines some of the larger issues with which each man struggled, such as the growing problem of desertion near the war’s end, which hastened the demise of the Confederate Army. This meticulously researched, well-written book greatly enriches our understanding of each of these extraordinary figures and of the terrible war in which they fought. Agent: Jim Donovan, Jim Donovan Literary. (Jan.)