President Abraham Lincoln had a daunting task in front of him in April 1861. Several states had seceded from the Union and war seemed pretty much inevitable. When the first shots came and the rest of the Southern states left the task seemed nearly impossible. Lincoln himself had a very limited experience with war and at the start he leaned heavily on those around him. As defeat after defeat piled up and the idea that the war would be short started to fade, Lincoln started to come into his own as Commander In Chief.
As a grand strategist Lincoln had several priorities that he set the army to. First was the protection of Washington DC. He knew that if for some reason the capital were to fall to the rebels the war would pretty much be over. He also believed strongly in gaining control of strategic points on the map. Control of the Mississippi River was top of this list as well as the blockade of the coast. He was also a strong proponent of the idea that the Confederate Army should be the target of operations with the goal of destroying the Confederate ability to carry on the war.
In the end that would be the strategy that would win him the war, but getting it carried out became a herculean task that made the actual activity on the battlefield pale in comparison. Opposed to him were his generals that wanted to follow their own path. Opposed were politicians, in his party and in the other, that all looked to further their own needs.
The longer the war went on the more the army began to look like what Lincoln wanted. He would visit the War Department several times a day to read the telegraph dispatches that up dated him on the status of the army and current actions. When battles were engaged he would stay in the telegraph office and monitor events happening hundreds of miles away. Once he even intervened in a battle sending orders to the commanders based on what he was seeing develop.
It’s easy to remember Lincoln the politician, or even the emancipator, but it was his ability to become a warrior on the fly, and to be a leader that truly set him apart.