Lincoln’s Senior Generals

Being there . . . . to meet via their photographs and biographical sketches 133 of the 583 major
or brigadier generals President Abraham Lincoln appointed to his High Command. In his candid
view of the Union war effort, author Thomas Glass shows how such senior commanders came
from varied civilian and military backgrounds. Read for yourself, dear reader, how all 133 had a
single major issue in common: not one ever led a large army in fierce combat. But, as expected,
by the Fall of 1862, with the Civil War well on its way to fever pitch, their leadership, strategic
assessments, to say nothing of their courage and confidence, increased tremendously. Leading
thousands of novice troops into gargantuan battles against equally thousands of inexperienced
Confederate forces became ordinary and commonplace. After Appomattox, some of these
generals rose to post-war military office and political prominence, as colleagues and most
others faded into nothingness. If fortunate, most would live an additional decade. Leave it to
incomparable Schiffer Publishing to track down, assemble, and catalog chronologically their
rare cartes de visite (CDVs), most taken by Anthony Berger of the Brady Studio in Washington,
DC, as well as other rare period images . . . .
Reviewed and recommended by Don DeNevi
“LINCOLN’S SENIOR GENERALS – – Photographs and Biographical Sketches of the Major Generals
of the Union Army”, by Thomas Glass. SCHIFFER PUBLISHING LTD, Schiffer Military History:
2012, 400 pages, 6 ¼” x 9 ¼ “, hardcover; $59.99. E-mail:
First and foremost, it must be emphasized that each man treated here won his own place in
Tom Glass’s book because of his deeds, and not how picturesque he may have looked, or had
readily been characterized previously. No man was omitted because he was colorless or difficult
to describe. The reader can determine for himself if the space provided humble men of gallant
behavior equaled those whose feats thrilled Lincoln and his army personnel.
The rapid buildup in 1861 of the union volunteer army presented newly elected President
Abraham Lincoln with an enormous problem: quickly finding hundreds of generals to place in
command of divisions and brigades. At the beginning of the war in 1861, the federal army had
only five serving generals. Three were over the age of 70, while the youngest was 53. The
existing pool for Lincoln to draw from to fill officer positions consisted of only 750 West Point
trained officers, and another 100 “Pointers” willing to return to active service from civilian life.
A study of the personalities, experiences, and performances of the 133 major generals
provide a candid picture, both good and bad of the union leadership between 1861 and 1865.
Virtually all were former political officer holders and business leaders before and after the war.
Others were lawyers, professionals, farmers, educators, and clergy responding to their
country’s call to arms. Fortunately, most possessed prior experiences in the regular army at the
rank of lieutenant or captain. Here, Tom focuses upon the interesting events in each of the 133
lives presented. General readers, as well as Civil War aficionados, will appreciate, upon

following a sterling introduction, his chronological summary of Union Army activities after
Lincoln becomes President and Commander-in-Chief, i.e., the army in 1861; placing the Union
Army in the field for the first time; governors and the call for volunteers; the precise number of
Union officers and their classifications, especially the generals; the meaning and nature of the
“brevet rank”; the appointment process leading to conformation for Brigadier and Major
General; the confirmation process; and the political process.
Following this excellent reminder, Tom offers an informative treatise on “the Photographic
Image Captures the Civil War”. Here, he reminds readers the American Civil War was the first to
be extensively photographed. Prior to 1860, photography had been limited to one-of-a-kind
daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes. With the development of a camera that could take
a glass plate from which any number of images could be cheaply printed, the millions of printed
cartes de visite provided a contemporary visual picture of the war and its participants. The
cartes de visite took the battlefield into homes both in the North and the South. Especially
appreciated by this reviewer is the final 16-page section entitled, “President Lincoln, Cabinet
Officers, and Governors”, an enthralling collection of portraits he had never seen before.