Abraham Lincoln was a Wartime President having fought to keep the nation one. Lincoln had little military training or experience, but was often called upon to make decisions that would ordinarily be made by professional military people. Although the advice he got on military matters was often conflicting, most of his decisions were good. Political considerations played an important part in shaping Lincoln’s military strategy.
During the spring and summer of 1861 many people in the North called for military action against the South. The North expected a brief struggle and an easy victory. But the first Union offensive put an end to this optimism. In July, Brigadier General Irvin McDowell, leading the federal Army of the Potomac, was defeated in Virginia in the first Battle of Bull Run, or First Manassas, as it is called in the South. For the first time the North realized that it faced a long, hard war. After this defeat, Lincoln removed McDowell and placed Major General George B. McClellan in command of the Army of the Potomac. McClellan soon restored the army’s morale and whipped it into a superb fighting force.
Despite his strong distaste for war, Lincoln was not afraid to wage total war to achieve total victory. Finding a general who was both competent and willing to carry the fight to the Confederacy was his greatest military problem. He had to appoint many politicians to important field commands and, while some made excellent soldiers, others blundered tragically. McClellan was a capable professional soldier but proved overly cautious after his strong start. When Lincoln finally settled on General Ulysses S. Grant as his overall commander in 1864, he never wavered in giving Grant his complete support, although victory came slowly and the casualties were appallingly high. Abraham Lincoln was indeed a war time president having made some very strong gains although he had some disappointments.