November 30, 1862: Micromanaging the War

Any student of the Civil War will quickly discover that both President Lincoln and President Davis concerned themselves with minutiae that would rarely reach a president’s desk today.  A prime example is this telegram that Lincoln sent 158 years ago:

WASHINGTON, November 30, 1862.

MAJOR-GENERAL CURTIS, Saint Louis, Missouri:

Frank Blair wants Manter’s Thirty-second, Curly’s Twenty seventh, Boyd’s Twenty-fourth and the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry to go with him down the river. I understand it is with you to decide whether he shall have them and if so, and if also it is consistent with the public service, you will oblige me a good deal by letting him have them.


Now admittedly Frank Blair was a political powerhouse among Republicans in Missouri, and no ordinary Major General of Volunteers,  but even so in a War as vast as the Civil War, Lincoln taking time to direct the movements of four regiments demonstrates just how much of his time was spent in micromangement, often caused by the number of political generals who were serving and whose wishes had to be taken into consideration, often to the detriment of military efficiency and order.  Partially this was also a function of the new technology of the telegraph.  Presidents for the first time had instant contact with field commanders, and I think as a result, as is often the case with new technology, telegrams tended to be overused.  Civil War commanders often felt relieved when they were beyond the reach of telegraphs, as was the case with Sherman on his march to the sea.

Published in: on November 30, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on November 30, 1862: Micromanaging the War  
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