"During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln did not get much respect as a military leader. Lincoln himself deprecated his expertise even as he pushed West Point generals into more aggressive action. “If possible I would be very glad of another movement early enough to give us some benefit from the fact of the enemies communications being broken, but neither for this reason, or any other, do I wish anything done in desperation or rashness,” he advised the commander of the Army of the Potomac in May 1863 after the Battle of Chancellorsville. “An early movement would also help to supersede the bad moral effect of the recent one, which is sure to be considerably injurious. Have you already in your mind a plan wholly, or partially formed? If you have, prossecute [sic] it without interference from me. If you have not, please inform me, so that I, incompetent as I may be, can try [to] assist in the formation of some plan for the Army.”
The nation’s president did not have the military education or experience of his Confederate counterpart, Jefferson Davis. But Lincoln was a conscientious scholar – and he became a student of military tactics and eventually a better master of military strategy than his generals or Davis. “The President is himself a man of great aptitude for military studies,” wrote aide John Hay early in the war. Historian T. Harry Williams said President Lincoln was “a great natural strategist, a better one than any of his generals. He was in actuality as well as in title the commander in chief who, by his larger strategy, did more than Grant or any other general to win the war for the Union.” Historian James M. McPherson, argued, however that Lincoln was not a “natural strategist.” Instead, Lincoln “worked hard to master this subject, just as had done to become a lawyer.” President Lincoln’s White House study paid off – certainly more than the West Point study of some of his subordinates."
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