As I read into March, Lincoln, and the Civil War trudge on. The president is dragging the Union through the Civil War, coxing movement out of his generals. A task this delicate requires a gentle leader. My overarching question for reading this book is to learn more about Lincoln’s leadership skill, so this situation intrigued me; throughout the week I have gotten a front row seat to a persistent president individualizing his approaches to ensure success.
While the south gains momentum, the Union military is extremely hesitant to move, so Lincoln needs to motivate his generals. The challenge for the president is getting the military leaders, who have little respect for Lincoln as a commander and chief, to make the strategic moves Lincoln wants. The truth is that Lincoln did not go to West Point like the generals, his military education began when he felt ill-equipped to be the military’s commander and chief. Lincoln saw that he lacked knowledge in military strategy, so he delegated to his generals, but then when his generals stopped communicating with him, he began to educate himself. During March, he made use of his insomnia and studied night after night, teaching himself how to be a general. His training is a massive testament to Lincoln’s persistence as a person. He saw areas for himself to improve and he got to work.
The next task was getting the armies to move. If more time passed and no Union action was taken, the Rebels would be seen as a separate country by foreign leaders, which would diminish the union. Time was of the essence. Lincoln crafted a letter for each general that was individualized to inspire movement. To one general, he literally made a compliment sandwich telegraph (meaning he gave him a compliment, a suggestion, and another compliment to boost his confidence). The craftsmanship Lincoln displays here shows thoughtfulness and strategy; he handled a vital but delicate gingerly.
Likewise, the president handled the abolitionist with care during the spring. A firm anti-slavery man himself, Lincoln overcomes his personal beliefs and makes the best move for the country. With abolitionists yelling in his ear to abolish slavery, Lincoln knew that a drastic step would crack the nation beyond repair. So, he crafted a gradual anti-slavery plan for the state of Delaware; this gave the country a small, bold dose of abolition.
This weekend I happened to hike Kennesaw Mountain, the cite of one of the union-confederate battles. I walked the same road that the Union troops did when they too climbed the mountain. The hike for my friend and me was simple, but for an army of men with wagons, poor shoes, and loads of artillery I can imagine it was quite a trek. Standing on top of the mountain on that sunny Saturday morning allowed me to truly understand the general’s hesitation to make the trek, respect the work Lincoln did to inspire movement and be grateful for the beautiful free land of our country.