Thursday, December 7, 2017

Lincoln Ch 5 & 6 by J. V.

  1. In chapter 5 of George McGovern's "Abraham Lincoln", it talks about the time during the civil war; the strategies taken and Lincoln's position on the war. Towards the beginning of the chapter, McGovern explains that Lincoln ultimately advocated for a limited war, which meant taking back secessionist states into the Union and not reshaping southern society. As stated within, "the authority of the national government was to be reestablished by respecting, not abusing, the constitutional rights of the rebels." In all, in pushing limited war it meant that, with little force and just threats the Confederacy was expected to recall their army and rejoin the Union. The concept of limited war however, did not work and so Lincoln had to come to the realization that total war was a must.  As time came around, Lincoln had to work with various generals to strategize a plan for victory. One general in command was General George McClellan, commander of the Army of Potomac, who was later relieved of his duties multiple times for not being pushy enough on his army to attack.  Lincoln also had General Winfield Scott, who came to suggest an "Anaconda Plan", in which naval forces were to block and completely cutoff Confederate supplies in the east while the Union armies were to secure the Mississippi River in the west. The plan is seemed to have been dismissed because, "it did not call for a direct invasion into rebel territory." As reluctant as he was for not knowing much on military battle, by 1862 Lincoln started to grow inpatient that the war was not advancing and took affairs into his own hands. He became irritated over the fact that his generals were not pushing war against the Confederate army even when forces were in retreat. He read books on military theory, consulted with his advisors, carefully studied maps and organizational charts, and continuously requested information as to the location of forces, their state of readiness and the levels of arms and ammunition they held. While still growing weary about the war, there was much success in the west where General Ulysses S. Grant was determined to control the Mississippi Valley. Grants aggressive actions produced many victories for the Union and it was the win over Vicksburg that made Lincoln believe he had found the leader he was looking for. As read in the previous chapters, Lincoln was known for his profoundly well written and spoken speeches, and during the civil war he lived nothing short of that, in November of 1863 Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg, PA where he delivered yet another memorable speech which, "redefined the meaning of the Union and of the sacrifice that had sanctified its preservation." Till this day as explained by the author McGovern, the Gettysburg speech has lived through history as a remarkable enduring and political treasure. Grant, now Lieutenant General and Supreme Commander, had advised to pressure from different places at the same time in attempt to expose rebel weaknesses, which would result in breakthroughs. Meanwhile, General William Sherman, commander of the Army of Cumberland and Grants successor in the west, attacked the South with full force burning and destroying everything to the ground. As the months passed, the war was far from over and while having many victories, during the turn of 1864 the turn came for the worst, for the casualties, and the state of the war, would greatly affect Lincoln for presidential reelection.
In Chapter 6, we come to the realization that Abraham Lincoln is not considered to be fit as president and therefore for the elections of 1864 he had to work hard to secure a nomination for if he was to be reelected he would be the first president to serve a second term. In the beginning of the chapter we are shown that Lincoln had to persuade a war weary public that victory was well within plain sight and as stated within, "he had to engage in some hardball politics." Since many saw him as lazy and undecisive and lacked the respect of congress, republicans longed for a stronger more mature candidate that would lead the Union out of what was considered Lincoln's disaster, the war. Radicals came to nominate Secretary of the state Salmon P. Chase and while he did seem like a great opponent, Chase withdrew the election after fraud scandals surfaced. After Chase, radicals nominated John C. Fremont whom they saw equally fit for presidential candidate, Lincoln, worried that he would steal votes sought ways to withdraw Fremont from the race. Lincoln made a proposal that if Fremont withdrew, then he would remove Montgomery Blair from cabinet. And on September 22, 1864 Fremont withdrew from the race. After Fremont the radicals sought yet another nominee fit for president, Ulysses S. Grant, but Grant having no political aspirations declined the nomination, expressed his support for Lincoln's reelection and went back to the battlefield as the commander of all the Union Armies determined for success. Having no one else the Republicans showed no choice support presidency other than Lincoln. However, the Democratic candidate George McClellan posed a different threat. With the Union showing little victories in the war, Lincoln feared heavily that he was no match for Democratic candidate George McClellan. After having been relieved from his duties, McClellan seemed like the perfect opponent to run against Lincoln for office. What was controversial about this nominee was his position on the war; and the ideas on how to defeat Lincoln divided the Democratic party. "Copperheads" advocated peace at all cost, "Moderates" supported limited war, and the "Hawks" sought to win the war but disagreed virtually with all of Lincoln's decisions and policies. McClellan found himself running against Lincoln, but disagreeing with Democrats proposed policies. After gaining full support of the soldiers, Abraham Lincoln was reelected for a second tern as president on November 8, 1864.
  1. The purpose and point of view of the author of this book, is to bring back to mind the struggles that Lincoln faced during his candidacy and presidency. Through the authors words we have come to know the layout of the war, its commanders, it casualties, and the very laid out detailing of the general's strategies to preserve the Union. In chapter 5, McGovern was able to explain the struggle Lincoln faced to bring the army to total war, his position and ultimately his role in the war itself. While the detailing was great I still believe that the voice that was missing was that of the president and his army generals. In chapter 6, while still in battle we are shown the Unions position of Lincolns cabinet and his duties as president. The author explains Lincoln's concern for nomination and ultimately for reelections. We see a great play from the Democrats and the Republicans, but no match for who is considered a very great president in history today. Throughout this chapter the voices that I would have so much like to have heard were those of the president, his wife, and that of his opponents.
  2. The in-class discussion better enabled our understanding of the battle plans, and how some things altered more causalities than others. We were able to comprehend that as gruesome as the battle seems the war would not have been over for the lack of soldiers. We need to take into consideration that during the war, we still had immigrants migrating to the states, and slaves positioning themselves at the hands of the Union. We also explored the many ways that worried the president during his time at reelection and the reason why he was so reluctant to interfere with war affairs. In class the instructor was able to provide a video that demonstrated the battle plans, it casualties and the strategies utilized to conquer the South.
  3. Based on the questions discussed class, we concluded that Lincoln although reluctant at first was able to come around and lead, along with generals a fiercely battle between the Union and the South. The class was able to conclude that throughout the first term of his presidency Lincoln was determined to restore the Union, bring peace and equality to all. He was able to find his mistakes during candidacy and learn from them to command a nation. He was determined to restore the nation just like it was meant to be and just like it is stated in the Constitution.
  4. In these two chapters we were given detailed information about the Civil War and Lincoln's position on the war and on the election. Some questions that are still left unanswered are questions like:
    1. What were the views of the Southern people and the Confederacy?
    2. If Lincoln had not interfered in the affairs of the war, what would the outcome had been.
    3. Who was Montgomery Blair and why was he wanted out of the cabinet?
    4. In the end of chapter 5 the author mention meeting in present day with the granddaughters of a confederate in the south and questioned them about Lincoln, what might have other people in the south have to say about Lincoln after the war and in present day?
    5. For the Union the south was seen as rebels, how was the Union viewed in the South?.

Lincoln Ch 7 & 8 by M. F.

In the closing chapters of the book, chapter 7 and 8, McGovern covers the political aspects of Lincoln's second term, the closing of the civil war and the eventual Union victory, and the events leading up to Lincoln's assassination. We first learned in chapter 7 that Lincoln completely reworked his cabinet. Lincoln composed a politically balanced group for his second cabinet. As opposed to his first term cabinet, no one in his second cabinet had presidential aspirations, and most political groups were satisfied with the make up. He had also appointed Salmon Chase to the Supreme Court to replace the deceased Chief Justice Roger Taney. We also learned of several acts that Lincoln had passed during his first and second administration, which included the Homestead act, the Land Grant College Act, and the Pacific Railway Acts. Lincoln had also devised a plan to get confederate states to rejoin the union, which was named the Ten Percent Plan. The thirteenth amendment had also come into debate during Lincoln's second term, and Lincoln promised federal jobs to any congressmen who voted for the thirteenth. When it came to voting, the amendment passed with a vote of 119 to 58.
In chapter 8 we learned that the apparent death toll of the war was over 600,000, mostly due to diseases. The gruesomeness of the war had negative impacts on Lincoln leading to his own poor physical health. The war had lasted long, but it was obvious to Lincoln, Grant, and even Lee that the longer the war waged on the less of a chance the Confederacy had to win due to the sheer numbers of the north. Nonetheless, Lincoln and co. opted to stay aggressive in the war. Sherman and Grant pushed to capture Robert E. Lee and Richmond, succeeding in the latter but failing to keep Lee contained. Though they weren't able to capture Lee at Richmond, Phil Sheridan was able to catch up to Lee's fleeing army, overwhelming them and forcing Lee and his remaining soldiers to surrender. With Lee's surrender, it was evident that the war had been won by the Union, and all fighting would be ceased within two months. Though the war was won, Southern hostility towards the Union was still in full effect, personified by a Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth. Booth planned to assassinate Lincoln, and carried out his plan on April 14, 1865 in Ford's Theatre. Booth shot Lincoln in the back of the head during the third act of a play Lincoln was in attendance of, severely injuring Lincoln and eventually killing him hours later.
Through the historical perspective of George McGovern, we learned of the various cabinet changes and acts during Lincoln's second term, as well as the tactics Linocln used to ensure the passing of the 13th amendment. The purpose of chapter 7 is to not only provide the readers with noteworthy accomplishments of Lincoln's administration other than the 13th and the Civil war, but to also dispell the notion of "honest Abe". The author shows that our outlook on Lincoln is wrong, and that he was willing to get into dirty politics in order to get what he wants. The purpose of chapter 8 was to show the end the civil war as well as Lincoln's death.
In class, we did an activity in which we were to finish the beginning of a sentence in a way that sounds similar to what Lincoln would have said or thought. This activity brought about what the book has left us students feeling about Lincoln. The general consensus of the class seemed to believe that Lincoln had placed great value on perseving the Union through reconstruction, and that he placed importance on aggressivness in both war and politics. During class, we were also given an article that claims that the highly accepted death toll of 600,00 for the civil war may be inaccurate. The article claimed that the actual death toll was between 650,000 and 850,000. This led us to the conclusion that historical accounts may not be accurate all the time, and that it is impossible for us to know the exact death toll of the Civil war.
Some historical questions not answered by the book are: What was the fate of Lincoln's killer John Wilkes Booth? If not for his assassination, what could we have seen Lincoln work towards? Was his only goal after the war ended reconstruction, or was there more that he had planned?

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Lincoln Ch 5 & 6 - by R. S.

Chapter 5 mainly talks about the how Lincoln handled the civil war. Lincoln during the start of the war didn't want to wage a total war on the confederates with the notion that the South would more likely rejoin the Union if he showed mercy. Unfortunately this policy of limited war proved unsuccessful and Lincoln came to realize that he needed to conduct total war if the Union was to win. Lincoln became displeased with his generals as they showed mercy allowing the Confederates to gain an upper hand. Lincoln fired general McClellan for being incompetent and too cautious and replaced him with general Grant and general Sherman. Sherman and Grant unlike McClellan uses much more aggressive war tactics. By using the Anaconda Plan and much more aggressive war tactics, the Union was able to get the upper hand.
Chapter 6 discusses the Election that took place during the war. Lincoln was determined that the election of 1864 would proceed as planned despite the ensuing war. Lincoln wanted a second term as president but feared that he would probably not win because of his sunken popularity that resulted from his issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation and his shortcomings in how he handled the war. However, in November 8, 1864, Lincoln beat the Democratic Party candidate George B. McClellan in a land slide victory. The Democrats wanted to end the war at any cost, and because of Lincoln’s victory, the war ensued and all that fighting and lives lost wouldn't have been for nothing. Lincoln most likely won because of the large number of soldiers on the battlefield that voted for him. Lincoln’s vice president was Tennessee governor Andrew Johnson. Johnson’s position as Vice President was purely a political move. Johnson was from the South and Lincoln believed that if a southern vice president was in office, the South would more likely re join the Union.
Main Argument:
The author’s main argument in chapter 5 is the importance of Lincoln’s decisions during the war in Shaping how the war unfolded and consequently how America is today. Lincoln’s shift to a more active role in the war resulted in Union victory and the freedom of millions of African Americans from the bonds of slavery. In chapter 5, the author Argues the importance of the Republican victory in the election of 1846, which resulted in the continuation of the war. The author argues that if the Democratic Candidate McClellan had won, the war would have ended and all those lives lost in the war would have been for nothing.
The author of the book uses historical anecdotes from several of Lincoln’s generals and Lincoln himself, to provide a concise explanation of Lincoln's role in the Civil War. The author also quotes the two great-granddaughters of the Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest to gain an insight into how southerners felt about Lincoln and the War.

The purpose of the author in writing the book was to better educate people of Lincoln’s importance during the civil war, and how his actions and decisions effect society today. For example, if Lincoln hadn't freed the slaves, racial relations in America today would be much more different.
Point of View/ Who's voice is heard/ Who’s voice is missing:
The book is written in the point of view of a historian looking back at history. By adopting a third person point of view, the author was able to tell the reader how something that happened over a century ago still holds value today. For example The author often shifts from the time frame of the civil war to present day. Unfortunately the author’s representation of history is mostly one sided. The Confederacy’s side of the war is not well represented. The author does infer that the south had a different interpretation of Lincoln through the two descendants of Nathan Bedford Forrest who said that they “don’t think much of Mr. Lincoln [in the south]. However this is only a tiny bit of information compared to all that is said about the Union. This is a great attestment to the notion that history is always written by the winners.

In class we watched a four minute video representation of everything that happened during the war. The video gave an insight into the death count of both the Union and Confederacy soldiers, and the time period between each event. In the reading, we learned about how the implementation of more aggressive tactics resulted in more Union victories and the video confirms that. In the video, at first the death counts of both the Union and Confederacy soldiers were pretty low but as more aggressive tactics were implemented under leadership of Grant and Sherman, the death count skyrocketed and Union victories greatly increased. In the reading we also learned about the implementation of the Anaconda Plan. The video effectively showed the plan in action. The video revealed how as the union claimed the Mississippi, the Confederacy’s fate was sealed. The video also revealed the effectivity of the naval blockade in ensuring Union victory. The video greatly enhanced our understanding of the reading by giving a visual representation of what is in the text.

Several Historic questions came up in class. We questioned Lincoln’s political decisions and his use of power. We concluded that his almost dictator like leadership was required for Union victory. We also questioned whether if Lincoln wouldn't have won if it wasn't for the support of the Union soldiers. We concluded that he probably wouldn't have won and we discussed the importance in allowing the soldiers to vote for Lincoln. We also questioned why out of any other candidate, Lincoln chose chose Andrew Johnson as his vice president. We concluded that Johnson’s position as Vice President was purely a political move. Johnson was from the South and Lincoln believed that if a southern vice president was in office, the South would more likely re join the Union.

We are still left wondering what would have happened if the Confederacy had won instead of the Union. Would slavery have continued or would it eventually have been abolished as time progressed? What would have happened to the American economy if we continued to use slave labor. What would the rest of the world be like? We are also left wondering what would have happened if the democratic candidate George B. McClellan has won instead of Lincoln? Would the war have ended? On the other hand, what if after his victory in the election of 1846, Lincoln hadn't been assassinated? What would have reconstruction looked like under Lincoln’s leadership?

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Lincoln Ch 3 & 4 - by C. B.

In Chapters 3 and 4 of Abraham Lincoln by George McGovern, Lincoln’s first two years as president are discussed to explain his actions as president in wartime and the decision to take an attack on slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln’s choices as president were complex beyond the complex thought in the modern day. Some of the most important decisions included expanding the powers of the president and never declaring the Confederacy as a new nation. Lincoln suspended the right of Habeas Corpus to prevent newspapers from discrediting Lincoln’s military actions as well as imprisoning suspected spies. Before releasing the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln issued a preliminary proclamation to give the Confederate states 100 days to return to the Union or Lincoln would free the slaves of the Confederate states. Lincoln never wanted to free the slaves but keep the Union together. As the war progressed, the change to the war goal became an additional strategy to encourage Union slaves states to remain in the Union and to use the Confederate owned slaves against the Confederates.
The author’s purpose for section of reading was to provide a breakdown for Lincoln’s strategies. Lincoln’s strategies could be arguably too radical. Suspending Habeas Corpus was an unconstitutional action that Lincoln issued before a law passed by Congress could be passed to support his decision. Issuing the Emancipation Proclamation meant that the Union was no longer fighting to preserve the nation created back in the 1700s but meant that Lincoln was attempting to destroy the South’s way of life. Draft laws for army enlistment was a way of forcing individuals against the war to fight in it. Most of Lincoln’s decision making was influenced by his cabinet members because he picked members that were formally opposed to him in political views.
Our class discussion involved discussing topics before Lincoln’s presidency and how they affected the decisions Lincoln had to work around when moving through the war. Lincoln picked his cabinet members to help him think about his decisions. His cabinet members opposed his ideas and always made Lincoln think his decisions with careful consideration. The Dred Scott decision of 1857 proclaimed that all slaves were considered property and had no rights. Free blacks also were not stated to have the same rights and freedom of men as described in the constitution. To reverse the Supreme Court’s decision required the passing of the 13th amendment to free all of the slaves and the 14th to grant all black men equal rights under the law.
In Class Questions included how did slaves live after becoming free, the description of generals serving both the Union and the Confederacy, and the effects of the Union blockade of the South. As all of the slaves were freed by the end of the civil war, most of blacks had to become workers for southern landlords. Almost all of the generals of the civil war went to West Point academy. Robert E Lee was the top of his class and became the most important general of the war for the Confederacy. Ulysses S Grant was the worst of his class but made the best decisions supporting the Union side. Grant would run two terms as president during the era of Reconstruction. Mclellan was a general of the Union who took very cautious battles for the Union to preserve soldier’s lives and ran for president against Lincoln in the later years of the war. The Union blockade drained the south of its resources and prevented aid from foreign nations.
How would Lincoln have run Reconstruction if he had not been assassinated in 1865?
Why was Lincoln considered an abolitionist but Lincoln did not see himself as one?
Why was the Emancipation Proclamation too radical by some and not radical enough by others?

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Lincoln Ch 2 - by D. V.

Lincoln Chapter 2
  1. In our reading of chapter 2 from Lincoln by George McGovern we learn all about Lincoln's political views and stances as well as his actions during this time, being the 1840s to 1850s. During the 1840s from what we read we learned that lincoln was part of the Whig Party and that he was part of the House of Representatives for Illinois. During this time we also learned that lincoln had some wins and loses like when he lost to Stephen A. Douglas when running for senator for Illinois. In the reading we also reading about problems with slavery during this time period and Lincoln's views/thoughts on the matter. But what we learn when reading is that lincoln during the 1840s and 1850s wasn't like the lincoln we know of during the 1860s. Lincoln called himself anti-slavery and not an abolitionist as his thoughts on the subject were that he didn't want slavery to spread to the west but that black people were still not equal to white people. And even though today we would think that he is a racist by today's standard during his time it was the norm idea.
  2. To me the author's purpose during this section of reading was to show us that our thoughts of lincoln and what we learned throughout our time in school wasn't the whole thing. Most people including me might think Lincoln was just a tall and honest guy that won the presidency and fought to free the slaves. But from this reading we learn that lincoln was many bumps throughout his way to becoming president and that this abolitionist idea we had about his was wrong and that he himself even had racist views and thoughts about slavery.
  3. During our in class discussion we were shown many pictures of maps depicting the political state of the us during the 1840s and 1850s as wells as maps showing what states are free and which ones were slave states. From these maps we can draw connections to what we read based off of the Kansas-Nebraska act. This act, from we read and understand, allowed the people of the state of Kansas to vote in their constitution as whether or not they will be a free or slave state. This is due to kansas being in the middle of the imaginary line that divides the "north" and "south" of the US and that since it was in the middle no one knew whether it should be free or not. Because of this act we read of many people from all over the US moving to Kansas so that they can vote on slavery.
  4. Many questions came up in class such as "Why did Lincoln not say he was an abolitionist?", for that question we learned that back then Lincoln didn't want to become an extremist and that being an abolitionist would count as being an extremist. Another question asked was "why did lincoln not identify with being northern or southern?" and we learned that lincoln identified himself as being on the side of the country as itself. One last question that had been asked was "why did Lincoln have racist thoughts about slavery and black people?" which we were told that during his time those thoughts he had was the norm so he wasn't called a racist.
  5. What is it that eventually make Lincoln change his views on slavery? Another question I have is what would lincoln have been like if he never lost to Douglas for Senator of Illinois?

Lincoln Ch 2 - by D. K.

Chapter 2 of George McGovern’s Abraham Lincoln explained how Abraham Lincoln was not exactly the same person before he became president as we view him today. He was a Whig Party member who joined the House of Representatives, and though he was antislavery, he wouldn’t consider himself an abolitionist. At times he would fail, like when his compensated emancipation proposal was opposed, and Lincoln would accept his losses. However these failures only made him work harder through his political career. After numerous speeches he gained more national support. As a member of the Republican Party, Lincoln managed to be become elected into the Senate. When he ran for president, the Southern states would surely succeed if he won

Through third person point of view we learn about Lincoln’s early political while McGovern provides some quotes from Lincoln himself as well a speech. McGovern wanted to show that Abraham Lincoln wasn’t necessarily the savior of slaves like he is seen as. Before the war he only was interested in stopping the spread of slavery, not ending it. A voice that was missing was the voice of anyone who had helped Lincoln in his early political career.

In class we were put into groups of 3 and given 8 adjectives and were told to order them according to how well we thought they described Abraham Lincoln. Amongst these adjectives were partisan, pragmatic, humble, failure, compromiser, abolitionist, religious accepting. Our groups then shared why they had certain adjectives at the top and bottom, and this really helped to understand how Lincoln really was before his presidency.

One of the questions that was discussed in class was who were the Know-Nothings? We came to the conclusion that they were a political party that disliked foreigners and Catholics. Another question that was asked in class was why was Abraham Lincoln racist if he was antislavery? We came to the conclusion that he wasn’t necessarily a racist according definition, and he wasn’t for equality, he just thought that the western territories shouldn’t adopt the institution of slavery.

One question that still remains is what made him change is stance on being just wanting to stop the spread of slavery to wanting to end it? Even though he fails so often, what pushes him to further his own political career?