Then I saw Stephen W. Sears' massive tome, "Lincoln's Lieutenants: The High Command of the Army of the Potomac" in the Charleston Preservation Society's bookstore.
Years before, I'd been absorbed by Sears' histories of the battles of Antietam, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. Sears generated narrative excitement by weaving dramatic vignettes of individual soldiers with compelling discussions of broader strategic aims and battlefield developments.
Sears in "Lincoln's Lieutenants" again blends a novelist's flair with a historian's precision. His accounts of the political intrigues and personality clashes of Lincoln's presidency demonstrate that the political chaos of the Trump years is nothing new.
Lincoln's adroit dealings with his cabinet and generals and his understanding of war strategy glaringly contrast with the ignorance and recklessness of the bombastic Republican who now resides in the White House. Today's GOP is a horror-house mirror image of Lincoln's party.
While the cable channels froth over the latest Trump outrages, it's comforting to read Sears' story of how the nation survived an even more discordant era.
Sears' book gives a broader history of the Civil War through the lens of Lincoln and his generals' leadership of the Army of the Potomac.
The luminous epic stands along two earlier classics on Civil War leadership, T. Harry Williams' 1952 book "Lincoln and His Generals" and Douglas Southall Freeman's multivolume "Lee and His Lieutenants."
Dedicated to the late Civil War historian Bruce Catton,"Lincoln and His Lieutenants" possesses the narrative sweep and mastery of details that defined earlier landmark works.