Mr. Lincoln’s General
Military men, as well as historians, often speak of the “art of war,” a phrase that might strike our ears as strange. Armies are about killing people and breaking things. What does war have to do with art?
Well, to look at a great commander’s battle plan is to behold a work of art: a pattern of dynamic elegance. The word art also suggests a contrast with science. Whereas science deals in orderly fact, art embraces disorder, inventiveness, improvisation, brilliance of inspiration, and reliance on gut instinct.
Over and over again, in the American Civil War, this second connotation proved to be the chief feature of the art of war. Lincoln hired and fired one general after another to command the Eastern theater. ...