Thursday, August 30, 2018


It's been a while since I posted to this blog, so I thought I'd update. It seems like the last century when I decided to write a book about the lawyer-generals of the Civil War, and I actually began by writing some mini-biographies of a few generals, but I soon found that I had two huge problems. First, I didn't know enough about the Civil War. Second, there were too many lawyer-generals. Four things have happened since I made these twin discoveries.

First, I have boned up on the Civil War, and I am continuing to study it as much as possible. It is a depressing study.

Second, my study has destroyed my working hypothesis that lawyers had unique skills which made them good generals. I still think that trial lawyers have skills which could translate to military leadership, but I see now that they also have major defects (arrogance is one) which make it difficult to overcome a lack of military education. As a result most lawyer-generals were miserable failures as generals, and the successful lawyer-generals had military educations (e.g. Henry Halleck, William Tecumseh Sherman, and Patrick Cleburne).

Third, I have scaled back my ambition. As we say in the North Florida Piney Woods, I'm boring with too big an auger. I need to put it down and get a smaller one. I can't write about all the lawyer-generals without the book becoming a multi-volume encyclopedia. I have lowered my aim to write only about the lawyers who were colleagues of Lincoln. The working title will be "Lincoln's Attorney Generals: The Eighth Circuit Goes to War."

Fourth, I have embarked upon another project which is consuming my time--a professional biography of Francis L. Wellman, the author of "The Art of Cross-Examination." I've got to finish with Wellman before I get back to "Lincoln's Attorney Generals." It may be a while. Several of Wellman's cases merit treatment as stand-alone books.

Wish me luck with my literary endeavors. I'm going to need it.

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