... finely balances these personalities, their adventures, and even their ultimate fates. Through four main figures, Waller explores a great breadth of beehive activity in the Eastern Theater, giving readers an at times intensely cinematic look at how spycraft was conducted when newspapers ran every speculation that came their way, families were divided in their loyalties, and the fates of entire battles could turn on a single careless sentence. The four are perfectly chosen ... A broader, more comprehensive look at espionage during the war would have lost the fascination of the personal, and a closer focus on, say Van Lew or even Pinkerton would have lost the scope of the professional. Instead of either misstep, Waller gives readers a well-grounded tale of heroes and antiheroes - first-rate Civil War reading.
... as Mr. Waller repeatedly demonstrates in this fast-paced, fact-rich account, Union espionage operations remained essentially uncoordinated, however plucky. That makes Mr. Waller’s achievement in unearthing these complex stories—and assembling them in riveting fashion—all the more laudable ... an ultimately definitive history of state-run Civil War spycraft ... In opening the book with this gripping tale, Mr. Waller perhaps gives Pinkerton too much credit for sussing out the plot and convincing Lincoln it was credible ... Douglas Waller has most skillfully aimed a spotlight on this neglected aspect of the Union effort. Civil War military history can never again be read or told in quite the same way.
... a lively account of the activities of this quartet and their stables of secret operatives ... Impressively researched, Lincoln’s Spies illuminates a little-known aspect of the history of the Civil War ... Waller struggles at times to specify when and how spymasters substantially improved the tactical or strategic calculations of Union generals ... It seems reasonable to conclude as well that in Lincoln’s SpiesRead Full Review >>
The author does an excellent job of weaving together these four very different people into a fascinating account of spies and counter-spies during the Civil War. Weaving together the ground-breaking research on Civil War espionage by historians Edwin C. Fishel and William B. Feis with many new primary sources, the skullduggery waged on behalf of Abraham Lincoln and the Union is told with a flowing style that truly reads like a 19th century spy serial and is a welcome addition to any Civil War bookshelf.
Waller shows how these quiet workhorses toiling in the shadows ... would make all the difference in winning the war. Helpfully, the author includes a timeline of major events and a categorized cast of characters ... A meticulous chronicle of all facets of Lincoln’s war effort.
... a thorough, sometimes fascinating examination ... Waller’s narrative moves chronologically, alternating between each of the four subjects and recounting their exploits in detail. This is a long but cracking good tale.