Washington understood the essential ingredients necessary for the establishment of a constitutional, republican government: control by the people, respect for the government, personal as well as public virtue and their inextricable relationship, respect for each other, civil over military authority and others. These ideas were not to be violated in the midst of a war. Thus, when soldiers went out to forage for food and supplies, they were ordered to show respect for all the citizens even if a lack of it might have facilitated a greater return from their foraging. Washington knew that the use of unethical and disrespectful means to attain short range gains could prevent the attainment of long range goals. As the General and Commander in Chief, George Washington became America’s true hero and, to use our terms, America’s role model because of his exemplary character revealed with his unexcelled visionary leadership and his ability to maintain coherence between his far-reaching ideas and his immediate words and actions.
But despite such criticism, Lincoln continued to grow in his role as commander-in-chief. Lincoln “read a large number of strategical works. He pored over the reports from the various departments and districts of the field of war. He held long conferences with eminent general and admirals, and astonished them by the extent of his special knowledge,” wrote aide John G. Nicolay.205 Craig Symonds noted: “Throughout the war Lincoln had proved a remarkably patient navigator. Though he knew his destination – or at least he clearly envisioned his destination – he frequent waited for events to clarify themselves before charting a course.”206
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Washington, more than anyone else in that period, understood the full implication of these ideas in regard to all aspects of his functions as the military leader – strategy, operations, tactics. He revealed himself as a genius in leadership as the “General and Commander in Chief of the United Colonies.”
List of United States Army four-star generals - Wikipedia
On June 15, 1775, the delegates to the Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, unanimously elected George Washington “to command all the continental forces, raised, or to be raised for the defense of American liberty.” His commission, dated June 19, 1775, designated him “General and Commander in Chief of the United Colonies”. He received it on the twentieth and he started for Boston on the twenty-first.
List of United States Army four-star generals
Washington, within the sparse but basic stipulations of the Constitution, was responsible for the creation of a federal government. He did so and we live today with and by much of what he created. His skill as an organizational leader can be seen by his doing this as a strict constitutionalist and by his belief that Congress was primarily responsible for the creation of domestic policies and laws while the President was responsible for carrying out the policies and enforcing the laws. At the same time, Washington made clear that the development of foreign policy, including treaties, was the responsibility of the President. Washington carefully observed the role and authority of Congress while he also protected the role and authority of the President. We again see that he was a very sophisticated and skillful politician as well as being a well informed constitutionals. Yale history professor Edmund Morgan, in his little book, The Genius of George Washington, makes this very clear. He was, states Morgan, a genius in his understanding and use of power, including when to give up power as demonstrated in his
resignations as General and Commander in Chief and as President.
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Ohio journalist Whitlaw Reid wrote that “Abraham Lincoln was Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy! From that sad fact, and from its logical sequences, there was no escape!'”17 Lincoln knew and understood his responsibility. He progressively developed in his role as commander in chief, according to military historian Craig L. Symonds: “As he grew comfortable in holding the reins of power, Lincoln became more assertive as commander in chief…by 1862 he was beginning to exercise hands-on management, even issuing operation orders to division commanders; and by 1863 he was hitting his full stride as an activist commander in chief. As tentative as he was early on, he eventually became one of the most audacious of all American chief executives, authorizing a blockade and approving a conscription law, paper money, an income tax, and – most revolutionary of all – emancipation.”18