Meanwhile, far from the moral panic, in the history books...
The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, by Thomas DiLorenzo
Among the guilty is the foremost of all historians who have written on the topic, James G. Randall. "In chapter after chapter of his 595-page book Constitutional Problems Under Lincoln, he [Randall] dutifully describes not mere problems but the destruction of constitutional liberty. He concludes almost every chapter with a string of excuses. . . . The establishment of a dictatorship was not the overthrowing of the Constitution but merely ‘out of keeping with the normal tenor of American law.’ Nor were thousands of arbitrary arrests an example of tyranny but only ‘unfortunate,’ and made, after all, with ‘the best of motives’ " (p. 160).
Incredibly, the same pattern recurs among Lincoln’s partisans when they describe the gross violations of international law committed, with Lincoln’s entire approval, by Generals Sherman, Sheridan, Butler, and many others. After his bombardment of Atlanta, "Sherman’s army went on its usual binge of looting and burning. . . . It has been estimated that more than 90 percent of the city was demolished" (p. 186). As if this were not enough, Sherman expelled the remaining civilian residents from the city. Nevertheless, Mark Grimsley, a leading military historian, "downplays the suffering of the citizens of Atlanta by saying that ‘only’ a few thousand of them were evicted from their homes" (p. 187). In the face of Sherman’s march to the sea and Sheridan’s burning of the Shenandoah Valley, Mark Neely writes that "Sherman and his ‘fellow generals waged war the same way most Victorian gentlemen did, and other Victorian gentlemen in the world knew it.’ Total war, according to Neely, was just not Sherman’s cup of tea" (p. 198).
To attack Sherman and his cohorts is fortunately not very controversial, even in these times of abject Lincoln worship; but to state the obvious clearly is no small virtue. Professor DiLorenzo undertakes a much more difficult task, though, in his treatment of Reconstruction. Here he undermines completely the arguments of the dominant approach to this period among contemporary American historians.