Cover image for Touched with fire : five presidents and the Civil War battles that made them
Touched with fire : five presidents and the Civil War battles that made them
Perry, James M. (James Moorhead)
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : PublicAffairs, [2003]

Physical Description:
xvi, 335 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E176.1 .P474 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
E176.1 .P474 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Perry reintroduces readers to five men--Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford Hayes, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, and William McKinley--who rose to the pinnacle of American life but are now largely forgotten. Photos.

Author Notes

James M. Perry began his journalism career at Leatherneck Magazine, and then worked for thirty-five years covering politics for the National Observer and The Wall Street Journal. He is the author of five previous books, In 1977 was awarded the National Press Club's Fourth Estate Award for a distinguished career in journalism

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

All chief executives during the Gilded Age volunteered for the Union in the Civil War (excluding Grover Cleveland, who paid for a substitute). Perry here recounts their war records with an eye to the subsequent electoral advertising of their bravery and patriotism. Waving the bloody shirt, as this has been fixed in political rhetoric, the Republicans pummeled the Democrats election after election, reminding the veteran vote of Grant's capture of Fort Donelson; Rutherford Hayes' wounding at South Mountain;ames Garfield's stand at the Battle of Chickamauga; and Benjamin Harrison's fighting in the battles of Atlanta. William McKinley? The supply officer's record was a bit spare, but he brought up rations under fire at Antietam, which if it did not tip that battle, yet affected the 1896 election. Though able to declaim on these battles, Civil War fans may be unacquainted with the future presidents' exact parts in them (Grant excepted, naturally). Perry, a wry storyteller, delivers the regimental-level detail that buffs crave while dusting events with the skepticism that presidential electoral campaigning invites. --Gilbert Taylor Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

This solid, informative group biography examines the five American Presidents who did military service during in the Civil War. The one professional soldier of the lot was Grant, whose wartime career is covered tersely at the book's beginning and end. The other four men-Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison and William McKinley-are scrutinized to a degree not matched by standard Civil War or political histories. All were volunteers; the first three commanded regiments or brigades; McKinley rose from sergeant to brevet major. Garfield was probably the ablest of the lot, exercising an independent command in Kentucky and later serving as chief of staff to Rosecrans at Chickamauga while energetically intriguing against his chief. Hayes was less conspicuous but distinguished himself in the 1864 Shenandoah Campaign; Harrison at least upheld his family name (he was the grandson of William Henry Harrison); and McKinley served as a commissary officer without lining his pockets. If the five were indeed "touched by fire," none of them burned very brightly as President, which is all the more reason for examining the time when they put on blue uniforms. Perry, whose classic The Bohemian Brigade covers Civil War correspondents, knows his territory and his people, and has a readable journalistic style. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Just how the mayhem and carnage of battle affected the men who have held the White House has been explored for some presidents (e.g., Washington, Eisenhower) but not all. The five men who witnessed combat firsthand during the Civil War-Garfield, Grant, Harrison, Hayes, and McKinley-are given their due in this book by Perry, a journalist and author of five other books on the Civil War. Of the five men selected, all were Republicans from the Midwest, four graduated from college, and four had political aspirations of some kind prior to the war. Drawing on letters, diaries, newspaper stories, and secondary sources, Perry offers detailed accounts of these future Presidents' wartime exploits. The chronicles of the various battles are particularly good. But in many ways, this book is a PT 109 tale: one learns much about how the war contributed to the political careers of the five through connections made or their ability to "wave the bloody shirt" during campaigns but less about how the war shaped their character. All in all, however, this is worthwhile reading for those who enjoy accounts of the Civil War or who wish to discover more about the Presidents of the Gilded Age.-Thomas J. Baldino, Wilkes Univ., Wilkes-Barre, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. xi
1 April 12, 1861p. 1
2 The Making of a Great Commanderp. 17
3 Forts Henry and Donelsonp. 35
4 The Big Sandy Valleyp. 59
5 Political Advancementp. 89
6 Chickamaugap. 105
7 The West Virginia Campaignp. 131
8 South Mountain, Antietam, and the Great Dublin Raidp. 161
9 Crook's Devilsp. 193
10 The Railroad Businessp. 213
11 Marching Through Georgiap. 231
12 April 9, 1865p. 263
13 The White House in the Gilded Agep. 279
Acknowledgmentsp. 309
Bibliographyp. 311
Indexp. 319