Here are the scary parts of Severance's review of John F. Marszalek's Commander of All Lincoln's Armies: A Life of General Henry W. Halleck. My comments follow each quote.
"Marszalek asserts that Halleck's true talents lay in the realm of modern military bureaucracy..." * Are these talents ennumerated? I smell a rationalization.
"Marszalek provides extensive coverage of the general's antebellum life." * I expect a reasonably full accounting of Halleck's California law wranglings with Edwin Stanton and his dealings with a certain West Coast politician named Joe Hooker, two topics far oustside the scope of any Centennial history. (Shame the review does not indicate whether I will get satisfaction here. )
" ... the author identifies the character flaws that plagued Halleck later on as "commander of all Lincoln's armies." * He's not going to let the reader draw his own conclusions.
"At the outset of the Civil War, Halleck's organizational abilities made him a logical choice for high command..." * Never mind Scott's assiduous patronage.
"Marszalek emphasizes that Halleck's dislike for Grant stemmed less from jealousy of the latter's combat success, and more from his subordinate's neglect in following proper military procedure. " * A bold revision of Centennial doctrine! I am breathless. But how can any Halleck biographer not have seen Halleck's correspondence to replace Grant before Donelson (= before "success").
"Similar indecisiveness characterized the subsequent campaigns of 1862 and 1863 to such a degree that Union generals increasingly ignored Halleck altogether and communicated directly with the War Department." * No. Hooker communicated directly with Lincoln by design, not in response to Halleck's "indecisiveness." Burnside and Meade communicated with Halleck.
"With the decisive Grant now in overall command, Halleck at last found his true calling - chief-of-staff to a man he had come to respect." * An affirmation of the Centennial doctrine's core belief and an idea now being scrutinized by Grant scholars.
"Marzsalek argues that Halleck's performance as the North's senior staff officer in a modern, total war should never be underestimated; the clerk can be as important as the soldier in achieving victory." * The argument, actually, is whether a megaclerk is more useful than a fully functioning general-in-chief.
"If nothing else, Halleck's insistence that military papers be saved makes him "the father of the _Official Records_" (p. 232), an accomplishment of perhaps greater significance to Civil War scholarship than anything else that happened in that struggle." * Except that he hid his own papers and later refused to respond to requests for copies of official communications in his posession.
"Marszalek gracefully places the man's shortcomings in perspective and thereby rescues him from military mediocrity." * I hope everyone this narrative is granted some perspective.
Some thoughts on Halleck per se - who he was, what he was, how he functioned - tomorrow.