Kenneth P. Williams

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Kenneth Powers Williams (August 25, 1887, Urbana, Ohio - September 25, 1958) was a professor of mathematics at Indiana University, where he was also a commander of the ROTC there.

He is best known for his five volume book, Lincoln Finds a General, published from 1949~1957. Williams had intended to write seven books, however his illness and death, just before Volume 5 was published, prevented that. Volume 1 was reprinted by Indiana Univ. Press, Volumes 3 and 4 were reprinted by University of Kansas Press as "Grant Rises in the West".

Williams married Mrs. Ellen (Laughlin) Scott on August 20, 1920.

Williams died on September 25, 1958.

Lincoln Finds a General[edit]

The series was originally conceived as a way to answer the question "How did Lincoln choose Grant?". It became a study of command in the Civil War, focusing on the Union side. Williams' extensive experience as an officer of the US Army, at a time when many of its methods were the same as those during the Civil war, clearly show in his writing. From the details of how horses pull artillery, to the problems of officers on detached missions, the reader is given a wealth of detail and color.

The volumes fall short of completely impartial history, though. His sympathetic coverage of John Pope in the campaign and battle of Second Bull Run leaves the reader not aware of the major Union defeat that it was. Grant is always shown in a positive light, such as at Shiloh, when in fact he allowed himself to be surprised.

For all that, the books are one of the few ways for a reader to see the Civil War as a whole, and from the Union side. Williams is never shy of making his views known, and he supports his conclusions with numerous citations of the "Official Records" and other primary sources.

He makes the reader aware of just how difficult it was for a commander to know what was happening on the large Civil War battle fields, and area of operations. He describes in the detail the restrictions that the commanders had, as well as how those conditions applied to both sides. He also gives his evaluation of how well the commanders performed in their duties.

Not for a reader looking for an overview of the War, the series is essential reading for any student wanting a deeper look into Union operations, and how the various theaters interacted.

Mathematical articles[edit]


Lincoln Finds a General, Vol. 5.

External links[edit]