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A comparison & contrast of Lee & Grant

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by historicus, Feb 21, 2017.

  1. historicus

    historicus Private

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    Edited long after this was first posted b/c I changed my mind on Grant's tactics after further research: Lee was good with tactics (battle level Generalship) but only fair on strategy (campaign level Generalship). Grant was a great strategist, and Grant was good with tactics.

    Lee proved that he was a good tactician at Second Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, Spotsylvania Courthouse, and the Overland Campaign. Lee's biggest tactical mistake was Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg. At Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg, Lee had 12,000 troops make an offensive charge over open ground against 6,000 Federal troops. The Army of the Potomac (AoP) had artillery stationed on Cemetary Hill, Culp's Hill, and Little Round Top with excellent lines of oblique fire against the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble troops. Civil War artillery could aim in terms of left to right far better than their aim distance-wise. Also, much of the 2nd Corps on Cemetary Ridge was behind a stone wall. Furthermore, the AoP had the advantage of interior lines so the AoP could reinforce Cemetary Ridge far quicker than the ANV could reinforce the PPT Troops. Before the charge was ordered, Longstreet told Lee that the PPT Charge would fail, and Longstreet told Lee why the charge would fail. Lee ordered it anyway. Because of Pickett's Charge, I would never say that Lee was the greatest tactician of all time or even in the top 10. But Pickett's Charge was only a tiny sample of Lee's military career, so I would still say that Lee was a good tactician despite Pickett's Charge.

    Lee was only fair on strategy. In the early summer of 1863, Lee made the strategic decision to invade PA.
    Lee moved his army into PA in order to acquire food and other supplies from the PA countryside and to give VA a respith, and Lee thought that winning a battle in PA would go a long way to make the North decide to give up the fight. The idea of acquiring food in PA was a good benefit to the plan, but Lee's ideas of how the invasion of PA would diminish public support for the war in the North is almost silly. The Army of Northern Virginia (ANV) would inevitably have to eventually flee the North back to the South. The northern newspapers obviously would play up the ANV's retreat back to the South as a northern victory. Furthermore, Lee could and should have avoided a major battle in PA.

    Grant showed he was a great strategist by seizing the strategic forts and other CSA strongholds on the Mississippi River. And Grant showed his strategic genius by having Sherman conduct his March to the Sea simultaneously with Grant's Overland Campaign. Grant was good at logistics and supplying his armies with bakeries and pontoon trains and other such necessities. Grant was decent at tactics, but he sometimes made tactical errors such as Cold Harbor and the 2nd Assault at Vicksburg.

    I would say Grant was better overall because Grant was better at strategy than Lee was at Lee's strength: tactics.

    In the game of war, tactics win headlines. Strategy wins wars.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2017

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  3. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Major

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    True but Grant had far more resources to draw on. We have more then a few threads on why the South lost.
    Leftyhunter
     
  4. historicus

    historicus Private

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    Grant had far more resources to draw on than Lee, but that does not automatically disprove my thesis that Grant was better than Lee.


    This is not a thread on why the South lost. This is a thread about comparing and contrasting Lee and Grant.
     
  5. Jamieva

    Jamieva 2nd Lieutenant Forum Host

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    But your theory implies that Grant somehow got more supplies for his forces than his counterparts. There is nothing that shows that so far except saying they had bakeries and pontoon trains. Did other union commanders not supply their troops properly? You cannot compare lee and Grant in regards to supplies because they are not drawing on the same supply source.
     
  6. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Major

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    Fair enough. However Grant had quite a few advantages that Lee didn't have and the threads that I refer to go into more details. If the roles would of been reversed more likely then not Lee would of been the victor.
    Leftyhunter
     
  7. Youngblood

    Youngblood Sergeant

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    Lee did a heck of alot more with a heck of alot less.
     
  8. historicus

    historicus Private

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    Other union commanders sometimes did not supply their troops properly. You have never heard or read of the stories where the Union had plenty of food available to supply the Union armies but the Union failed to get the food to the Union army?

    Grant and Lee don't have to draw on the same supply source for me to compare them to each other in regards to supplies.
     
  9. historicus

    historicus Private

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    Debatable.

    Grant took Fort Henry and Fort Donelson and Vicksburg and defeated the AoT at Shiloh. Then Grant wore down the ANV through attrition, all while Lee had the tactical advantage of being able to fight on the defensive. Grant had to take the offensive to achieve Grant's objectives.
     
  10. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Major

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    Recently we had a good thread on Gettysburg comparing Meade vs Lee " was John Regan right?". We do have a whole sub forum on Gettysburg. No doubt we have many similar past threads. Lee's performance at Gettysburg is worthy of one of the many past threads since it is a very complex subject in it's own right.
    Leftyhunter
     
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  11. Irishtom29

    Irishtom29 Corporal

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    Grant accomplished much more than Lee did--his western campaigns alone accomplished far more than Lee ever did. And don't hold it against Grant that he had good resources, it wasn't a fault, you know.
     
  12. Jamieva

    Jamieva 2nd Lieutenant Forum Host

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    But Grant, much like Lee in 62/63 got to go up against incompetent opponents that aided in their victories.
     
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  13. OpnCoronet

    OpnCoronet Major

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    As noted by historicus, e. al., on this board, the historical(and imperical) evidence seems to be pretty conclusive..

    Grant fought in all the major depts. and theatres of the War, against all the major commanders the csa could find to face him, including Beauregard, Johnston, Hood,and, of course, Lee himself and defeated them all.

    Grant faced all the major armies of the Confederacy and defeated them All, including the ANV.

    After three Years of War, Grant began his final campaign(in Northern Va.) and effectively ended the War in a little less than a Year.

    I really see little or no no comparison.
     
  14. Irishtom29

    Irishtom29 Corporal

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    I wouldn't hold that against him either. And the incompetence argument is dangerously close to being circular.
     
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  15. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Major

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    Not really. Yes Lee did enjoy important defensive victories and their is no denying Lee was a very good general who did the best he could with the resources he had at hand.
    On the other hand a generals job is at the end of the day to seize and hold territory something Lee failed to do. It may not of been his fault due to lack of manpower and logistical support but at the end of the day he simply didn't size and hold territory.
    Leftyhunter
     
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  16. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Major

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    In terms of strategy lets give credit where credit is due to that old warhorse General Winfield Scott. Scott wrote the "Anaconda Plan" prior to his retirement. it was a simple common sense strategy. The devil is in the details of implementing it.
    Leftyhunter
     
  17. historicus

    historicus Private

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    The Anaconda Plan was not really implemented. If the Anaconda Plan was all that was used, the Confederacy would have won the war. Therefore, I don't see any reason to give Winfield Scott credit.

    Grant and Sherman came up with the strategies that won the Civil War.
     
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  18. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Major

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    I disagree but I will hope that my far more militarily informed friends @cash @johan_steele @7th Mississippi Infantry will add to the conversation.
    Leftyhunter
     
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  19. johan_steele

    johan_steele Colonel Retired Moderator

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    Lee was good, Grant accepted his surrender. Nuff said.
     
  20. BillO

    BillO Captain

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    To call Grant "fair " on battle tactics is either being very generous or relying too much on the outcome to presuppose his abilities.
    It is a complete "what if" to compare the two as their strategic power to make decisions was different their goals were different and everything about the forces at their deposal were different.
    If you need to try to compare the two you need to ask yourself what would have been the likely result if their positions were reversed.
    Could Lee have done a better job than Grant in Grants position in 1863 and if Grant could have done better than Lee with the ANV.
    Grant was a competent army commander, Lee was Lee and that is all that needs to be said.
    Personally I think a more fair comparison would be between Grant, Thomas and Longstreet as the three seem close as far as abilities go.
     
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  21. Rebforever

    Rebforever Captain

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    Oh, I don't know, Billo. I would be more inclined to leave Longstreet out of the mix. To emotional! :timebomb:
     

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