Grant - America’s Most Reconsidered General

Joshua Horn

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America’s Most Reconsidered General by Phil Leigh

Grant was a multidimensional man, and not without brilliant qualities. But the time is long past when he should be evaluated from only one perspective.. In the same way that mid-20th century historians revised the pitiful depths to which they had cast the man, today’s scholars and writers need to rethink the pedestal upon which they have placed him. After all, Teflon can be slippery.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/01/americas-most-reconsidered-general/

I think Grant was a good general as shown at Forts Henry and Donelson, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, etc. He was good at quick movements and diligent tenacity. He was one of the best generals the Union had, if not the very best. But he wasn't the greatest general the war produced. In the Overland and Petersburg campaigns his movements were not brilliant. The main redeeming quality he had over previous commanders of the Army of the Potomac was his perseverance. He kept going and didn't retreat after one retreat.

I don't think he would have beaten Lee if they had equal numbers. But he was the man the Union needed, as they had the superior forces in Virginia, they just needed someone to use them.
 

wilber6150

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America’s Most Reconsidered General by Phil Leigh

Grant was a multidimensional man, and not without brilliant qualities. But the time is long past when he should be evaluated from only one perspective.. In the same way that mid-20th century historians revised the pitiful depths to which they had cast the man, today’s scholars and writers need to rethink the pedestal upon which they have placed him. After all, Teflon can be slippery.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/01/americas-most-reconsidered-general/

I think Grant was a good general as shown at Forts Henry and Donelson, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, etc. He was good at quick movements and diligent tenacity. He was one of the best generals the Union had, if not the very best. But he wasn't the greatest general the war produced. In the Overland and Petersburg campaigns his movements were not brilliant. The main redeeming quality he had over previous commanders of the Army of the Potomac was his perseverance. He kept going and didn't retreat after one retreat.

I don't think he would have beaten Lee if they had equal numbers. But he was the man the Union needed, as they had the superior forces in Virginia, they just needed someone to use them.
Its kind of hard to be brilliant when the enemy knows the route and roads you have to take and are waiting for you.. But, in the end his moves some of which caught Lee totally off guard, did force Lee to leave his positions time after time and allowed Grant to leave the Wilderness and get into open ground..
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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I always think it's interesting to read Sherman's opinions of Grant...

"I'm a darned sight smarter than Grant; I know a great deal more about war, military histories, strategy and grand tactics than he does; I know more about organization, supply, and administration and about everything else than he does; but I'll tell you where he beats me and where he beats the world. He don't care a dam n for what the enemy does out of his sight, but it scares me like hell."

[ETA: I can't read that without hearing the voice of the man who voiced Sherman in Ken Burns miniseries, Arthur Miller.]

Two other quotes I bumped into while looking for that one:


"There is one West Pointer, I think in Missouri, little known, and whom I hope the northern people will not find out. I mean Sam Grant. I knew him well at the Academy and in Mexico. I should fear him more than any of their officers I have yet heard of. He is not a man of genius, but he is clear-headed, quick and daring." - Richard S. Ewell

"Grant was an uncommon fellow, the most modest, the most disinterested, and the most honest man I ever knew, with a temper that nothing could disturb, and a judgement that was judicial in its comprehensiveness and wisdom. Not a great man, except morally, not an original or brilliant man, but sincere, thoughtful, deep, and gifted with courage that never faltered. Unaffected, unpretending hero, who no ill omens could deject and no triumph unduly exalt.." - Charles S. Dana
 
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I don't think he would have beaten Lee if they had equal numbers. But he was the man the Union needed, as they had the superior forces in Virginia, they just needed someone to use them.
The great thing about speculative history is we can say anything and be right. Lee benefitted from Lincoln's choices for generals. Grant would have bested Lee more easily had Grant been better served by AoP leaders who were late or inept. Grant did not have Eisenhower's latitude to sack generals and Union and Confederate soldiers paid the price.

By 1864, both Lee and Grant had the benefit of three years of hard campaigning and at the peaks of their games. Neither came to work in the morning with a full box of tools though. Grant had a bigger box.
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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In the final analysis it is results that count. Grant took Vicksburg. Grant accepted Lee's surrender at Appomattox. No amount of historical revision can change those facts.

I think it's interesting also that Grant, alone among all other Union generals, effected the surrender of no fewer than three Confederate armies (of divisional+ strength), at Fort Donelson, Vicksburg, and Appamattox. Pope took Island No 10's surrender, and Sherman took Johnston's, but I think that was about it for the large formations.
 

KeyserSoze

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Here's what Dwight Eisenhower, no slouch of a general himself, had to say about Grant;

"I think Ulysses S. Grant is vastly underrated as a man and as a general. I know people think this and that about his drinking habits, which I think have been exaggerated way out of line. The fact is, he never demanded more men or material from the war department, he took over an army that had a long history of retreating and losing. That army had no confidence in their fighting ability and Grant came in as a real outsider. He had so many disadvantages going into the 1864 campaign, now 100 years ago. But he met every test and rose to the occasion unlike I’ve ever seen in American history. He was a very tough yet very fair man and a great soldier. He’s not been given his due. Grant devised a strategy to end the war. He alone had the determination, foresight, and wisdom to do it. It was lucky that President Lincoln didn’t interfere or attempt to control Grant’s strategic line of thinking. Lincoln wisely left the war to Grant, at least in the concluding moves after he came east. Grant is very undervalued today, which is a shame, because he was one of the greatest American generals, if not the greatest."

On another occasion, Eisenhower noted, "... Grant captured three armies intact, moved and coordinated his forces in a way that baffles military logic yet succeeded and he concluded the war one year after being entrusted with that aim. I’d say that was one hell of a piece of soldiering extending over a period of four years, the same time we were in the last war.”

Lee was a good general, perhaps a great general, but he never devised a plan to win the war. Grant did. Lee was a great tactician but Grant was a great tactician AND a great strategist.
 

Eric Calistri

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Phil Leigh really has not done his homework on Grant. Hope his work on Sam Watkins is better. Repeating long discredited slander such as soldiers bayonetted while sleeping and 4,000 casualties in 8 minutes is just poor scholarship.
 

diane

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Lee may have said in his farewell to his troops that it was resources and numbers that did them in, but I think he wanted to help them feel they had done their best and it wasn't their fault. Some years later he said Grant was a general who had no equal in history - and he'd studied plenty of generals! One thing Grant had in his favor, and it was a huge plus, was Lincoln had finally learned he was not really a general and took his hands off Grant but protected him, too. Go do your stuff and win this thing - I'll keep people off your back. Davis never learned that lesson and I think his micro-managing hindered Lee considerably. That and the wrangling his subordinates did amongst each other! Unfortunately, Lee was not willing to bruise up some over-blown egos and only stepped in when it was absolutely necessary. Like when Jackson had just about all his commanders under arrest - Lee came by and let them out, saying well who's going to lead the troops if all their officers are in the pokey? :confused: Grant and Lincoln did make a good team!
 

JeffBrooks

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I think Grant was a good general as shown at Forts Henry and Donelson, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, etc.

No one can question the genius and sheer audacity of Grant's Vicksburg Campaign, which has to rank as one of the greatest military achievements in American history. At Forts Henry and Donelson, Grant benefited from having abject idiots for opponents.

Chattanooga? I'm not quite sure Grant deserves quite the credit he has received. His actual plan - have the Army of the Tennessee under Sherman crush the Confederate right flank - failed miserably. It was the Army of the Cumberland under Thomas that smashed the Confederate center and won the battle. If anything, Grant seems to have tried to hold Thomas and his men back from launching the attack and only consented to it as a diversion in order to take the pressure off Sherman.
 

diane

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Grant hadn't gotten an appreciation of Thomas yet, despite Chickamauga. Seemed to think that was a one-time fluke! He was afraid Thomas was too cautious. He was slow and methodical but once he got underway one could see how he earned the nicknames Rock of Chickamauga and Hammer of Nashville. One of Grant's flaws, I think, was that he often misjudged an officer. (I happen to think he had better cavalrymen than Sheridan, for example!)
 

Eric Calistri

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Well, it looks like you are the only one so far that actually read his article.

As a newcomer I am dismayed by the trigger-happy tendency among some to comment without reading the applicable material. But it explains a lot.

It was one of those cases where the comment section far exceeds the merit of the original article. But on the whole the "Opininator" has been quite good, this one is something of an outlier.
 

James N.

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I think it's interesting also that Grant, alone among all other Union generals, effected the surrender of no fewer than three Confederate armies (of divisional+ strength), at Fort Donelson, Vicksburg, and Appamattox. Pope took Island No 10's surrender, and Sherman took Johnston's, but I think that was about it for the large formations.

Mark, don't forget that very anathema to Grant, John McClernand, who took Churchill's divisional strength-garrison at Arkansas Post, assisted greatly by Porter!
 

James N.

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Two who did a great deal to rehabilitate Grant's military reputation in the mid-Twentieth Century were authors Lloyd Lewis and Bruce Catton, Senior Editor of American Heritage Magazine. Catton wrote well of Grant in his larger works like the Army of the Potomac Trilogy, The Centennial History of the Civil War, and the brief U.S. Grant and the American Military Tradition, but his greatest help to Grant was probably by stepping in to complete Lewis's biography, begun as Captain Sam Grant. When Lewis died unexpectedly, Catton finished the military side of Grant's career with Grant Moves South and Grant Takes Command. Perhaps unfortunately, Grant's presidency had to wait a bit for reconsideration.
 

James N.

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I count that as a Sherman/Porter victory. McClernand was just hitching a ride. :laugh:
I would agree - EXCEPT they were against it, and Mac pulled rank on them! Great as he may have been, it's still my contention that 'Lyss could be a vindictive S O B, especially when he had been "upstaged" by someone ( especially when that someone was or had been his subordinate ), like McClernand here and Rosecrans at Corinth.
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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It's my understanding that Grant wasn't so much opposed to the move on Arkansas Post as he was to the specter of McClernand continuing on to Little Rock (which he indicated he intended to do). That really would have been a wild goose chase...

The way Porter told it (big asterisk here), McClernand wanted to leave Sherman behind, but Porter said he wouldn't get any naval support at all unless Cump was along.

(Big asterisk = Porter's statements must always be taken with extreme caution unless independently verified. But I have reason to believe this was about the truth in this case. It's obvious from the ORN communications between them that Porter and Sherman got along extremely well; in fact, Sherman was the principal cause of Porter's about-face on his opinion of West Point -trained generals, which had initially been rather low. Working with Grant sealed the deal.)
 

OpnCoronet

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I think it's interesting also that Grant, alone among all other Union generals, effected the surrender of no fewer than three Confederate armies (of divisional+ strength), at Fort Donelson, Vicksburg, and Appamattox. Pope took Island No 10's surrender, and Sherman took Johnston's, but I think that was about it for the large formations.


The fact that Grant commanded in most of the major dept's of the war(from the Mississippi, to the Virginia Tidewater) and faced most of, what was then considered the best general's of the confederacy and defeated them all, including Lee, can be added.
 

James N.

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The fact that Grant commanded in most of the major dept's of the war(from the Mississippi, to the Virginia Tidewater) and faced most of, what was then considered the best general's of the confederacy and defeated them all, including Lee, can be added.

I DO disagree with that - It's been speculated that BOTH Grant AND Stonewall Jackson might not have come off nearly as well historically if they had faced really top-level opponents: Jackson - Schenck/Milroy? Banks? Fremont? Pope? ( I'm only considering actions where Jackson was in independent command, not part of Lee's larger army. ) Grant - Polk? Floyd? Pillow? Buckner? Pemberton? Bragg? ( Ditto Grant before '64. ) ALL certified LOSERS! The questionable pair would possibly be A.S. Johnston and P. G. T. Beauregard at Shiloh, and there has been MUCH debate about both of them.
 
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