Discussion Grant v Lee

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
What are the main points and counterpoints of this book? Is this book worth reading?

Was Lee truly a superior general?

https://www.amazon.com/Grant-Lee-St...ms-20&linkId=a135a5671c1402b61f7717b77fade107
By what metric do we determine if one general us superior to another?
Some possible metric's
1. Combat Equivalent Values
2. Territory won
3.Which general had better morale I.e. less desertion and defections.
4. Which general had better logistics with the caveat some logistical issues are beyond a general's control.
Perhaps there are other valid metrics.
Leftyhunter
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
What are the main points and counterpoints of this book? Is this book worth reading?

Was Lee truly a superior general?

https://www.amazon.com/Grant-Lee-St...ms-20&linkId=a135a5671c1402b61f7717b77fade107
If we use the CEVs that @Saphroneth has supplied of McCellen vs Lee during the Peninsula Campaign then no Lee is not the superior general. If we go by the results of the Peninsula Campaign then a case can be made that Lee was the superior general. On the other hand as @Saphroneth has remained us Lincoln denied McCellen troops that were promised resulting in McCellen having at best parity with Lee. The standard recommendation for a successful offense is a three to one manpower superiority ratio certainly not anything close to 1 to 1.
Leftyhunter
 

Patrick H

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Mar 7, 2014
I'll preface my opinion by saying I haven't read the book and probably won't, although the author might set forth an interesting comparison. Having said that, I'll also say I think it's foolish to try to rate them against each other. They were each great in their own way. In the end, Grant prevailed. Did he prevail through sheer force of generalship? Through superior numbers? Through taking the war to the enemy's doorstep? Were his subordinate generals better than Lee's subordinates? I think everyone can see this rabbit hole and why I think it's foolish to go down it. Each was a great general. In the end, Grant got the job done.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
What are the main points and counterpoints of this book? Is this book worth reading?

Was Lee truly a superior general?

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0253202884/?tag=civilwartalkc-20
We can say General Lee was a great general in that no other Confederate General won as many significant victories as Lee. I always argued and no doubt other's that Lee did the best he could with what resources were available.
I would argue conventional warfare comes down to which side has either superior resources and or technology. Superior military leadership is only one factor in which side will prevail in a conventional war.
Certain factors are simply out of Lee's control.
The Confederacy has a smaller population then the North and forty percent of the Confederate population is enslaved. The Confederacy also is far from a united political entity with significant white support for the Union in the Confederacy itself.
The Confederacy has a lot of territory and a long coastline. The AnV simply can't have all the troops Lee want's . For example Lee requested troops that were encircling New Berne, North Carolina but President Davis rightly feared if he gave Lee those troops to invade Pennsylvania , General Burnside could then attack the vital rail network at Goldsboro,North Carolina.
The AnV was able to get good logistical support in regards to weapons and ammunition but not so much food.
For example Lee can't send troops to Florida to counter Unionist and USCT troops intercepting cattle his troops need. Lee can't spare troops to prevent Sherman's march through Georgia. Lee couldn't spare troops latter on to prevent the fall of Ft.Fisher which led to the closing if the vital port of Wilmington,North Carolina which was the vital link to West European foodstuffs for the AnV.
Ultimately Lee could only do so much with what he had.
Leftyhunter
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Grant ultimately defeated Lee on a strategic level, but the amount of force that this required was extremely large.

If you look at CEVs (i.e. the casualty count per battle compared to Lanchester Square's expectations) then it is apparent that Grant's battle management was not significantly different to that of Hooker, Burnside and Meade (or Pope) in terms of how effectively they damaged the Army of Northern Virginia relative to damaging the Army of the Potomac to do it.

If you look at the strategic concept of the Overland campaign as conducted, it can be fundamentally summed up as getting over the Rappahanock and then repeatedly moving around the eastern flank. This can be explained as a series of attempts to catch Lee out of his entrenchments, but if so they all failed; it can be explained as a series of attempts to get between Lee and Richmond, but if so they all failed.
The success of the Overland campaign was that - albeit at great cost - it moved the Union army into a position it could draw supply from the tidewater rivers of Virginia and besiege Petersburg.

The thing is, short of defeating a much larger army on the attack, there's not really much Lee could possibly have done to stop Grant doing that - and Grant could have achieved that at significantly less cost if that was his objective. (Leaving aside the idea of landing on the Peninsula, Grant could have literally just skipped all the assaults he made and taken the same march route...)

It's also possible to criticize Grant's handling of his army, in that he threw it into so many heavy assaults against entrenchments that the army lost the will to attack (that's the case as of Cold Harbor). I've seen the idea that this is because Grant's experience in the West had led him to think that entrenching was something that an army did only when it was already suffering in morale terms.

Arguably, the hardest thing Grant did was get over the Rappahanock, and since that's after three failed attempts by the main Union army (Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Mine Run) that's no small thing. After that the rest of the campaign sort of looks like Grant trying things and then defaulting to his least useful option (the flank move), but he did always have that option to fall back on.



After the Overland you have the Petersburg siege. The main criticism of this one is that it was largely conducted as a siege, rather than regular approaches. Lee's attempt to draw off the force at Petersburg failed, but this is as much a function of the government as anything.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I think Grant had more significant victories in his career than Lee did. examples would be Shiloh, Vicksburg, maybe Chattanooga. While Lee had some nice victories, were any of them decisive? I can't think of one.
It depends how you define decisive. Vicksburg is a siege and Shiloh is simply surviving after being surprised in camp and nearly routed - I'm not sure you could really label either of those two as decisive.

Examples of impactful victories by Lee include the first two Union attempts to cross the Rappahanock, plus Second Bull Run (in all three cases Lee roughly handled a much bigger army).
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Was Fredericksburg not the most one sided victory of the war?
In CEV terms (i.e. relative casualties compared to what army sizes would make us expect), no, actually - Second Petersburg and The Crater are both worse, as is Cold Harbor. Resaca is too.

If you include the strategic results, Fredericksburg and the two Petersburg engagements are pretty similar as there was no alternative available after the "stop-thrust".
 

rbasin

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jan 31, 2013
Location
Tampa, Fl
It depends how you define decisive. Vicksburg is a siege and Shiloh is simply surviving after being surprised in camp and nearly routed - I'm not sure you could really label either of those two as decisive.

Examples of impactful victories by Lee include the first two Union attempts to cross the Rappahanock, plus Second Bull Run (in all three cases Lee roughly handled a much bigger army).

vicksburg- csa army surrenders, last confederate stronghold on the mississippi falls. so yeah, fairly significant.
shiloh- Johnston's attempt to destroy Grant before Buell arrives fails. western third of of tenn is in union hands.

but none of lee's victories settled anything. his victories simply indicated lincoln's change in army commanders.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
but none of lee's victories settled anything. his victories simply indicated lincoln's change in army commanders.

what lasting effects did fredericksburg produce?
Hold on. So as far as you're concerned a decisive victory is one which produces a permanent or long lasting change?

In that case then that's just saying "the Confederates lost the war". Grant was on the winning side, yes, but that doesn't even mean he was any good because Butler was also on the winning side.
Since you qualify Vicksburg as decisive, it would also mean Yorktown is one for McClellan as it opened up the York and the James - but I don't think that!


shiloh- Johnston's attempt to destroy Grant before Buell arrives fails. western third of of tenn is in union hands.
So here Grant gets credit for Shiloh being a decisive victory for not being destroyed. But in that case then couldn't Lee gain credit for not being destroyed at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor?

vicksburg- csa army surrenders, last confederate stronghold on the mississippi falls. so yeah, fairly significant.
Okay. And does that mean the surrender at Harpers Ferry doesn't count in Lee's credit column?
I mean, Vicksburg is a siege. It's a siege by a very large investing force of a quite small defending force, and it definitely achieves something but all of Grant's attempts to take the place by storm fail so siege is what he defaults to.
We could equally give Grant a negative for how many months it took to eventually take Vicksburg.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
The Confederate army didn't have the resources the Union army had to follow up on victories like Fredricksurg & Chancellorsville.
The result of those victories is the victory itself. They're successful defences of a defensive line (the Rappahanock) and contributed to Northern fatigue.

Lee didn't succeed, perhaps, but he did a lot of damage.
 

jackt62

Captain
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
What is the usefulness of debating which of the two was the "superior" general? Both had unique command traits in their respective ways. In the end, while Lee amassed many clear victories, it was Grant who oversaw the capture of three separate Confederate armies, a clear measure of a commander's success. Yes, I know it can be argued endlessly that Grant had the advantage of greater manpower and resources, but how he used those resources is what counts.
 

OpnCoronet

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
Using the Civil War as the criteria, i.e., accomplishments in fighting the war to a successful conclusion. seem, to me to be the most objective(reliable).

As many on this board know already, I have usually answered this particular question, by just noting that Lee's major achievements, were confined to a a small corner of the War, while achieving stalemates, while Grant was fighting through all the major dept's of the War from the Mississippi to Appomattox; against most of the most famous and experienced Generals of the confederacy, including Lee, with uniform success.

Granted Lee's acomplishments in one small part of the War was out of porportion to what could have been expected, he managed only to extend the war in Va. between the Rapidan and the Rappahanock, while the North under Grant, et. al., in the West was continuously rolling up the confederacy from the West to the East. It can be argued that Lee would have been even better on a larger stage, but, in fact we do not know because he didn't, while Grant did.
 
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