Discussion Grant v Lee

Specster

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Lee was part of the nobility. He had married upwards in the Virginian nobility. He believed in the American version of the landed nobility presiding over a class of unfree laborers. He is comparable to Tolstoy's fictional Andrei Bolkonsky. The system was already obsolete even in Russia by 1814, though it struggled on in Russia until Alexander II, and in the USA based on a cruel racial classification.
The tragedy of Lee was committing to a system which had no place in the modern world. Tolstoy allowed his fictional Bolkonsky to die, but Lee lived to see the old Virginia system wither away as the rest of the US bypassed the south. Grant was from Ohio. Though he did get standard nationalizing training at West Point, relative the east coast patricians, he was a barbarian. And they never let him forget it. Tolstoy's Vasily Denisov is the comparable character. Grant spent time in Missouri, Texas, and Mexico. He traversed Panama twice and spent time in California and Oregon with the other young officers.
Grant was disposable up until Vicksburg. The difference between the US Civil War and Tolstoy's fictional account of the Napoloenic war is that Winfield Scott, the Civil War figure most comparable to Tolstoy's fictional representation of Kutuzov never let Grant's outsider status conceal his ability to manage an operation.
4 or 5 years ago I was going to auctions once or twice a month. I was able to bid and mist likely win a bible dedicated to W.Scott. Even though I knew who he was at the time I didn’t put in a bid. It went for short money
Yet I think my money was well spent on a Slinky that I have been trying to walk down my stairs for 5 years leading me to the edge of madness.
**** do I regret missing that bible.
 

wausaubob

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The most cinematic characters of the Civil War might have been the naval officer Samuel Phillips Lee. He ran his blockade assignment as a business. He targeted the best blockade runners, and one would portray him as having counsel and connections in federal admiralty court in Virginia and New York, to make sure he and his crews were not cheated. Equally picturesque was his wife Elizabeth Blair. She was definitely part of the US nobility, and build up of her personality and character would be easy.
 
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jackt62

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He targeted the best blockade runners, and one would portray him as having counsel and connections in federal admiralty court in Virginia and New York, to make sure he and his crews were not cheated
Wasn't SP Lee the recipient of the largest amount of prize money in the US Navy during the war? And didn't that arouse certain friction with fellow officers?
 

wausaubob

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Wasn't SP Lee the recipient of the largest amount of prize money in the US Navy during the war? And didn't that arouse certain friction with fellow officers?
Exactly. Lee knew war was a racket and he fully intended to get his share and the Blairs knew the right lawyers that could help him.
 

wausaubob

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Wasn't SP Lee the recipient of the largest amount of prize money in the US Navy during the war? And didn't that arouse certain friction with fellow officers?
The issue would have been to make sure there was competitive bidding not a rigged auction, and if the government wanted one of the prizes, to make sure it paid a competitive price. Everything was crooked in that era.
 

jackt62

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The issue would have been to make sure there was competitive bidding not a rigged auction, and if the government wanted one of the prizes, to make sure it paid a competitive price. Everything was crooked in that era.
How did that work? Didn't captured ships and cargo have to go before an Admiralty Prize Court?
 

wausaubob

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How did that work? Didn't captured ships and cargo have to go before an Admiralty Prize Court?
I am speculating. However unless the navy had lawyers in the admiralty court, the government lawyers and the New York merchant lawyers could easily conspire to parcel out the prizes at cut rate prices. You have to think in terms of what people Durant and Gould were capable of.
Captain Lee had good enough connections to not be swindled, which made people in New York angry.
 

Specster

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The most cinematic characters of the Civil War might have been the naval officer Samuel Phillips Lee. He ran his blockade assignment as a business. He targeted the best blockade runners, and one would portray him as having counsel and connections in federal admiralty court in Virginia and New York, to make sure he and his crews were not cheated. Equally picturesque was his wife Elizabeth Blair. She was definitely part of the US nobility, and build up of her personality and character would be easy.
Recently listened to the audiobook about Grants Vicksburg campaign and they kept mentioning Lee and I’m thinking grant didnt fight Lee on that campaign and it was the naval officer Lee that you were speaking of ...and a Yankee no less.
 

wausaubob

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Recently listened to the audiobook about Grants Vicksburg campaign and they kept mentioning Lee and I’m thinking grant didnt fight Lee on that campaign and it was the naval officer Lee that you were speaking of ...and a Yankee no less.
That would be Stephen D. Lee, of the So. Carolina Lees. He was a hard boiled Confederate.
 

rbasin

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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!



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?


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.
Yes. However, none of the battles you mention moved the poles for Lee. His best victory, which for me was his mastery of Grant 64-65, resulted in his surrender.
 

Pete Longstreet

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As some have stated, both men were skilled commanders and performed, overall, very well. Some people say Grant won, so he's the better general. But you have to assess the man based on the position he's faced at a certain place and time. Even though commanding an army inferior in men and material, Lee held on... probably much longer than your average general would. Shelby Foote spoke of Lee's movements and strategy during the Petersburg campaign... he said the army held on as long as it did "because of the genius of Robert E. Lee." But he also called Grant "wonderful". I believe if you remove Lee, the Confederacy surrenders earlier. Remove Grant and the war continues longer than April 9th, 1865. It was the aggressiveness of Grant and his ability to hold firm and push forward while his men around him are being killed.

I would go with Grant. But not by much.
 

Saphroneth

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I'm not sure you can necessarily credit Grant's aggression as having turned the trick in the war, because most of what Grant does that makes progress is not pushing but flanking - he could have done without many of the battles. (Wilderness is necessary to get over the Rapidan, but all the battles after that are of questionable necessity at best, and Grant's aggression post-Wilderness sees the ratio of damage he's doing get worse and worse until by July Lee can actually detach a large enough force to threaten Washington and Grant is incapable of taking advantage of the opportunity).

What really wrecks Lee's army is not the fighting of the summer but the siege of Petersburg in the rest of the year, and that didn't require aggression so much as an unwillingness to give up.
 

wausaubob

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Except Lee was part of the landed gentry, living off slaves and serfs, and was part of the system had lasted for two thousand years in various forms.
Grant was a virtually a barbarian. He was very self conscious that his word choice and inflections gave him away as not really civilized. It was as if, the break between Caesar and Tiberius, Augustus had turned to a German instead of Agrippa, to organize the nation, and the German had reinstated the Republic and outlawed chattelism.
Lee was a European type officer. He would have fit in well in England or France. But Grant was an outsider, and it was the reason that eventually both northern parties found him unacceptable. He wasn't interested in re-establishing the old east coast balance of power.
 

wausaubob

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Who was the better officer, probably General Lee. Who had a bigger impact on history, by an order of magnitude it was Grant. Between 1863 and 1874 he was the dominant figure in the US. Without Grant the military victories that supported the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments would have never happened.
 
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jcaesar

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Except Lee was part of the landed gentry, living off slaves and serfs, and was part of the system had lasted for two thousand years in various forms.
Grant was a virtually a barbarian. He was very self conscious that his word choice and inflections gave him away as not really civilized. It was as if, the break between Caesar and Tiberius, Augustus had turned to a German instead of Agrippa, to organize the nation, and the German had reinstated the Republic and outlawed chattelism.

Lee was politically a Federalist like his father and turned towards the Federalist faction of the Whigs after that party imploded. Lee wasn't a fan of the Jacksonian Democrats and generally favored politics being the duty of the upper crust of society and some well educated members of the middle class.

But, at the same time it would be a mistake to consider him anti-industrial and favoring only the cultivation of a Jeffersonian American type society. He favored the government acting for furthering the economic interests of society in a more Hamiltonian way which he did himself with dykes on the Mississippi and was a fan of the South developing its small manufacturing sector.

Lee was an elitist in terms of who he felt should effectively decide and manage the affairs of government which Grant was not.
 

wausaubob

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Lee was politically a Federalist like his father and turned towards the Federalist faction of the Whigs after that party imploded. Lee wasn't a fan of the Jacksonian Democrats and generally favored politics being the duty of the upper crust of society and some educated members of the middle class. But, at the same time it would be a mistake to consider him anti-industrial and favoring only the cultivation of a Jeffersonian American type society. He favored the government acting for furthering the economic interests of society in a more Hamiltonian way which he did himself with dykes on the Mississippi.

Lee was an elitist in terms of who he felt should effectively decide and manage the affairs of government which Grant was not.
But that does make him equivalent to Andrei Bolkonsky. The inherited tradition was that mounted warriors were essential to the defense of the country and the families who owned a stable of horses had a right to rule and to own all the land. The rest of the people had the right to do all the work and live in abject poverty. Lee had less excuse than the Russians of the Napoleonic era. The custom of serfdom was being abandoned, and even during Tolstoy's time, Alexander II ended it in Russia.
The problem was that Lee and the rest of the Virginians were unwilling to admit the descendants of the involuntary immigrants were fully American and ready to participate in competitive American life.
 

wausaubob

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General Lee fought in a relatively small theater, and he completely mastered the last stage of Napoleonic warfare.
Grant had to learn to fight on continental scale, with water born logistics, and the transition to electronic communication and railroad powered logistics. Grant was fighting an industrial war by 1864.
 

Saphroneth

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General Lee fought in a relatively small theater, and he completely mastered the last stage of Napoleonic warfare.
Grant had to learn to fight on continental scale, with water born logistics, and the transition to electronic communication and railroad powered logistics. Grant was fighting an industrial war by 1864.
Umm... not really? An industrial war in this day and age means moving entire armies around by railroad, hundreds of thousands of men moved hundreds of miles in mere weeks, and massed batteries of rifled artillery which dominates the battlefield... Grant's methods of fighting largely involve head-on assaults (which are Napoleonic or pre-Napoleonic) and the siege warfare at Vicksburg and Petersburg is the way sieges had been done for centuries (indeed, it shows no use of regular approaches, so it's pre-gunpowder in some ways!)
 

wausaubob

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Umm... not really? An industrial war in this day and age means moving entire armies around by railroad, hundreds of thousands of men moved hundreds of miles in mere weeks, and massed batteries of rifled artillery which dominates the battlefield... Grant's methods of fighting largely involve head-on assaults (which are Napoleonic or pre-Napoleonic) and the siege warfare at Vicksburg and Petersburg is the way sieges had been done for centuries (indeed, it shows no use of regular approaches, so it's pre-gunpowder in some ways!)
In some ways it was pre-industrial. But the tools were telegraph wires, steamships and railroads. The goals were always pre-industrial.
Grant was going to take the opponent's railroad and engines first, then their mules, horses and wagons next, either by removing them or starving them, and finally all the food resources. In Tennessee and Kentucky, and in the far west, the population was not dense enough to support armies. The armies had to bring their own supplies and had to stay connected to population centers. From New Mexico to Indian Territory, and into Tennessee, destroying the enemy's wagons and killing their livestock was a low cost way to disable a campaign. The US had enormous industrial and engineering advantages to use in that kind of warfare.
I did not want to write a long comment, so thank you for your editorial assistance.
 
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