The Pros and Cons of Grant

Orion.M.E

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General and future president Grant had his ups and downs in life. He was an alcoholic and had be disowned by his family, but when the civil war started he did his best to clean up his act. And he rose from obscurity in just eight years from an alcoholic, to one of the best generals of the union, to the president of the United States of America. But with all the cons of Grant there are many pro’s he had. Some of them you know and some of them you might of not, so I’ll be talking about the pro’s and cons of General Grant.



1: Grant made the KKK illegal,

As president of the United States he wasn’t considered the best but he did the amazing thing of making the KKK illegal which led to its decline even after his death. It’s the thing I admire about Grant was that even after the end of the civil war Grant continued to strive for equality among the American peoples. Making the KKK illegal was by far one of the most amazing things a person could do for racial equality.





2: 10,000 boxes of cigars,

During the civil war, Grant was praised for one of his victories *I can’t remember which one* and a great full people sent him 10,000 boxes of cigars as a sign of gratefulness. Grant was definitely pleased with the gifts as he quickly smoked all of those cigars. Sadly this would lead to him passing away from throat cancer.





3: Grant respected his enemy’s for their efforts,

At the end of the civil war, Robert E. Lee got on his horse after surrendering to Grant, he was filled with tears and he rode away. Officers and privates cheered but Grant told them to stop. Grant knew this was just the start of reconstruction of the country, and that the war for racial equality would still go on for years to come. Grant respected Lee’s efforts in battle and at the end both sides would work together to clean up the country to bring together as a whole.





4: Grant was a heavy alcoholic,

This is a con of Grant’s almost everyone knows about. It’s surprising that it didn’t kill him from drinking too much. His wife and superiors took it to keep Grant sober. Heck, his alcoholic behavior made him homeless for some time before the civil war so it’s clear he needed to be kept sober. However people’s efforts to keep Grant sober mostly worked. At the battle of Shiloh Grant was called a butcher for the many men he threw at the enemy that were killed or wounded, my ancestor among the wounded with his left hip being shot. People begged the president to get rid of Grant but Lincoln praises Grants efforts by sending him whiskey.
 

LetUsHavePeace

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"He was an alcoholic and had be disowned by his family, but when the civil war started he did his best to clean up his act."

Grant was a smoker, not a drinker. Like Eisenhower he became a heavy user of nicotine for the same reason so many people did; it allowed him to sharpen his attention and sustain focus.
Grant was not "disowned by his family". When he resigned his commission in California, he had two goals: (1) see his wife and children, including one he had never met, and (2) join his clever brother Simpson in building up the leather business with the lead miners in Galena. (Saddles and harness were a good business, and making the transmission belts for the steam engines that powered the crushers and other equipment for the mines was a very, very good business.) When his father tried to use his political pull to void his son's resignation, Grant realized that Jesse was - in commercial terms - a blowhard. Instead of taking the opportunity to move to Cincinnati to go into partnership in the largest harness business in Ohio, Jesse had chosen to stay in Bethel and be a big fish in a very small pond. We do not know the details of the disagreements between Grant and his father. Grant was not going to put them in writing, and Jesse's correspondence to his son, among all the Grant papers, is the one section that is almost entirely vacant. Grant's "failures" while living with his wife and children and in-laws are part of the story that Jesse wanted everyone to believe because the man wanted to claim for himself his son's extraordinary success. Grant would have been a lifelong failure if his father had not rescued him from the degradation of being a sharecropper in Missouri. Etc. The stories about Grant as a "clerk" in the Galena store are part of that legend. By 1860 Grant and his father had declared a truce; Grant would go to Galena to help Simpson, who was already suffering the first symptoms of consumption. He, Simpson and Orville would be partners. Grant would do the circuit of the firm's customers along the upper Mississippi as far north as Minneapolis. Simpson would run the production, and Orville would clerk the ground floor showroom. That Grant would be "unqualified" as a clerk when asked about the prices for the retail goods is no more surprising than expecting the owner of trucking company to give you a quote for a LTL delivery next Tuesday. Grant declined the offer to become the leader of Galena's volunteer company because he had a business to run; he went to Springfield only after he and Simpson agreed that it was Ulysses' duty to do so.
P.S. I was too kind about Jesse; he was, in almost every way, a blowhard.
 
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James N.

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2: 10,000 boxes of cigars,

During the civil war, Grant was praised for one of his victories *I can’t remember which one* and a great full people sent him 10,000 boxes of cigars as a sign of gratefulness. Grant was definitely pleased with the gifts as he quickly smoked all of those cigars. Sadly this would lead to him passing away from throat cancer...
That would be Fort Donelson in February, 1862.
 

CaptSpook

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"He was an alcoholic and had be disowned by his family, but when the civil war started he did his best to clean up his act."

Grant was a smoker, not a drinker. Like Eisenhower he became a heavy user of nicotine for the same reason so many people did; it allowed him to sharpen his attention and sustain focus.
Grant was not "disowned by his family". When he resigned his commission in California, he had two goals: (1) see his wife and children, including one he had never met, and (2) join his clever brother Simpson in building up the leather business with the lead miners in Galena. (Saddles and harness were a good business, and making the transmission belts for the steam engines that powered the crushers and other equipment for the mines was a very, very good business.) When his father tried to use his political pull to void his son's resignation, Grant realized that Jesse was - in commercial terms - a blowhard. Instead of taking the opportunity to move to Cincinnati to go into partnership in the largest harness business in Ohio, Jesse had chosen to stay in Bethel and be a big fish in a very small pond. We do not know the details of the disagreements between Grant and his father. Grant was not going to put them in writing, and Jesse's correspondence to his son, among all the Grant papers, is the one section that is almost entirely vacant. Grant's "failures" while living with his wife and children and in-laws are part of the story that Jesse wanted everyone to believe because the man wanted to claim for himself his son's extraordinary success. Grant would have been a lifelong failure if his father had not rescued him from the degradation of being a sharecropper in Missouri. Etc. The stories about Grant as a "clerk" in the Galena store are part of that legend. By 1860 Grant and his father had declared a truce; Grant would go to Galena to help Simpson, who was already suffering the first symptoms of consumption. He, Simpson and Orville would be partners. Grant would do the circuit of the firm's customers along the upper Mississippi as far north as Minneapolis. Simpson would run the production, and Orville would clerk the ground floor showroom. That Grant would be "unqualified" as a clerk when asked about the prices for the retail goods is no more surprising than expecting the owner of trucking company to give you a quote for a LTL delivery next Tuesday. Grant declined the offer to become the leader of Galena's volunteer company because he had a business to run; he went to Springfield only after he and Simpson agreed that it was Ulysses' duty to do so.
P.S. I was too kind about Jesse; he was, in almost every way, a blowhard.
Thank you for expressing the facts about US Grant and not the usual "Grant as a drunk and butcher" rhetoric.

Whether you believe he was an alcoholic or not depends on your definition of alcoholism. My studies of Grant have uncovered nothing to suggest that he was dependent on alcohol, at least no more than anyone else.

My own theory is that he may have lacked the gene that produces the two alcohol metabolizing enzymes ADH and ALDH, a relative rarity for those of European decent but possible nonetheless. Written observations by a number of sources from the period noted that after only one glass of wine, he would slur his speech and stagger slightly as if he were drunk, a sure symptom of someone lacking that particular gene.

This theory is testable if someone were interested in getting ahold of a DNA sample of Grant's.
 

uaskme

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He was a 2 fisted drinker. Excellent horseman but occasionally wrecked his horse. sometimes when he was a drinking.

Also bad to hold a grudge. Destroyed several other officers who he begrudged.

Many have used his Memoirs as a primary source. Pretty good evidence this has had an impact on narrative. He was a Biased Witness.
 

CaptSpook

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He was a 2 fisted drinker. Excellent horseman but occasionally wrecked his horse. sometimes when he was a drinking.

Also bad to hold a grudge. Destroyed several other officers who he begrudged.

Many have used his Memoirs as a primary source. Pretty good evidence this has had an impact on narrative. He was a Biased Witness.
Memoirs, by their very nature, are biased in one way or another. As memoirs go, I have found Grant's to be one of the best in terms of its concise and direct narrative, which is corroborated by Official Returns, letters and other accounts from others of the period who knew him.

I grew up under the false impression that was inspired by the Lost Cause and Southern Revisionists of the turn of the last century, that he was a "drunk and butcher", and that Lee was a saint and walked on water. While historical research shows there were drunks and butchers on both sides during the CW, there is ample evidence through many other primary sources from the period that refute the narrative that Grant was one of them. Moreover, Lee would have been appalled that he had been raised to the status of a living god.

Contemporary works on Grant, heavily garnished with legitimate references that give a clearer, more accurate picture of Grant both in his early life and the CW include those of J. Waugh, B. Catton, H. Brands, R. White, W. Davis, and others.
 

LetUsHavePeace

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Thank you for expressing the facts about US Grant and not the usual "Grant as a drunk and butcher" rhetoric.

Whether you believe he was an alcoholic or not depends on your definition of alcoholism. My studies of Grant have uncovered nothing to suggest that he was dependent on alcohol, at least no more than anyone else.

My own theory is that he may have lacked the gene that produces the two alcohol metabolizing enzymes ADH and ALDH, a relative rarity for those of European decent but possible nonetheless. Written observations by a number of sources from the period noted that after only one glass of wine, he would slur his speech and stagger slightly as if he were drunk, a sure symptom of someone lacking that particular gene.

This theory is testable if someone were interested in getting ahold of a DNA sample of Grant's.
There is no testimony to Grant's "alcoholism" in California. He had the good sense to see that his continuing to serve in Regular Army was a dead end. There would be no chances for further promotion, and there was no possibility of being able to afford having his family come and join him. Grant was never a spit and polish soldier, and his CO Buchanan was very much one. A few weeks of seeing Grant showing his usual disregard to military decorum were more than enough to put Grant on Buchanan's list of officers to be disciplined. A few weeks of Buchanan's discipline were more than enough for Grant to realize that he would have two choices: (1) recorded officer discipline or outright court-martial, or (2) resignation.
Grant never held a grudge against Buchanan or even resented that he had been put to that choice. He was not himself a martinet, but he had respect for the people who were. When Grant became Buchanan's superior during the Civil War, he had every opportunity in the world to cause harm; instead, he promoted him.
I have no idea how many members of this and other forums are professional or serious amateur horse riders - jockeys, trainers, trail riders. I would welcome hearing from them about how many times they and their mounts have slipped or fallen and how many times they have been thrown. Grant rode an average of 20 miles a day for his entire length of service during the Civil War. He rode in the dark, through open country, in rain and sleet and over broken ground that was often muddy enough to splatter his and other rider's coats. Yet, somehow, every mishap of his had only one cause - drunkenness.
This is, at heart, a boring subject because all the actual testimony is on one side - none of Grant's contemporaries records him as being even mildly sloshed - and all the accusations come from people who hated Grant and everything he stood for and were only offered as evidence after the man had died and there was no legal risk of libel.
 

James N.

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... This is, at heart, a boring subject because all the actual testimony is on one side - none of Grant's contemporaries records him as being even mildly sloshed - and all the accusations come from people who hated Grant and everything he stood for and were only offered as evidence after the man had died and there was no legal risk of libel.
Although I absolutely agree with the tenor of your entire post, I'm afraid I can't agree with the assertion about Grant's sobriety; there are too many references by sincere people who professed to be - and likely were - his friends to the contrary. Of course some were possibly or even likely exaggerated, but I'm afraid they do exist.
 

jackt62

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Grant did not make the KKK "illegal." He did push for legislation to empower the federal government to fight the Klan more effectively, with the resultant Enforcement Act of 1871 (popularly known as the Ku Klux Klan Act.). Grant used the granted powers which allowed the federal government to suspend habeas corpus, arrest and prosecute in federal courts, suspects accused of infringing civil rights and committing violence against freedpersons. Grant was successful in degrading the KKK during his presidency; it did not again become a potent force until the early 20th century.
 

LetUsHavePeace

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Although I absolutely agree with the tenor of your entire post, I'm afraid I can't agree with the assertion about Grant's sobriety; there are too many references by sincere people who professed to be - and likely were - his friends to the contrary. Of course some were possibly or even likely exaggerated, but I'm afraid they do exist.
It always helps to be specific. $50 to CivilWarTalk for each specific reference to a letter, diary entry, army report, or other document written at the time of the incident that states Grant was drunk, tipsy, sozzled or otherwise worse for wear because of the effects of alcohol.
 

jackt62

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Probably Grant's most "pro" characteristic was his persistence. From his near collapse at Shiloh in April 1862 to the crossing of the Mississippi south of Vicksburg in April 1863, Grant was floundering. But his relentless ability to focus on the mission goal was the defining trait that separated him from most other northern commanders such as Hooker and Burnside. Grant's troops were happily surprised by his decision to press onward after the Wilderness mess in May 1864, but it should not have been a shocker given Grant's previous history.
 

CaptSpook

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There is no testimony to Grant's "alcoholism" in California. He had the good sense to see that his continuing to serve in Regular Army was a dead end. There would be no chances for further promotion, and there was no possibility of being able to afford having his family come and join him. Grant was never a spit and polish soldier, and his CO Buchanan was very much one. A few weeks of seeing Grant showing his usual disregard to military decorum were more than enough to put Grant on Buchanan's list of officers to be disciplined. A few weeks of Buchanan's discipline were more than enough for Grant to realize that he would have two choices: (1) recorded officer discipline or outright court-martial, or (2) resignation.
Grant never held a grudge against Buchanan or even resented that he had been put to that choice. He was not himself a martinet, but he had respect for the people who were. When Grant became Buchanan's superior during the Civil War, he had every opportunity in the world to cause harm; instead, he promoted him.
I have no idea how many members of this and other forums are professional or serious amateur horse riders - jockeys, trainers, trail riders. I would welcome hearing from them about how many times they and their mounts have slipped or fallen and how many times they have been thrown. Grant rode an average of 20 miles a day for his entire length of service during the Civil War. He rode in the dark, through open country, in rain and sleet and over broken ground that was often muddy enough to splatter his and other rider's coats. Yet, somehow, every mishap of his had only one cause - drunkenness.
This is, at heart, a boring subject because all the actual testimony is on one side - none of Grant's contemporaries records him as being even mildly sloshed - and all the accusations come from people who hated Grant and everything he stood for and were only offered as evidence after the man had died and there was no legal risk of libel.
Very well said and the documented testimony supports an image of sobriety rather than insobriety.
 

JeffBrooks

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Grant was a brilliant general. I consider his performance in the Vicksburg Campaign to be among the best by any American general in all of history. . . ever.

But one occasion in his military career that should cast a shadow over his reputation has gone strangely unnoticed: he failed to recognize the threat of Jubal Early on Washington D.C. until almost the final and fatal moment. For far too long, he displayed a dismissive and lackadaisical attitude about what he should have recognized as a serious threat. If he had delayed even a matter of hours on dispatching Ricketts's division before the Battle of Monocacy, or the VI Corps a few days later, the result would have been catastrophic for the Union cause.
 

wausaubob

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There is no testimony to Grant's "alcoholism" in California. He had the good sense to see that his continuing to serve in Regular Army was a dead end. There would be no chances for further promotion, and there was no possibility of being able to afford having his family come and join him. Grant was never a spit and polish soldier, and his CO Buchanan was very much one. A few weeks of seeing Grant showing his usual disregard to military decorum were more than enough to put Grant on Buchanan's list of officers to be disciplined. A few weeks of Buchanan's discipline were more than enough for Grant to realize that he would have two choices: (1) recorded officer discipline or outright court-martial, or (2) resignation.
Grant never held a grudge against Buchanan or even resented that he had been put to that choice. He was not himself a martinet, but he had respect for the people who were. When Grant became Buchanan's superior during the Civil War, he had every opportunity in the world to cause harm; instead, he promoted him.
I have no idea how many members of this and other forums are professional or serious amateur horse riders - jockeys, trainers, trail riders. I would welcome hearing from them about how many times they and their mounts have slipped or fallen and how many times they have been thrown. Grant rode an average of 20 miles a day for his entire length of service during the Civil War. He rode in the dark, through open country, in rain and sleet and over broken ground that was often muddy enough to splatter his and other rider's coats. Yet, somehow, every mishap of his had only one cause - drunkenness.
This is, at heart, a boring subject because all the actual testimony is on one side - none of Grant's contemporaries records him as being even mildly sloshed - and all the accusations come from people who hated Grant and everything he stood for and were only offered as evidence after the man had died and there was no legal risk of libel.
I think it was Mary Ann Bickerdyke, or some other Western Sanitary Commission representative, who dreaded meeting Grant because of his reputation. The observer concluded immediately, that Grant did not have the constitution or complexion of a drinker. This was in an era in which alcoholic consumption was very heavy and people saw men whose health had already been compromised by drinking on a regular basis. Grant passed that test easily. I suspect that he was a very lean man and a heavy coffee drinker so he tended to be chronically dehydrated. That's a risky status for someone who was not a practiced drinker and who had never increased their tolerance of alcohol. I think Grant admitted he learned to be careful about drinking in public.
 

wausaubob

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Grant was a brilliant general. I consider his performance in the Vicksburg Campaign to be among the best by any American general in all of history. . . ever.

But one occasion in his military career that should cast a shadow over his reputation has gone strangely unnoticed: he failed to recognize the threat of Jubal Early on Washington D.C. until almost the final and fatal moment. For far too long, he displayed a dismissive and lackadaisical attitude about what he should have recognized as a serious threat. If he had delayed even a matter of hours on dispatching Ricketts's division before the Battle of Monocacy, or the VI Corps a few days later, the result would have been catastrophic for the Union cause.
Maybe not. Sheridan was not eager to enter Richmond, and Early did not enter Washington, D.C.. There were still enough artillery men and civilian volunteers in Washington to hold the city for some time until the VI corp arrived. However speculation is appropriate, because no Confederate force ever entered Washington. Similarly Richmond was safe until the very end of the war.
 

LetUsHavePeace

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I think it was Mary Ann Bickerdyke, or some other Western Sanitary Commission representative, who dreaded meeting Grant because of his reputation. The observer concluded immediately, that Grant did not have the constitution or complexion of a drinker. This was in an era in which alcoholic consumption was very heavy and people saw men whose health had already been compromised by drinking on a regular basis. Grant passed that test easily. I suspect that he was a very lean man and a heavy coffee drinker so he tended to be chronically dehydrated. That's a risky status for someone who was not a practiced drinker and who had never increased their tolerance of alcohol. I think Grant admitted he learned to be careful about drinking in public.
"a heavy coffee drinker" Caffeine addicts have immense difficulty sleeping; the testimony of Porter, Dana and Rawlins was that Grant had the remarkable ability to curl up like a cat - on a bunk, a cot, a groundsheet on bare ground - and go to sleep. Grant drank coffee - as did everyone else in both armies (the Confederates having to use substitutes) because that was the only way to guarantee that they were drinking water that would not harm or kill them.
"Grant admitted he learned to be careful about drinking". Do you have a reference for this?
 

wausaubob

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"a heavy coffee drinker" Caffeine addicts have immense difficulty sleeping; the testimony of Porter, Dana and Rawlins was that Grant had the remarkable ability to curl up like a cat - on a bunk, a cot, a groundsheet on bare ground - and go to sleep. Grant drank coffee - as did everyone else in both armies (the Confederates having to use substitutes) because that was the only way to guarantee that they were drinking water that would not harm or kill them.
"Grant admitted he learned to be careful about drinking". Do you have a reference for this?
I think was in St. Louis, but it might have been Memphis, when he admitted sometimes he could drink with no problem and other times one or two drinks made him tipsy.
 

wausaubob

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"a heavy coffee drinker" Caffeine addicts have immense difficulty sleeping; the testimony of Porter, Dana and Rawlins was that Grant had the remarkable ability to curl up like a cat - on a bunk, a cot, a groundsheet on bare ground - and go to sleep. Grant drank coffee - as did everyone else in both armies (the Confederates having to use substitutes) because that was the only way to guarantee that they were drinking water that would not harm or kill them.
"Grant admitted he learned to be careful about drinking". Do you have a reference for this?
If a person drank coffee, and whiskey their odds of dying from an intestinal ailment declined. Smoking was a good way to keep the mosquitos from biting.
 
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