The Pros and Cons of Grant

LetUsHavePeace

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Dec 1, 2018
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.
Thx. I will search it out. In matter regarding Grant, I start with his papers (thank you, John Y. Simon) and then go to other sources.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
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Location
Denver, CO
"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?
The water was not safe. Dehydration was always a risk.
 

LetUsHavePeace

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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.
Grant offered to come to Washington if Lincoln wanted him to. Lincoln left it up to Grant to decide; according to Porter, Grant's decision was that his appearance in the Capitol could only add to the near hysteria that erupted from time to time among the politicians living in the most securely defended city in the Western world. On the 10th he told his staff that going to Washington was precisely "what Lee wants me to do in order to transfer the seat of war to Maryland and assure that there will no offensive operations against Petersburg". That would allow Lee to transfer units of the ANV south to fight against Sherman and add to the risks of a Union Army whose only reliable line of supply was single railroad track. Could Early have succeeded? Possibly - if Grant had not replaced Sigel with Wright. Was Grant sly enough to use the opportunity to get rid of his worst political general? Almost certainly.
 

CaptSpook

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Apr 13, 2020
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.
From what I have gathered, Grant was one of those rare commanders who refused to panic or to be rattled or distracted from his primary objective. (You can see this early in the war, for example, at the end of the first day's battle of Pittsburg Landing (Shiloh) -- rather than retreat, he got Buell's army across the river and successfully counter attacked the next morning).

He knew Early's advance on Washington City was an attempt by Lee to divert forces away from Richmond and Petersburg, and that there were sufficient forces in the myriad of forts surrounding Washington to handle the matter. It was only after the people around Washington flew into a panic and pressured Lincoln and Stanton to send for additional troops did Grant reluctantly comply, but not so many troops to allow Lee the relief Lee had hoped for.
 
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Ah... the old destitute-alcoholic-failure assertions are back again...

Grant and his family were well fed, clothed, and domiciled from 1848 on, in that era that was far from destitute poverty. At times Grant did what you do when you make investments and then need some cash; sell firewood, pawn a watch, change employment etc. His father was wealthy and his father-in-law had means (before the war). Once in Galena, IL Grant had a steady job, a 7-room house in a good neighborhood, and Julia had a servant. It's all about widening your perspective to a broader picture of American life at the time and realizing where the Grant family would have fit into the social strata.

As far as alcohol is concerned I am intrigued by the notion presented by another post that Grant may have had a genetic condition that affected his ability to process alcohol as there seem to be some first-hand descriptions that could describe that. Either way, the evidence is too scant and questionable regarding his overindulgence of alcohol (especially post-west coast years) to draw any solid conclusions. I think it is safe to say that at some point Grant recognized that he had to be cautious with his alcohol consumption. He resigned from the army primarily to be reunited with his family, if his commander Buchanan found a way to press the issue (even if it had something to do with alcohol use) it would have only been the straw that broke the camels back. Rawlins was an anti-alcohol zealot due to his own tragic family experiences, so his extreme behavior regarding Grant's sobriety is understandable. There is no consistent evidence that I have encountered to assert that Grant drank heavily on a regular basis or that he struggled with a lifelong battle with alcoholism (however you want to define it). Grant did however deal with the reputation of being a drinker for the rest of his career, including his political career, despite a lack of credible evidence to support it. Again it all comes down to keeping a proper perspective and not drawing broad generalized conclusions from isolated anectdotal reports.

As Grant said in his Memoirs:
"Wars produce many stories of fiction, some of which are told until they are believed to be true."

Grant says "wars" but I'm sure you could throw in the press, authors, and TV/Film as well.

To answer the OP:

Grant's strengths were that he strove to live an honorable life and prioritized his duty to his family, friends, and country. He was able to keep calm and focused during war. He was able to absorb large amounts of disparate and sometimes contradictory reports and formulate cohesive and easily understood plans. In the end his actions and accomplishments speak to his character strengths more than words ever could.

Grant's weaknesses were being too trusting and generous to the point of being taken advantage of and not recognizing corruption. He could be overly stubborn at times which may have contributed in part to excess deaths on the battlefield and his own demise.

Most importantly Grant did not let what weaknesses he had define him or stop him from fulfilling his duties.

Like General James Fry said about Grant:

"He was not free from human frailties, but was great in spite of them."

 

LetUsHavePeace

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Joined
Dec 1, 2018
Ah... the old destitute-alcoholic-failure assertions are back again...

Grant and his family were well fed, clothed, and domiciled from 1848 on, in that era that was far from destitute poverty. At times Grant did what you do when you make investments and then need some cash; sell firewood, pawn a watch, change employment etc. His father was wealthy and his father-in-law had means (before the war). Once in Galena, IL Grant had a steady job, a 7-room house in a good neighborhood, and Julia had a servant. It's all about widening your perspective to a broader picture of American life at the time and realizing where the Grant family would have fit into the social strata.

As far as alcohol is concerned I am intrigued by the notion presented by another post that Grant may have had a genetic condition that affected his ability to process alcohol as there seem to be some first-hand descriptions that could describe that. Either way, the evidence is too scant and questionable regarding his overindulgence of alcohol (especially post-west coast years) to draw any solid conclusions. I think it is safe to say that at some point Grant recognized that he had to be cautious with his alcohol consumption. He resigned from the army primarily to be reunited with his family, if his commander Buchanan found a way to press the issue (even if it had something to do with alcohol use) it would have only been the straw that broke the camels back. Rawlins was an anti-alcohol zealot due to his own tragic family experiences, so his extreme behavior regarding Grant's sobriety is understandable. There is no consistent evidence that I have encountered to assert that Grant drank heavily on a regular basis or that he struggled with a lifelong battle with alcoholism (however you want to define it). Grant did however deal with the reputation of being a drinker for the rest of his career, including his political career, despite a lack of credible evidence to support it. Again it all comes down to keeping a proper perspective and not drawing broad generalized conclusions from isolated anectdotal reports.

As Grant said in his Memoirs:
"Wars produce many stories of fiction, some of which are told until they are believed to be true."

Grant says "wars" but I'm sure you could throw in the press, authors, and TV/Film as well.

To answer the OP:

Grant's strengths were that he strove to live an honorable life and prioritized his duty to his family, friends, and country. He was able to keep calm and focused during war. He was able to absorb large amounts of disparate and sometimes contradictory reports and formulate cohesive and easily understood plans. In the end his actions and accomplishments speak to his character strengths more than words ever could.

Grant's weaknesses were being too trusting and generous to the point of being taken advantage of and not recognizing corruption. He could be overly stubborn at times which may have contributed in part to excess deaths on the battlefield and his own demise.

Most importantly Grant did not let what weaknesses he had define him or stop him from fulfilling his duties.

Like General James Fry said about Grant:

"He was not free from human frailties, but was great in spite of them."

"Grant is true of heart when he knows he is right." - Fitz-John Porter writing to Henry Jackson Hunt
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Location
los angeles ca
View attachment 388393
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.
A political or even criminal orginization such has a street or motorcycle gang can not be declared illegal. The KKK exists to this day although it died out post Reconstruction until 1915. The KKK wasn't even forced underground during Reconstruction because the US Army had but few troops in the South. What little fighting that occured against the KKK and similar orginizations was through state militas of limited effectiveness such has the North Carolina State Troops in the Kirk-Holden War that occured during the Grant Adminstration.
Civil Rights for African Americans wouldn't come about until well into the Twentieth Century.
Leftyhunter
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
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Location
Denver, CO
If a man had graduated from the West Point military academy and he was still alive in 1860, he was part of a select group. The group contained less than 1,000 men. If in addition the man had served in the US/Mexican, as an officer, he was then part of a very small group. Its no wonder that Grant and the other veterans of the US/Mexican war dominated the armies on both sides of the Civil War.
But Grant had also crossed Panama and made it to California. Hooker, Halleck and Sherman had all lived as civilians in California. Grant and Sheridan had been there as army officers. Farragut had assembled the naval station at Mare's Island while he was in command there. Many men who had seen California, including A.S. Johnston and Porter Alexander on the Confederate side, rose to prominence during the Civil War. A man who did his duty to the army or navy, despite a remote posting on the Pacific coast was likely to have some steel in his guts.
But Grant waited out the army and got his captaincy before resigning. Thus he was part of 4 very select groups. Its hardly surprising that his name remained on the Brigadier General list while Winfield Scott was still in command. After Grant's success at Fort Donelson, its not hard to see why Halleck, McClellan and Buell saw Grant as a competitor and a threat.
 

Dead Parrott

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 30, 2019
Pro: Astute assessor and synthesizer of information. Aggressive. Confident. Incredibly calm and clear-headed under pressure. Capable of seeing both the grand strategic picture, and executing on it. Adaptable in planning, seeing a variety of options and possibilities. Laser-sharp focus on the overall objective. Brave. Unpretentious. Understood logistics. Handled military, political and rivalry issues combined with sense and rationality. Decisive. Embodied Leadership.

Con: Overconfident. Overly optimistic. Often learned only by making mistakes. Risk-taker. Could overly-delegate details. Could hold grudges. Could underestimate opponents. Lousy businessman. Fumbled political patronage.
 

LetUsHavePeace

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From the point of view of the Democrats, Grant "fumbled political patronage" because he did it so well. He took the chaotic financial legacy of the Lincoln and Johnson Administrations and established the system of Federal finance that we have lived under ever since. He made the civil service system the basis of Federal employment and thereby guaranteed that the graduates of free schools - who were overwhelmingly from the Republican districts of the country - would be the bureaucracy. He established the Comptroller of the Currency as the auditor of both the Treasury and the private banking system, killing all Whig and Democrat dreams of having Congress control the issue of money. He matched the tariff revenues against the demands of a national debt that still is the record holder for Federal IOUs when measured against the private wealth and income of the country; as a result, all future financial panics would not be about whether or not the dollar was worth having but about whether or not the Treasury (1893), foreigners (1914) or private banks (1929) had enough of them.
 

LetUsHavePeace

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Grant successfully used his powers of appointment to turn the Republicans into a political party that would permanently own the votes of everyone who wanted equal rights, limited Federal government, tariffs and Constitutional money and credit. The Republicans in 1868 were nowhere close to being that party; by 1876 those policies had become their fixed platform for the next half century and had made Ohio be for that period what Virginia had been for the Democrats from Jefferson to Taylor.
That it cost them the approval of the Blair faction and Horace Greeley and Henry Adams was hardly a worry.
 

wausaubob

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Location
Denver, CO
Grant successfully used his powers of appointment to turn the Republicans into a political party that would permanently own the votes of everyone who wanted equal rights, limited Federal government, tariffs and Constitutional money and credit. The Republicans in 1868 were nowhere close to being that party; by 1876 those policies had become their fixed platform for the next half century and had made Ohio be for that period what Virginia had been for the Democrats from Jefferson to Taylor.
That it cost them the approval of the Blair faction and Horace Greeley and Henry Adams was hardly a worry.
Grant and John Sherman did not agree on very much, but they did agree on not letting Congress run monetary policy, and not monetizing the Civil War debt. That earned the permanent support of the investor class of voters. After Grant's two full terms, the Republicans won two more Presidential elections, although one victory was disputed. That made a total of 6 in a row.
 

LetUsHavePeace

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But, Grant did monetize the Civil War debt. The entire system of finance became what it is today - one based on the wonderful paradox that the Federal government's liabilities could also be private bank's safest assets. It was, in his mind, "wonderful" because it reflected the same fundamental irrationality that the Civil War itself had been and that all wars would be. For a war the American people - North and South - would abandon all financial thrift and spend billions in a year after they had argued with one another about spending millions. "Let Us Have Peace" was his financial wish as well as his moral one.
Grant did not gain the permanent support of Wall Street, but wausaubob is absolutely right about his earning the permanent support of the investor class of voters - the people who had bought Jay Cooke's bonds. The fight over the greenbacks was about how their investments would be priced in the future - in international money (gold) or in whatever Congress said legal tender was (Henry Clay's definition of money).
The United States would have a permanent Federal debt; England's history had proved that even a half century with no rivals to the Royal Navy's supremacy was not enough to produce enough tax revenue to pay off even a fraction of the debt accumulated in the Napoleonic wars. Where Grant thought Sherman was wrong was in his belief that the Federal Treasury should control the issue of bank notes. Grant understood the cleverness of Washington and Thomas Willing's (first President of the Bank of the United States) system that gave private banks the freedom to issue notes based on their expectations of being paid back (the same freedom banks and others have to create digital credit). Sherman wanted the English system where the issue of bank notes were entirely under the control of the Bank of England. Unlike his brother, who understood banking, John Sherman really thought that credit creation should be controlled by a wise and all-knowing central bank. Grant was successful in killing that idea - but not permanently. Alas.
 

Dead Parrott

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Grant successfully used his powers of appointment to turn the Republicans into a political party that would permanently own the votes of everyone who wanted equal rights, limited Federal government, tariffs and Constitutional money and credit. The Republicans in 1868 were nowhere close to being that party; by 1876 those policies had become their fixed platform for the next half century and had made Ohio be for that period what Virginia had been for the Democrats from Jefferson to Taylor.
That it cost them the approval of the Blair faction and Horace Greeley and Henry Adams was hardly a worry.

All of which is great, but avoids addressing the actual claim about Grant fumbling patronage - and the high-level scandals that ensued.

You seem to want to point out what President Grant did well - kudos for that (and recent bios are finally acknowledging it too). But you dodged the actual point, his many very high level scandals, resulting from a poor understanding of political patronage. Grant himself was innocent in them, but his administration (at the highest levels) wasn't.
 

LetUsHavePeace

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All of which is great, but avoids addressing the actual claim about Grant fumbling patronage - and the high-level scandals that ensued.

You seem to want to point out what President Grant did well - kudos for that (and recent bios are finally acknowledging it too). But you dodged the actual point, his many very high level scandals, resulting from a poor understanding of political patronage. Grant himself was innocent in them, but his administration (at the highest levels) wasn't.
I must confess that I pay no more attention to Grant's "scandals" than I do to his "drunkenness" and "butchery". I thought I had answered the question about patronage and whether or not Grant had fumbled. The absolute rage that the Democrats and the pious Republicans expressed about what he did with the appointments has always suggested to me that he had done far too good a job of understanding what patronage was for.
 

wausaubob

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Location
Denver, CO
But, Grant did monetize the Civil War debt. The entire system of finance became what it is today - one based on the wonderful paradox that the Federal government's liabilities could also be private bank's safest assets. It was, in his mind, "wonderful" because it reflected the same fundamental irrationality that the Civil War itself had been and that all wars would be. For a war the American people - North and South - would abandon all financial thrift and spend billions in a year after they had argued with one another about spending millions. "Let Us Have Peace" was his financial wish as well as his moral one.
Grant did not gain the permanent support of Wall Street, but wausaubob is absolutely right about his earning the permanent support of the investor class of voters - the people who had bought Jay Cooke's bonds. The fight over the greenbacks was about how their investments would be priced in the future - in international money (gold) or in whatever Congress said legal tender was (Henry Clay's definition of money).
The United States would have a permanent Federal debt; England's history had proved that even a half century with no rivals to the Royal Navy's supremacy was not enough to produce enough tax revenue to pay off even a fraction of the debt accumulated in the Napoleonic wars. Where Grant thought Sherman was wrong was in his belief that the Federal Treasury should control the issue of bank notes. Grant understood the cleverness of Washington and Thomas Willing's (first President of the Bank of the United States) system that gave private banks the freedom to issue notes based on their expectations of being paid back (the same freedom banks and others have to create digital credit). Sherman wanted the English system where the issue of bank notes were entirely under the control of the Bank of England. Unlike his brother, who understood banking, John Sherman really thought that credit creation should be controlled by a wise and all-knowing central bank. Grant was successful in killing that idea - but not permanently. Alas.
True in part. They did not pay off the federal debt with printed money. And they did not give in and set the government price of gold at the much lower ratio of gold/US dollars dictated by the market. Grant let Gould have his play, because Grant suspected someone was going to have to bail out the Union Pacific. Jim Fisk got hoggish about it, and met a typical "shot by a jealous lover" demise. But the Republicans waited until deflation and a restricted money supply made dollars once again the main medium of exchange. Northern investor class voters stayed Republican for a long time.
 
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