Ulysses S. Grant: Overrated or Underrated?


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Mark F. Jenkins

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Both, at various times.

Much of the praise and the condemnation directed at him have been from partisan sources, both "pro" and "con," which makes it highly difficult to arrive at an objective appraisal of his abilities. Grant, like Lincoln and Sherman, is someone that people have opinions about, no matter what the actual level of knowledge is behind those opinions.
 

jackt62

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Until recently, Grant was probably underrated by historians and writers. I suspect this had something to do with his less than stellar presidency, the fact that he was portrayed as a "butcher" during the CW, the persistent negative coverage about his drinking problem, and the fact that proponents of the Lost Cause did a lot to raise Lee's reputation at the expense of Grant, But his historical reputation has since increased as a result of more objective analyses by modern scholars, who have tried to put all these things into context, and separate fact from fiction.
 

archieclement

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As what?

He was offhand a pre war army capt, farmer, farm manager, various store keeps, CW General, President, financial invester, author

Some successful, some not. hard to say his failures were either, as a general I would think neither, as a President I lean towards overrated a bit personally
 
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Both, at various times.
I agree.

Personally I vote underrated during most of the War, but at times overrated post War (tactically) , IMHO.

In the end, again just my opinion . . . strategically . . . Grant did more to end the conflict than any other.

However, Grant's Presidency is a totally different debate.
 

DanSBHawk

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During his life, I think he was mostly underrated until he defeated Lee. He may have been overrated as he entered politics.

After he died, he was underrated due to the confederate apologetics of the "Lost Cause" and to a lesser extent by resentful fans of other Union generals and armies.

Now, I think for the most part that mainstream historians are neither overrating or underrating him. They're simply trying to get it right, without all the emotional biases of the past.
 
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Both, at various times.

Much of the praise and the condemnation directed at him have been from partisan sources, both "pro" and "con," which makes it highly difficult to arrive at an objective appraisal of his abilities. Grant, like Lincoln and Sherman, is someone that people have opinions about, no matter what the actual level of knowledge is behind those opinions.
Also very much like Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Two unkown 'country boys' thrown into American history books.
 

DanSBHawk

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I don't think "confederate apologetics" had anything to do with that feeling.

Grant was a great General, but not a great President.
I was referring to the Lost Cause denigrating Grant as a general while elevating Lee.

But actually, I think the Lost Cause also had a hand in exaggerating Grants missteps as president as well.
 

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archieclement

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Let's hear your thoughts.
I picked neither as general since he won.

But to me Grant as most US modern generals are somewhat hard to rate unless they suck.......

They generally go into battle with the advantage in quality and quantity, in effect they should win. Its like if I manage the STL Cardinals against my local high school baseball team and win.......not sure it says as much about my managerial quality as it does about the advantage I had in resources I was managing, and in this example we both maybe had the same number of players............. in war we usually have even more players too......
 

diane

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It's interesting to note that Grant was not called a butcher until he came up against Lee. Lee was arguably the most aggressive general America produced - and he used all he had to come at an enemy. When Lee and Grant came together, that was a real death match. That's why some said yes, Grant was good in the west but he hadn't met Bobby Lee. Grant did have more in men and materiel than did Lee but that was not the deciding factor in winning. The North was tiring, they were not going to be able to keep up the pace of war production they had sprinted out the door with, and the 'awful arithmetic' was telling. Lee had his pace - he could tread water a lot longer than the North could. Grant had a huge plus in his corner and that was Lincoln. Lincoln kept his nose out of Grant's business, which was war - Davis didn't do that. He should have given Lee his head before Grant came east, and he should certainly have listened when Lee proposed leaving the defense of Richmond. Richmond was important but it was more important to have an army able to move in the field against the enemy. Davis' instructions to defend Richmond led to the siege at Petersburg, which damaged Lee's army more than the battle of Gettysburg had. Grant enjoyed the full confidence of Lincoln - if Grant had told Lincoln Washington had to be abandoned in order to keep his army viable in the field, Lincoln would have made the sacrifice. Lincoln is a big factor in Grant's success. As to whether he was overrated or underrated, I would suggest he was consistently underrated - even by people close enough to him they should have known better. He didn't come with a grand family reputation, the son of a famous Revolutionary and the high recommendations of Winfield Scott who was America's greatest soldier, nor was he the superintendent of West Point or the Marble Man. He was just Sam Grant from Ohio!
 

archieclement

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If battles were only about numbers and resources, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville would have been union victories.

One of the basic tenets of the Lost Cause, and of diminishing Grant as a general, is to blame disparity in numbers and resources.
One of the basic tenets of warfare through time is to try to have the advantage in quality and numbers...

And obviously an inept commander can squander the advantages he had, why it's not that hard to evaluate one who has the advantages and loses.....perhaps you missed not alot extoll Hooker or Burnside as brilliant military generals.

Edit-added- should be noted that giving a general credit for winning when he had the advantages and should have, isnt diminishing him it all, doing what is expected is the mark of a good general. Simply said it would be hard to say underrated for doing so......…Again it seems anything short of blindly cheering Grant as some nonsensical superhero is considered diminishing him to some........its not, its simply noting reality.

Another reality thats seldom noted, is the AoNV in 64-65 is like the German army of 44-45, its not the same army either started the war with, the flower of both were dead, invalid, or imprisoned and they were conscripting the young and the old, and were not the same army quality wise. That not the fault of whoever is fighting them late in the war, but the reality remains its quality was considerably lower as was morale.
 
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