Ulysses S. Grant: Overrated or Underrated?

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67th Tigers

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Grant never had a three day period where he lost as many men as Lee did losing at Gettysburg. Fewer men died in the year it took Grant to beat Lee, than in the previous three years of the war.
Grant never attacked three days in a row, so this is a bit disingenuous.

Of course fewer men died in one year than three.

July '61- June '62: 3,277 (of which 247 were from "wounds")
July '62 - June '63: 5,463 (1,919 "wounds")
July '63 - June '64: 2,739 (1,498), of the deaths 1,025 were in May and June, when Grant was campaigning (877 "wounds")
July '64 - June '65: 3,112 (1,140 "wounds")

14,591 deaths occurred in AoP hospitals, and 4,137 were during Grant's year.

9,787 died of non-wounds, 3,260 during Grant's tenure (14 of 48 months). Thus almost exactly 1/3rd of deaths by sickness occurred in the last 14 months (29%). Within rounding, men were dying at the same rate from disease, about 204 per month.

In the Overland Campaign only, Grant lost as many KIA as the AoP typically would in > 37 months by disease. To put it another way, the battle deaths in the Overland Campaign were greater than all the deaths from disease, accidents, suicide and sentence of the court up to that point.

The argument that the butchery is justified by not having ca. 200 men die to disease per month is not sustainable.
 

DanSBHawk

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Grant never attacked three days in a row, so this is a bit disingenuous.

Of course fewer men died in one year than three.

July '61- June '62: 3,277 (of which 247 were from "wounds")
July '62 - June '63: 5,463 (1,919 "wounds")
July '63 - June '64: 2,739 (1,498), of the deaths 1,025 were in May and June, when Grant was campaigning (877 "wounds")
July '64 - June '65: 3,112 (1,140 "wounds")

14,591 deaths occurred in AoP hospitals, and 4,137 were during Grant's year.

9,787 died of non-wounds, 3,260 during Grant's tenure (14 of 48 months). Thus almost exactly 1/3rd of deaths by sickness occurred in the last 14 months (29%). Within rounding, men were dying at the same rate from disease, about 204 per month.

In the Overland Campaign only, Grant lost as many KIA as the AoP typically would in > 37 months by disease. To put it another way, the battle deaths in the Overland Campaign were greater than all the deaths from disease, accidents, suicide and sentence of the court up to that point.

The argument that the butchery is justified by not having ca. 200 men die to disease per month is not sustainable.
I've already stated that I don't have any confidence in your numbers, but even your numbers show that Grant won the war in the last year losing far fewer lives than had been lost in the previous years of ineffectual leadership. Grant did what was needed to win and end the war. His predecessors failed.

The "Butchery" claim is a myth.
 

DanSBHawk

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"Grant was less reckless with his soldiers' lives than his predecessors had been. No single day of Grant's pounding saw the magnitude of Union casualties that McClellan incurred in one day at Antietam, and no three consecutive days of Grant's warring proved as costly to the Union in blood as did Meade's three days at Gettysburg. ... Grant and Lee were about as evenly matched in military talent as any two opposing generals have ever been. Grant's strength was unwavering adherence to his strategic objective. He made mistakes, but the overall pattern of his campaign reveals an innovative general employing thoughtful combinations of maneuver and force to bring a difficult adversary to bay on his home turf. Lee's strength was resilience and the fierce devotion that he inspired in his troops. He, too, made mistakes and often placed his smaller army in peril. But each time—Spotsylvania Court House and the North Anna River come to mind—he improvised solutions that turned bad situations his way."
Gordon C. Rhea, In the Footsteps of Grant and Lee
 
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leftyhunter

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You make a very good point.

Grant & Hood both had no problems with sending their troops into "slaughterhouse situations " . . . whatever the objective . . .
as they saw it.
Didn't Lee loose more soldiers then Grant? Didn't Lee sacrifice his soldiers for no gain at Malvern Hill and Pickett's Charge?
Others have pointed out that Lee list many men with nothing to show for it.
Leftyhunter
 
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67th Tigers

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Didn't Lee loose more soldiers then Grant? Didn't Lee sacrifice his soldiers for no gain at Malvern Hill and Pickett's Charge?
Others have pointed out that Lee list many men with nothing to show for it.
Leftyhunter
Lee also fought "in the major league" for much longer than Grant. Grant had very little experience handling what would be considered a full size army in Europe, with his first experience with a 100,000 man army being the Overland Campaign. The fact that Lee had command of a large army for much longer than Grant obviously means he's going to have made a few more omelettes.

To make an unbiased comparison, you should look to the period where they fought each other. This is, of course, not favourable to Grant. Hence, to try and dismiss his butchery, his fans start resorting to meaningless percentages. As Grant's force was so much larger, adopting a percentage measure conceals the extent of the slaughter.

Grant of course learned during the course of the Overland campaign the difficulties in assaulting an entrenched position. He'd only ever once before attacked an entrenched position, at Vicksburg, which was fairly well fortified. That said, it was nowhere near as fortified as some eastern positions were - Yorktown, Mine Run, Marye's Heights etc. were all stronger positions than Vicksburg. However, this is something he should have known from study, rather than learning "on the job".
 

Florida Rebel

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Great points! Not to mention, Grant's subordinates, all with the AOP, tried to tell him he wasn't facing Minor League pitching (like Buckner, Pemberton and Bragg) any longer. When Grant heard this, he simply got mad and told them to stop worrying about Lee and focus on what "they" were going to do against him instead. Come to think about it, I don't believe Grant gave Lee much credit even after the war for what he accomplished, the type of General Lee was and how badly Lee bloodied him. Even Teddy Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower gave tons of credit to Lee. No one in that era praised Grant for being a great leader and tactician. It's only today - the era of being PC, that we are reading pro Grant and anti Lee viewpoints. It's very disappointing.
 
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Florida Rebel

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Lee was trying to win a war and Southern indpendence. He couldn't do it on DEFENSE. He had to win fast or probably not at all. But Grant did his best to throw Union victory away in '64. If only Jefferson Davis had paid attention to the Northern people, polticians and newspapers that summer as Union body after body was shipped north for burial. Many of us think Jefferson Davis lost the war by yanking Johnston out in front of Sherman and replacing him with a man way over his head in tactics and strategy, John Bell Hood. That was all Sherman and the North needed. Hence, Lincoln got reelected and the last great chance for the South was over.
 

DanSBHawk

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Great points! Not to mention, Grant's subordinates, all with the AOP, tried to tell him he wasn't facing Minor League pitching (like Buckner, Pemberton and Bragg) any longer. When Grant heard this, he simply got mad and told them to stop worrying about Lee and focus on what "they" were going to do against him instead. Come to think about it, I don't believe Grant gave Lee much credit even after the war for what he accomplished, the type of General Lee was and how badly Lee bloodied him. Even Teddy Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower gave tons of credit to Lee. No one in that era praised Grant for being a great leader and tactician. It's only today - the era of being PC, that we are reading pro Grant and anti Lee viewpoints. It's very disappointing.
Teddy Roosevelt 1900:
"Yet as the generations slip away, as the dust of conflict settles, and as through the clearing air we look back with keener wisdom into the nation's past, mightiest among the mighty dead loom the three great figures of Washington, Lincoln, and Grant. There are great men also in the second rank; for in any gallery of merely national heroes; Franklin and Hamilton, Jefferson and Jackson, would surely have their place. But these three greatest men have taken their place among the great men of all nations, the great men of all time."

Dwight Eisenhower 1964:
"Grant devised a strategy to end the war. He alone had the determination, foresight, and wisdom to do it. It was lucky that President Lincoln didn’t interfere or attempt to control Grant’s strategic line of thinking. Lincoln wisely left the war to Grant, at least in the concluding moves after he came east. Grant is very undervalued today, which is a shame, because he was one of the greatest American generals, if not the greatest."

PC has nothing to do with anything.
 

DanSBHawk

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Lee also fought "in the major league" for much longer than Grant. Grant had very little experience handling what would be considered a full size army in Europe, with his first experience with a 100,000 man army being the Overland Campaign. The fact that Lee had command of a large army for much longer than Grant obviously means he's going to have made a few more omelettes.

To make an unbiased comparison, you should look to the period where they fought each other. This is, of course, not favourable to Grant. Hence, to try and dismiss his butchery, his fans start resorting to meaningless percentages. As Grant's force was so much larger, adopting a percentage measure conceals the extent of the slaughter.

Grant of course learned during the course of the Overland campaign the difficulties in assaulting an entrenched position. He'd only ever once before attacked an entrenched position, at Vicksburg, which was fairly well fortified. That said, it was nowhere near as fortified as some eastern positions were - Yorktown, Mine Run, Marye's Heights etc. were all stronger positions than Vicksburg. However, this is something he should have known from study, rather than learning "on the job".
The size of the Army does not matter as much as how it's fought. That is what determines "major league." There is no doubt that Grant was able to go through a learning process at the beginning of the war, but he surpassed the supposed major leaguers pretty quickly.
 
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67th Tigers

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The size of the Army does not matter as much as how it's fought. That is what determines "major league." There is no doubt that Grant was able to go through a learning process at the beginning of the war, but he surpassed the supposed major leaguers pretty quickly.
How you fight a military force very much depends on its size. Consider the difference between a squad leader, platoon commander, company commander and battalion commander. As the size of force goes up, so does the complexity. Hence the number of men capable of doing that job decreases.

Much the same is true in the ACW. As the force gets bigger, distances and complexity increase, and command becomes more abstracted. A brigadier with ca. 1,500 men only needs ride with his brigade and keep it in order. He can see his who command and readily speak with his subordinates who are typically only a few hundred yards away. A division commander with 5,000 can probably see only part of his command, and contact with his subordinates is not as easy. A corps commander with 10-15,000 needs to be detached from the formation in order to be able to track it, and must command by staff officers and messengers. This gets worse for a wing commander with 30-50,000, and for a full scale army commander of 100,000 it is worse still.

Champions Hill was the first action that Grant had really commanded in the field. He'd quit the field early at Belmont, leaving McClernand in effective command. He wasn't on the field at Donelson, and did not effectively command when he arrived, which also applies to Shiloh's 1st day. In both of these incidents McClernand was ranking officer on the field, and effectively commanded the fighting. On Shiloh's 2nd day Buell had largely assumed effective command of the left wing (which not most of the fighting). At Iuka, Grant's column missed the fighting.

So, Champion Hill was the first engagement of a ca. 30,000 man force (i.e. a European Corps) that Grant commanded. His span of command was such that he could only command half the army, being too far forward to be aware of what was happening on his left and effectively abandoning it. Of course, McClernand obeyed the orders that Grant had issued, and is blamed for not following the non-existent orders Grant didn't issue.

By Missionary Ridge he has ca. 50,000 men. Again, Grant is relatively out of his depth. Like at Champion Hill, Grant becomes telescoped in on one part of the field, Sherman's attack at Tunnel Hill. Meanwhile, Thomas has asked Hooker to move on Rossville Gap, which was the decisive move of the battle. Grant literally had no idea Hooker had turned the enemy right and dislodged the enemy from position. He further was confused by Thomas' quiet mutiny in launching an assault in the centre, threatening to court martial whoever did it.

Hence by the time he arrives in the east, he's shown he doesn't have the brains to command a large force. To his credit, he might have known this. His command style was simply to issue orders for the next day, sometimes unrealistic and unworkable, and not really concern himself further. The image of Grant simply whittling a stick miles behind the lines is fairly accurate.
 

DanSBHawk

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Champions Hill was the first action that Grant had really commanded in the field. He'd quit the field early at Belmont, leaving McClernand in effective command. He wasn't on the field at Donelson, and did not effectively command when he arrived, which also applies to Shiloh's 1st day. In both of these incidents McClernand was ranking officer on the field, and effectively commanded the fighting. On Shiloh's 2nd day Buell had largely assumed effective command of the left wing (which not most of the fighting). At Iuka, Grant's column missed the fighting.

So, Champion Hill was the first engagement of a ca. 30,000 man force (i.e. a European Corps) that Grant commanded. His span of command was such that he could only command half the army, being too far forward to be aware of what was happening on his left and effectively abandoning it. Of course, McClernand obeyed the orders that Grant had issued, and is blamed for not following the non-existent orders Grant didn't issue.

By Missionary Ridge he has ca. 50,000 men. Again, Grant is relatively out of his depth. Like at Champion Hill, Grant becomes telescoped in on one part of the field, Sherman's attack at Tunnel Hill. Meanwhile, Thomas has asked Hooker to move on Rossville Gap, which was the decisive move of the battle. Grant literally had no idea Hooker had turned the enemy right and dislodged the enemy from position. He further was confused by Thomas' quiet mutiny in launching an assault in the centre, threatening to court martial whoever did it.

Hence by the time he arrives in the east, he's shown he doesn't have the brains to command a large force. To his credit, he might have known this. His command style was simply to issue orders for the next day, sometimes unrealistic and unworkable, and not really concern himself further. The image of Grant simply whittling a stick miles behind the lines is fairly accurate.
Every paragraph above is fiction, but just take the first one. Grant did not leave the field early at Belmont, he arrived in time at Donelson to counter-attack and defeat the confederates, he did a masterful job at Shiloh trading space for time on the first day and he commanded the entire force on the second day, and at Iuka the needlessly complex plan of Rosecrans fell apart because of... Rosecrans.

Also, I'm not sure why you keep bringing up European armies or corps or whatever. We're talking about the American Civil War here.
 
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CSA Today

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We have had charts in the past showing all the men Lee lost in every battle he fought vs Grant. Lee lost more men and at unlike Grant was not victorious. It has been posted at least in several threads of the countless Grant vs Lee thread's.
Leftyhunter
“In the whole campaign from the Wilderness to Cold Harbor, the Union’s losses were approximately 55,000, nearly as much as Lee’s whole army. As a defensive accomplishment in fighting off superior numbers, the campaign stands as a significant chapter in Confederate annals.”

Source: J.G. Randall, David Donald, The Civil War and Reconstruction, p.420
 

67th Tigers

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We have had charts in the past showing all the men Lee lost in every battle he fought vs Grant. Lee lost more men and at unlike Grant was not victorious. It has been posted at least in several threads of the countless Grant vs Lee thread's.
Leftyhunter
I think you may have been fooled by the attempts to excused Grant's butchery by converting to percentages. Grant lost far more men in every action of the Overland Campaign and the 1864 Petersburg siege operations.

Now, of course when Lee quit Richmond his army was completely destroyed, mostly by Sheridan's forces.

The numbers (not percentages) are:

1562860607490.png


Essentially, Lee bested Grant in every battle upto arguably Fort Stedman, where Lee attempted to break out and failed. Sheridan than overran Pickett at Five Forks and cut the last supply line, forcing Lee to evacuate. Grant assaulted during the evacuation, and gained Petersburg. Lee's forces did quite well when fighting rearguard actions, but at Sailor's Creek and Appomattox Court House, Sheridan got ahead of the retreating columns and cut them off, forcing their surrender.
 
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DanSBHawk

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"(Gordon) Rhea said Grant's losses at Cold Harbor were exaggerated, and the criticism of the general undeserved.

"If you really examine what units were engaged and what the casualty returns show, by my account about 3,500 men were killed or wounded in about an hour," Rhea said.

Lee lost far more men during some of his assaults at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, Rhea points out."

https://www.fredericksburg.com/local/author-reexamines-perception-of-gen-u-s-grant/article_39f9e5de-79bd-514d-9912-c3343d8e5876.html

For years we were told Grant lost 15,000 men in an hour at Cold Harbor. Turned out that was a lie.
 

CSA Today

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"(Gordon) Rhea said Grant's losses at Cold Harbor were exaggerated, and the criticism of the general undeserved.

"If you really examine what units were engaged and what the casualty returns show, by my account about 3,500 men were killed or wounded in about an hour," Rhea said.

Lee lost far more men during some of his assaults at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, Rhea points out."

https://www.fredericksburg.com/local/author-reexamines-perception-of-gen-u-s-grant/article_39f9e5de-79bd-514d-9912-c3343d8e5876.html

For years we were told Grant lost 15,000 men in an hour at Cold Harbor. Turned out that was a lie.
If I remember correctly, Rhea only questioned Grant's losses during assaults during a short period of time on June 3.

Campaign: Grant’s Overland Campaign (May-June 1864)


Date(s): May 31-June 12, 1864


Principal Commanders: Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Maj. Gen. George G. Meade [US]; Gen. Robert E. Lee [CS]


Forces Engaged: 170,000 total (US 108,000; CS 62,000)


Estimated Casualties: 15,500 total (US 13,000; CS 2,500)


Description: On May 31, Sheridan’s cavalry seized the vital crossroads of Old Cold Harbor. Early on June 1, relying heavily on their new repeating carbines and shallow entrenchments, Sheridan’s troopers threw back an attack by Confederate infantry. Confederate reinforcements arrived from Richmond and from the Totopotomoy Creek lines. Late on June 1, the Union VI and XVIII Corps reached Cold Harbor and assaulted the Confederate works with some success. By June 2, both armies were on the field, forming on a seven-mile front that extended from Bethesda Church to the Chickahominy River. At dawn June 3, the II and XVIII Corps, followed later by the IX Corps, assaulted along the Bethesda Church-Cold Harbor line and were slaughtered at all points. Grant commented in his memoirs that this was the only attack he wished he had never ordered. The armies confronted each other on these lines until the night of June 12, when Grant again advanced by his left flank, marching to James River. On June 14, the II Corps was ferried across the river at Wilcox’s Landing by transports. On June 15, the rest of the army began crossing on a 2,200-foot long pontoon bridge at Weyanoke. Abandoning the well-defended approaches to Richmond, Grant sought to shift his army quickly south of the river to threaten Petersburg.
Result(s): Confederate victory
https://www.nps.gov/abpp/battles/va062.htm
 
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