Ulysses S. Grant: Overrated or Underrated?

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DanSBHawk

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“Grant lost about 154,000 casualties throughout the war Lee lost 209,000”

Perhaps you should list major battles fought by Grant and Lee. Even better, list the casualty rate for each when Grant and Lee finally came to blows in 1864.
Perhaps you should provide casualty numbers if you think mine are not accurate.
 

DanSBHawk

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Let provide a source:
J.G. Randall and David Donald, The Civil War and Reconstruction, “Military Campaigns of 1864” pp. 418-423.
What is your source?
Wonderful. What are their numbers? Do they have a total of Grant's and Lee's casualties for the entire war?
 
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leftyhunter

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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:

View attachment 315763

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.
Valid points. On the other hand over the years @Saphroneth has shown that General McCellen inflicted better kill ratio then Lee when McCellen commanded the AoP.
Also when an enemy is in an entrenched position it can inflict greater casualties.
Yep.

Lee is just as guilty.

But this thread is about General Grant.

Not about General Lee.
The old saying " don't throw stones if you live in a glass house " applies. I don't think either general was a butcher at least not in the sense of some generals in WW1. However if were going to throw stones at Grant then it is quite fair to compare apples to apples .
Leftyhunter
 

Krieger

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I don't care if Lee is known as a butcher or not, but as long as that label is applied towards Grant, the reality of the "butchery" should be known.
I completely agree that "butcher" is a loaded term when talking about the ACW, which was "butchery" from start to finish except for those rare occasions where an army surrendered itself. Some just desperately don't want to see it die because it makes them feel better about the end result.
 
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Cavalry Charger

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Well, it's about time I chimed in again with my thoughts.

How we rate someone is often done by comparison. But, it's not the only way. Thanks for the reminder @7th Mississippi Infantry .

I think Ulysses S. Grant is underrated in terms of his humility. As @diane pointed out early on, Sam Grant came from humble beginnings. There was no sign of the greatness that would attach itself to him eventually and, when it did, he never seemed to let that go to his head. I think his mother had a lot to do with that. His father, on the other hand, was proud of his achievements and wanted others to see what he saw in his son. Many thought Jesse Grant 'overrated' his son, and Ulysses paid a price for his father's 'meddlings'. To my mind, that just further ingrained his sense of humility ... born out of the experience of humiliation. When he thought to be proud, as in when he first came home in uniform from West Point, he was brought low very quickly. It taught him a salutory lesson. Even if an undeserved one.

He appears to be underrated as the man who won the war for the Union. Lincoln finally found someone he felt he could work with and Grant obliged. Where the label of 'butcher' is applied there is a need to remember who applied it first. So, in as much as we can 'number crunch' all day on casualties, the fact is taking the offensive in a war is often going to engender more casualties. To 'go on the offensive' means to take the initiative by beginning to attack or act aggressively. Grant had some cause for regret, but he knew no other way to win the war than to keep moving forward. After Fort Donelson he wanted to move forward more rapidly with the sense that it would save lives. And bringing the war to a close more swiftly was always going to do that. He also had the unenviable task of moving from the Western to the Eastern theatre of the war and having to face Robert E. Lee, the consummate professional soldier. His men were in awe of Lee. Somehow he had to push through that psychological barrier, and he did. So, rather than compare him with Lee, I would say he is underrated in terms of how he managed to defeat Lee in spite of the odds that Lee presented.

There are those who would underrate him both as a man and a soldier. He had a chequered history after leaving the army, and a reputation that came from his decision to resign which stayed with him throughout his life. It became a means to undermine him, and in many people's minds is still another way to 'underrate' Grant. Just look at his reputation. He was a drinker. He couldn't handle his liquor. A man with a drinking problem cannot be rated highly. And so those who believe this continue to underrate him.

As a family man he struggled to make a go of things after his initial departure from the army. I think Julia upheld her end of the bargain here by never giving up on him and always supporting him. She never underrated him as a husband and father. So, I will take my lead from her.

Then we have Grant, the President. Not just for one term, but for two. I don't think there's any danger of Grant being 'overrated' as President since most people agree there were downfalls in his Presidency. But, is he underrated? Maybe. And that is in terms of what he tried/hoped to achieve at times, but ulimately failed to achieve because he was a member of a government where factions existed.

So, all in all, I think Grant is 'underrated' in general. And that is without comparing him to anybody.
 
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Cavalry Charger

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And I'd just like to add, this has been an incredibly respectful discussion with not one dot of red ink needing to be applied throughout.

Thank you all for adding your insights, opinions, and knowledge in a way that continues to add to my own and others understanding.
 
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DanSBHawk

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No, that is one of the reasons I want to see yours.
The source for the Overland Campaign numbers comes from Gordon Rhea and Alfred C Young. The numbers for the entire war come from Bonekemper. Thanks for bringing him up.

BTW, the number of federal casualties during the Overland Campaign were nowhere near the number of the confederate army. Alfred C Young has Lee's army at 96,000 during the Overland Campaign.
 

CSA Today

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The source for the Overland Campaign numbers comes from Gordon Rhea and Alfred C Young. The numbers for the entire war come from Bonekemper. Thanks for bringing him up.

BTW, the number of federal casualties during the Overland Campaign were nowhere near the number of the confederate army. Alfred C Young has Lee's army at 96,000 during the Overland Campaign.
What were Rhea's casualty numbers for the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor? As for Edward Bonekemper are you serious? Is that the best you can do? Did Alfred C. Young add B.F. Butler's 36,000 man Army of the James to Grant's 118,000 total? James G. Randall did, he also added: “ Beauregard commanded a supporting force of some 30,000 in the region of Richmond and Petersburg” to Lee's 60,000. Source total from a real historian-- Grant 154,000, Lee 90,000.
 

DanSBHawk

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What were Rhea's casualty numbers for the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor? As for Edward Bonekemper are you serious? Is that the best you can do? Did Alfred C. Young add B.F. Butler's 36,000 man Army of the James to Grant's 118,000 total? James G. Randall did, he also added: “ Beauregard commanded a supporting force of some 30,000 in the region of Richmond and Petersburg” to Lee's 60,000. Source total from a real historian-- Grant 154,000, Lee 90,000.
The "best you can do?" What are you talking about? I gave several sources in the thread and did not claim any specific one was "best."

Going from memory, I believe Young's numbers for the Overland Campaign were 162,000 US and 96,000 CS. Considering that it was the US doing most of the attacking, that puts the casualty numbers in perspective. As well as putting the lie to the claim that federal casualties equaled the entire confederate force.
 
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CSA Today

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The "best you can do?" What are you talking about? I gave several sources in the thread and did not claim any specific one was "best."

Going from memory, I believe Young's numbers for the Overland Campaign were 162,000 US and 96,000 CS. Considering that it was the US doing most of the attacking, that puts the casualty numbers in perspective. As well as putting the lie to the claim that federal casualties equaled the entire confederate force.
I'll take recognised historian James G. Randall's word for it. Who pray tell is Alfred C. Young?
 

67th Tigers

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I'll take recognised historian James G. Randall's word for it. Who pray tell is Alfred C. Young?
He was a researcher that investigated the Confederate records. His conclusions aren't that different from Newton's more complete work. In this latter work, Newton shows that Gettysburg had not crippled the rebel army, which had fully recovered and was as strong in 1864 as it was in 1863, albeit weaker than 1862.

Lee had 66,140 PFD on 5th May, and during the six week campaign 25,495 PFD joined Lee in formed units, and 4,565 returnees from hospital etc. yield the 96,200 rebel troops he uses. Almost all the new units were from the Bermuda Hundred - essentially once Butler and Sigel were defeated, Lee was able to concentrate against Grant.

There is nothing wrong with using "whole campaign strengths", but then it must be compared to Grant's whole campaign strength, which was about 250,000. However, Dan appears to be using the campaign strength for Lee, and instantaneous strengths for Grant to make it appear the odds were less than they were, or at least that's his typical argument.
 

DanSBHawk

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He was a researcher that investigated the Confederate records. His conclusions aren't that different from Newton's more complete work. In this latter work, Newton shows that Gettysburg had not crippled the rebel army, which had fully recovered and was as strong in 1864 as it was in 1863, albeit weaker than 1862.

Lee had 66,140 PFD on 5th May, and during the six week campaign 25,495 PFD joined Lee in formed units, and 4,565 returnees from hospital etc. yield the 96,200 rebel troops he uses. Almost all the new units were from the Bermuda Hundred - essentially once Butler and Sigel were defeated, Lee was able to concentrate against Grant.

There is nothing wrong with using "whole campaign strengths", but then it must be compared to Grant's whole campaign strength, which was about 250,000. However, Dan appears to be using the campaign strength for Lee, and instantaneous strengths for Grant to make it appear the odds were less than they were, or at least that's his typical argument.
If a person is going to cite campaign casualties, then it makes sense to cite campaign strength. People who cite campaign casualties with instantaneous strengths are trying to skew perception. We all know the reasons for this: To perpetuate the Grant the Butcher myth, and to inflate confederate reputation.

My "typical argument" is for the actual historical reality.

I'll take Gordon Rhea's and Alfred C Young's numbers as the most accurate. They're well-regarded and haven't given me any reason to distrust their numbers. I can't say the same of certain other sources of numbers and statistics.
 
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leftyhunter

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If a person is going to cite campaign casualties, then it makes sense to cite campaign strength. People who cite campaign casualties with instantaneous strengths are trying to skew perception. We all know the reasons for this: To perpetuate the Grant the Butcher myth, and to inflate confederate reputation.

My "typical argument" is for the actual historical reality.

I'll take Gordon Rhea's and Alfred C Young's numbers as the most accurate. They're well-regarded and haven't given me any reason to distrust their numbers. I can't say the same of certain other sources of numbers and statistics.
Assuming the figures cited by @67th Tigers is accurate that still means Grant had just over a 2 to 1 manpower advantage over Lee while having to fight on the offensive and guard vulnerable logistics lines. Beating an entrenched enemy with only a 2 to 1 manpower superiority ratio is not altogether bad. It certainly wouldn't support the argument that Grant was overly wasteful of his men's lives for if Grant was then Grant would of lost.
Leftyhunter
 
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67th Tigers

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I'll take Gordon Rhea's and Alfred C Young's numbers as the most accurate. They're well-regarded and haven't given me any reason to distrust their numbers. I can't say the same of certain other sources of numbers and statistics.
For the rebels they likely are accurate. Young used the methodology of Busey and Martin, and others have used the same methodology to determine rebel strength in the Seven Days (Tenney) and at Antietam (Allen). You have rejected these studies in the past, because they show much larger rebel forces than commonly supposed.

How the numbers are used is the issue.
 

lurid

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Assuming the figures cited by @67th Tigers is accurate that still means Grant had just over a 2 to 1 manpower advantage over Lee while having to fight on tje offensive and guard vulnerable logistics lines. Beating an entrenched enemy with only a 2 to 1 manpower superiority ratio is not altogether bad. It certainly wouldn't support the argument that Grant was overly wasteful of his men's lives for if Grant was then Grant would of lost.
Leftyhunter
Yes, any war theory guide or book clearly states if an army goes on the "offensive" it is required a 3:1 ratio advantage, that's because the enemy is dug in, know the terrain and have spy networks giving valuable intel. Therefore, Grant with his 2:1 advantage was exceptional.

According to Carl von Clausewitz, superiority of numbers in a given engagement is only one of the factors that determines victory. Superior numbers, far from contributing everything, or even a substantial part, to victory, may actually be contributing very little, depending on the circumstances. In sum, quantitative superiority "must be regarded as fundamental--to be achieved in every case and to the fullest possible extent... But it would be seriously misunderstanding our argument, to consider numerical superiority as indispensable to victory. von Clausewitz, Karl (1909). "Book 3 (Of strategy in general): Superiority_of_numbers". Vom Kriege [On War]. London. Retrieved 2016-04-27.

These people who believe the Union won the war because of superiority of numbers don't have the first inclination how ground wars take place and are subscribing to the myth numbers are the magic pill, no they are required on the offensive. Look what happened when the Confederates went on the offensive in the north...


.
 
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lurid

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Assuming the figures cited by @67th Tigers is accurate that still means Grant had just over a 2 to 1 manpower advantage over Lee while having to fight on tje offensive and guard vulnerable logistics lines. Beating an entrenched enemy with only a 2 to 1 manpower superiority ratio is not altogether bad. It certainly wouldn't support the argument that Grant was overly wasteful of his men's lives for if Grant was then Grant would of lost.
Leftyhunter
Furthermore, in modern warfare they carpet bomb to loosen up a dug in army, but during Grant's era they did not have planes to drop bombs on the enemy, so he had to use his number advantage. Grant did a lot better than what people believe...
 

DanSBHawk

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Assuming the figures cited by @67th Tigers is accurate that still means Grant had just over a 2 to 1 manpower advantage over Lee while having to fight on tje offensive and guard vulnerable logistics lines. Beating an entrenched enemy with only a 2 to 1 manpower superiority ratio is not altogether bad. It certainly wouldn't support the argument that Grant was overly wasteful of his men's lives for if Grant was then Grant would of lost.
Leftyhunter
Agree with your point that Grant did not have the overwhelming manpower superiority that is considered necessary for attacking an enemy in defensive works. But I also believe the Rhea/Young numbers are the most credible. 162000 US, 96000 CS.
 
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