Ulysses S. Grant: Overrated or Underrated?

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unionblue

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Where?

I was born in it, went to school in it, defended it for 20 years, and have worked and then retired in in it.

Every time I returned to it from my overseas service, I was relieved and thankful.

Grant saved a nation that I was fortunate to live in, go to school in peace and become a productive citizen of same.

It's right here, for anyone who wants to find it, thanks to Grant.


Indeed, it might be Grant-like, but not in a positive way...
You're flat-out wrong.

"It's here" is the greatest, "positive," memorial to Grant ever made.
 

67th Tigers

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Yes and we also have the official reports of the confederates on the Peninsula, and specifically at Yorktown. We can consider them 100% complete and accurate.
Yes, the official reports are. That said, there is only one official report, and only for Magruder's division dated 23rd April. The first official return for Lee's army is the 20th July return. You of course need to know how the strength categories are defined, because Joe Johnston changed the definition of "Present for Duty", as he did with the Army of Tennessee in 1864, and as was done in the Army of the Potomac under Hooker.
 

DanSBHawk

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Yes, the official reports are. That said, there is only one official report, and only for Magruder's division dated 23rd April. The first official return for Lee's army is the 20th July return. You of course need to know how the strength categories are defined, because Joe Johnston changed the definition of "Present for Duty", as he did with the Army of Tennessee in 1864, and as was done in the Army of the Potomac under Hooker.
I'll leave this to the next Peninsula discussion, but your inconsistency is noted.
 

67th Tigers

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You embrace unreliable confederate reports when it's convenient
Nope. I use all the official reports, and understand how they were constructed. It's just there are none for the combined ANV until 20th July 1862, and that lacks Jackson and Ewell. We can construct their strengths from other sources, as Tenney did, and Newton did.

Here we have two good confederate reports, the January monthly return, and the count in the fort. They are self-consistent, cover every single regiment, company and battery, and can be accepted. That they contradict Grant's opinions doesn't alter their veracity.
 

unionblue

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@DanSBHawk and @67th Tigers ,

I would kindly ask that your ongoing debate on numbers be stopped on this thread and moved to another as to not distract from this thread's stated topic: Ulysses S. Grant: Overrated or Underrated.

You both obviously have strong views on the matter you both discuss with great passion. I merely ask that the matter be debated elsewhere on this forum in an already existing thread on the matter, or a new one created by you both.

Please.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 

Cavalry Charger

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@DanSBHawk and @67th Tigers ,

I would kindly ask that your ongoing debate on numbers be stopped on this thread and moved to another as to not distract from this thread's stated topic: Ulysses S. Grant: Overrated or Underrated.

You both obviously have strong views on the matter you both discuss with great passion. I merely ask that the matter be debated elsewhere on this forum in an already existing thread on the matter, or a new one created by you both.

Please.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
In light of this suggestion, I actually took the bull by the horns last night and asked the mods to generate a new thread to which some of the discussion has been moved ... it's the Grant vs Floyd at Ft. Donelson thread.

It just helps to lighten the load here in terms of the discussion which I feel is running at a parallel at the moment.

I do appreciate everyone's input, though, and hope you will carry on your discussion there.
 
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KansasFreestater

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Like most any famous person Grant is now relegated to the armchair debates of historians and buffs. Grant would certainly never have wanted to be rated. He wanted to live a simple quiet life as a farmer or math professor with plenty of time to spend with his family. Underrate him on his abilities and failures in certain endeavors if you wish, but the one thing he cannot be overrated on is doing his duty, whether it be to his country, his fellow man or his family. There is something inestimably admirable in focusing on doing one's duty despite failures, negativity, illness and the like. As a general he used his natural abilities to end the war as quickly as possible. He was an untrained politician, but still found ways to accomplish some monumental things while in office. If your looking for an underrated man of perfection you won't find it in Grant, similarly if your looking for a hollow overrated man you won't find that. In Grant you'll find an ordinary man who was committed to doing his duty and did what he had to to accomplish it.
You nailed it. You understand Grant perfectly, in my opinion. In a few short sentences, you have beautifully captured the man. 👍
 

Florida Rebel

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Lee was NO butcher. He fought to win the war (or at least his side of the conflict) as soon as he could. And that meant going on the offensive! But Grant? OMG! He was so over-rated as a general, a leader and a president! And let's not forget, he was a man who had NO problem launching assault after assaault on Lee in '64. He was relentless and stubborn to a fault but in his mind, what's a few more thousand Union casualties when you have your opponent outnumbered 3 to 1? As I have said in some earlier posts, there was NOTHING about Grant the man that suggested greatness before or after the war. He was so lucky to have faced inferior leadership when in the West. And by the time he moved East, he had all the men, food, supplies and horses he could desire. But instead of slowly squeezing Lee to death and forcing a surrender, his Overland campaign was as bloody as he could make it. Now, let's talk about Grant the man; his wife owned slaves so clearly he was no abolitionist and could never be accused of fighting a war to free the slaves. And NEVER forget what he personally did to screw the Indians when he was president and how his word was null and void. Not to mention, how corrupt his administration was. One more thing about Grant; how did he rank in Lincoln's eyes at the start of the war? In other words, how many commanders and West Point grads were ahead of him in the pecking order in leading the AOP against Lee? Instead, Grant was a "no name" general assigned to duty in the West. Had Grant gone against Lee in '62 and '63, Lee would have sent him packing along with all the other generals named McDowell, McClellan, Pope, Burnside and Hooker. And let's not forget, Meade didn't beat Lee either. If he had, Lee would NOT have escaped back to VA.
 

Cavalry Charger

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He was so lucky
He appears to have been the luckiest man alive according to his experiences and where that led him.

Somehow pure luck just doesn't seem to account for all he achieved. Considering it meant winning a war and serving two Presidential terms.

I guess in the context you put it, some folks might accept that was the case.

And I can see where you are coming from in terms of your argument.

There may have been factors that assisted Grant in his meteoric rise to fame, just as there were factors that forced Lee's surrender in the end.

An element of what some people term 'Providence'. And I'm sure Grant understood that. I also think Lee, being the religious man that he was, would have accepted that, too.

I certainly don't think anyone is saying Grant was perfect in all he achieved. And there were disappointments in what he didn't achieve.

But, when it comes to the war, he held up his end up for the Union. And his Presidency, though lacking in parts, was not for his lack of trying at times.
 

Krieger

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He appears to have been the luckiest man alive according to his experiences and where that led him.

Somehow pure luck just doesn't seem to account for all he achieved. Considering it meant winning a war and serving two Presidential terms.

I guess in the context you put it, some folks might accept that was the case.

And I can see where you are coming from in terms of your argument.

There may have been factors that assisted Grant in his meteoric rise to fame, just as there were factors that forced Lee's surrender in the end.

An element of what some people term 'Providence'. And I'm sure Grant understood that. I also think Lee, being the religious man that he was, would have accepted that, too.

I certainly don't think anyone is saying Grant was perfect in all he achieved. And there were disappointments in what he didn't achieve.

But, when it comes to the war, he held up his end up for the Union. And his Presidency, though lacking in parts, was not for his lack of trying at times.
When we talk about luck we tend to run in circles. I think to some degree you can argue that every victorious general is "lucky" in the sense that they weren't facing an opponent who was better than them and was easily beaten as a result, or that they found a way to win in spite of facing a more skilled opponent or overwhelming odds. I can't think of anyone in the ACW who that applies to more times than Lee. Had Lee faced a more determined opponent on the peninsula, for example, he might have been replaced as a result of his own horrendous casualties never to hold field command again, and no one looking back would say that Lee was a very good general having no knowledge of his potential. The best generals tend to make their own luck. That's why I rarely bother bringing it up.

I, for one, experienced this myself during a chess tournament while I was still in school many years back. :wink: My first opponent didn't even know the rules and thus I looked pretty skilled by comparison simply by depriving him of all of his pieces until only his king was left, my second opponent creamed me in a practice match the day before only for me to somehow win the real match the following day, my opponent in the semi-final match (I'm skipping two matches because I don't remember them well at all) fell for an extremely obvious trap that I'd set up for his queen giving me the upper hand for the rest of the match, and my final opponent was clearly more skilled than I was to anyone who might have watched it and yet I defeated him because of one extremely poor mistake that he had made (he had castled early in the match but failed to protect his king after moving the rook out of position, trapping the king onto a single row). I would never pretend to have been the most skilled player there and have often told anyone who asked that I got extremely lucky, but something that I was doing whether I was conscious of it or not was definitely playing into my favor.
 

unionblue

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Lee was NO butcher. He fought to win the war (or at least his side of the conflict) as soon as he could. And that meant going on the offensive! But Grant? OMG! He was so over-rated as a general, a leader and a president! And let's not forget, he was a man who had NO problem launching assault after assaault on Lee in '64. He was relentless and stubborn to a fault but in his mind, what's a few more thousand Union casualties when you have your opponent outnumbered 3 to 1? As I have said in some earlier posts, there was NOTHING about Grant the man that suggested greatness before or after the war. He was so lucky to have faced inferior leadership when in the West. And by the time he moved East, he had all the men, food, supplies and horses he could desire. But instead of slowly squeezing Lee to death and forcing a surrender, his Overland campaign was as bloody as he could make it. Now, let's talk about Grant the man; his wife owned slaves so clearly he was no abolitionist and could never be accused of fighting a war to free the slaves. And NEVER forget what he personally did to screw the Indians when he was president and how his word was null and void. Not to mention, how corrupt his administration was. One more thing about Grant; how did he rank in Lincoln's eyes at the start of the war? In other words, how many commanders and West Point grads were ahead of him in the pecking order in leading the AOP against Lee? Instead, Grant was a "no name" general assigned to duty in the West. Had Grant gone against Lee in '62 and '63, Lee would have sent him packing along with all the other generals named McDowell, McClellan, Pope, Burnside and Hooker. And let's not forget, Meade didn't beat Lee either. If he had, Lee would NOT have escaped back to VA.
And yet it was Lee who surrendered to Grant at Appomattox.
 

Dead Parrott

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And yet it was Lee who surrendered to Grant at Appomattox.
Agreed.

Over these (many) years, I'm still often amazed at how folks analyze military history events. I find this especially true of the Overland Campaign for some reason. I suspect it has a large emotional component, as some admirers of Lee feel compelled to explain away the defeat and belittle the opponent who defeated him. Lee's reputation requires no such protection.

None of Grant's victories were inevitable. They accomplished their strategic objectives. They won the war.

From behind our keyboards, with 150 years of complete hindsight and helicopter knowledge, we can all claim "anyone else could have done it" or "anyone else could have done it better".

But Grant did it. Without the hindsight, or the helicopter, or even his contemporaries thinking it was even possible.

He crossed the James in under 8 weeks, pinning Lee into an unwinnable siege. Even Lee recognized it was the war-winning move, both before and after Grant accomplished it.

Grant is underrated - and that detracts nothing from Lee.

- K.
 

Cavalry Charger

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Grant is underrated - and that detracts nothing from Lee.
I like to take the same perspective on things, which is why I shy away from comparisons between the two men.

I, for one, experienced this myself during a chess tournament while I was still in school many years back. :wink:
I quite enjoyed your chess analogy, and it makes a lot of sense in terms of how things happen sometimes. Great explanation!
 

wausaubob

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Agreed.

Over these (many) years, I'm still often amazed at how folks analyze military history events. I find this especially true of the Overland Campaign for some reason. I suspect it has a large emotional component, as some admirers of Lee feel compelled to explain away the defeat and belittle the opponent who defeated him. Lee's reputation requires no such protection.

None of Grant's victories were inevitable. They accomplished their strategic objectives. They won the war.

From behind our keyboards, with 150 years of complete hindsight and helicopter knowledge, we can all claim "anyone else could have done it" or "anyone else could have done it better".

But Grant did it. Without the hindsight, or the helicopter, or even his contemporaries thinking it was even possible.

He crossed the James in under 8 weeks, pinning Lee into an unwinnable siege. Even Lee recognized it was the war-winning move, both before and after Grant accomplished it.

Grant is underrated - and that detracts nothing from Lee.

- K.
He took McClellan's plan, rearranged it to make it politically acceptable, and thought ahead about establishing an logistical superiority that Lee could never match. Based on Vicksburg and Chattanooga he knew he wanted a mostly water based route, with a military railroad from the distribution centers. The US army was going to eat from its own depots, because it could.
 
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