Ulysses S. Grant: Overrated or Underrated?

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eeric

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Old Crow is some nasty s**T, but Old Crow Reserve ? Thats good but for some reason its not made anymore,

I am responding to previous posts where alcohol was said to be looked down on,

I just read Theodore Lyman book on his 2 years in Meades staff, and on the contrary alcohol was very available and expected by the officers at any lunch (aka a reconnaissance : ) and definitely at dinner time, champaigne was preferred, otherwise brandy etc would be tolerated.

And many instances in diaries where the pursuit of alcohol is a large motivation in both armies.

Theo Lyman does not mention Grant drinking although very nearby camped in the overland campaign, and he was rather gossipy on others behaviour, he saw Hancock very drunk in NYC for instance, which he thought notable. Great book BTW.
 

cake1979

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And many instances in diaries where the pursuit of alcohol is a large motivation in both armies.
And in every army throughout recorded history. As you inferred, the presence of a teetotaler was the exception to the rule. I just read a bio of WW2 ace Tommy McGuire. His fighter squadron maintained a B-25 bomber almost solely for the purpose of acquiring alcohol in Australia. Did Grant drink? Yes. Did lots of other officers? Yes. Did Grant’s drinking get more attention because of his status? Of course.

His drinking was never my problem with him. It was his penchant for stepping on everyone else, deserving or not, as he climbed the ladder.
 

Cavalry Charger

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And in every army throughout recorded history. As you inferred, the presence of a teetotaler was the exception to the rule. I just read a bio of WW2 ace Tommy McGuire. His fighter squadron maintained a B-25 bomber almost solely for the purpose of acquiring alcohol in Australia. Did Grant drink? Yes. Did lots of other officers? Yes. Did Grant’s drinking get more attention because of his status? Of course.

His drinking was never my problem with him. It was his penchant for stepping on everyone else, deserving or not, as he climbed the ladder.
Was that a B-52 bomber or B-25 :laugh:

I love that they maintained an aircraft for this purpose alone ... and that the Aussies were part of the supply chain :smoke: Not sure you hear stories like that anymore !

But, the reality is that alcohol is/will be consumed when it is available and I think you make good points in relation to reports of Grant's drinking.

There may be others who will take you up on the rest.
 

Cavalry Charger

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Old Crow is some nasty s**T, but Old Crow Reserve ? Thats good but for some reason its not made anymore,

I am responding to previous posts where alcohol was said to be looked down on,

I just read Theodore Lyman book on his 2 years in Meades staff, and on the contrary alcohol was very available and expected by the officers at any lunch (aka a reconnaissance : ) and definitely at dinner time, champaigne was preferred, otherwise brandy etc would be tolerated.

And many instances in diaries where the pursuit of alcohol is a large motivation in both armies.

Theo Lyman does not mention Grant drinking although very nearby camped in the overland campaign, and he was rather gossipy on others behaviour, he saw Hancock very drunk in NYC for instance, which he thought notable. Great book BTW.
Another interesting post on the issue of drinking in the army and Theodore Lyman's perspective on the issue when it came to Grant.
 

cake1979

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Source please?
I think his memoir treatment of Rosecrans and Thomas alone is source enough, but that’s a little after the fact. Varney’s book on his destruction of Rosecrans really hammers it home. In the West, at least, he played pretty fast and loose with the truth when his reputation was involved. Most of it, oddly, appears unnecessary, as Grant’s war record alone was certainly enough to secure him promotions and adulation.
 

cake1979

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Was that a B-52 bomber or B-25 :laugh:

I love that they maintained an aircraft for this purpose alone ... and that the Aussies were part of the supply chain :smoke: Not sure you hear stories like that anymore !

But, the reality is that alcohol is/will be consumed when it is available and I think you make good points in relation to reports of Grant's drinking.

There may be others who will take you up on the rest.
It was probably only a B-25 because they couldn’t wrangle a B-17 or B-24. McGuire and many other pilots checked out on anything with wings, so they could easily fly them.

Imagine the USAF allowing a squadron to keep an old B-1B on hand for beer runs!
 

Cavalry Charger

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It was probably only a B-25 because they couldn’t wrangle a B-17 or B-24. McGuire and many other pilots checked out on anything with wings, so they could easily fly them.

Imagine the USAF allowing a squadron to keep an old B-1B on hand for beer runs!
I think I will have to confess to not knowing as much about planes as you do :laugh: But, the stories are great!
 

Saphroneth

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Did Grant drink? Yes. Did lots of other officers? Yes. Did Grant’s drinking get more attention because of his status? Of course.
I don't really think that's the case, at least not that last clause. Grant departed the army pre-Civil-War because of the vice of intemperance, as he himself admitted - the problem not simply being that he drank but that he drank in situations where he should not - and since "resigning because of getting drunk" wasn't exactly common it suggests that his drinking was at least a little unusual.
 

Cavalry Charger

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I don't really think that's the case, at least not that last clause. Grant departed the army pre-Civil-War because of the vice of intemperance, as he himself admitted - the problem not simply being that he drank but that he drank in situations where he should not - and since "resigning because of getting drunk" wasn't exactly common it suggests that his drinking was at least a little unusual.
It's interesting that you describe Grant's drinking as the 'vice of intemperance'. It was certainly seen as a vice by some, and no doubt at that stage his drinking was intemperate as he strugged to cope far from home and his family. This intemperance did prompt his resignation, so even Grant recognized the problem it was presenting. And what he needed to do to fix it. I'm not sure what proof there is of him ever being 'drunk' during the period of the CW. We do have threads on this, but I think I've already linked one here a few pages back. It's definitely a topic that comes up time and time again in relation to Grant and one of the reasons many people seem to underrate him.
 

cake1979

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It's interesting that you describe Grant's drinking as the 'vice of intemperance'. It was certainly seen as a vice by some, and no doubt at that stage his drinking was intemperate as he strugged to cope far from home and his family. This intemperance did prompt his resignation, so even Grant recognized the problem it was presenting. And what he needed to do to fix it. I'm not sure what proof there is of him ever being 'drunk' during the period of the CW. We do have threads on this, but I think I've already linked one here a few pages back. It's definitely a topic that comes up time and time again in relation to Grant and one of the reasons many people seem to underrate him.
I thought it showed character to leave the Army to solve the issue, or distance himself from temptation whatever his mental state.

I’ll still maintain that his drinking receives more attention due to his status, and I think this thread supports that. Surely he’s not the only officer to resign from the military because of alcohol issues. He’s not the only General known to drink to excess (Hooker!). However, he may be the only one who became General in a Chief and later President. We need to evaluate him on military competence and leave this noise aside.
 

Saphroneth

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It's interesting that you describe Grant's drinking as the 'vice of intemperance'.
That's actually a direct quote from him - "The vice of intemperance had not a little to do with my decision to resign".
Remember that "the temperance movement" was the movement for the prohibition of alcohol.

I thought it showed character to leave the Army to solve the issue, or distance himself from temptation whatever his mental state.
It was keeping a promise he'd made, at least in the normal account.

Lt Col. Buchanan (his CO) reprimanded him for an incident of drunkenness and Grant said that if he didn't reform, he'd resign; subsequently Grant was found influenced by alcohol again and resigned without an official explanation.
 

diane

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We might also note why Lt Col Buchanan was wanting Grant's guts for garters. The finger tends to point to Grant being more of a hero during the Mexican War than Buchanan had been! The only time we see for certain Grant was filling his tin cup too full (and those tin cups held a LOT!) was at Ft Humboldt. If you've ever been to the Lost Coast of California, where Ft Humboldt is located...you would be filling your cup too full as well!

I think Grant was indeed unfair to Thomas and to Rosecrans, and maybe listened a little too much to Sherman about his pet McPherson. He was getting hammered himself unfairly and that seemed to be the norm in the US army at that time. He could definitely have been a very ruthless man if he'd let himself - he wasn't Jesse's son for nothing, after all! - but it shows he had a good heart that he didn't let that take over.

And... I think his drinking is overrated!
 

DanSBHawk

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I think his memoir treatment of Rosecrans and Thomas alone is source enough, but that’s a little after the fact. Varney’s book on his destruction of Rosecrans really hammers it home. In the West, at least, he played pretty fast and loose with the truth when his reputation was involved. Most of it, oddly, appears unnecessary, as Grant’s war record alone was certainly enough to secure him promotions and adulation.
Not everyone agrees that Varney's book is accurate. Many of the errors have been discussed here. I thought Grant's treatment of Rosecrans and Thomas in the memoirs was pretty tame.

Rosecrans was a smart but very flawed general, who managed to alienate every superior he had during the war.
 

Saphroneth

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We might also note why Lt Col Buchanan was wanting Grant's guts for garters. The finger tends to point to Grant being more of a hero during the Mexican War than Buchanan had been! The only time we see for certain Grant was filling his tin cup too full (and those tin cups held a LOT!) was at Ft Humboldt. If you've ever been to the Lost Coast of California, where Ft Humboldt is located...you would be filling your cup too full as well!
But then it doesn't make sense for Grant to either promise to quit the military if he got drunk again, or to actually quit once the promise was made, or to say himself that his resignation was linked to drinking.

No doubt it became an easy stick to beat him with later in life - an election campaign always results in exaggeration of negative traits - but Grant himself said that he had problems with drinking at the wrong time.
 

diane

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You're right - he did indeed say his drinking at Ft Humboldt was too much. Resigning was also the only way to get back to his wife and family - he didn't drink around Julia. Buchanan came out of the woodwork years later when Grant was running for president, to make sure everybody knew he had kicked Grant out of the army for being a boozer! It lacked effect. Buchanan was retired and had proceeded absolutely no further than where he had been at Ft Humboldt with zero achievements. The guy he said he kicked out for breathing whiskey breath on the paymaster once had won the war, held a rank only Washington and Scott had held, captured three entire rebel armies...and on for quite a spell!
 

DanSBHawk

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You're right - he did indeed say his drinking at Ft Humboldt was too much. Resigning was also the only way to get back to his wife and family - he didn't drink around Julia. Buchanan came out of the woodwork years later when Grant was running for president, to make sure everybody knew he had kicked Grant out of the army for being a boozer! It lacked effect. Buchanan was retired and had proceeded absolutely no further than where he had been at Ft Humboldt with zero achievements. The guy he said he kicked out for breathing whiskey breath on the paymaster once had won the war, held a rank only Washington and Scott had held, captured three entire rebel armies...and on for quite a spell!
Brooks Simpson wrote that Grant did drink at Humboldt, but that the specifics of the resignation "remains unclear (there are no contemporary documents extant to support the court-martial story)."
 

wausaubob

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I don't really think that's the case, at least not that last clause. Grant departed the army pre-Civil-War because of the vice of intemperance, as he himself admitted - the problem not simply being that he drank but that he drank in situations where he should not - and since "resigning because of getting drunk" wasn't exactly common it suggests that his drinking was at least a little unusual.
I think Grant told Eaton that he left the army to get out of California and all male companionship and get back to his family. That supports the conclusion that the drinking was bad and that Grant was willing to take drastic steps to end it.
 

wausaubob

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There is a lot of evidence that Grant drank heavily when he did drink. But he also was aware of the problem and tolerated the interference both of Rawlins and Mrs. Grant.
 
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