Ulysses S. Grant: Overrated or Underrated?

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jackt62

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My conclusion about Grant and drinking based on numerous accounts and biographies I have read over time is this. Despite Grant's fondness for alcohol, his drinking was generally kept in check during the ACW, particularly by his wife, and the likes of John Rawlins. There were probably one or two incidents during the war when Grant went off on a binder, but these were carefully contained by his minders, and did not result in adverse consequences to Grant and the war effort.
 

67th Tigers

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My conclusion about Grant and drinking based on numerous accounts and biographies I have read over time is this. Despite Grant's fondness for alcohol, his drinking was generally kept in check during the ACW, particularly by his wife, and the likes of John Rawlins. There were probably one or two incidents during the war when Grant went off on a binder, but these were carefully contained by his minders, and did not result in adverse consequences to Grant and the war effort.
The worst example is probably Iuka, where news of Antietam had Grant go on a bender whilst his forces were moving to an engagement. The result was that half the army under Rosecrans attacked, whilst the half under Grant in person did nothing due to no orders.
 

DanSBHawk

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The worst example is probably Iuka, where news of Antietam had Grant go on a bender whilst his forces were moving to an engagement. The result was that half the army under Rosecrans attacked, whilst the half under Grant in person did nothing due to no orders.
Never happened.

Also, the Iuka plan fell apart because Rosecrans failed to keep to the timetable, and failed to cover both escape roads. And there were orders for Ord, but the sounds of the battle did not reach Grant or Ord.
 

cake1979

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The worst example is probably Iuka, where news of Antietam had Grant go on a bender whilst his forces were moving to an engagement. The result was that half the army under Rosecrans attacked, whilst the half under Grant in person did nothing due to no orders.
That’s the first I’ve heard that drinking had anything to do with the failures at Iuka. Most sources (except Varney) pin it all on Rosecrans, as noted before. Any sources for that one? Just curious.
 

Saphroneth

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No, actually it's not a "direct quote." The source is John Eaton.
Well, Eaton is the source, but he says that it's what Grant said. My understanding of the definition of "direct quote" is that it's the actual words of the person, not that the source is the person; it would only not count as a "direct quote" if there was a strong reason to believe Eaton was making it up.
 

wausaubob

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Well, Eaton is the source, but he says that it's what Grant said. My understanding of the definition of "direct quote" is that it's the actual words of the person, not that the source is the person; it would only not count as a "direct quote" if there was a strong reason to believe Eaton was making it up.
The Eaton quote is similar to others. I think Grant once told someone, at times he could drink and suffer very little. But at other times he would drink and couldn't stop. What the quotes describe is a heavy coffee drinker, without access to clean water, who is chronically dehydrated at times. There were banquets in which Grant did not feel safe, and he refused all the wine. Seems to me he knew he had a problem and got better at managing it with age.
 

wausaubob

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As I noted, time had run out by July 31, 1864. The north had about 90 days to prove they were winning the war. Lincoln and Fox met with Grant and Rawlins. Things were said that were too secret to put on the wire, and harsh words were exchanged about Halleck and Stanton. Stanton, Halleck, Wells and even Seward were cut out of the meeting. What followed?
Farragut smashed his way into Mobile Bay. The smugglers became aware that only Wilmington offered a good chance to clear the blockade.
Grant tried to get Warren's corp onto the Weldon RR, and Warren made it this time. Lee expended a lot of casualties to try to dislodge Warren, that's how important that RR was to Richmond. The other RRs were too long and too slow and required too many locomotives.
The Confederates than had to keep some force in Alabama, and had only a poor, round about route from Richmond to Atlanta.
Sherman finally felt secure enough to move off the RR line for several days. He was a little late getting to Jonesboro, but he got there and Hood could not even evacuate his ammunition cars. The fall of Atlanta foreshadowed the fall of Richmond and post Chambersburg, it was not pretty.
Then Grant assembled an overwhelming force in the Shenandoah Valley and Sheridan defeated Early. The key to that was an expensive and very large cavalry wing, which the Confederates could not counter because they were running out of horses and forage. With the Weldon RR blocked, and Sheridan occupying the RRs in the Valley, Richmond and the Confederate army began to go hungry.
Grant's wisdom was to go back to the original plan: enforce a grinding blockade and cut the Confederate economy into pieces.
 

67th Tigers

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As I noted, time had run out by July 31, 1864. The north had about 90 days to prove they were winning the war. Lincoln and Fox met with Grant and Rawlins. Things were said that were too secret to put on the wire, and harsh words were exchanged about Halleck and Stanton. Stanton, Halleck, Wells and even Seward were cut out of the meeting. What followed?
Grant had the meeting alone with Lincoln. It was apparently not a pleasant one for him, as he excised it from his memoirs.

The primary topic seems to have been how Grant allowed Washington almost to fall. Halleck had forced Grant to send large forces from Grant's army to Washington, and Washington had narrowly been saved by the actions of Henry Halleck, Quincy Gillmore, Lew Wallace and James Ricketts. It was not lost on many that if Grant's orders had been followed, then Washington likely would have fallen.

Lincoln had let Grant run until about two weeks before this meeting, when Grant's message that he intended to abandon the Siege of Petersburg was rebuffed by Lincoln. In July, patience with Grant is up, and Lincoln starts asserting himself.
 

DanSBHawk

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Grant had the meeting alone with Lincoln. It was apparently not a pleasant one for him, as he excised it from his memoirs.

The primary topic seems to have been how Grant allowed Washington almost to fall. Halleck had forced Grant to send large forces from Grant's army to Washington, and Washington had narrowly been saved by the actions of Henry Halleck, Quincy Gillmore, Lew Wallace and James Ricketts. It was not lost on many that if Grant's orders had been followed, then Washington likely would have fallen.

Lincoln had let Grant run until about two weeks before this meeting, when Grant's message that he intended to abandon the Siege of Petersburg was rebuffed by Lincoln. In July, patience with Grant is up, and Lincoln starts asserting himself.
As Bruce Catton put it, neither Lincoln or Grant spoke afterwards about this meeting, but it obviously had to do with questions of the command structure in the east:

Neither Lincoln nor Grant ever said much about their July 31 meeting, but what took place is fairly clear. On July 30 Grant had telegraphed to the President, promising to meet him at Fort Monroe the next day, and on the back of this telegram Lincoln scribbled a few words that could only be a listing of the points to be discussed. These words were: "Meade & Franklin / McClellan / Md & Penna."​

That McClellan was not offered any command after the meeting indicates that both Lincoln and Grant agreed bringing him back was a bad idea.

Shortly after this meeting, Grant sent Sheridan north to deal with Early. Both Halleck and Stanton opposed giving Sheridan command, but Lincoln saw Grants dispatches and agreed with Grant. This shows the amount of trust Lincoln had in Grant.
 

wausaubob

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As Bruce Catton put it, neither Lincoln or Grant spoke afterwards about this meeting, but it obviously had to do with questions of the command structure in the east:

Neither Lincoln nor Grant ever said much about their July 31 meeting, but what took place is fairly clear. On July 30 Grant had telegraphed to the President, promising to meet him at Fort Monroe the next day, and on the back of this telegram Lincoln scribbled a few words that could only be a listing of the points to be discussed. These words were: "Meade & Franklin / McClellan / Md & Penna."​

That McClellan was not offered any command after the meeting indicates that both Lincoln and Grant agreed bringing him back was a bad idea.

Shortly after this meeting, Grant sent Sheridan north to deal with Early. Both Halleck and Stanton opposed giving Sheridan command, but Lincoln saw Grants dispatches and agreed with Grant. This shows the amount of trust Lincoln had in Grant.
Fox was there, so he was the one that informed Grant of the high level information that Farragut was ready. The subsequent weeks suggest that Grant and Lincoln discussed a possible offer of peace. Grant seems to have been against that, and that may have cautioned Lincoln that no offer should be made unless McClellan actually won.
 

wausaubob

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The Mobile Bay victory took time to be communicated, but by about the 23rd of August, the news was hitting NYC, that all the forts had surrendered. No one in NYC knew exactly how big that was going to be. Lincoln most likely was heartened by the Weldon RR operation, because he could use that in his bulldog imagery. So they were pretty close at that point.
Sherman's operation was probably considered risky because the Confederates may have attacked one of the moving pieces and forced Sherman back to his starting point. It could have happened that the Confederates moved ahead of Sherman and Thomas, the the US army could have failed to dislodge the defenders.
Sherman failed to completely destroy Hood's army, but the capture of Atlanta was good enough for the NY press. All three events were hitting during or immediately after the Dem convention.
The spectacular victories occurred in the Shenandoah.
With respect to changing command in the valley, Sheridan was Irish, and acceptable to the Committee on Conduct of the War. He was likely to get himself killed, or win a great victory. Either event would blunt the Democratic appeal to the Irish voters. Lincoln and Grant both wanted that big victory, and an overwhelming force was put at Sheridan's disposal.
Based on results over the next 8 weeks, it appears to have a very successful meeting, though there may have been blue smoke over the Atlantic.
 

rbasin

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I guess I don't really have an opinion of Grant either way. I will say that Grant's reputation has been built a bit on diminishing other's. I would use Halleck, Lew Wallace, and Thomas as examples.
 
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