Ulysses S. Grant Was A Victor, Not a Butcher (2004)


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Ole Miss

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Grant realized the key to defeating the Confederacy was destroying the Army of Northern Virginia instead of Richmond. He used the disparity of numbers as a weapon and had the grit to suffer the cruel comments of being a "butcher" and/or "drunk" so often hurled by the uniformed critics and enemies.

Grant's reputation was sullied by the creators of the "Lost Cause" who used him as a stool for the elevation of the "Marble Man" Robert E. Lee. The likes of Early, Evander Law and other former Confederates created the concept that Lee was defeated by numbers alone. Grant was considered a poor strategist, by the proponents of the "Lost Cause", that he only knew to attack and though outgeneraled at every step by Lee won by sheer numbers alone.

Grant was honored by millions after his death yet in the latter part of the 18th Century he was pilloried by the promoters of Lee's sanctification and seldom if ever defended. It was not till authors like Bruce Catton who portrayed Grant in the role of hero and strategist that he began to received the praise he deserved.
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David
 
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The Terrible Math of War...

"No one was more desirous of peace; no one was possessed of a heart more sensitive to every form of human suffering than the commander [Grant]: but he realized that paper bullets are not effective in warfare; he knew better than to attempt to hew rocks with a razor; and he felt that in campaigning the hardest blows bring the quickest relief. He was aware that... more men had died from sickness while lying in camp than from shot and shell in battle." from Campaigning With Grant by Horace Porter

Of course Porter also said Grant couldn't be a "butcher" as he couldn't stand raw or bloody meat, this was of course somewhat tongue-in-cheek.

I think by 1864 Grant was used to being a hero when things went well and a villain when things took too long or the casualty lists were high. Grant had to endure harsh defamation from the press such as in the Cincinnati Commercial which after Shiloh wrote "Our whole Army of the Mississippi is being wasted by a foolish, drunken, stupid Grant". Overall I tend to agree with Porter's view. Grant was pragmatic but not sociopathic. He regarded it as his duty to end the war as quickly as possible, and according to the terrible math of war, spare more lives overall. Looking long-term I agree with Bonekemper he must have been aware, and intent to avoid, the likely long-term consequences of a "peace" with the Confederacy as well.

There will always be conflicting perspectives on Grant's use of military resources, but the statistics seem to support that he was no more a "butcher" than many of his contemporaries on both sides of the conflict.

Overall I have seen multitudes of sources that seem to take a shallow and/or generalized view of Grant on many matters. They all seem intent on lazily repeating the same tired myths and misconceptions. They seem unmotivated/unwilling to dig into source materials or look at situations in a broader context to create a more accurate perspective for understanding actions and situations. The books on Grant I prefer are from those authors/historians who have put thorough research into their subject but also spent time establishing the setting and context. These works are typically done on specific periods of Grant's life & career. It seems as if the "biography" bug bites too many. I'd like to see more "partial" biographical works where the author has the time to research deeper and come up with new and relevant information.

 


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