Ulysses S. Grant's greatest influences

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#1
I have to be honest and say I hadn't given much thought before to who U.S. Grant's role models might have been until I began to read Brook D. Simpson's biography on Grant. When I did, it suddenly became very clear to me.

Zachary Taylor was a big influence on Grant. So was Winfield Scott.

Grant is impressed with Zachary Taylor’s confidence under fire and sees this as a valuable, if rare, quality. He also takes notice that Taylor is not a stickler in relation to regulation uniforms and parades. It seems being impressed by these qualities, Grant in many ways sought to emulate them in his later career.

The formal capitulation of the Mexicans at Vera Cruz under Winfield Scott plays out like so many of Grant’s later moments of enemy surrender where a level of magnanimity is shown to the defeated enemy. No taunts or jeering, and a strict policy put into place to show respect to those now under occupation.

Out of the two Commanders, Taylor and Scott, which had the greatest influence?
 

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#2
I thought I read somewhere (too early to check it out) - that one observation Grant noticed was the method of military dress between Scott, always meticulous in appearance, Tyler somewhat slovenly.
 

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#3
I thought I read somewhere (too early to check it out) - that one observation Grant noticed was the method of military dress between Scott, always meticulous in appearance, Tyler somewhat slovenly.
You are absolutely correct and Taylor was less concerned with appearance by all accounts. Grant admired him for his coolness under fire and I am going to suggest that Grant's first experience of 'showing off' his uniform after Graduation in his hometown and the reaction to that had a detrimental effect on him ... in terms of him being embarrassed at the outcome. The likelihood is the experience stayed with him. I imagine we can all think back to embarrassing experiences that caused us to rethink ever repeating them.

It's just a thought, but the fact the story comes up time and again probably is an indication of its significance.
 
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#4
You're right about his 1st time wearing his uniform back home. I remember how he thought men would be impressed and ladies would be smitten (my words) and wasn't it the fellow that lived near his parents that put a string down the outside of his pant leg - seems rather a silly act for a grown man to be doing - but for the sensitive Grant it was devastating.
 

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#5
I get the feeling a lot of this kind of 'backlash' came from the fact Grant's father maintained a fairly high profile and was boastful about his son as well. That probably didn't help. How much influence came from Taylor in this regard or from Grant's own earlier experience is hard to know. Could be a combination, but it was a definite choice with regard to uniform and appearance I think.
 
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#6
He also takes notice that Taylor is not a stickler in relation to regulation uniforms
I've never really thought about this too much, but it seems to me that would be a very valid reason why Grant shunned all of the 'fancy' uniforms.

The contrast between Grant & Lee's respective uniforms at Appomattox Court House immediately comes to mind.
 
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As a young cadet at West Point, Grant was enamored with Scott's "commanding figure, his quite colossal size and showy uniform" and "thought him the finest specimen of manhood my eyes had ever beheld, and the most to be envied." As has been stated he endured the episode of ridicule about his uniform upon his return to Ohio which began a disliking for the uselessness of pomp in military dress. Grant saw that Taylor in his dress was "possibly too plain, rarely wearing anything in the field to indicate his rank, or even that he was an officer". Grant admired and later emulated elements of both men militarily so it's hard to say who influenced him more in that regard, but he definitely took after Taylor more in dress. Grant, although appearing in uniform in many photographs, was described often as not wearing typical army dress. Grant tells an amusing tale in his memoirs of one of the only times Taylor donned his full uniform in the Mexican War was to meet a naval officer that he assumed would be in full dress and did not want to be disrespectful. The naval officer is said to have donned civilian clothes knowing that Taylor was not one for military dress. Needless to say both men were supposedly embarrassed when they met. We know that Grant at Appomattox was not intentionally trying to disrespect Lee with his appearance, but was simply the victim of circumstance. I have no doubt that Grant, like Taylor did for the naval officer, would have donned his full uniform if possible out of respect.
 

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I was thinking more in a military sense, but obviously a mother will always be a huge influence (even a negative one) as will a wife. No doubt Julia was the greatest influence in terms of his personal life, and even exerted an influence at times militarily - whether by upholding Grant or seeking his favour with regard to another's dire situation.

I find it interesting that there were two outstanding figures early in Grant's military career who may have exerted an influence on him and I'm inclined to think both had a big impact in terms of how he fashioned himself as a military man.
 

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#13
… Zachary Taylor was a big influence on Grant. So was Winfield Scott...

Out of the two Commanders, Taylor and Scott, which had the greatest influence?
Contrary to some speculation I've read, Grant seems not to have valued one over the other, since each man had different things to teach: Taylor, in addition to what you have already mentioned, the importance of sometimes ignoring military red tape and ceremony over the possibilities of concerted action - to strike while the iron is hot; and Scott, for the politicking necessary when dealing with an army largely composed of volunteers and officered by politicians - even his subordinates from the Regular Army were usually backbiting and angling to make their fortunes through the war.

There were also plenty of negative examples from the war in Mexico: blowhards like Gideon Pillow and glory-hunters like William Jenkins Worth. Worth tended to favor frontal assaults without much concern for the welfare of his men; probably fortunately for the army, Worth died in service soon after establishing the fort and subsequent Texas metropolis which bears his name. Pillow, of course Grant would meet again at Fort Donelson at the head of Confederate troops, and having already gotten the measure of the man, Grant was totally nonplussed at the prospect! As usual for him, Pillow decided discretion was the better part of valor and fled along with fellow general John B. Floyd, leaving Grant's old prewar friend Simon Buckner holding the bag.
 
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#14
In terms of strategy it was Scott, who had a better grip on overall strategy. In terms of commanding civilian soldiers, it was Taylor.
In terms of operational skill, Grant was probably pre modern. His ability to put new assets into use, and concentrate on logistics was unsurpassed in his time.
In terms of tactic, Napoleon's ability to concentrate in time was the obvious imperative. But Grant was not adverse to learning how Forrest was able to use the fast moving cavalry raid to maximum advantage.
Grant was much more aware of the language of business management, with respect to accountability and efficiency than history gives him credit for.
 



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