Who was the Greatest Civil War General? (poll)

Who was the Greatest Civil War General?

  • Jubal Earl

    Votes: 1 0.4%
  • George Gordon Meade

    Votes: 2 0.7%
  • James Longstreet

    Votes: 15 5.4%
  • George Henry Thomas

    Votes: 6 2.2%
  • Robert E. Lee

    Votes: 90 32.3%
  • Ulysses S. Grant

    Votes: 97 34.8%
  • Philip Sheridan

    Votes: 1 0.4%
  • Nathan Bedford Forrest

    Votes: 18 6.5%
  • Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson

    Votes: 24 8.6%
  • William T. Sherman

    Votes: 14 5.0%
  • Don't Know

    Votes: 11 3.9%

  • Total voters
    279

chucksr

Sergeant
Joined
May 26, 2017
I can't do for you what you should do for yourself.
It was you who raised questions about the conclusion not I.
Frank Varney, Joe Rose, Evan Jones and myself have written recent books that discuss attributes of Grant that would conform in many ways with Dr Nickell's conclusions.

Just to give some examples as to why I find it hard to believe that Grant was "insecure" we can use an early quote from his first really major victory Shiloh, when after that awful first day, standing in the rain quietly smoking a cigar, he responded to Sherman's statement "We have had a devil of a day today General!" with the famous Grant reply "Yep, whip 'em tomorrow tho."
And then two years later as Commanding General of all Union Forces, the equally famous statement to a subordinate who expressed worry about what Lee would attempt on the morrow at the battle in the Wilderness, "I am heartily tired of hearing about what Lee is going to do. Some of you believe he is going to do a double summersault and land in our rear and both flanks. You should think about what you are going to do instead of what Lee is going to do!"

Nothing early or late in those statements even hint at Grant being "insecure" unless you, or the author you paraphrase have redefined "insecurity"!
 
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David Moore

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 26, 2014
Location
Washington, DC
Just to give some examples as to why I find it hard to believe that Grant was "insecure" we can use and early quote from his first really major victory Shiloh, when after that awful first day, standing in the rain quietly smoking a cigar, he responded to Sherman's statement "We have had a devil of a day today General!" with the famous Grant reply "Yep, whip 'em tomorrow tho."
And then two years later as Commanding General of all Union Forces, the equally famous statement to a subordinate who expressed worry about what Lee would attempt on the morrow, "I am heartily tired of hearing about what Lee is going to do. Some of you believe he is going to do a double summersault and land in our rear and both flanks. You should think about what you are going to do instead of what Lee is going to do!"

Nothing early or late in those statements even hint at Grant being "insecure" unless you, or the author you paraphrase have redefined "insecurity"!
Sources? Grant drinking st Chattanooga and being warned about it by Rawlings may have something to do with insecurity.
 

David Moore

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 26, 2014
Location
Washington, DC
As Ned has suggested, this dissertation contains both "opinion" and "misrepresentation."

The Lew Wallace section is full of nonsense, such as Wallace supposedly getting on the bad side of Grant, Halleck, and CF Smith in late '61 for a flag incident, thus sealing his doom. In fact, Wallace was promoted and given command of a division well after this, and he wrote fondly in his autobiography of CF Smith personally helping him become more skilled in the military arts.

The author needs to read Wallaces own account of how he got on Hallecks bad side... and it did not happen until well later, on the approach to Corinth.
You could quote the dissertation and then show contrasting documented evidence.
 

David Moore

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 26, 2014
Location
Washington, DC
As Ned has suggested, this dissertation contains both "opinion" and "misrepresentation."

The Lew Wallace section is full of nonsense, such as Wallace supposedly getting on the bad side of Grant, Halleck, and CF Smith in late '61 for a flag incident, thus sealing his doom. In fact, Wallace was promoted and given command of a division well after this, and he wrote fondly in his autobiography of CF Smith personally helping him become more skilled in the military arts.

The author needs to read Wallaces own account of how he got on Hallecks bad side... and it did not happen until well later, on the approach to Corinth.
Dr Nickells I believe is still alive you could contact him and ask him about his dissertation. Perhaps he has changed his opinion about it.
 

David Moore

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 26, 2014
Location
Washington, DC
And you are only telling part of the story. That Granger commiserated with Rosecrans does not necessarily make either one of them poor innocent victims.

If Granger wanted to stay in Grants good graces, perhaps he should have actually followed orders and made haste to relieve Burnside after Chattanooga.

What is the primary source for that Rosecrans conversation with Thomas before Chickamauga, calling Granger "great in battle?"

I'm not sure I've seen that entire letter of Granger to Rosecrans. If you have the text, it would be most interesting to read. Feel free to post the whole thing.
I'll make a deal with you: I'll send you page by page the four pages of the Granger letter. You must transcribe it and post it here. The letter is at times poignant as Granger realizes that politics is controlling the fate of generals and Grant and Sherman will reap the glory because of the support they are getting from the authorities in Washington. However Granger says if the result is a happy and united country that is of greater importance. Why do I ask for you to transcribe and post the letter? Two reasons: first so that I know you have read it and second so that others on this site will be able to easily read it. This may also introduce you to the tedious but ultimately satisfying task of primary source research.
 

DanSBHawk

Captain
Joined
May 8, 2015
Location
Wisconsin
I'll make a deal with you: I'll send you page by page the four pages of the Granger letter. You must transcribe it and post it here. The letter is at times poignant as Granger realizes that politics is controlling the fate of generals and Grant and Sherman will reap the glory because of the support they are getting from the authorities in Washington. However Granger says if the result is a happy and united country that is of greater importance. Why do I ask for you to transcribe and post the letter? Two reasons: first so that I know you have read it and second so that others on this site will be able to easily read it. This may also introduce you to the tedious but ultimately satisfying task of primary source research.
No thanks. Feel free to post it if you'd like. And if not, that's fine.

And you know, posters here have provided sources over and over again, to back up their views. That is why the anti-Grant revisionism is not widely accepted. It is not supported by the historical record.
 

NathanTowne

Corporal
Joined
Aug 1, 2017
Location
United States
I would say two things about this.

Firstly, I think that it is essentially preposterous to define Rosecrans as not having been "successful." He is certainly one of the top ten or so officers most responsible for the suppression of the rebellion. Such a comment is basically ridiculous.

As for Grant's decision to relieve Rosecrans of his command, to me, it really comes down to how effectively they would have been able to work together moving forward. If the lack of mutual trust between them posed risk as far as impeding future operations, then I don't think that he was wrong in relieving him, despite his very extensive abilities.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
The 21st century attempt to recreate the United States during the Civil War as a political conspiracy that promoted incompetence and eliminated competence is kind of boring.
It is an attempt to say that people in that era were not making decisions based on maximizing their chance for success, and implies that the election results of 1868 and 1872, in which African Americans voted for the Republican candidate were based on corruption and deception.
Fancy rhetorical excerpting of the historical sources to eliminate Grant as a legitimate political figure has an inherent political purpose. But it is nothing new. It was all done in the 19th century for similar purposes with different methodologies.
 

Bee

Captain
Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017
Joined
Dec 21, 2015
I would say two things about this.

Firstly, I think that it is essentially preposterous to define Rosecrans as not having been "successful." He is certainly one of the top ten or so officers most responsible for the suppression of the rebellion. Such a comment is basically ridiculous.

As for Grant's decision to relieve Rosecrans of his command, to me, it really comes down to how effectively they would have been able to work together moving forward. If the lack of mutual trust between them posed risk as far as impeding future operations, then I don't think that he was wrong in relieving him, despite his very extensive abilities.

In one account that I have read, after Rosecrans briefs Grant on his "cracker line" plan (they cross paths on the train), Grant wonders why the plan had not been implimented. My question is: without the arrival of Grant, could anyone in charge of Chattanooga- Thomas, etc., been able to implement the plan without outside help? I ask this out of ignorance, because I just do not know enough details.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
The problem with all these Rosecrans defenses is that the Cumberland army functioned reasonably well at Chickamauga once General Rosecrans left the area, and performed really well at Chattanooga with him totally gone.
All the strange theories that there was not a bad logistical situation in Tennessee are negated by General Thomas' reply to Grant that he will hold Chattanooga until the army starves destroys the whole contention that things were OK in Chattanooga when Rosecrans left.
General Rosecrans accomplished a lot in Tennessee. But he started too late in 1863, took to many pauses in the campaign and by the time he made it to Chattanooga had not conserved enough time to build up a base there before moving on.
Rosecrans' mistakes became the basis of Thomas' and Sherman's successes in 1864. Sherman planned to protect the railroad, repair it whenever it was broken, and constantly move his logistical base as far forward as he could get it.
 

Bee

Captain
Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017
Joined
Dec 21, 2015
Fancy rhetorical excerpting of the historical sources to eliminate Grant as a legitimate political figure has an inherent political purpose. But it is nothing new. It was all done in the 19th century for similar purposes with different methodologies.

In his memoir (of sorts) Henry Adams reflects back on his "impression" of Grant. Yup. Trashing Grant has been an activity through the ages:


What worried Adams was not the commonplace; it was, as usual, his own education. Grant fretted and irritated him, like the Terebratula, as a defiance of first principles. He had no right to exist. He should have been extinct for ages. The idea that, as society grew older, it grew one-sided, upset evolution, and made of education a fraud. That, two thousand years after Alexander the Great and Julius Cæsar, a man like Grant should be called--and should actually and truly be--the highest product of the most advanced evolution, made evolution ludicrous. One must be as commonplace as Grant's own commonplaces to maintain such an absurdity. The progress of evolution from President Washington to President Grant, was alone evidence enough to upset Darwin. The Education of Henry Adams, Henry Adams [Chap xvii]​
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Grant would be very upsetting to Adams.
To Grant, the westerners, the Indians, the African-Americans, all lacking in Ivy League educations, were all going to be part of the United States.
Furthermore, as Sherman advocated, the people of the United States did not need to be told who their heroes were supposed to be by Henry Adams or the British.
There are very profound reasons which the 21st century cannot hope to understand why Grant and not Lincoln was the most popular man in the 19th century.
 

NathanTowne

Corporal
Joined
Aug 1, 2017
Location
United States
The problem with all these Rosecrans defenses is that the Cumberland army functioned reasonably well at Chickamauga once General Rosecrans left the area, and performed really well at Chattanooga with him totally gone.
All the strange theories that there was not a bad logistical situation in Tennessee are negated by General Thomas' reply to Grant that he will hold Chattanooga until the army starves destroys the whole contention that things were OK in Chattanooga when Rosecrans left.
General Rosecrans accomplished a lot in Tennessee. But he started too late in 1863, took to many pauses in the campaign and by the time he made it to Chattanooga had not conserved enough time to build up a base there before moving on.
Rosecrans' mistakes became the basis of Thomas' and Sherman's successes in 1864. Sherman planned to protect the railroad, repair it whenever it was broken, and constantly move his logistical base as far forward as he could get it.

Well, Thomas, for the most part, essentially continued what Rosecrans had been doing around Chattanooga, so I don't know what you are getting at.
 
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wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Well, Thomas, for the most part, essentially continued what Rosecrans had been doing around Chattanooga, so I don't know what you are getting at.
And for some reason, it went pretty well for Thomas. So maybe the difference between Thomas and Rosecrans mattered, as if people wanted to help Thomas and they did not to work with Rosecrans.
 

Will Carry

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 1, 2015
Location
The Tar Heel State.
After the war a newspaper reporter asked Robert E. Lee who was the best general in the war, North or South. His reply was "It is a man I have never met. His name is Forrest." If Robert E. Lee says Forrest was the best general, I ain't gonna argue.
This story may or may not be true.
 

diane

Retired User
Joined
Jan 23, 2010
Location
State of Jefferson
After the war a newspaper reporter asked Robert E. Lee who was the best general in the war, North or South. His reply was "It is a man I have never met. His name is Forrest." If Robert E. Lee says Forrest was the best general, I ain't gonna argue.
This story may or may not be true.

There's a whole thread discussing this quote somewheres hereabouts! Think the upshot was Lee probably said something very like that but proving it beyond a doubt wasn't possible. There was also a side discussion about Sherman's hyperbolic statement about bankrupting the treasury, etc. - he said it, all right, and he wasn't being hyperbolic! Forrest scared the bejabbers out of him and even rattled Grant - and Grant didn't scare worth a darn. Forrest had three times ruined Sherman's campaign ambitions. Of course, when Hood took Forrest with him after Atlanta, Sherman's mind rested easy. Hood really did him a LOT of favors!
 

NathanTowne

Corporal
Joined
Aug 1, 2017
Location
United States
There's a whole thread discussing this quote somewheres hereabouts! Think the upshot was Lee probably said something very like that but proving it beyond a doubt wasn't possible. There was also a side discussion about Sherman's hyperbolic statement about bankrupting the treasury, etc. - he said it, all right, and he wasn't being hyperbolic! Forrest scared the bejabbers out of him and even rattled Grant - and Grant didn't scare worth a darn. Forrest had three times ruined Sherman's campaign ambitions. Of course, when Hood took Forrest with him after Atlanta, Sherman's mind rested easy. Hood really did him a LOT of favors!

That is unfortunately not at all accurate. The U.S. high command remained very concerned about Hood's operations through the end of the year and dedicated considerable thought and attention to them.
 

NathanTowne

Corporal
Joined
Aug 1, 2017
Location
United States
And for some reason, it went pretty well for Thomas. So maybe the difference between Thomas and Rosecrans mattered, as if people wanted to help Thomas and they did not to work with Rosecrans.

I don't see any reason why the Army would not have been relieved around Chattanooga had Rosecrans retained command. The question is how well he would have been able to work with Grant over the course of the ensuing operations around the city.
 
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