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|Texas Defender wrote:
If your posting had ended with the contention that General Grant was a pragmatist when it came to pursuing his military objectives, then I would have happily agreed. A pragmatist looks for practical solutions to problems, which in the case of General Grant meant to use his advantages to apply relentless pressure on his opponents.
A visionary, on the other hand, is someone who has strong and creative imaginative powers. I cannot consider that General Grant was a man of great intellectual powers or a particularly: "Complicated" individual (Unlike General Sherman, for example). I cannot regard Grant as being: "Brilliant", or a : "Genius," and I doubt that he thought himself to be.
General Grant nevertheless became the perfect person to wield the great army that he was given command of. He used it as a great club to bludgeon the weakened Confederates in the later stages of the war. If he was stopped at one place, he tried another, and then another (As he had in the Vicksburg Campaign). General Grant's great strength was in his determination and his understanding that he had to keep continual pressure on his opponents until they collapsed from exhaustion. You may call that: "Genius" if you wish.
I would maintain that General Grant's tremendous success in this great war was the only time in his life that he really succeeded at anything. (Except for saving his family from financial embarrassment through the publication of his memoirs after his death). His fame from the war did lead him to become the senior officer in the Army, the Secretary of War, and then the presidency (Universally considered to have been one of the worst in U.S. History- not because he himself was dishonest, but because he trusted many who were).
At West Point, Grant was an indifferent student, finishing in the bottom half of his class. He excelled mainly in horsemanship. In the Mexican War, he proved himself to be a brave man, but he was not happy pursuing a military career. After the war he engaged in various business ventures in the west, but they failed to provide him with the additional income that he was seeking.
After leaving the Army, Grant continued to fail at whatever he tried. He failed as a farmer, as a bill collector, as a real estate speculator, and as a county engineer. In desperation, he asked his father for employment and was given a job in a leather shop.
When the war came, the future General Grant was fortunate to be able to obtain a regimental command in Illinois. (Grant tried unsuccessfully to see McClellan). This led to him being made a BG, USV. In his first real battle at Belmont in November of 1861, he showed the determination and coolness under fire that were his strengths. He got himself into a trap there, but when some more timid souls would have surrendered, Grant cut himself out. Successes at Ft. Henry and Ft. Donelson led to fame and promotion.
At Shiloh, General Grant once again demonstrated why he was different from most other northern generals at the time. Once again, he was surprised and got himself into a mess on the first day. General Sherman apparently said to him that they had taken a pounding on that day, but Grant cooly answered: "Well, we'll whip 'em tomorrow." Once again, he: "Got off of the mat" to use the analogies I made previously. Even after winning the battle, Grant was lucky to survive the demands by his critics that he be sacked. (Ohio Governor Todd wanted Grant to be courtmartialed). But Mr. Lincoln saw that he had a fighter in the west, and he was going to keep him.
In the Vicksburg Campaign and at Chattanooga, General Grant was again successful, not due to brilliance in my view, but due to sheer determination and force of will. He was finally recognized by Mr. Lincoln as the man needed to wield the great armies in the east to finally break the stalemate there. Grant became Lincoln's instrument to achieve victory in the east. (Its ironic that Grant supported Stephen A. Douglas in the 1860 presidential election).
I admire General Grant for his determination, for his character and strength of will, for his perseverance in overcoming obstacles, and for his coolness under fire. After a life of great difficulties and frustrations, his time in history finally came, and for once, he was able to take advantage of it. He was given a tool to use, and he understood how to use it. It was his hour.
I do not, however, view General Grant as having been a man of great intellect, or a gifted tactician, or a person of keen insight into the future. So we'll have to agree to disagree on those points.
Bravo. Fine job there.