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 Posted: Fri Feb 10th, 2012 12:08 am
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Wordsmith
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          On the subject of General Ulysses S. Grant what did Shelby Foote, Military Historian T. Harry Williams, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, and General John B. Gordon C.S.A have in common?  All of them, among historians and military leaders, agreed that Grant was one of the greatest of Civil Wars generals.  In spite of Robert E Lee's fearless reputation and ability to win battles, Grant, in the final analysis, won the decisive battles and helped inspire General William T. Sherman in modern and total warfare.  For Foote, Grant's greatness was in his strength--that four o’clock in the morning courage when a crisis was at hand and he never panicked but kept his calm even when it appeared as if his army was in peril.  For historian Williams, it was his far-ranging foresight.  According to Williams, “Grant was fundamentally superior to Lee because he had a modern mind and Lee did not.  Lee was the last of the great old fashioned generals and Grant was the first of the great moderns.”  For Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the hero of Little Round Top, it was the insight of a contemporary and fellow soldier.  For him, Grant embodied the attributes of great man, who never wavered in his belief of the cause.  General John B. Gordon, who was there at Appomattox, it was Grant's indomitable character.  His modesty, freedom from vanity, nobility in victory, sympathy for his defeated foes, and willingness against criticism, to protect paroled Confederates against assault set him apart from other generals. 

         How could a student of history think otherwise.  Ulysses Grant had changed the way our country fought its wars.  Many Americans of his day credited him for saving the Union.  Even his onetime enemies were won over by his magnanimity and begrudgingly gave him praise.  Of all of his contemporaries, however, it was General William T. Sherman who gave his onetime commander his highest accolade: "It will be a thousand years before Grant's character is fully appreciated. Grant is the greatest soldier of our time if not all time... he fixes in his mind what is the true objective and abandons all minor ones. He dismisses all possibility of defeat. He believes in himself and in victory. If his plans go wrong he is never disconcerted but promptly devises a new one and is sure to win in the end. Grant more nearly impersonated the American character of 1861-65 than any other living man. Therefore he will stand as the typical hero of the great Civil War in America."

---- Wordsmith



 Posted: Fri Feb 10th, 2012 12:33 am
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Mark
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Interesting take... although I find it more interesting to read what the newspapers and his contemporaries were saying about him in 1862-64 rather than what they wrote after the war.

Mark



 Posted: Sat Feb 11th, 2012 04:23 am
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He was indeed one of the best--he was the man for the job. There were a lot of good leaders in that war. I'm sure there were others that history hasn't brought to light and we may never know about. Grant's leadership was solid, and he knew how to use an army. However, other generals may have done as well with such an army. I've often wondered what Jackson could have accomplished in the Shenandoah Valley with a larger force.



 Posted: Sat Feb 11th, 2012 12:09 pm
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Wordsmith, I agree with everything you wrote about Grant and his abilities. Most would not argue about his vision or his tactic.

I think there is no argument about General Lee's tactical abilities and vision either. But you might have to add that Gen. Lee lacked an overall strategy about winning the war. Lee was truly dedicated to protecting Virginia and he seemed to have had less interest in fighting in any other theatre to protect or save the CSA.

The best example of this was when he and President Davis discussed taking the ANV to Vicksburg to help out Pemberton instead of bringing the war into Pennsylvania. He easily convinced Mr. Davis that northern sentiment about continuing the war might be altered if the ANV could score a big victory on northern soil.

Finally, I would say General Lee suffered from hubris and mistakenly thought his army could never be defeated after his
"annus mirabilis" of '62-'63. At Gettsyburg I believe Lee was more than a little desperate to have waged war contrary to his Academy training fighting an offensive battle behind enemy lines.

I truly agree that General Grant had a broader vision of what was required to defeat the South and end the war. Some of this vision and strategy had to result from the experience gained from waging war in more than one theatre.

Gettysburger



 Posted: Sat Feb 11th, 2012 02:12 pm
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Wordmith and Gettysburger-

  I have to take issue with some of what you have written here.

  First of all, I will say that General Grant was the right man, in the right place, at the right time, to finally bring the war to an end. Mr. Lincoln finally found the right general, after years of employing the wrong ones. But in my view, Grant was not a brilliant man in either vision or intellect. I don't think that he ever claimed to be.

  What General Grant was was a fighter, a brawler. He had an ardent desire to engage the enemy, and was happiest when he could bring his opponents to battle. He was a puncher, not a boxer. He was like the one time heavyweight champion, Rocky Marciano. He never ceased coming forward, and would hit the opponent any time and anywhere that he could.

  Grant had no strategy beyond using the north's advantages in manpower and equipment to wear down his opponents in a war of attrition. That is why he ended prisoner exchange (The right thing to do from his position). He used his army to keep pounding away at the Confederates, continually bleeding and weakening them until they ran out of resources to resist. Like Mr. Lincoln, General Grant was willing to suffer whatever losses that were required to achieve the final victory.

  General Lee in his campaign in the north was attempting to win a significant victory for the purposes of gaining foreign intervention on the side of the Confederacy and to try to weaken the resolve of the northern people to continue the war. I believe that he was able to hold out in the eastern theater as long as anyone could have. In my view, the Confederacy was defeated in the west. Eventually, it became a hollow shell. Sending a significant portion of the ANV to the west would only have weakened Lee's ability to maintain the stalemate in the east. This he was able to do effectively until late in 1864, when the re-election of Mr. Lincoln ended the Confederacy's last hope of gaining independence.

  The generation of West Pointers that became senior leaders in the war was trained in Napoleonic tactics based on previous wars. At least in the early stages of the war, they failed to recognize that these tactics had to be modified due to advances in firepower and defensive tactics. It wasn't just General Lee who made at least one mistake in this way. Virtually all of the major figures did something similar. In the case of General Grant, there was the disaster at Cold Harbor in the spring of 1864. He freely admitted afterwards that it was a great blunder on his part.

  If there was a visionary of modern warfare among the northern generals, then that man was General Sherman, not General Grant. It was he who conceived the idea of the March, which was considered a risky scheme at that time. Grant trusted Sherman's judgement, and so gave his recommendation to Mr. Lincoln, who also went along. General Sherman was very admiring of Grant, but considered himself superior in knowledge and intellect. He said:

  "I'm a darn sight smarter than Grant; I know a great deal more about war, military histories, strategy and grand tactics than he does; I know more about organization, supply, and administration and about everything else than he does...."

  In spite of this, Sherman was all too happy to have General Grant in overall command. The reason was not that Grant was brilliant, but that he was fearless and kept his cool under pressure.

  General Grant was indeed a great general, because he knew how to use the great army that he was given to command. But he was not a visionary. He was a fighter who kept coming forward no matter how many times his nose was bloodied. He kept this up until he was able to pummel his opponents into submission.

Last edited on Sat Feb 11th, 2012 02:19 pm by Texas Defender



 Posted: Sat Feb 11th, 2012 02:34 pm
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Gettysburger
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  Texas Defender, I can't argue much about anything you stated.

Like you, I don't think Gen. Grant was brilliant or a great visionary. He did make great use of his armies and unlike his many predecessors in command, he was not afraid to take the battle to the enemy.

It is historical fact that the CSA generals in the west were bumbling. Beauregard, Bragg, and Joe Johnston and others left a lot to be desired and remind us that incompetents existed
in both the Union command and with the CSA until summer 1863.

I don't think there was much chance of foreign help for the CSA after the Emancipation and definitely not by July 1863?

As a Texas guy, you know the war in the West might have turned out very differently if Albert Sidney Johnston had not have been killed at
Shiloh?

Gettysburger




 Posted: Sat Feb 11th, 2012 02:53 pm
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Gettysburger-

  I agree that by 1863, the chances of foreign intervention were close to zero. The British had found alternative sources of cotton, and the French weren't going to do anything unless the Brits did.

  General Lee's campaign in the north had the additional objectives of trying to weaken the resolve of the northern people and reducing northern pressure on certain areas of Virginia. In my view, Lee would have been better off preserving his resources for defensive purposes, but he did not have the advantage of hindsight.

  As for Albert Sidney Johnston, no general was held in higher regard by Jefferson Davis. It is impossible to know what might have happened if he had not died at Shiloh. However, some have questioned his actions there and elsewhere, and whether or not he was deserving of Davis' high regard for his abilities.

  As for Joseph E. Johnston, unlike some on this board, I am not willing to consign him to the ranks of the incompetent. He certainly was not the aggressive type, but in my view he did well when conducting a defensive campaign.

Last edited on Sat Feb 11th, 2012 04:26 pm by Texas Defender



 Posted: Sat Feb 11th, 2012 04:30 pm
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Grant was the guy who just got things done. Nothing fancy...just got it done. Like it was mentioned...he had 4am courage. Cool as a cucumber. He produced decisive results everywhere he went. Including beating Lee in the end. I don't see how he can't be considered the best general of the war.



 Posted: Sun Feb 12th, 2012 01:36 am
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I wonder if they teach his tactics at West Point?



 Posted: Sun Feb 12th, 2012 01:52 am
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Old Blu-

  If you can obtain this publication, you might be able to find out.

Amazon.com: American Civil War (West Point Military History Series) (978089529



 Posted: Sun Feb 12th, 2012 02:11 am
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I agree with your thoughts.  Grant's strength was shown again and again, even on the verge of defeat, which he so often turned into victory.  Though he didn't win the Wilderness campaign and could not crush Lee at Spottsylvania, he proved to his men that he would never give up.  Lee knew this too.  The old fox had finally met his match.  Unlike McDowell, Pope, McClelland, Hooker, Burnside, and Meade, as Commander-in-chief of the Union forces Grant was totally relentless.  A reporter once saw him appear to break down during he Wilderness campaign.  He went into his tent and wept, yet when he emerged from the tent, the reporter saw the resolve in Grant's eyes return.  The reporter was greatly moved.  He was convinced that it was only a matter of time before the cause was won.  Unlike the other commanders who broke and stayed broken, Grant took stock of himself and forged ahead.

My favorite impression of this epoch, as told by a correspondent, is the picture of Ulysses S. Grant sitting under a tree whittling on a twig, sucking on his cigar, seemingly unruffled by the tumult around him. 

---- Wordsmith



 Posted: Sun Feb 12th, 2012 02:30 am
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As a Texan. myself, which matters little, I think that Grant was a pragmatist, much like Patton and other generals.  This was probably true for Lee also.  To say that he was not a visionary, however, is to overlook his ability to adapt to situations time and time again.  Perhaps he was not philosophical about the war, but his cold logic and spur of the moment decisions were the byproduct of his genius.  I disagree with the implication that he was not brilliant.  As a tactician and strategist, he may have seemed to stumble along at times, but he was brilliant general.  Let's not forgot who he was up against.  Most historians I have read would agree with the opinion that he was a military genius.  Comparing him to a boxer that continues to climb off the mat is an over-simplification for a very complicated man.

---- Wordsmith



 Posted: Sun Feb 12th, 2012 03:24 am
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It doesn't take vision to adapt when you plans are crumbling, it takes a willingness to keep going without having to fall back and make new plans. Grant was a bulldog who kept going forward, even in defeat. If his plans said he was to go to the right and that became unavailable to him, then he simply went left rather than retreat and replan everything. That's not vision, that realization of what is open to you and making selections that keep you moving in the general direction you want to go in. He was willing to loose because he knew that ultimately as long as he could keep up the pressure on Lee that he would win. That's not vision, that's realization of the difference of conditions between the two factions. Grant realized Federal forces had more manpower to bring up and could afford to loose men where the South couldn't.



 Posted: Sun Feb 12th, 2012 03:40 am
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You defined vision yourself by your own words, and you can't have vision without genius.  Historian E. B. Long wrote "that all through 1863 Grant shows up more and more as a great organizer of war, a side of his genius too often submerged because of the more spectacular events he engineered." Long argued that "Lincoln recognized this ability when he ordered Grant east to take command of all the armies and to direct the total war strategy. Lincoln needed a general who could fight, but, even more, one who could coordinate."  This acknowledgment of Grants vision and genius is recognized by most Civil War historians.

--- Wordsmith



 Posted: Sun Feb 12th, 2012 04:15 am
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Wordsmith-

  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.

Last edited on Sun Feb 12th, 2012 04:37 am by Texas Defender



 Posted: Sun Feb 12th, 2012 09:07 am
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Grant realized what the advantages of the Federal government were and used them. This isn't vision, it's using your advantages instead of wasting them. It doesn't take vision to know that when you can more readily afford to replace your troops and equipment than your enemy can that you can afford to throw your troops a the enemy in order to wear him down as long as you keep the pressure up. This is not saying Grant was an idiot. It's simply saying he wasn't looking far in advance as a visonary would. He was concentrating on the here and now.



 Posted: Sun Feb 12th, 2012 09:13 am
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Texas Defender wrote: Wordsmith-

  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.



 Posted: Sun Feb 12th, 2012 09:15 am
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Texas Defender wrote: Old Blu-

  If you can obtain this publication, you might be able to find out.

Amazon.com: American Civil War (West Point Military History Series) (978089529

Thanks, Tex.



 Posted: Sun Feb 12th, 2012 10:25 am
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Grant definitely didn't have much luck in civilian life. At West Point Longstreet was a fun loving, card playing guy, that was the life of the party. Grant was always the quiet type. Yet these two were the best of buddies there. Total opposites yet Longstreet highly valued his friendship throughout his life. There was nothing spectacular about Grant's resume.  Yet people saw something in the guy.

McClellan on the other hand had military success written all over him. On paper he should have been the guy that led the Army of the Potomac to crushing victories. He was successful in military and civilian life. Yet he wilted under the belief he was constantly outnumbered. It paralyzed him. At Antietam total victory was at hand....just a little more pressure and Lee's whole army would have collapsed. Anybody have doubts Grant would have sent in the last of the reserves to finish the job?

Grant won everywhere he went. He didn't always have superiority in numbers. His campaign against Vicksburg was studied in British military schools throughout the rest of the 19th Century. Grant also, like I've said before, did eventually beat Lee in the end.

Last edited on Sun Feb 12th, 2012 10:26 am by BHR62



 Posted: Sun Feb 12th, 2012 12:00 pm
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I might be off on a slight tangent here, but I keep seeing
the over simplification of why Gen. Grant and the Union was victorious.

There were far more reasons than a manpower(soldiers) superiority as the reason why the Union was successful in so many battles.

I won't go into the myriad reasons why the CSA lost the war.

But, a quick summary would have to include the CSA's lack of coordination from top levels of government(Davis/Stephens) all the way down to major difficulties in supply and transport of men and materiel due to the lack of uniformity of railroad
gauges.

The Confederacy had many more railroad miles in service than the Union but could not put them to the best use when
trains had to be unloaded and reloaded due to those differences in track gauge.

The great river systems(Ohio/Mississippi) were effectively used in '61-'62 by the CSA. But once Gen. Grant confiscated
Fts. Henry and Donelson on the Cumberland River, it was the beginning of the end of river traffic on the 2 bigger rivers.

The loss of these 2 forts may have been the first 'turning' point of the war for the CSA?

Certainly it proved to Mr.Lincoln that Gen. Grant was the right man to get the job done....

GB



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