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Who's the better General? - Robert E. Lee - The Participants of the War - Mikitary & Civilian - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
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 Posted: Fri Jan 5th, 2007 01:13 pm
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Homeschool_Teen_01
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I was just wondering... if both Grant and Lee had the same provisions, same amount of men, same everything! Would Lee beat Grant by a long shot?  I think he would, just look at the casualties for Grant everytime he made an attack on Lee!!:shock:

CJ



 Posted: Fri Jan 5th, 2007 01:20 pm
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Johan Steele
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Who won; I think that is the final answer.



 Posted: Fri Jan 5th, 2007 10:31 pm
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Kentucky_Orphan
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This same question has been asked by historians (amateur and profesional) for years. It's interesting, I think, that the answer to this question has changed back and forth among those knowledgeable on the subject from time to time. That is, the majority at one point seems to think Grant was better, at another point Lee was better, then back to Grant and fluctuating as such. Untill very recently it seemed that Grant was underappreciated among todays historians, and now whenever you read an article or a trascript of a roundtable it seems that the majority believe Grant was the superior General.

So who was better? In the scenario you give, with both Generals being completely equal in terms of men and material, I think it is impossible to say DEFINITIVELY, simply because we never saw either general in such a position as this (completely equal forces with each General facing a very competent opponent.)

Lee was always outnumbered, always outgunned and undersupplied. Despite these severe limitations, and because of them, he cunningly assessed the situation, defied military convention (I believe that if you were to be given ths same scenario at OCS as Chancellorsville, then asked to come up with a soultion for the CS forces [of course, this would be without the knowledge we have today that it worked], they would drum you out of the service if your reply was the same as the solution Lee came up with), and won. He was, I believe, the only man North or South who could have done what he did with what he had.

Grant, on the other hand, was very suited to be the General for the army he was in direct command of as well. His mentality was prefect for a commander at the head of a larger, better supplied force. Bring superior force to bear, attrition is your ally...never let up and allow your opponent an opportunity to catch his breath.

So then, who would come out the victor if both were equally matched in regards to forces at their disposal? As I said, it is impossible to say with certainty, but my OPINION is that Lee would come out the victor.

I don't think Lee would have lost any of the audacity or aggresiveness that he had in spades if he were given the force you speak of Homeschool, and Grant would have been in a VERY bad position. Remember, Grant would be the one who HAD to take the offensive (due to the strategic situation) in the circumstances you describe, and having to attack a foe of equal strength during this time period is not a situation any General of the time period would want to be in.



 Posted: Fri Jan 5th, 2007 11:34 pm
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Johan Steele
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While Lee was masterful when it came to tactics he was abysmal when it came to strategy.  Grant in the Vicksburg Campaign was as masterful as they get.  The most decisive campaigjn of the War IMHO.



 Posted: Fri Jan 5th, 2007 11:55 pm
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Doc C
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Maybe so, but it took Grant 5 or 6 tries to get it right. Also, Pemberton wasn't an Einstein either. Why does it really matter? As I stated in an earlier post, it's like saying who is better the Yankees of the 30's or the 50's? As they said in Dragnet, lets stick to the facts.

Doc C



 Posted: Sat Jan 6th, 2007 12:31 am
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Doc C
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Johan

I agree totally that the Vicksburg might possibly be the most important campaign of the cw with champion hill the most important battle.

Doc C



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 Posted: Sat Jan 6th, 2007 01:41 am
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ole
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Lee built his rep on whupping up generals who didn't begin to approximate his abilities. Grant built his in very similar circumstances. When they finally met, Lee was beyond being able to put his best foot forward. Lee was a refined Jack Russell Terrier; Grant was a mongrel with a goodly percentage of pit bull. Lee's brilliance was best illustrated at Chancellorsville; Grant's at Vicksburg.

Doc mentioned Grant's tries at Vicksburg. Fair enough. But that was the essence of Grant -- keep working on it; if this doesn't work, try that -- he was inherently incapable of giving up or moving backwards. He did the same thing at Chattanooga and during the Overland Campaign. Occasionally brilliant, infrequently mistaken, always resolute.

I appreciate the argument that Grant whupped Lee only because Lee's army was much diminished by the time they faced each other. Lee's spectacular ability to out-general his overwhelming opposition came to an abrupt halt in May, 1864. Lee got a rude awakening with this new feller from the West. This new feller got a rude awakening when he met his match in the gentleman from Virginia.

If Lee had equal resources? Another 2 years of bloody hell. But he didn't. The rest is history.

Ole



 Posted: Sat Jan 6th, 2007 01:50 am
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Kentucky_Orphan
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I believe abysmal is much too strong a word for Lee's strategic thought process. While it certainly can be argued that Grant proved to be a greater strategic planner (Vicksburg was the most decisive campaign in the Civil War without a doubt), there is no indication that Grant would have crushed Lee if the forces available to him were the same as his opponent. It is important to remember how Grant won while in the east, and in the scenario Homeschool describes, his strategic thinking would have to be abandoned and a whole new strategy employed. Remember, the Austerlitz Chimera would not have to be achieved by Lee in order for things to turn out much differently than they did. One check, one time forcing Grant to pull back across the Potomac and baring a miracle the Generals actions from that point on would have been moot (Lincoln defeated, funding for war stops).

In my opinion, everyone who loves the United States should thank God (or thank science if you are an atheist, I suppose) Lee didn't have those assets. 

Oh, by the way, I detest the Yankees, but point taken Doc C.



 Posted: Sat Jan 6th, 2007 01:57 am
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ole
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Marse Robert was a better man.
Gonna hafta explain that to me JDC. Having notable bloodlines and an estate acquired by marriage makes one a better man? One was called a "butcher" and the other wasn't (although the casualties of both were quite comparable)? One superintended at West Point and the other was reduced to retailing leather in a family-owned business? One remained close to his wife and children while the other communicated with them through the mail? Please elaborate on what it takes to be a "better man."

Ole

Last edited on Sat Jan 6th, 2007 01:58 am by ole



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 Posted: Sat Jan 6th, 2007 07:45 am
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susansweet
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Ole  I know this was a serious topic but as  I was reading on I kept coming back to Lee being the refined Jack Russell and Grant a mongel  mainly pit bull.  what a great discription of the two generals.  I don't think I will forget that comparison very soon. 

Susan



 Posted: Sat Jan 6th, 2007 08:03 am
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susansweet
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 Austerlitz Chimera   can some one explain this term to me.  I know of the Battle of Austerlitz and I know what a Chimera is in Greek Mythology  I don't understand it in the contex of the Civil War .  Thanks for any enlightenment.  I learn something new everytime I read the postings. 

Susan



 Posted: Sat Jan 6th, 2007 04:59 pm
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ole
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I mean just that. A more noble soul, purer in thought and deed. Of greater character and moral strength. Unflinching commitment, exemplary conduct, and personal bravery in the line of fire.

Meaning no offense, JDC.  But that is unadulterated, aristocratic lost-cause claptrap. Purer in thought and deed? Saint Robert himself would be offended.

Ole



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 Posted: Sat Jan 6th, 2007 08:40 pm
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Kentucky_Orphan
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Susan:

The Austerlitz Chimera refers to the vain attempt by military commanders to seek a battle of anhilation (like the battle of Austerlitz). That is, instead of a prolonged campaign to defeat an enemy, a single battle that will result in the total destruction of the opponents army resulting in victory.



 Posted: Sat Jan 6th, 2007 09:41 pm
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susansweet
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Kentucky , thanks so much now it makes sense.  I had just never heard the term before.  I need a good Civil War military terms dictionary  I swear. 



 Posted: Sun Jan 7th, 2007 02:12 am
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Doc C
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Ole

I agree that Grant had a bull dog persoanality but might McClernand breathing down his neck at Vicksburg have something to do with his continuing to press on with the various plans to take Vicksburg? Any miss step by Grant might possibly cause Lincoln to replace him and cause Mcclenand's accension to the top position.

Doc C



 Posted: Sun Jan 7th, 2007 02:29 am
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Swamp Shadow
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Well, if they both had the same amount of everything it would come down to who was on the defensive side. In this case since Grant was more of an offensive general, Lee would probably win. If there was an inexhaustable amount of troops then Grant would win.



 Posted: Sun Jan 7th, 2007 02:29 am
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ole
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Doc:

Anything is possible, but Grant was tenacious and aggressive long before McC showed up and remained so long after McC left. This would indicate that any influence McC had on Grant at Vicksburg was minimal. (Other than the tufts of hair snatched out when McC delayed the crossing at Bruinsburg because he had "forgotten" to issue rations to his troups.)

Ole



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