US Grant Anniversary Post

 

This is U.S. Grant’s bicentennial year, so you’ll keep hearing about the great general from me. Here’s what I said earlier:

April 27th marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of our greatest general since Washington, Ulysses S. Grant, the man who saved the Union in the daring Vicksburg Campaign, & who eventually commanded the Union armies to victory all the way to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, vindicating the principles of the Declaration of Independence as ratified in the Constitution. He is the great American who enacted Lincoln’s policy even after his martyr-like assassination on April 15, 1865. At the end of that eventful month, Grant turned 43, and he was the greatest man alive.

Today is the anniversary of his death—July 23, 1885, not long after his 63rd birthday, so I post it again: Here’s my essay for L&L on Grant’s thinking on the political aspect of the Civil War.

Later in the year, I have a much larger essay coming out, on his wonderful Memoirs, in Modern Age. Read the Memoirs—wonderful summer reading!

Published in General
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  1. Gary Robbins Member
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    Grant was a great General.  He was also an unappreciated President.  We were lucky to have him.

    • #1
  2. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    Some would put another in that spot.

     

    • #2
  3. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    I can’t recommend The Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant highly enough.

    • #3
  4. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    He’s over rated.  He got victories based almost solely on his willingness to throw as many of his own men to be slaughtered.  Thomas was a much better, under appreciated general, he never lost a battle where he was in command, he completely destroyed multiple confederate armies, and he kept casualties to a comparatively low rate.  Thomas suffered from the fact that his victories looked easy because they were so brilliant.

    Grant was only great in comparison to his predecessors in the east who were too interested in politics and not in winning battles.  Grant gets points for winning, but he took over after Lee’s army was mostly on its last legs, getting smaller and lacking any ability to grow in strength, while his army was growing and benefitting from a powerful economy.  I agree that Grant was smart to take advantage of this, but it doesn’t make him brilliant.

    His command at Vicksburg was indeed very well done.

    He wasn’t bad, but he is far from the greatest this country had.  I’d put Eisenhower way above him.  I’d put Pershing way above him.  In fact, I’d put Lee, Stonewall Jackson , and a few other Confederates above him.

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):
    Grant was a great General.  He was also an unappreciated President.  We were lucky to have him.

    Good grief, he was a terrible president.  The amount of corruption in his administration was almost unparalleled for his day (sadly, we’ve gotten much worse).

    • #4
  5. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Sherman told Grant after the Vicksburg Campaign that Grant was willingly putting himself into a position that the South would have maneuvered for a year to get him into, on the wrong side of the river with his lines of communication severed. Grant defeated one Confederate army and sealed up a second at Vicksburg. Sherman told Grant “you were right and I was wrong.” Then Sherman duplicated Grant’s tactics on a larger scale across Georgia. He did that after Grant went east and kept non-stop pressure on Lee so that Lee couldn’t spare any troops to help deal  with Sherman.

    • #5
  6. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Vicksburg, indeed, shows all Grant’s powers as a general–the patience & looking into each of the various ways of crossing the Mississippi; the unheard of daring of abandoning everything to get into the fight, among enemy armies of superior numbers, without anything like their knowledge of the local situation; meticulous plans for marches & attacks that left very little opening for enemy action; the confidence in his judgment of the characters of the generals he was fighting; adequate control of his own generals, who were not uniformly able or willing to execute his plans; the amazing leadership of men asked to do all this…

    • #6
  7. Unsk Member
    Unsk
    @Unsk

    Grant was a much better President that he was given credit for.

    The nation had been torn asunder.  As  he took office he had four priorities: Approaching Reconstruction”calmly, without prejudice, hate or sectional pride,  restoring confidence in the Dollar,  approaching foreign policy so America would be respected around the world and the lastly passage of the fifteenth Amendment which established voting rights.  

    He established the Department of Justice, he signed into law the Naturalization Act of 1870 which allowed those of African descent to become citizens,  he met with various Inidan chiefs in an effort to promote peace with the Indians, he passed Force Act to deal with the Klan,  he signed the Amnesty Act of 1872 to give amnesty to all but 500 of the worst confederates. He also set up the Civil Service Commission to reform much of the corrupt patronage for federal jobs.

    However, after the next presidency in the Compromise of 1877, reconstruction was done away with and much racial discrimination came back to the South. 

    • #7
  8. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Thanks for an excellent article.  Also the comments, including Skyler’s which had been my understanding of both his generalship and presidency.  History is complex and impossible to capture perfectly, so these contrasts are important.  Currently we’re seeing more clearly what can happen when the professional military is old and its leaders self serving.   What the hell do we do as the Chinese are dedicated to our destruction and our military seems to go along with Biden who is in their coin pocket.  If the Democrats steal the next election which they’ll try, but may not accomplish, we’ll have to separate or rapidly move in that direction, and will have to take some of the best of the military as well as equipped bases with us.  Lordy, what a mess. 

    • #8
  9. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    I am a damned sight smarter man than Grant. I know more about military history, strategy, and grand tactics than he does. I know more about supply, administration, and everything else than he does. I’ll tell you where he beats me though and where he beats the world. He doesn’t give a damn about what the enemy does out of his sight, but it scares me like hell. … I am more nervous than he is. I am more likely to change my orders or to countermarch my command than he is. He uses such information as he has according to his best judgment; he issues his orders and does his level best to carry them out without much reference to what is going on about him and, so far, experience seems to have fully justified him.

    — William Tecumseh Sherman

    • #9
  10. MWD B612 "Dawg" Member
    MWD B612 "Dawg"
    @danok1

    Skyler (View Comment):

    He’s over rated. He got victories based almost solely on his willingness to throw as many of his own men to be slaughtered. Thomas was a much better, under appreciated general, he never lost a battle where he was in command, he completely destroyed multiple confederate armies, and he kept casualties to a comparatively low rate. Thomas suffered from the fact that his victories looked easy because they were so brilliant.

    Grant was only great in comparison to his predecessors in the east who were too interested in politics and not in winning battles. Grant gets points for winning, but he took over after Lee’s army was mostly on its last legs, getting smaller and lacking any ability to grow in strength, while his army was growing and benefitting from a powerful economy. I agree that Grant was smart to take advantage of this, but it doesn’t make him brilliant.

    His command at Vicksburg was indeed very well done.

    He wasn’t bad, but he is far from the greatest this country had. I’d put Eisenhower way above him. I’d put Pershing way above him. In fact, I’d put Lee, Stonewall Jackson , and a few other Confederates above him.

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):
    Grant was a great General. He was also an unappreciated President. We were lucky to have him.

    Good grief, he was a terrible president. The amount of corruption in his administration was almost unparalleled for his day (sadly, we’ve gotten much worse).

    I don’t know if I agree with all of this, but I will say that the actual “greatest general since Washington” would not have a stain like Cold Harbor on his record. Almost criminal negligence.

    • #10
  11. davenr321 Coolidge
    davenr321
    @davenr321

    Unsk (View Comment):

    Grant was a much better President that he was given credit for.

    However, after the next presidency in the Compromise of 1877, reconstruction was done away with and much racial discrimination came back to the South.

    Given the circumstances, Grant was exceptional. Had he a third term I believe the country would have been spared the next hundred years’ strife concerning civil rights. Garfield’s would have been Grant’s third term and likely would have put back together what Hayes (who always should have a spot in a top ten worst Presidents list) wrecked. Grant ought always be in the top half of a best Presidents list.

     

    • #11
  12. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Unsk (View Comment):

    Grant was a much better President that he was given credit for.

    The nation had been torn asunder. As he took office he had four priorities: Approaching Reconstruction”calmly, without prejudice, hate or sectional pride, restoring confidence in the Dollar, approaching foreign policy so America would be respected around the world and the lastly passage of the fifteenth Amendment which established voting rights.

    He established the Department of Justice, he signed into law the Naturalization Act of 1870 which allowed those of African descent to become citizens, he met with various Inidan chiefs in an effort to promote peace with the Indians, he passed Force Act to deal with the Klan, he signed the Amnesty Act of 1872 to give amnesty to all but 500 of the worst confederates. He also set up the Civil Service Commission to reform much of the corrupt patronage for federal jobs.

    However, after the next presidency in the Compromise of 1877, reconstruction was done away with and much racial discrimination came back to the South.

    Indeed. He was not a great president, but he was surely one of the better ones, in a situation where there were no better options…

    • #12
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