Quote of the Day: Gen. Grant at Ft. Donelson

 

This quote is taken from Ron Chernow’s excellent biography. Gen. Grant’s men took Ft. Henry easily in February 1862. The fort was poorly constructed and was nearly inundated by rising river waters. He then marched to Ft. Donelson. Its loss cost the South 12,000 surrendered men and opened the Cumberland River to Union penetration. The top two Confederate commanders (Floyd and Pillow) fled leaving Gen Buckner to surrender. Buckner had helped Grant when he was down on his luck in the 1850s. However, Grant demanded unconditional surrender which Buckner reluctantly accepted.

After their greetings, Grant asked [Buckner] why Pillow had fled. “Well, he thought you would rather have hold of him than of any other man in the Southern Confederacy.” “Oh no,” Grant smirked. “If I had got him I’d have let him go again; he will do us more good commanding you fellows.” Grant and Buckner, both veterans who remembered Pillow from Mexico, shared a good laugh at this caustic remark.

This victory resulted in Grant being promoted to Major General and eventually command of all Union armies. At the end of Grant’s life, Buckner visited him and introduced him to his new wife (his son became a Lt. General and was killed at Okinawa). The book portrays Grant as defending the freed slaves but also reaching out to the defeated Confederate soldiers. Even Jefferson Davis sent Grant a sympathetic message upon hearing that he had cancer.

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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Richard Easton: “If I had got him I’d have let him go again; he will do us more good commanding you fellows.”

    Laughing so hard. I have known a few like that.

    • #1
  2. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Some men know how to end a civil war. Pray G-d we still have some of them.

    • #2
  3. Raxxalan Member
    Raxxalan
    @Raxxalan

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Some men know how to end a civil war. Pray G-d we still have some of them.

    Unfortunately I fear it will go harder for us this next time.   While I believe that some believed that Civil War was a holy mission, they didn’t treat it as a holy war.  The next time it will be a holy war, with both sides as each other’s heretics.

    • #3
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Raxxalan (View Comment):
    Unfortunately I fear it will go harder for us this next time.

    If that was on the level of “not too bad,” I think I’ll skip the “really bad” one, thanks.

    • #4
  5. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    I’m going to have to include that one in my Great Insults of All Time series.

    • #5
  6. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    Raxxalan (View Comment):
    While I believe that some believed that Civil War was a holy mission, they didn’t treat it as a holy war.

    I’ve read that some Confederates, after the war, said that they were very offended by the Battle Hymn of the Republic precisely because it did treat the war as a holy crusade.

    • #6
  7. Raxxalan Member
    Raxxalan
    @Raxxalan

    David Foster (View Comment):

    Raxxalan (View Comment):
    While I believe that some believed that Civil War was a holy mission, they didn’t treat it as a holy war.

    I’ve read that some Confederates, after the war, said that they were very offended by the Battle Hymn of the Republic precisely because it did treat the war as a holy crusade.

    That is why I think some saw it or rather framed it as a holy mission.  Although on the whole they didn’t conduct it such a manner.  Certainly it was no where near as vicious as the Crusades, the Wars of the Reformation, or the Sunni Shia schism.  

    • #7
  8. Raxxalan Member
    Raxxalan
    @Raxxalan

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Raxxalan (View Comment):
    Unfortunately I fear it will go harder for us this next time.

    If that was on the level of “not too bad,” I think I’ll skip the “really bad” one, thanks.

    From you lips to G_d’s ears.

    • #8
  9. J Climacus Member
    J Climacus
    @JClimacus

    FYI the name is Fort Donelson, not Donaldson.

    • #9
  10. Richard Easton Coolidge
    Richard Easton
    @RichardEaston

    J Climacus (View Comment):

    FYI the name is Fort Donelson, not Donaldson.

    Corrected.  Thanks!

    • #10
  11. Jeff Giambrone Coolidge
    Jeff Giambrone
    @JeffGiambrone

    “I started out in May, 1861, from home with the expressed intention of cleaning up all yankeedom.  I had been taught by demagogues and politicians to believe that I could whip a “Cowpen full” of common Yankees.  I lived and acted under this delusion till Gen. Grant and his army met us at Fort Donelson.  I soon found that the Yankees could shoot as far and as accurately as I could, and from then until the end of the war I was fully of the opinion that the United States Army was fully prepared to give me all the fight I wanted.”

     

    – 2nd Lieutenant George E. Estes of Company A, 14th Mississippi Infantry

    • #11
  12. Vectorman Inactive
    Vectorman
    @Vectorman

    Richard Easton: The book portrays Grant as defending the freed slaves but also reaching out to the defeated Confederate soldiers.

    After visiting Appomattox Court House and learning how Grant treated Robert E. Lee, this doesn’t seem surprising.


    The Quote of the Day series is the easiest way to start a fun conversation on Ricochet. We have many open dates on the March Schedule. We’ve even include tips for finding great quotes, so choose your favorite quote and sign up today!

    • #12
  13. Shauna Hunt Coolidge
    Shauna Hunt
    @ShaunaHunt

    Now I need to read it.

    • #13
  14. Richard Easton Coolidge
    Richard Easton
    @RichardEaston

    Shauna Hunt (View Comment):

    Now I need to read it.

    It’s a big book but is a great read.

    • #14
  15. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Grant was an brilliant general and has received some bad press. He also made some poor decisions as President. Still, he is one of my favorite generals. (Not that I have a lot of them, but his is a great story. Thanks, @richardeaston!

    • #15
  16. Mike "Lash" LaRoche Inactive
    Mike "Lash" LaRoche
    @MikeLaRoche

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Some men know how to end a civil war. Pray G-d we still have some of them.

    Indeed. Those who insist on tearing down Confederate monuments are intent on starting a new one.

    • #16
  17. Unwoke Caveman Lawyer Inactive
    Unwoke Caveman Lawyer
    @UnwokeCavemanLawyer

    I love the quote, but the suggestion that a general who fought in the Civil War had a son who was a lieutenant general and died in the Second World War also caught my eye!  I did a double take, but sure enough, 100% true:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Bolivar_Buckner_Jr.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Bolivar_Buckner

    His wife died of tuberculosis; he waited eleven years, but eventually took a second wife, a 28-year-old, at age 62.  He sired junior at age 63, who in turn became a lieutenant general and died in the Battle of Okinawa at age 58.

    What lives, both of them!  God rest them.

    • #17
  18. JamesSalerno Inactive
    JamesSalerno
    @JamesSalerno

    Richard Easton (View Comment):

    Shauna Hunt (View Comment):

    Now I need to read it.

    It’s a big book but is a great read.

    I read Jean Edward Smith’s Grant not too long ago but I really want to read Chernow’s too.

    • #18
  19. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Unwoke Caveman Lawyer (View Comment):
    I love the quote, but the suggestion that a general who fought in the Civil War had a son who was a lieutenant general and died in the Second World War also caught my eye!

    Last I checked, President John Tyler still had two living grandsons. Tyler was born in 1790.

    • #19
  20. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    JamesSalerno (View Comment):

    Richard Easton (View Comment):

    Shauna Hunt (View Comment):

    Now I need to read it.

    It’s a big book but is a great read.

    I read Jean Edward Smith’s Grant not too long ago but I really want to read Chernow’s too.

    I loved Chernow’s book. He worked hard to be balanced on the controversies.

    • #20
  21. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    J Climacus (View Comment):

    FYI the name is Fort Donelson, not Donaldson.

    J,

    After struggling with the dilemma, “correct or not?” for years, I discovered ;-) the idea of sending a Private Message to the author, expressing my admiration for his or her piece, and suggesting any edits I thought he would be

    • delighted to get, but
    • less delighted to read in the public forum

    The response has been uniformly positive!

    (I always offer to eschew any future editorial Messages. Not once has a writer taken me up.)

    If you face the same conundrum, I hope you get the same happy results from this method. Writers will recognize from the fact that you took the time to write that you found their work especially worthwhile.

    (As for my own errors, please point out all of them in the Comments section. While I am  a very humble man by nature, being regularly and publicly humbled is cheap insurance against the onset of vanity, however unlikely. And I rarley make mistakes.)

     

    • #21
  22. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    And I rarley make mistakes.)

    😜

    • #22
  23. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    I recall hearing a stat once that in every battle large or small in the Civil War a West Point graduate was in command of one and usually both sides (I think I heard that during a parents orientation when my son entered West Point.)  In almost every American War, our military needs time to adapt to the fact that political skills useful to advancement in peacetime don’t necessary coincide with skills needed to be a great field commander.

    For example, George McClellan entered West Point at an early age, graduated second in his class, studied the technology and tactics of European armies and was a spectacular organizer who built the Army of the Potomac which became one of the finest fighting forces in the world by the end of the war.  But McClellan the intellectual was incapable of acting unless he thought he had a complete dataset.  He was paralyzed by the thought that Lee had some additional forces. Somewhere. Somehow. Imperfection information was unacceptable.

    In contrast,  Custer and Nathan Bedford Forrest were non-intellectuals (to put it charitably) but had spectacular physical courage and a sense of battle.  You would not want either of them to plan the Normandy landing but they would be very well-suited to getting the troops off the beach and inland when the landing took place.  In contrast, McClellan would have devised a brilliant plan but could never the pull the trigger what with the weather and the possible hidden movement of Panzer divisions and all that.

    Think of the layers of career West Point grads Lincoln had to wade through to finally get to the likes of Grant and Sherman.  I loved Shelby Foote’s description of Grant as having three o’clock in the morning courage, meaning difficult news at a moment that should be one of disorientation and panic would still receive a resolute and focused response. And a full grasp of the nature of the war he was fighting.

     

     

    • #23
  24. Nick H Coolidge
    Nick H
    @NickH

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    (As for my own errors, please point out all of them in the Comments section. While I am a very humble man by nature, being regularly and publicly humbled is cheap insurance against the onset of vanity, however unlikely. And I rarley make mistakes.)

    Well played.

    • #24
  25. Nick H Coolidge
    Nick H
    @NickH

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Grant was an brilliant general and has received some bad press. He also made some poor decisions as President. Still, he is one of my favorite generals. (Not that I have a lot of them, but his is a great story. Thanks, @richardeaston!

    Dan McLaughlin is writing at NR about how President Grant should be reconsidered as being at the least a better than average President, instead of the conventional wisdom that says he was one of the worst. I’m looking forward to the second article in the series.

    • #25
  26. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Nick H (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Grant was an brilliant general and has received some bad press. He also made some poor decisions as President. Still, he is one of my favorite generals. (Not that I have a lot of them, but his is a great story. Thanks, @richardeaston!

    Dan McLaughlin is writing at NR about how President Grant should be reconsidered as being at the least a better than average President, instead of the conventional wisdom that says he was one of the worst. I’m looking forward to the second article in the series.

    For me, the most exasperating part of his actions as President is that he kept ignoring the terrible things his appointees were doing. He would defend them, discount the accusations, in the face of mountains of evidence. Even when he was personally robbed from! How much weight that should be given is not clear.

    • #26
  27. Richard Easton Coolidge
    Richard Easton
    @RichardEaston

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Nick H (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Grant was an brilliant general and has received some bad press. He also made some poor decisions as President. Still, he is one of my favorite generals. (Not that I have a lot of them, but his is a great story. Thanks, @richardeaston!

    Dan McLaughlin is writing at NR about how President Grant should be reconsidered as being at the least a better than average President, instead of the conventional wisdom that says he was one of the worst. I’m looking forward to the second article in the series.

    For me, the most exasperating part of his actions as President is that he kept ignoring the terrible things his appointees were doing. He would defend them, discount the accusations, in the face of mountains of evidence. Even when he was personally robbed from! How much weight that should be given is not clear.

    Almost to his deathbed this was a problem for him.  He wrote his autobiography to leave money for his family after being swindled by Ward.  I knew in Jr. High a descendant of Babcock.

    • #27
  28. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    Nick H (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Grant was an brilliant general and has received some bad press. He also made some poor decisions as President. Still, he is one of my favorite generals. (Not that I have a lot of them, but his is a great story. Thanks, @richardeaston!

    Dan McLaughlin is writing at NR about how President Grant should be reconsidered as being at the least a better than average President, instead of the conventional wisdom that says he was one of the worst. I’m looking forward to the second article in the series.

    See also President Grant Reconsidered by Frank J. Scaturro.  (Started 20 years ago…to bad this movement hasn’t picked up more steam before now.

    Powerline also had a couple of good posts on the history of the history of Grant about the time Chernow’s book was about to come out. Here’s one:

    https://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2017/10/ron-chernows-grant.php

     

    • #28
  29. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    Richard Easton (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Nick H (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Grant was an brilliant general and has received some bad press. He also made some poor decisions as President. Still, he is one of my favorite generals. (Not that I have a lot of them, but his is a great story. Thanks, @richardeaston!

    Dan McLaughlin is writing at NR about how President Grant should be reconsidered as being at the least a better than average President, instead of the conventional wisdom that says he was one of the worst. I’m looking forward to the second article in the series.

    For me, the most exasperating part of his actions as President is that he kept ignoring the terrible things his appointees were doing. He would defend them, discount the accusations, in the face of mountains of evidence. Even when he was personally robbed from! How much weight that should be given is not clear.

    Almost to his deathbed this was a problem for him. He wrote his autobiography to leave money for his family after being swindled by Ward. I knew in Jr. High a descendant of Babcock.

    The appearance of Mark Twain as part of this saga makes for some very interesting American history.

    • #29
  30. philo Member
    philo
    @philo

    Unwoke Caveman Lawyer (View Comment):

    I love the quote, but the suggestion that a general who fought in the Civil War had a son who was a lieutenant general and died in the Second World War also caught my eye! I did a double take, but sure enough, 100% true:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Bolivar_Buckner_Jr.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Bolivar_Buckner

    His wife died of tuberculosis; he waited eleven years, but eventually took a second wife, a 28-year-old, at age 62. He sired junior at age 63, who in turn became a lieutenant general and died in the Battle of Okinawa at age 58.

    What lives, both of them! God rest them.

    Apologies for the diversion but, along these lines, see this from two years ago:

    President John Tyler Has 2 Living Grandsons

    • #30
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