Over the past months there is one thing about Grant critics here and
on other boards that I have never understood. Why they seem to
overlook or ignore what to me was Grant's single greatest military
miscue of the war. It was such a fundalmental and elementary error
that it seems to have been overlooked in the sea of nit picks and
semantics. It is also an error that Grant I believe never tried to
directly explain or really address in his Memories.
I confess I am no expert on Grant's actions in Virginia but in late
March and early April 1862 Grant had placed his Army on the wrong
side of the Tennessee River. How many pickets where or where not sent
out, whether or not it was a good idea to entrench or not to
entrench, Grant's excusable or unexcuseable absence from the front,
whether he purposely lied when he stated Sherman had been severly
wounded, etc... all seem to me to be various degrees of Monday
morning quarterbacking that really miss the HUGE mistake.
After the initial stabs at the Confederate rail roads clearly the
purpose of the campaign had become for Grant to wait for Buell to
hook up with his forces before the big push on Corinth.
IMHO Grant's placement of his forces on the West side of the
Tennessee River was an inexcusable error of the highest order and one
that one would expect of a Pope, Banks, or Butler. I have read where
Charles Smith was the one who made this decision and Grant merely
accepted it upon re-assuming command in late March. I am not sure
this is accurate and even if it was I do not see how it relieves
Grant from liability for an incredibly 'bonehead' decision. Grant had
more than enough time to change the troop dispositions after he was
reasigned to command on I think March 17 or 18. By placing his forces
(however arrayed) on the West side of the River Grant for no reason
whatsoever set the stage for a possible Union disaster.
For what it is worth this seems to me to have been the clearest,
biggest mistake Grant ever made while commanding troops in the West.
I think I am safe in ranking it up there with General Pillow's
Mexican War experience of digging trenchs which faced in the wrong
Does this mistake make Grant a bad military commander, in my book?
Not necessarily in view of his overall performance . But I do remain
puzzled why his present day critics fail to focus on this error and
instead concentrate on other areas of much more dubious substance.
I suppose I could be wrong-