The Generalship of Grant
I would highly recommend the books by JFC Fuller on Grant, “Grant and Lee” and “The Generalship of Ulysses S. Grant”. Fuller was an authors of quite a few military studies and a very fine military analyst. He has studied Grant and his campaigns quite extensively and finds Grant a great field commander. I have a question for those that have problems with Grant and wish to see him getting less praise and glory. Is this because of Grant and his generalship or is this because of the way that Thomas was treated? I know that there are those that are openly hostile to Grant and Sherman because they feel that Thomas was the better general and should have gotten more praise and glory than he did.
This was written by the late Paul Cowan in alt.war.civil.usa newsgroup. I think it's brilliant, I saved it. A good comparison of Grant and Lee, though it's decidedly pro-Grant.
Grant was a “great captain” in every sense that Clausewitz used it: he was bold, he was tenacious, he was a shrewd judge of subordinates, he had a winning strategic vision and held to it. Recently someone here asked how anyone could think that General Grant was a strategical genius. They asked, “It must be my ignorance because I can’t figure out why Grant gets high marks.Belmont ? Fort Henry ? Easy pickings I think. Fort Donelson was good but where was the genius here? Shiloh ? He “got caught with his pants down” and was saved by Buell. Vicksburg ? Yes, this plan seems a stroke of genius. But after Chattanooga , I think, belongs more to the Army of the Cumberland and Confederate complacency than Grant's genius. The sheer weight of numbers eventually took their toll on Lee... Grant was the right man for the job but I can’t see him as having a great military mind nor being a strategical genius. "
I disagree and will tell you why. In considering the relative skills of Lee and Grant, I have always thought it was useful to try to match their victories and defeats.
Early battles: Belmont , but to be fair one should also remember Lee's campaign in western (now West) Virginia against McClellan. Of the two, I would have to say Grant's limited objectives were satisfied, while Lee’s definitely were not. Advantage - Grant.
“Caught with pants down” - Again if one considers Shiloh a disaster on Grant's part, one should remember Lee had his Antietam . Both were caught off guard with their backs to a river. Both were saved by the last-minute arrival of re-enforcements (Buell & Wallace; Jackson & Hill). Lee’s army had been badly scattered while Grant’s had at least been concentrated (although not very alert). The bottom line is that Grant managed to hold the field, and made possible Halleck’s eventual capture of Corinth , while Lee had to sneak across the Potomac at night. Advantage - Grant.
Capturing garrisons – Lee captured Union garrisons at Harpers Ferry and Winchester , Grant at Forts Henry and Donaldson. In numbers captured, Grant is ahead (leaving aside Vicksburg and Appomattox ). Also Grant had a stiffer resistance at Donelson than Lee (actually Jackson and Ewell) at the two cities mentioned. Furthermore, Lee’s capture of Harpers Ferry was contributory to his defeat at Antietam, while Donelson did not necessarily imply that Shiloh would happen. Advantage - Grant.
Maneuvers - Grant extracted his army from under Lee’s nose at Cold Harbor and crossed the James for what might have been a quick victory at Petersburg . Lee bluffed Meade into retreating from the Rapidan back past Manassas , nearly doing to the “Snapping Turtle” the same thing he had done to Pope a year before. While both maneuvers were impressive, neither had their intended effect. Advantage - none.
Masterpieces - At Chancellorsville Lee not only divided his forces to flank Hooker, he also confronted in turn the two wings of the AotP (Sedgwick and Hooker) which had him boxed-in. In the campaign leading to Vicksburg , Grant intentionally interposed his own army between Pemberton's and Johnston 's, dividing his command to face East and West. Both took big risks. Lee had the support and enthusiasm of his chief lieutenant, Jackson. Grant's deputy, Sherman, wrote a letter of protest to Halleck in order to have it on-file in case of disaster. Advantage - even.
High-tide battles - Lee and Grant both suffered bloody repulses in the summer of 1863, at Gettysburg and Vicksburg respectively. Grant’s would have been less bloody had he NOT listened to one of his lieutenants (McClernand), while Lee SHOULD have listened to his (Longstreet). The bottom line is that Lee failed in his intended objective (whatever it was) and left his army in a depleted state from which it never fully recovered. Grant eventually won what was the most significant victory of the War. Decisive Advantage - Grant.
Besieged - The closest Grant came to being besieged (as was Lee at Richmond ) was at Chattanooga . While Grant was not as badly outnumbered, he did face Bragg at equal strength (in the beginning) and Bragg enjoyed a more significant advantage of terrain than Grant did later at Richmond . Grant’s army was perhaps more demoralized after (Rosecrans’s) defeat at Chickamauga , than was Lee's army after punishing Grant for a month. Grant was more innovative than Lee under their respective circumstances (opening the Cracker Line, testing both flanks with Hooker and Sherman). Lee's army was badly depleted, but he did have direct access to his base of supplies, while Grant had to create his own supply line to Chattanooga . I admit the comparison is hardly an equal one, but ... Advantage - Grant.
Improbable successes - Grant's attacks at Champion Hill and Missionary Ridge should never have succeeded, but did. In the same way, Lee’s assault against the well fortified hill at Gaines Mill should never have worked. Advantage - none.
Miscellaneous - I have omitted a number of relatively minor battles for Lee and omitted Corinth and Iuka for Grant, and several major ones. Second Manassas was as much of a masterpiece for Lee as was Chancellorsville . On the other side Grant ran down, surrounded and captured Lee's AoNoVa at Appomattox . Lee enjoyed the rare privilege of having Burnside attack him in a near prefect defensive position at Fredericksburg . Grant had the role of besieger at Petersburg , which Lee never had (Grant eventually made good his situation at the battle of Five Forks ). Grant’s successes at Petersburg and Appomattox were against a better general (Lee) than Lee’s against Pope and Burnside, but Lee faced better armies in 1862 than did Grant at the end of the war.
Bottom line - Clearly Grant had an advantage in man-power and material. Nevertheless, I score it Grant 5, Lee 1, plus a bonus point to Grant for the “High-tide Battles”. One final comment: Lee never won a victory in enemy territory, while Grant won all of his in the CSA.
Judy and Bob Huddleston
10643 Sperry Street
Northglenn, CO 80234-3612
"Don't argue with someone who claims the earth is flat. You haven't given it a second thought, whereas he has spent 20 years thinking about and obsessing over why it is flat."
- --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "Bill Gower" <billgower@c...>
> I would highly recommend the books by JFC Fuller on Grant, "Grant
> and "The Generalship of Ulysses S. Grant". Fuller was an authorsof quite a
> few military studies and a very fine military analyst. He hasstudied Grant
> and his campaigns quite extensively and finds Grant a great fieldcommander.
> I have a question for those that have problems with Grant and wishto see
> him getting less praise and glory. Is this because of Grant and hisI know
> generalship or is this because of the way that Thomas was treated?
> that there are those that are openly hostile to Grant and Shermanbecause
> they feel that Thomas was the better general and should have gottenmore
> praise and glory than he did.What books have you read on Thomas and why are you asking this
What other books have you read on Grant an Sherman?