"A shrewd reader of army men . . . "
- Happy Thanksgiving to all.
This morning I finished Grant’s Lieutenants, edited by Steven Woodworth. A
compilation of essays by ten historians, the book reflects a range of style
and bias that made it an interesting experience. While it doesn't add new
information, taken as a whole it throws a sharp beam on the effectiveness of
cooperation versus the futility of petty and self-serving snipping.
The Grant-Sherman-McPherson triumvirate is a case in point. All three men
were willing to applaud, encourage, endorse and most of all cooperate with
the other two to achieve an objective. The same can be said of several
others. Juxtaposed against a man like the dilettante McClernand, whose
rapacious appetite for fame undermined everyone, their mutual admiration
society seems all the more remarkable.
What really hit me though as I read this book was the realization of how hard
Grant had to work to pull it together in the West. Constantly maligned and
watched, he had to win over everyone who came to his command. Grant was
constantly doing a jig to someone else's tune. Whether it was Halleck sending
McPherson to check out the drinking stories or McClernand charged with a dual
command position, Grant had to be under amazing and continuous pressure.
Yet he did it -- I suppose by force of his focused determination and quiet
demeanor. He managed to get the navy, a natural enemy of the army to work
with him, outsmarted McClernand, impressed brilliant men like Dana and
McPherson, supported Dodge’s railroad work and intelligent gathering, and
still whipped them rebs. Wow! Talk about juggling balls and hitting the right
Its popular to defend men like Rosecrans by trotting out talent, skill and
command achievements or stating that Sherman never really proved himself in
battle before the famous march. The charge against Grant then becomes
favoritism. Of course there was favoritism! Grant wasn't playing a parlor
game. He needed people who had only one thing in mind -- winning, even if it
meant sacrificing momentary celebrity -- and he favored those men. Those who
got tangled in their own egos were not much use in getting to the prize. In
the end, what Grant assembled was a team willing to work in tandem for
victory rather than for personal glory. Ironically, there was plenty of glory
for those who worked to win and very little for those who chose the other
I am partial to one line written by Tamara A. Smith when McPherson moved
under Sherman's command. To me it says a great deal about why Grant was the
one who rose to the top. "Thus far in major campaigns, McPherson had always
acted under Grant’s orders, often verbal ones. Grant knew him well. A shrewd
reader of army men, Grant rarely, if ever, mistook their military skills."