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"A shrewd reader of army men . . . "

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  • Aurelie1999@aol.com
    Happy Thanksgiving to all. This morning I finished Grant’s Lieutenants, edited by Steven Woodworth. A compilation of essays by ten historians, the book
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 22, 2001
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      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
      notes.

      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
      path.

      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."
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