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Old December 20th, 2016, 02:43 PM   #1
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Was Grant overrated?


Got into a whale of a argument last night, boys. A co-worker buddy of mine who is a huge American Civil War buff and even does reenactments. Yeah..one of those chaps. He is also a huge Ulysses Grant fan.

So I opined to him that I always thought his boy as overrated. In fact, absurdly so.

I think many generals coulda replicated Grant's success. Anybody who was moderately competent in matters of tactics and leadership, and was simply committed to fighting a war of cold attrition. Since he had the numbers to do so, as well as the green light from Lincoln. After McLellan's absurd reticence, a reckless leader who routinely threw his men into the meat grinder was seen as necessary. Grant was that man. I see no area he personally excelled in.

So...Who was right? Me or my mate? What say you?
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Old December 20th, 2016, 04:05 PM   #2
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Many other generals had the same chance as Grant, but failed. I don't know if Grant is rated high enough to be overrated. Everyone is aware of his flaws and deficiency.

His strenght wasn't in fighting a particular battle, but an overall strategy. Would another general have pursed those overall objectives as doggedly as Grant? His Vicksburg campaign was brilliant, and his crossing the Mississippi leaving his supply train behind was a bold move few generals would havd done.

You have to compare Grant's performance with those of the WW1, who wasted lives in pointless assaults. Technology had greatly changed since the last major war the US fought. The use of rifles, rather than smooth bore guns, greatly changed the dynamics of combat, greatly increasing the killing range of guns - a smooth bore musket had a range of 50 yard, but the riffle 300 yards. * Grant made many mistakes, but he seldom made the same mistake twice. Can we same the same of WW1 generals? And while he is criticized for his losses, it is commonly forgotten more soldiers were lost due to disease than battle. Having soldiers just sitting around would result in losses. In proportion to his army, Grant's losses were no greater than Lee, and his actions ultimately led to victory, while Lee's led to ultimate defeat.
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Old December 20th, 2016, 04:07 PM   #3

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Originally Posted by Yossarian View Post
Grant was that man. I see no area he personally excelled in.

So...Who was right? Me or my mate? What say you?
I could swear, there was another thread just like this one...
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Old January 2nd, 2017, 09:06 AM   #4

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Well the North did have more troops, more materiel, and more industry.

Grant was adequate, though imho Washington was the best American general. I think a great commander in any service (army, navy, air force, marines) is about thinking out of the box. I think you have a point, Grant had an advantage in his strategic position and arsenals.

But it's also about inspiration and leadership to, and communicating and getting men to die and fight. A good general, but not an all-time great.
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Old January 2nd, 2017, 09:31 AM   #5

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Originally Posted by Bart Dale View Post
Many other generals had the same chance as Grant, but failed. I don't know if Grant is rated high enough to be overrated. Everyone is aware of his flaws and deficiency.

His strenght wasn't in fighting a particular battle, but an overall strategy. Would another general have pursed those overall objectives as doggedly as Grant? His Vicksburg campaign was brilliant, and his crossing the Mississippi leaving his supply train behind was a bold move few generals would havd done.

You have to compare Grant's performance with those of the WW1, who wasted lives in pointless assaults. Technology had greatly changed since the last major war the US fought. The use of rifles, rather than smooth bore guns, greatly changed the dynamics of combat, greatly increasing the killing range of guns - a smooth bore musket had a range of 50 yard, but the riffle 300 yards. * Grant made many mistakes, but he seldom made the same mistake twice. Can we same the same of WW1 generals? And while he is criticized for his losses, it is commonly forgotten more soldiers were lost due to disease than battle. Having soldiers just sitting around would result in losses. In proportion to his army, Grant's losses were no greater than Lee, and his actions ultimately led to victory, while Lee's led to ultimate defeat.
As did Haig, Foch, etc. This is why tanks were introduced, early bombers, stormtroopers, etc. it's wrong to say the WWI generals were butchers.
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Old January 16th, 2017, 08:24 PM   #6

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Originally Posted by Yossarian View Post
Got into a whale of a argument last night, boys. A co-worker buddy of mine who is a huge American Civil War buff and even does reenactments. Yeah..one of those chaps. He is also a huge Ulysses Grant fan.

So I opined to him that I always thought his boy as overrated. In fact, absurdly so.

I think many generals coulda replicated Grant's success. Anybody who was moderately competent in matters of tactics and leadership, and was simply committed to fighting a war of cold attrition. Since he had the numbers to do so, as well as the green light from Lincoln. After McLellan's absurd reticence, a reckless leader who routinely threw his men into the meat grinder was seen as necessary. Grant was that man. I see no area he personally excelled in.

So...Who was right? Me or my mate? What say you?
You view appears to borrow heavily from the Lost Cause mischaracterization of Grant as a butcher who won solely based on superior men and material. McDowell, McClellan, Pope, Burnside, Hooker, and Meade had those same advantages, yet they never took Richmond. And while many dismiss those men as not even "moderately competent"; Meade beat Lee, while Pope, Burnside, and Hooker regularly beat their Confederate opponents when they weren't facing Lee.

While the Union certainly had the advantage in manpower and industry, history is full of examples of the more populous, more industrialized nation losing. Confederates were proud to be called rebels, hearkening back to their Revolutionary War grandparents, who faced a worse disadvantage in manpower and industry. In addition to their disadvantages, the Confederacy also had advantages. Confederate territory was about the size of modern France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Poland combined and not even Napoleon had been able to take and hold that. Much of Confederate territory was good defensive ground. The Confederacy had the advantages of interior lines and fighting on home ground. Further, the minie ball and advances in artillery meant period warfare favored the defense.

Grant was quite capable of maneuver when the physical and political geography allowed it, such as the Vicksburg Campaign. His Chattanooga Campaign is also worth studying. When Grant came east, he inherited an Army with a culture of defeat. They were good enough to beat Lee, they’d proved it at Gettysburg, but much of the Army of the Potomac’s leadership was still worried that Lee was about to fall on both flanks and their rear at any moment. Grant did not have the clout to remove political generals yet – he was stuck with Butler to command the army of the James and Sigel to command in the Valley. Grant also had to coordinate between Meade and Burnside, since the latter had a separate force and outranked Meade. In addition, Grant was operating on the strategic level, a level Lee never operated on. Grant did not just engage in a war of attrition, he coordinated multiple simultaneous thrusts under Sherman, Meade, Sigel, and Butler, as well as smaller cavalry raids.

Grant faced the largest, best lead, and best supplied army in the Confederacy. The Confederates were fighting on home ground with good lines of communication and good defensive terrain. Every previous attempt against Lee had ended in defeat, often humiliating defeat for Union forces. Lee had years of experience in the theatre, years to learn the abilities and mettle of the officers and men of both armies, years to learn the terrain, years to show the Army of Northern Virginia that he could lead. Grant was new to the theatre. Pope’s blundering had left the AotP uncertain about any western general sent to take command. The Army of the Potomac had proved too big for any previous general to handle properly.

Forty days later, the Union Army was at the outskirts of Petersburg. Lee had already acknowledged it was just a matter of time for the Confederacy. If not for the failures of Sigel and Butler, who Grant didn't want, Richmond would have fallen in 1864.
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Old January 17th, 2017, 08:00 PM   #7

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Grant vs Lee in the Overland Campaign, and the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia.
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Old January 18th, 2017, 04:04 AM   #8

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Originally Posted by Lord Fairfax View Post
I could swear, there was another thread just like this one...
A "Grant is overrated thread"...we get one about every week
mostly together with a "General Lee is overrated" and "Stonewall Jackson was a messiah" thread.

But more on topic: It's hard to say Grant was overrated, since he brought victories where his predecessors only got defeats, or stalemates at best.
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Old February 6th, 2017, 12:33 AM   #9

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I don't know how Grant can be regarded as overrated. Many think of him as a guy who kept shoving his men into action until the job was done, not as a military genius. He had the the advantage of numbers; supplies, and most and everything else, so time was on his side.
Lincoln said it best: "I can't spare this man – he fights."
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Old February 18th, 2017, 08:49 PM   #10

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yossarian View Post
Got into a whale of a argument last night, boys. A co-worker buddy of mine who is a huge American Civil War buff and even does reenactments. Yeah..one of those chaps. He is also a huge Ulysses Grant fan.

So I opined to him that I always thought his boy as overrated. In fact, absurdly so.

I think many generals coulda replicated Grant's success. Anybody who was moderately competent in matters of tactics and leadership, and was simply committed to fighting a war of cold attrition. Since he had the numbers to do so, as well as the green light from Lincoln. After McLellan's absurd reticence, a reckless leader who routinely threw his men into the meat grinder was seen as necessary. Grant was that man. I see no area he personally excelled in.

So...Who was right? Me or my mate? What say you?
He was a great commander, one of the best. He wasn't as flexibly brilliant as Lee but he had the solid, determined skill to get the job done against skilled and seasoned opposition and succeeded. McClellan had the means to do it before him and was an abject failure. And throwing one's overwhelming forces against smaller opposition doesn't always succeed, one need only look at the Battle of the Bulge to prove this. Grant's plan for winning the war was sound and he carried it off to victory.
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