What is your opinion of Ulysses S. Grant?

Oct 2017
79
South Australia
#1
Here are some further questions, but I'm most interested in hearing your general opinions first:

Hero of the Union, or butcher of men and bad President?

Was he the greatest general of the war?
 
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Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,642
Dispargum
#2
Clearly a below-average president, too personally honest and trusting of others to ever succeed in politics.

The reputation of butcher is unwaranted. He may have even saved lives by shortening the war. No one else had figured out a way to win it.

Yes, Grant was the war's biggest hero. Only Sherman comes close but he is clearly second.
 
Jan 2010
4,364
Atlanta, Georgia USA
#3
Grant is my American hero. When he (or his close associate Shsrman) was in command, the Union generally won battles and when not, it generally lost.

He recovered from a very bad first stint in the Army and rose to supreme command and then to President.

He wasn’t a great President, but his Reconstruction policies were generally successful and he broke the first Ku Klux Klan—an early terrorist Organization.

He lost most of his money in a financial scam and then recovered by writing one of the best military memoirs ever before his death from cancer.

For too many years his reputation was denigrated by pro-Confederate historians.

Edit: He and Sherman also pursued the “indirect approach” in military strategy—try to outflank the enemy rather than attack head-on. There were only a few battles in which he unwisely tried direct assaults and from those exceptional battles he got the name of “butcher.”
 
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Edratman

Ad Honorem
Feb 2009
6,460
Eastern PA
#4
Grant is my American hero. When he (or his close associate Shsrman) was in command, the Union generally won battles and when not, it generally lost.
I also am a huge admirer of General Grant. An extremely successful general and gentleman with extraordinary vision exhibited by his lenient treatment of rebel soldiers when they surrendered. Grant was a terrible president because the greed and selfishness of powerful citizens that he could not control was well outside of his experiences as a commanding general.
 
Oct 2015
735
Virginia
#5
Grant was the best strategic/operational commander of the American Civil War. Probably only Napoleon was superior, and Moltke (maybe Lee and Thomas) come close in the 19th century.(?) The campaigns against Forts Henry and Donelson, Vicksburg, the James River maneuver on Petersburg, and the destruction of three enemy field armies are hard to match.

For what its worth, I've never understood the high regard most have for Sherman. On what is it based? I've remarked before that he had a brilliant mind, he was a capable commander, a good leader, an able logistician and a loyal subordinate; but are wars really won by marching around the countryside tearing up railroads and killing livestock? A commander must fight the enemy and destroy his field force. Sherman avoided fighting when he could (probably because he wasn't very good at it) and he could "make Georgia howl" because Thomas destroyed the enemy enemy army.(?)
 
Feb 2019
318
Pennsylvania, US
#7
I am very convinced that Grant was perhaps one of the greatest of men who in his lifetime received some of the worst, most calculated efforts to sabotage his reputation and career. Whether by fabricating stories of his mismanagement or distorting stories of his drinking into gross fabrications, everyone seemed like they wanted to drag Grant down, in order to raise themselves up (by basically grinding him into the dirt as they climbed over him). The fact that this didn't leave Grant bitter and unforgiving speaks of the largesse of what, on the surface, seemed like a rather retiring sort of man. He was a ruthless tactician. He was an excellent horseman (who always credited the horse with the skill, never himself). He would (literally, to his own detriment) give his last dollar to a friend. He had a sort of humility to him - that so contrasts itself to McClellan's frankly nauseating opinion of himself - that made him accept the demotions and mistreatment he received with such decorum and forbearance... it makes me cheer all the more for him, hundreds of years after the fact, when he was raised again and recognized for the unassuming genius he possessed.

Beyond his public face, he was a truly kind, honest, honorable person... reading accounts of his life, his love of his wife and children, his gentleness to animals, his loyalty to his friends, his abolitionist convictions, his unbiased compassion for the fallen of both sides (contrast this with Jackson's attitude!)... he was remarkable.

In short, I think he's swell. ;)
 
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Oct 2017
79
South Australia
#8
I am very convinced that Grant was perhaps one of the greatest of men who in his lifetime received some of the worst, most calculated efforts to sabotage his reputation and career. Whether by fabricating stories of his mismanagement or distorting stories of his drinking into gross fabrications, everyone seemed like they wanted to drag Grant down, in order to raise themselves up (by basically grinding him into the dirt as they climbed over him). The fact that this didn't leave Grant bitter and unforgiving speaks of the largesse of what, on the surface, seemed like a rather retiring sort of man. He was a ruthless tactician. He was an excellent horseman (who always credited the horse with the skill, never himself). He would (literally, to his own detriment) give his last dollar to a friend. He had a sort of humility to him - that so contrasts itself to McClellan's frankly nauseating opinion of himself - that made him accept the demotions and mistreatment he received with such decorum and forbearance... which makes me cheer all the more for him, hundreds of years after the fact, when he was raised again and recognized for the unassuming genius he possessed.

Beyond his public face, was a truly kind, honest, honorable person... reading accounts of his life, his love of his wife and children, his gentleness to animals, his loyalty to his friends, his abolitionist convictions, his unbiased compassion for the fallen of both sides (contrast this with Jackson's attitude!)...

In short, I think he's swell. ;)
You paint a very nice picture of him, I enjoyed reading it ;)
 
Jan 2010
4,364
Atlanta, Georgia USA
#10
Grant was the best strategic/operational commander of the American Civil War. Probably only Napoleon was superior, and Moltke (maybe Lee and Thomas) come close in the 19th century.(?) The campaigns against Forts Henry and Donelson, Vicksburg, the James River maneuver on Petersburg, and the destruction of three enemy field armies are hard to match.

For what its worth, I've never understood the high regard most have for Sherman. On what is it based? I've remarked before that he had a brilliant mind, he was a capable commander, a good leader, an able logistician and a loyal subordinate; but are wars really won by marching around the countryside tearing up railroads and killing livestock? A commander must fight the enemy and destroy his field force. Sherman avoided fighting when he could (probably because he wasn't very good at it) and he could "make Georgia howl" because Thomas destroyed the enemy enemy army.(?)
To destroy the enemy’s ability and will to fight without engaging directly in battle is the idea of the “indirect approach”. Sherman used it almost perfectly in the Atlanta campaign and the March to the Sea and the later march through the Carolinas. Much more humane way to win a war.

Sherman was pretty good in pitched battles—the Union Army won all the battles around Atlanta except when Sherman foolishly tried to attack at Kennesaw Mountain.