February 14, 2013
Once again I revisit U.S. Grant. He has recently been reassessed by various historians who now think he was one of the greatest generals of all time. First, I will quote something Robert E. Lee said after the war about Grant, and what is now generally accepted as the truth, just to show how well Grant did under bad circumstances, but the second quote is a story about what it was like for him during the war.
When hearing Grant referred to as a “Military Accident,” with no distinguishing merit, one who had achieved success through a combination of fortunate circumstances, Lee responded by saying, “Sir, your opinion is a very poor compliment to me. We all thought Richmond protected, as it was, by our splendid fortifications and defended by our army of veterans, and could not be taken. Yet Grant turned his face to our capital and never turned it away until we had surrendered. Now, I have carefully searched the military records of both ancient and modern history, and have never found Grant’s superior as a general. I doubt his superior can be found in all history.” — General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia
“Grant the general had many qualities but he had a thing that’s very necessary for a great general. He had what they call “four o’clock in the morning courage. You could wake him up at four o’clock in the morning and tell him they had just turned his right flank and he would be as cool as a cucumber. Grant in the Wilderness, after that first night in the Wilderness, went to his tent, broke down, and cried very hard. Some of the staff members said they’d never seen a man so unstrung. Well, he didn’t cry until the battle was over, and he wasn’t crying when it began again the next day. It just shows you the tension that he lived with without letting it affect him… Grant, he’s wonderful.” — Shelby Foote, famous Civil War Author and Historian