The Generalship of Ulysses S. Grant and the American Civil War

Here’s Dr. Richard J. Sommers delivering a Perspectives in Military History lecture at the US Army Heritage and Education Center a few years ago.  Dr. Sommers is one of the most distinguished scholars of military history in general and the Civil War in particular.  His breadth and depth of knowledge constantly amazes me, and he’s an incredibly generous scholar, giving much aid to those who are doing research.

Yes, that’s yours truly asking the first question  🙂

The video’s description reads, “Ulysses S. Grant was neither a magnetic leader of Soldiers (such as George McClellan or George Patton) nor a military genius (in the mold of Robert E. Lee or Douglas MacArthur). Yet his qualities of command mark him as the best general in the Federal Army and one of the most successful generals in all of American history. Most significantly, he understood how to convert advantages into achievements. Our February program analyzes the generalship of Ulysses S. Grant, identifies his many strengths as a military commander, and yet also acknowledges limitations in his leadership. The presentation proceeds to place his generalship in the overall context of the American Civil War.”


One comment

  1. Bob Nelson · · Reply

    Good question, Al. His take on the Grant-Thomas relationship certainly seems plausible although I have never heard “Mean and petty and almost vindictive” as characteristics associated with Grant. Think his comment about Grant being able to clearly and cogently convey his “strategic vision” to his generals is right on target and have always felt that Lee was not so good at this. Instead of clearly communicating what he wanted, Lee made “suggestions” such as those to Jackson before Fredericksburg or the taking of Cemetery Hill. Similar things happened during the Seven Days’ where he would lay out a general plan and then largely leave it up to his subordinates to work out the details. Nice to be reminded that there actually was a Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1861. Talk about becoming a “footnote” as Sommers does early in the presentation speaking of Grant had he died in 1860, Patterson IS a footnote and I would bet that many CW aficionados would not even recognize his name.

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