Term Paper: Civil War and Grant

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[. . .] They are a responsibility giving much more pleasure than anxiety."

As a man, Grant was remarkably free of personal animosity. He was never vindictive In his entire life, he spoke disparagingly of very few, and they usually had done something to deserve it. He was certainly not fond of General Hooker or General McClernand, and in his political life, Sumner and President Andrew Johnson were two men he despised. On a personal level, Grant disliked rare meat, eating poultry (though he ate turkey constantly in the White House), liars, cheats, dancing, "immorality" and he generally avoided off-color stories. His Secretary of State said that the General had a great aversion for adulterers, though he certainly surrounded himself with plenty while in the army.

As a soldier, Grant was unbelievably courageous on the battlefield. If he felt fear, he never showed it. He amazed and worried his aides when he routinely sat on his horse in the midst of a battle, with bullets whizzing by his ears. He never batted an eyelash, and never showed the slightest consternation when in danger. He wrote dispatches while sitting Indian-style on the ground, as shot and shell exploded within feet of him. He allowed his 13-year-old son, Fred, to accompany him during the Vicksburg campaign and expected the boy to look out for himself and behave "like a man." (Bradford, 2001)

Grant loved horses and was one of the great horsemen of his age. He was a fearless rider with tremendous endurance and dare. He also was an avid card player and liked to gamble. When he wasn't actively playing, he was an enthusiastic chatter. He also took delight in playing with his children and was observed wrestling, romping and playing "horsie" with them. In 1869, he had a pool table installed in the White House and became addicted to the game, which he had learned in Detroit in 1849. He was an aggressive, though not terribly gifted player and according to the White House butler, "he didn't like to lose." Grant also played croquet and baseball with the neighborhood boys on the White House lawn. After 1868, he spent the summers with his family at Long Branch, New Jersey, to escape the heat and humidity of the capital. Each morning, he rode 20 miles in his buggy and then returned to read the newspapers. He was fond of the beach, but wasn't too enthusiastic about swimming in the ocean and went in only rarely.

Shortly after the close of the Civil War, President Andrew Johnson's new administration sent an emissary to tour the southern states. His mission was to evaluate the feelings of the southern people. Everywhere he went, people honored him, old soldiers sought him out, mayors came to greet him, and he was invited to sessions of government and was received with applause. The South was just emerging from the most difficult of circumstances. It was astounding that the man being honored was greatly responsible for their condition. The man was General Ulysses S. Grant, Commander of the Union Army and hero of Appomattox. Grant was perhaps the only man the southerners trusted to aid them during the initial period of reconstruction.

It is remarkable that General Grant survived an army career amid the malicious rumors that surrounded him during the war. The saving factor seemed to be President Abraham Lincoln himself. Lincoln was an astute judge of character, and although he and Grant had not previously met, he sensed Grant's qualities and retained him over the protests of his own advisors. The rumors that surrounded Grant from the beginning of the war were largely brought about by jealous fellow officers who were incensed by Grant's quick rise in rank. Grant's victory at Fort Donelson soon made him a household name.

In summary therefore, Ulysses S. Grant's personality was not that of the stereotypical great general. (McCormick, 1934) His chief characteristic was his extreme modesty. He was totally free of conceit; a rare quality for a man who had advanced as far and as fast as Grant had. He was reserved with strangers, but would carry most of a conversation with people he knew. He was honest to a fault, and never swore or used abusive language. He had a kind heart, and several kindnesses to friends and foe alike were attributed to him. He was physically courageous, almost to the point of recklessness which caused his staff members' great consternation. Perhaps the characteristic that served him best during the war was his coolness. Nothing could shake his composure nor alarm him. He was never awed by the enemy nor worried about what the enemy was doing. He worried more about what he was going to do to the enemy.

Historically however, Grant has been portrayed more as a caricature than his vast accomplishments merit. Revised history is slowly beginning to however, turn the tide in favor of Grant's numerous qualities. One of the biggest faults brought up against him were that of drinking, with the allusions that his drunkenness were somehow related to the injudiciousness that he displayed on the battle field, especially with the soldiers. Statistically, battles that Grant was involved in resulted in the loss of more Union soldiers in very short periods of time. This earned him the unfair moniker of "Butcher." It is true that the Union army's casualties at Shiloh were appalling, but so were Confederate losses. (Wakefield, 1999) In the Wilderness campaign against Lee, the Federal casualties were again vast. However, in a comparison against his great opponent, Robert E. Lee, Grant is shown to have lost fewer men per 100 than the Virginian. In 1862-3, Grant's average percentage of killed and wounded is 10.03%, and Lee's is 16.20%. In 1864-5, Grant's average remains 10.42%. Lee's casualty rate cannot be determined after 1864 because no accurate records exist, but Lee lost 50% of his army during the Virginia campaigns in 1864. In the Vicksburg campaign, for instance, casualties were limited and his genius best exemplified. Grant had been accused of needless slaughter of his men, particularly after the battle of Cold Harbor, but he knew that his persistency of purpose in fighting and winning would save more lives in the end. During the Civil War, for every soldier killed in battle, two soldiers died of disease. The entire myth of the "Lost Cause" has enveloped a culture and Grant has been victimized by the cult of personality that has surrounded Robert E. Lee. The two giants of the Civil War are inextricably linked, and when Lee's fortunes rose to dizzying heights, Grant's reputation plummeted.

As mentioned earlier, Grant has been caricatured as a drunk and an alcoholic. One of the characteristic symptoms of alcoholism or any addiction is how ones occupational work gets affected. Grant acquitted his responsibilities admirably. His legacy puts paid to any indication that he was an alcoholic. The evidence is contradictory, but seems to show that Grant was a binge drinker. There's little doubt that in the period 1852-54 he drank to excess out of boredom and the absence of his wife and his children. During these two years, stationed at a remote California outpost, he turned to the bottle for solace. He began to reform when he returned to Missouri in 1854, and Julia was of immense help to him. (Meives, 1997) Drinking however never interfered with Grant's official duties during the war. He craved whiskey and drank only during lulls in the war.

Said Brigadier General Marcus Wright: "No one considered him a drinking man, and there were no stories abroad then concerning his immoderate use of whiskey." (Dodge, 1965) Lincoln, concerned with reports of Grant's drunkenness, sent an Assistant Secretary of War, Charles Dana, to check out the rumors. Dana not only reported the rumors false but immediately became an admirer of the general. Lincoln found no cause to worry about Grant, and in 1864 made him Lieutenant General of the Army.

One of the difficult times post Civil War was the time of Reconstruction. This was when Grant presided over the country. There are those who also consider him a bad president. This could have been because of Grant was not a natural politician. His approach to the Presidency was lackadaisical at best. Being President during Reconstruction was an impossible ordeal and Grant's gullibility and trusting nature did not help matters. Although Ulysses S. Grant's contemporaries placed him in the highest echelon of great Americans along with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, the twentieth century has seen him fade into relative obscurity. His presidency has been almost universally condemned, and he is consistently ranked second to rock bottom Warren G. Harding in polls of historians to rate the presidents.

In both the domestic and foreign realms, President Grant could claim a wide range of achievements. In the aftermath of the most serious fiscal problems the nation had ever faced, he pursued policies that stopped inflation, raised the nation's credit, and reduced… [END OF PREVIEW]

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