Tuesday, July 2, 2024

How did Grant win the Civil War?

A very nice item that truly addresses questions i had.  Heavy losses were inevitable but they where not the only weapon.  the collapse of the West was neatly engineered and ultimately executed by Sherman.

And when it came to the end, he certainly did not let Lee escape.

Evaporating the western hinterland made any eastern strategy of movement futile and direct destruction of the plantation culture made civilian support impossible as well.  It could only get worse.  The defeat was decisive.

How did Grant win the Civil War?

Michael Hutton
MA in National Security Studies, Georgetown University (Graduated 1987)Updated 1y

At its simplest, Grant — along with Sherman and George Thomas as his equals — was the Union general who was able to bring the full resources and capabilities of the North to bear against the South and to defeat them decisively in the war without resorting to disastrous frontal attacks.

Grant’s command of the Union forces represented a break with the Napoleonic tradition of seeking the climactic battle to determine the outcomes of a war. Many of Grant’s contemporaries (and many commanders in the South) believed that the outcome of war hinged on the climactic battle. But, Grant’s great strength, as Russell Weigley notes, was “a highly uncommon ability to rise above the fortunes of a single battle and to master the flow of a long series events, almost to the point of making any outcome of a single battle, victory or draw, or even defeat serve his eventual purpose equally well”.

Grant out-thought and out-maneuvered the southern commanders that he faced. His Vicksburg campaign was a masterpiece of military operations for maneuver, low casualties and a combined arms approach that used battles and operations to achieve a strategic outcome. What Grant accomplished in the West, he carried forward to the Eastern Theater to defeat Lee and the Confederacy.

As Major General JFC Fuller, the British historian, noted about Grant in his 1929 book, “The Generalship of US Grant”:“The man who most greatly influenced this war was Ulysses S Grant; not because he was so clear-sighted a statesman as Lincoln, or so clever a tactician as Lee, but because he was the greatest strategist of his age, of the war, and consequently its greatest general”.

Those who contend that Grant was a butcher who bullied his way to victory with overwhelming numbers and crude tactics are simply wrong. Those assertions have no basis in fact.

But, Grant’s potential was not completely unknown or something that only occurred to historians after the war. Confederate General Richard Ewell, one of the South’s most capable commanders, noted the following about Grant in a conversation with other Confederate generals."There is one West Pointer, I think in Missouri, little known, and whom I hope the northern people will not find out. I mean Sam Grant. I knew him well at the Academy and in Mexico. I should fear him more than any of their officers I have yet heard of. He is not a man of genius, but he is clear-headed, quick and daring."

Confederate General Richard Ewell

Ewell words were prophetic and foretold the defeat the Confederates would soon face. But, even Ewell missed one thing: Grant was a military genius. He ushered in the age of modern warfare and stands — along with Sherman — as its first great Generals of the modern age.

This was not an isolated opinion. James Longstreet, another very capable southern commander, upon hearing others on Lee's staff downplay Grant's capabilities, said:"Do you know Grant? Well, I do. I was in the Corps of Cadets with him at West Point for three years. I was present at his wedding. I served in the same army with him in Mexico. I have observed his methods of warfare in the West, and I believe I know him through and through and I tell you that we cannot afford to underrate him and the army he now commands."

Confederate general James Longstreet’s

With the nature of decisiveness in battle changed by weapons technology, Grant became a prophet of a strategy of annihilation in a new dimension: he would not only pursue the enemy through maneuver but would move against the enemy to inflict all damage possible on the enemy’s war resources. Grant would accomplish the destruction of the enemy through combat and the destruction of their economic means to wage war.

And, as Fuller again noted:“To bring the war rapidly to an end demanded concentration of force against the decisive point, which does not mean concentrating against the front of the enemy’s main army, but against its rear.”

Grant commanded the Union forces with an understanding of operational art and strategy unmatched by any southern commander and he harnessed the full resources of the North to this understanding to achieve victory.

References“The Generalship of US Grant”, by Major General JFC Fuller, 1929.
Michael Hutton's answer to I saw in a History Channel documentary about US Grant that he was the first general to use modern warfare principles while his peers seemed to use Napoleonic tactics. How did Grant learn to adapt?
Michael Hutton's answer to Why was the American Civil War won by the Union rather than the Confederacy?

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