Thursday, October 30, 2014

Thoughts on General Grant

[This is more of some unofficial consulting I did about the American Civil War general Ulysses Grant. I'm working on several fellowships and research grants in addition to my teaching and full time work, so it was a light month for research into the Book of Mormon. Though I do have a copy of my manuscript submitted to a publisher. I will describe that project in a later post and hopefully have something to report.] 

I don't have quite as much about Grant on hand.  He gets a bad rap because of his actions in Virginia in 1864. The combination of political pressure, hard to ford rivers, and a better opponent in Lee made him adopt frontal tactics that were incredibly bloody and exhausted his army. Though he still out maneuvered Lee, and  he didn't let tactical failures override his strategic objective of  eventually capturing Richmond.

His best campaign was in Vicksburg.  He crossed the Mississippi, detached from his supply line which gave him more maneuverability (and its something Sherman later did in capturing Atlanta), and then out maneuvered and defeated the rebel armies before investing the fort. He captured it a short time later.

He started his career capturing river forts in Tennessee.  There is a story I don't remember much, but he ran into an enemy detached early in his career. And he reportedly saw the look on the face of the enemy commander and recognized the sheer terror in his eyes.  So he realized that the enemy armies were just as afraid of enemy contact as he was at the time. He resolved there not to be afraid to take the fight to the enemy and attack, which is why the rest of his career was rather audacious and he was the commander that won the war. (I remember the story because I try to remember that as I'm dating- the ones that like me are just as nervous as I am to talk to them.)

Historiographically, its somewhat odd that the winner of the war is studied less than the losers like Lee and Stonewall Jackson. A part of that has to do with how Grant won in Virginia. His brutal frontal assaults are like the trenches of WWI and not very romantic. The lost cause mythos, where the south reinvented their generals as patron saints of lost causes also helps add to the aura of Lee. And Lee definitely sought out climatic Napoleonic battles to win the war, which just like Napoleon, are very fun to study.  But notice how Lee looked to the past to win, while Grant (and Sherman) ended up being a harbinger of the future and actually won.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Book of Mormon Guns

I came across at great post about guns at the group blog: By Common Consent. I got a good chuckle out of it.