Monday, October 8, 2007

Grant....a butcher?

Some of the great blood baths of the war came as Grant drove on Richmond in the spring of 1864. Mary Lincoln called Grant a "butcher" and she state that she could lead an army better than Grant. Here are the numbers of Grants Overland Campaign against Richmond:

The Federal toll:The Wilderness, May 5-7: 17,666 Spotsylvania, May 10 and 12:
10,920 Drewry's Bluff, May 12-16 4,160 Cold Harbor, June 1-3: 12,000
Petersburg, June 15-30 16,569 These total 61,315, with rolls of the missing incomplete.During the Battle of Cold Harbor the 25th Massachusetts lost 70% of its fighting force which amounted to 310 men. What the Mrs. Lincoln didn't realize is that beating Robert E. Lee was no easy task. Sacrifices had to be made and Grant felt that the best way to win was to attack the Army of Northern Virginia and win the war off attrition. His enemy was protecting itself behind entrenchments and only assumed the offensive a short distance from its defensive shields. In his report Grant stated that the offensive was the only course of action that he could take because the enemy was unwilling to attack him directly. The ever aggressive Lee backed down from the offensive and sought to protect his dwindling forces. The Confederate commander hoped that bloody repulses would fuel anti-war sentiment in the north and hopefully the north would give up. Grant had no choice but to attack.This blog isn't meant to defend U.S. Grant but if you look at the losses sustained it should shock you. To think that over 60,000 men were lost in just two months of fierce struggle is hard for the mind to comprehend. General Meade wrote his wife "The papers are giving Grant all the credit of what they call successes; I hope they will remember this if anything goes wrong."

Grants reputation as a "butcher" followed him after the war and with Confederate historians he fared no better. After all, his armies had battered, starved and defeated the Confederacy for good and there was no love lost for Grant in the hearts of the Confederacy. T. Harry Williams, Military Historian wrote at Grant was "a master of global strategy." The general saw that to defeat the Confederacy the war had to be taken to the Lee's army without let up. Union hero Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain stated that Grant was "necessary" as a physical force to end the war. Only he saw how the Confederacy was to end and his ability to ignore advice and criticism set him apart from all possible commanders at the time. He had no political motivation to end the war but rather a fierce resolve to make peace. I think Grant hated war as much as anybody and his behavior towards Lee at Appommattox shows this. He truely felt that "malice towards none" was crucial to healing the wounds of war and reuniting the nation. Without Grant the war might have turned into a bloodier and longer conflict than it already was. Perhaps Shelby Foote said it best when he said "Grant, he's wonderful". Thank god for General Ulysses S. Grant.

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