Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Historian John Keegan's view of Ulysses S. Grant

Lincoln picked Grant to command his armies because Grant was a fighter. Grant fought in a way that was neither heroic like Alexander nor anti-heroic like Wellington. He confined himself to doing and saying as little as possible in front of his men. Grant received a familiar reverence from his men. Grant led from the rear when he could help it—and he always rode alone. Grant did not lead by example but he led by other means--first and foremost through the written dispatch—often transmitted by telegraph. Grant also had the keen ability, through his study of previous campaigns to see into the mentality of his opponents—he also valued information on the enemy and collected it from many sources. Grant also believed in the strategy of baseless campaigning, which although dangerous, allowed him to strike deep into the enemy’s territory. Grant was constantly moving during battle pushing his men towards the enemy. Above all—and unlike many American Generals, Grant knew how to win a battle.
In the end Grant was legendarily modest.  This combined with his triumphs in battle made him a national hero and eventually President.  His soldiers revered himand Grant displayed unheroic heroism—which was perfectly suited to those he led.