- Author R.C. White
- Title: American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant
- Published: 2016
- Trivia: #20BooksOfSummer
- Trivia: New York Times best seller
- The book is a biography so the structure is what you would expect.
- What you don’t expect is White’s ability to show Grant in 3- dimensions.
- Husband – military strategic genius – pragmatic president.
- Family life in Ohio
- Military study at West Point
- Love affair with ‘my dear Julia’ Dent
- Mexican-American War
- Civil War
- 18th president of United States
- Retirement (30 month trip around the world)
- Writing memoirs in collaboration with Mark Twain.
Why did I read this book?
My main purpose was to learn why Grant was so successful in the Civil War?
- I followed the chapters about the battles at Belmont, Fort Henry, Fort Donelson
- Shiloh, Iuka, Vicksburg, Chattanooga and Richmond.
- I used google maps and wikipedia to form an image of the battlefield.
- It was a fascinating read.
- Grant would scout the landscape to discover IF he could use it to his advantage.
- His emphasis was on:
- strategy: siege – classic…surround and just wait.
- (broke out of siege in Chattanooga; set up 12 mi siege line around Vicksburg)
- speed: delay only accrues credit for the defender (regroup/resupply)
- break the cracker line: (supply lines food and ammunitions)
- create diversions, cut telegraph lines, smash RR tracks and bridges
- Be alert: scurrying rabbits and squirrels indicated to the ‘pickets’ that
- enemy infantry were creeping closer through the brush.
- broad battlefield: keep enemy guessing where Grant would strike (Vicksburg)
What were some dangers that Grant tried to avoid?
- Over confidence of troops after newspapers predict an easy victory at Shiloh.
- Miscommunication and mud:
- …terrain can delay messages and arrival of reserve troops.
- …danger of believing all deserters who bring news of enemy positions and size.
- Inflated egos of commanders (McClernand was Grant’s nemesis)
- Don’t ever leave HQ without assigning a second in command.
- Teach soldiers to live off land and stretch 2 days rations over 7 days!
Why was Grant such a great Civil War general?
- He was always calm and decisive.
- He molded army and navy forces into one team.
- He listened and asked questions.
- He did not micromanage (trusted commanders).
- He seldom engaged in criticism after a battle.
- He avoid unnecessary insult to brave soldiers (surrender Gen Lee Appomattox)
- Whenever playing defense
- ……Grant always planned to go on offense, plan B.
- When I finished this book last night
- …and read about Grant’s final campaign (death)
- I felt I lost a friend.
- This was the most moving biography I’ve read in a long time.
- Personally, parts 1-3 were the best (youth, West Point, Civil War).
- Parts 4-6 (Reconstruction, 18th President, World tour) were less interesting.
- What a great general
- …. he won the Civil War and impressed us with his humility.