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Grant & Lee: Comparison

Grant & Lee: Comparison

In the comparison selection “Grant and Lee: A Study in Contrasts”, the author, Bruce Catton, sets up the thesis statement in the third paragraph of the selection: “They were two strong men these oddly different generals, and they represented the strengths of two conflicting currents that, through them, had come into final collision.” As the title suggests, the entire excerpt is comparing and contrasting the former great generals, Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee.

General Robert E. Lee grew up with and stood for a noble way of life. He believed in tradition, and personified that with English knights and country squires. He assorted to the fact that all men were alike and the chances that were given to them should be equal for all. Lee believed that esteem and fortune came through land ownership, and felt that there should be no competition for status among men – they were all privileged in their own right. He felt that this would provide great leadership for his country by giving it strength and virtue.

General Ulysses S. Grant, however, had a completely different way of thinking. He was constantly looking towards the future, striving to better himself and others. He believed that status was not just bestowed upon a person, they had to earn it. Grant was not just handed things early in his life. He relied on no one, and cared not for the traditions of the past. He stood for a more democratic and competitive lifestyle; high-class was an endeavor. He cared about his country and felt a deep attachment with his people.

The differences between Grant and Lee might get more extended treatment than the similarities because Catton wanted to make sure the reader knew just how different the two Generals were. When comparing their upbringings and the way of life they were fighting for, one can get a grasp of what the war meant to each one and just exactly what they were fighting for.

The similarities are discussed last because it solidifies the fact that each man could put the war aside when it was over and be civil to each other; referred to as the greatest ability that the two men shared.

Catton’s attitude toward the two men is one of respect. In the thesis, he referred to them as two strong men, though oddly different. When describing each one’s background, the author does not imply that one was inferior to the other, he simply states the facts for the reader. In Catton’s report of the men’s similarities, he regards the men as “great soldiers”, “marvelous fighters,” “daring and resourceful,” and “their behavior there put all succeeding generations of Americans in their debt.” The last sentence of the essay, Catton states “Their encounter at Appomattox was one of the great moments of American history.”


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