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Grant And Lee

Grant And Lee

Throughout the course of my history career, which is not very long, teachers and professors have always focused on the point that General Grant was a butchering alcoholic who won the war solely on the account of his stubborn personality. And on the other hand, teachers portrayed General Lee as a masterful strategist, who used Christian values in order to win the rebellion. However, in Fuller’s account of the two Generals, he alleges through data and personal intuition that General Grant was actually a strategist and mastermind that not only won the war but also, lost fewer soldiers.

During the past century there has always been this distinct cultural separation of the north and south (Union and Confederate). The main reason for this is due in part to the cultural differences of the north and south during the late nineteenth century. Citizens of the north believe that Grant was the better General because, well, he was the commander of the Union army. On the other side of things, southerners undoubtedly know that General Lee was the superior mind of the two because, well, he was the commander of the Confederate army. And even though the Confederates lost the war, people manipulate the truth and explain the reasons that the south lost the war were because Grant had the larger army, could kill off more of his troops, and still be able to take his objectives. But in Fuller’s description of the two, he analyses the personalities of the two Generals and analyses the psychological differences that made them choose certain strategies and tactics in which Grant is shown to be the superior commander.

Is this book biased? Of course, but as Fuller explains in the preface of the book, his instinctive premise was to show that Lee was the superior General because, he was taught this in his previous education, where he later states, “…so much for school education.”(Page 8)

As an overview of the book, Fuller does not indulge in reacting all of the battles of the war, that would be too much material. Instead, he sets up some of the battles in aspect of format, which he used to reenact the strategies that were influenced by the men’s personalities. For instance, after the battle of Bull Run General Lee’s inability to communicate effectively will be his downfall. Floyd states, “his [Lee] subordinates were at loggerheads, his personality at once crippled his generalship, for he refused to take command, that is to say-he refused to impose his will upon them and so established unity of direction.”(137)

The direct example of this occurs on August 7, 1861, when Lee unofficially gave commander Wise, the right to give an order. However, since this was going against the chain of command, the other commander, Floyd, justifiably denounced this order and stated that it should come from Lee himself, not an equal.(137) Other situations, between these two other commanders, show how Lee’s patience for insubordination, or miscommunication, helped to cripple his unity of command. If Lee would have simply wrote out the orders and explicitly wrote these orders, he probably would not have had such a problem in showing his authority. However, he was possibly a little to trust worthy and paid for his mistakes in the end.

Another situation in which General Lee makes a mistake is when he makes the same mistake twice. Fuller at this point in the book is trying to show that great generals do not make the same mistake twice. But, as Fuller proves on page 165, Lee abandons his strategical offensive and assumes a tactical offensive, which fails him previously in the Seven Days’ Battle. (165) The situation unfolded as such. On his way to unite with Jackson, Lee decided to forego the dependable route (Ashby’s Gap) and decided to go through Thoroughfare Gap. This was not a very safe route because if the subordinates of commander Pope’s regiment had been paying attention at the time, General Lee’s losses would have been disastrous. So in other words, Lee got lucky. Fuller again shows Lee’s inability to effectively command because a great general can not stray away from the strategies that are working for him, he should have stuck with his game plan.

Another way that Fuller shows the reader that Lee was incompetent was when he wrote that Lee lost his battle plans for the battle of Antietam. Where should I start, Fuller is obviously showing his discontent with Lee by slyly telling the readers that Lee lost his plans? He had Pope’s army dead in the water if he would have not lost them to the Union army. Consequently, Pope was able to maneuver out of Lee’s way and later was able to attack him on a later date. Fuller tries to explain here that a great general does not allow a breach in security.

In conclusion, Fuller does make it out to sound that Lee was not as great a general that everybody makes him out to be. However, this is one man’s findings, how do I know that Fuller did not manipulate the truth, I am not qualified to make that judgement. What I do know is that Fuller puts another twist on the battle over who’s the better general. I think that people who enjoy reading about the U.S. military would enjoy this read. However, I do caution that this may or may not be completely correct.

Fuller, Major General J.F.C. Grant and Lee,
Indina University Press, Bloomington, IN, 1957

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