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 Post subject: Shelby Foote and Ulysses S. Grant
PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2018 10:01 pm 
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I was listening to The Civil War Part II on audiobook today and a sentence Foote wrote about Grant struck me as interesting.

In reference to his failure to take Vicksburg with an all out assault Foote commented that Grant, "once again, as was his habit, looking for a scapegoat to blame."

He listed off Grant blaming green troops for his failure at Belmont, Donelson's early reverses were McClernand's fault, Shiloh was Prentiss's fault, Iuka was Rosecrans's fault, and the latest debacle outside Vicksburg was, once again, McClernand's fault. Flashing forward to the Wilderness Campaign and the subpar performances of Hancock and Warren I can imagine Foote's take on Grant's actions there.

I guess in contrast to Lee, who offered to accept all the blame after reverses at Antietam and Gettysburg, it is an interesting comparison and remark by Foote on Grant's leadership.

Fair or Foul assessment by Foote?

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 Post subject: Re: Shelby Foote and Ulysses S. Grant
PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2018 8:40 am 
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he probably was a little biased.

nobody likes a winner........unless you are on that team.

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 Post subject: Re: Shelby Foote and Ulysses S. Grant
PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2018 10:45 am 
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I haven't seen anything quoting Grant at the time of the battles as making such public statements but he probably did in his reports and later memoirs. But in the cases mentioned he was probably right and it is a good generals responsibility to identify why a failure occurred and hopefully taking steps to fix it. Lee tented to accept responsibility almost to a fault. There were many times, Gettysburg for example, that Lee really needed to come down hard on his subordinates for their failures.

Belmont was a failure due to green troop. It is much easier for green defenders to hold than green attackers to take something. As far as I can see it was just a statement of fact.

At Vicksburg McClernand lied about mking a breakthrough misleading Grant into sending reinforcement to a failed attack. Only McClernand's political ties kept him from being cashiered from the army on the spot.

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 Post subject: Re: Shelby Foote and Ulysses S. Grant
PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2018 12:56 pm 
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I agree that----of the battles cited----Grant was probably right in where he put censure . . . but i disagree about what you say of Gettysburg. I feel Lee was right in accepting blame for the failure there.

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 Post subject: Re: Shelby Foote and Ulysses S. Grant
PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2018 1:27 pm 
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I've read Grant's Memoirs, don't recall him blaming people, seemed to me just the opposite in that he seemed to go out of his way not to cast blame in them. Looked up the chapter on Iuka and found that Grant reported on the battle quoting messages sent by him and Rosecrans to each other during the course of the battle and the subsequent actions during the campaign. He comments on the fact that Rosey failed to cover the Fulton Road which allowed the rebels to escape. But his final comment on the chapter states, "I was disappointed at the result of the battle of Iuka-but I had so high an opinion of General Rosecrans that I found no fault at the time." I seem to recall similar comments in his memoirs on other battles and officers. Can't speak for his official reports as I have not read those other than the ones printed in various biographies and campaign histories.

As to Foote, like many of the southern 'Lost Cause' writers the intent is to make the confederate cause virtuous and it's commanders geniuses and the union officers idiots who won only because they had numbers on their side. I will give more credence to Longstreet, who IMO was among the top corps commanders on either side. Upon hearing others on Lee's staff downplay Grant's capabilities Longstreet commented, " I served in the same army with him in Mexico. I have observed his methods of warfare in the West, and I believe I know him through and through and I tell you that we cannot afford to underrate him and the army he now commands."

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 Post subject: Re: Shelby Foote and Ulysses S. Grant
PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2018 1:31 pm 
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Longstreet knew Grant good enough to stand up with him at the latter's wedding.

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 Post subject: Re: Shelby Foote and Ulysses S. Grant
PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2018 5:07 pm 
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Lee can take the fault for Gettysburg in my opinion. Better orders for Ewell to attack on Day One and ordering the debacle on Day Three fall squarely on his shoulders.

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 Post subject: Re: Shelby Foote and Ulysses S. Grant
PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2018 10:08 pm 
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Excerpt in question:

Grant was furious. "This last attack only served to increase our casualties without giving any benefit whatever," he wrote some twenty years later, still chagrined. Quick as ever to shift the blame for any setback or evidence of shortcoming: at Belmont it had been overexcited higher officers, at Donelson it had been McClernand, at Shiloh it had been Prentiss and Lew Wallace although the former most likely saved him from defeat, at Iuka it had been Rosecrans and the wind. He notified Halleck two days after the second Vicksburg repulse, "the whole loss for the day will probably reach 1,500 killed and wounded. General McClernand's dispatches misled me as to the real state of facts and caused much of this loss. He is entirely unfit for the position of Corps commander both on the march and on the battlefield. Looking after his corps gives me more labor and infinitely more uneasiness than all the remainder of my department."

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 Post subject: Re: Shelby Foote and Ulysses S. Grant
PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2018 10:25 pm 
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Well what is true and what not?
General Whitehead seems correct with his statement:
KWhitehead wrote:
But in the cases mentioned he was probably right and it is a good generals responsibility to identify why a failure occurred and hopefully taking steps to fix it. Lee tented to accept responsibility almost to a fault.

What does one want more, a general who gallantly takes the blame for everything trouble that his subordinates, his troops or even the weather caused, or a general who identifies the source of trouble and tries to remove it?

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 Post subject: Re: Shelby Foote and Ulysses S. Grant
PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2018 10:47 pm 
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C. Hecht wrote:
Well what is true and what not?
General Whitehead seems correct with his statement:
KWhitehead wrote:
But in the cases mentioned he was probably right and it is a good generals responsibility to identify why a failure occurred and hopefully taking steps to fix it. Lee tented to accept responsibility almost to a fault.

What does one want more, a general who gallantly takes the blame for everything trouble that his subordinates, his troops or even the weather caused, or a general who identifies the source of trouble and tries to remove it?


Interesting question. In hindsight we can commend Grant, perhaps, for identifying the source of problems and trying to rectify it. But we also have a list of commanders who, justly or not, really used a subordinate or two as clear scapegoats for their own failures. Just those that spring to mind: Longstreet with McLaws, McClellan with Burnside, Bragg with everyone, Hooker with Stoneman, and Pope with Porter. I am sure we could name many more.

Maybe Shleby Foote would answer the proposed question that he would prefer an officer who accepts all the blame for his subordinates and takes responsibility and so he natually took a dimmer view of Grant's actions.

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