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Albert Sidney Johnston

Who's Your Favorite General?

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George McClellan. He had a clear understanding of the defects of the Union forces early in the war, and successfully resisted the intense pressure for offensive action from Lincoln and Congress that doomed McDowell and Pope. He kept the Union army from completely collapsing twice. He understood that it was the Confederates who needed a quick, decisive victory, and repeatedly kept them from succeeding. Without him, it's very likely that the Union would have lost the war in 1862.

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... Um, I personally like William Rosecrans because while Rosecrans screwed up at Chickamauga, the war of maneuver he employed against Bragg in the Tullahoma campaign was freaking crazy good.

That being said... I would like to say Ulysses Grant as my second which brings me to my question... why do people seem to not like Grant that much? I mean he got a lot of men killed, but he ultimately cornered Lee and took Vicksburg. His presidential record is ... crap, but as a general he was pretty solid.

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In my opinion, Grant was borderline incompetent and reckless. At Fort Donelson, he left his post to confer with the Navy commander and didn't assign anyone as his second-in-command, which nearly let the Confederates escape - they had actually opened the Nashville road, but Pillow inexplicably retreated back to the fort instead of continuing with the escape plan. At Shiloh, he didn't have any pickets or scouts out, which is why the Confederate attack came as a surprise. It's also very likely that if Sherman had been killed at Shiloh - he was wounded twice and had three horses shot out from under him - the Union position would have collapsed and the battle would have been a decisive Confederate victory.

In fact, when what actually happened at Shiloh was found out (Grant's battle report bore only a passing resemblance to reality) there were calls to for Grant to be dismissed for incompetence. Lincoln refused them, I believe because he mistook stubborn determination for skill. Grant's operations tended to follow a pattern - poor reconnaissance, repeated failed frontal attacks on fortified positions, followed by what he should have done in the first place. Grant also had a bad habit of leaving his supply lines exposed, which burned him more than once in the West. Against lesser opponents in the West he was slow to move and slow to appreciate the strategic situation, and in the East against Lee he was repeatedly beaten by an inferior force. Essentially, he won because he had all the advantages and managed not to blunder too badly - which is hardly a recommendation as a general.

He did have some redeeming qualities. He was quick to accept black troops and utilized them effectively. He had some ability in logistics, so despite his carelessness with his supply routes his troops were well fed, well clothed, and well supplied (unlike virtually all the Confederates, even granting their logistical disadvantages). He was good at picking subordinates, and even when he disliked them (like McClernand) he was able to get results from them.

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Lieutenant-General Ulysses Simpson Grant. The best general officer produced on either side of the conflict. The only general able to perfectly harmonize political policy, military strategy, and operations under one Grand Strategy. No other General on either side so capably understood how to effectively marshal his governments resources, nor did any other General, save perhaps Lee, act with such synchronicity with his government's national policy and strategy. He never lost a campaign, captured three armies, and gained critical victories in three major departments of warfare. He did all of it with a quite efficiency. No officer in the Civil War can match this record. 

Grant demonstrated the temperament of excellent military leadership. Despite certain old and tired myths, Grant was innovative, adaptable, and highly mobile in his military thinking. Vicksburg and Appomattox stand out as two of the most extra-ordinary campaigns in American Military History, and no other general officer in the Civil War came close to success so complete. 

Grant's maxim of war was simple, and could be applied to any conflict from Xenaphone to the Second Great War, "Find the Enemy as soon as you can, hit him as hard as you can, and keep moving on." 

After the war, Grant was one of the few American Presidents to advocate for Civil Rights. Unfortunately, Grant was undermined by an increasingly Conservative Congress. Grant's efforts to achieve peace and equitable relations with the Indigenous were sadly also undermined by his former friend, General William Techumseh Sherman (with whom Grant had a falling out over the matter). Grant's Presidency was that of an honest man who put his faith in lesser men. 

Grant was not perfect,  but he was a good man, and a phenomenal General


 

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