tv [untitled] April 14, 2012 5:30am-6:00am EDT
professor as he examines the generalship of ulysess s. grant. >> all right. so today we will do grant. with lee obviously one of the ways the class was structured is you had one historian is an excellent battlefield general and a terrible strategist. and another former teacher who made the argument that no, lee's strategy was plausible. it didn't work out. but it wasn't because his strategy was implausible or not well executed. today i didn't give you an anti-grant reading. meaning grant is terrible. and the reason for that is the
consensus view among most modern historians is that grant was a great general. i sub jibe to that view. it's hard to get a good, curt reading that's plausible. so i don't. but i should mention that. during the war. right after the war. what happens to him after that. shows how americans like him. he becomes president. he's incredibly important.
about. grant is bloodthirsty. and you get all sorts of stories. and there's a criticism of a blood thirsy general. then a few important military writes really start to rehabilitate grant. and this interpretation widely more or less repeats here. it's kind of the consensus view. some people will dispute piece, including myself. but you should realize that grant's reputation has ebbed and flowed. i still want you to e make a
judgment. it tends to inspire less debate than lee. i wouldn't be surprised if this class is affected to some degree by that. maybe it isn't. after giving you that little bit of context. why don't some of you start flushing out, at least in the reading you got, why is grant a great general? what makings him special? okay. that's a great opening line. you've advanced the class in a way. there's a reason why grant's reputation is always going to be easier to defend than lee's. because he wins the war. and lee doesn't. >> why do you argue he sees the bigger picture. it's not on instantaneous battle. his ultimate goal is to crush lee's army. but he sighs the bigger picture
of the war. what the are three levels again? strategies, operations. and grant is the master strategist. does grant always get his way on the operational and tactical level? no. does anyone remember and example? it's one of the readings. what happens at shiloh? is that grant's greatest battle? no. the union army is hot mapping to some degree. but how does grant retrieve the situation? why he sort of refers to it as a character trait.
he doesn't panic. he recovers. i doesn't mean he's flawless. did you -- >> i think that he's got the nerve. mcclellan breaks and burnside breaks. shiloh doesn't break. wilderness when he gets flanks, he doesn't break. he withdraws and stabs again. >> and how does that relate to the big picture? how do those two connect? >> if he loses the battle doesn't necessarily mean he's done. he's able to get over it and move to the next one. who is a contrasting figure on this question of character? who is the guy who gets the strategy right but due to a moral failing -- i mean, that's basically the way 19th century
americans are seeing it doesn't succeed. it's mcclellan. what's widely's evaluation of the concept of mcclellan's peninsula campaign? >> it's pretty positive. he doesn't have the guts to follow it through. >> exactly. and not only that. what doeswi widely talk about? >> there's a lot less revolutionary. so there weren't any changes. slavery wasn't touched. >> and whether or not that was really a good or bad thing. is it plausible likely? did you say something? >> would it be possible to bring the union back together? because the south wanted the war to end. they want to stay the same way they were.
>> widely is on the fence. if we read his other work, there's a sense that there's a lot of down sides to them. widely doesn't care a lot about slavery. that's one of the reasons that he can take that position. he seems to indicate that wouldn't have worked. his only chance to make it work requires him to achieve a military victory, which he does not. so grant has the better strategic perception. but let's step back again. twhast the -- he's got the good strategic view. but what's the strategy?
# it's the hit ol it have chapter. the strategy of annihilation. what does that mean? >> destroy the army. >> okay. so how are different ways of doing that? >> he's going to follow -- the big thing is he had people follow lee's army, and they just keep picking people off at a time and follow them. and make lee make a mistake. >> not just following lee as well as johnson. he divided his forces to engage the southern armies at the same time on multiple fronts. >> so you have various examples. you have attribution. what is that a fancy term for? what mr. roth just said. in the case, you can associate it with guerrilla warfare. in this case it's wearing down your opponent.
but, you're probably thinking of a different -- did you mention the vicksburg campaign? chast an example where grant doesn't wear down his opponent through heavy casualty sort of grinding away. what does he do instead there? >> originally he launched two or three assaults and failed at that. one could argue he tried to anigh lite tan annihilate the federal army. >> in the end the assaults don't work. but how does the siege conclude? where else does grant achieve maneuver that leads us to decisions by siege? >> greensburg. >> that's another one. although not really maneuver that gets him there. although he tries to get there. yes. also what makes grant innovative about the inner service? yes?
>> he only forced unconditional surrender? >> but what service helped him out. >> the navy. >> okay and what other campaign is the navy very useful for him? in the west. vicksburg. you guys hopefully remember that. so you have here the goal to annihilate, at least in widely's interpretation, confederate military power by destroying armies. what does grant not always seek for? and this is why widely sees him as praiseworthy. >> he doesn't always look for a battle. he criticizes scott for going through unnecessary battles and losing men when he could have gone around objectives. >> in what war? >> the mexican war. >> yes.
>> who is the exponent of napoleonic strategy? the chapter you read before that? it's lee. so grant wants to destroy -- and i want you to understand this. when he says a strategy of annihilation, he's not meaning a battle. he's meaning in this case he's basically saying the there are other aways of achieving the objective. generally, especially the objective is far less costly. what's the other thing that hasn't been put up here and involves this issue of noncombat tans? >> supplies. >> yes. >> all right. attacks on -- and how do you do that? let's not sugar coat it. >> you attack fields. >> yeah. you move through the
countryside. you take what you can consume. but why do you also need to do that? you have to feed your army. and what's the alternative? what's mccullen's alternative to feeding your army? you don't have to take stuff from civilians to feed the army. the american military doesn't do that nowadays. yeah, you have to live off extended lines of supply. or you can pay people. confederates do this in gettysburg. they give people vouchers and get paid in confederate money. t in the european army seriously do this by the way. people get compensated for this stuff. by late in the war the federals are not doing that anymore. you're not being terribly respective if you're paying them
in currency they don't see as legitimate. but they're not bothering with that. and what happens to it? it's deliberately destroyed. by the way, widely, i want to give you a sense here, widely is -- the consensus view in the h his historigraphy, yes, this is not a sugar coated thing. generally civilians are not killed. the incidents of rape and sexual assault is very low, especially when compared to other conflicts. at least with white civilians. african-americans it becomes a different issue. even then, relatively low. measures are made. we don't have a lot of evidence of mass starvation during the civil war. there sunt much evidence of that. people have to flee for their lives and their livelihoods are
destroyed. they eventually find a place to get food. we have evidence that the federal army will, for example, leave and that people won't starve. they'll destroy everything else and be rude and obnoxious about it. but that's -- -- this is the issue of attacking the confederate economy. and grant is the overall -- part of the overall master mind of this. who is the person who really executes this to the furthest degree? sherman. but obviously grant is a part of this set of schemes. all right. so here you have some of the different methods of aniling confederate military power that grant embarks on. which widely sees as, if nothing else, successful.
and that's the argument. at the strategic level, that's where grant comes in. and not only that, he has the personal traits. generals still matter. you can be like mcclellan and have a plausible strategy. but if you can't execute it, at least in his case, he loses his nerve, then the game is up for that strategy. it's not going to be operationally effective. let me step back. grant is on the winning side of the war. but someone give me an argument as to, okay, so what? why does that not necessarily mean he's a good general? all right. mr. roth.
elaborate on that. >> there's a line in the book that said we had more people at the peak of the union military than the confederates had in the general. >> it's a lot more inindustrialized than the south was. >> and so much credit do we give generals for having bigger resources, right? here's the other issue. and we haven't talked about this even with lee. who does grant fight in the west where he makes his career? is this the best the confederates have to offer? none of you can remember these folks. well, widely likes joe johnson a lot. but people like braxton bragg, you know, this is a rogue gallery. how can one produce the same argument that great generals require opponents. in lee's case.
who does lee fight? >> collin, burnside. >> right. the army of the potomac in general. but arguably the army of the tennessee is perhaps a worse army. the confederate army of the tennessee is a worse army than the union army of the potomac. all right. so, and when i say that, i mean things in terms of -- i mean, you can make that argument that it's plagued. we don't have time to cover that in this class. is it a happy army? no because what's going on? >> none of the generals liked each other. they're all at each other's throats. >> and davis never adjudicates the issue. he should have picked one side and fired everybody else. instead he stays with bragg too
long. he doesn't fire polk. they're all attempting to undermine bragg. and bragg is sort of this difficult human being. they were really cranky. there's a great story of braxton bragg, in the old army of how he -- it was a lying officer and the quarter master of his company. that happened a lot. the army was very small. you had to do double duty. he sent a requisition to himself as a line officer that he rejected. it's probably fake. but it says something about -- i mean, it says something about what everyone knew about braxton bragg. supposedly his superior said, sir, you have -- you have quarreled with everyone else in the army, and now you have quarreled with yourself. that's who you have as the primary for a long time.
then you have folks like mcclellan. and in all honesty, mcclellan looks good compared to burnside. well, he doesn't do very well though. so you have success with numbers. and it comes back to this issue. how much can we really put, how much credit can you really give to an individual general? for their success or failure? and how much of it is due to circumstances beyond their control? whether it be who happens to be their opponent, whether it is what is the material of resources they can call on. what's the political restrictions they're operating under. what's the institutional structures? >> certain years of the war they were less likely for troops to run away and flee. other times they weren't as
dedicated to the cause or the cause they didn't see. >> these are things that no individual can control. even they have the knowledge. what's good about him being obscure early in his career? why? he gets less political interference. he gets less exposure. the grant had done shiloh in the east, what would have happened to him? by the way, he does okay, arguably. his army is very motivated. but terribly -- and that's not mcdowel's fault. but it's a close call. but what happens by necessity to mcdowell? he gets fired. and his career never quite recovers. i'm not saying that he was a great general. but mcdowell is always going to be played by the sens o