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Kensai
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Frank Underwood's Quote

Sat May 10, 2014 8:11 pm

Was watching House of Cards (S02E05) and Frank said this thing:

Do you know how Grant defeated Lee? He had more men. That's all. And he was willing to let them die. It was butchery, not strategy, which won the war.


I just want to ask if there is any truth in this or simply an exaggeration in the storytelling (Frank is supposed to be a Southern Congressman).
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havi
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Sat May 10, 2014 8:29 pm

Well Mrs.Lincoln called Grant a butcher!? But let's wait GS he knows lot of this thing.

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tripax
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Sat May 10, 2014 11:00 pm

After bloody battles, Grant marched forward/sideways where previous Union leaders in the east licked their wounds or retreated. So both parts of the quote are important, having more men and being willing to lead them to their deaths. Otherwise I agree with havi, others will know much more than I.

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GraniteStater
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Sat May 10, 2014 11:40 pm

Frank Underwood is demonstrating an appalling lack of understanding & ignorance, frankly.

The ANV dared not engage the AoP in open battle from the spring of 64 on. They always stuck to entrenched positions. The very few times they came out, and not with the whole army, not as a concerted plan & attack, they were defeated and driven back to their entrenched positions.

Grant wanted to get Lee in the open. He stressed that to Meade and his corps commanders. The last thing he wanted was the siege of Petersburg. He wanted to end it in 1864. Subordinates fumbled an opportunity to grab Petersburg for a song - and he had to settle for a siege.

When they could campaign again, Sheridan defeated Pickett at Five Forks and it was all over.

This is very fresh with me, because I just got through re-reading Grant's Memoirs - again! Five times now. I think I'm finally starting to understand the man. He was a professional, through and through. He hated fruitless assaults and those of which the objectives garnered little, even in victory. He wanted to fight for a decision.

He saw things more clearly than almost anyone, on both sides. Here is his ruminations about the Western theater: after Shiloh, Halleck took a month to advance 20 miles to Corinth. He had the Army of the Mississippi, under Pope, the Ohio, under Buell, and the Tennessee, under Grant, at his command. He wasted what Grant saw as a golden opportunity to end the war in the Mississippi valley. Those three armies totaled close to 100,000 effectives. Grant shows that an able commander could have seized all important points from Vicksburg to Chattanooga within weeks. Game over, IOW.

Grant saw what the Union's strengths were, including the political context, and used them. He became commander of all US Army forces in March, 1864. One year later, it was over. Coincidence? Methinks not.

Whoever Underwood is, the character is unread and unreflective.
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Sun May 11, 2014 1:04 am

After two bloody days of inconclusive fighting in the Wilderness (5-6 May 1864), in which Lee held Grant to a stalemate despite being outnumbered 2:1, everyone from Private to Major General wondered what Grant would do next. In the past (McClellan, Pope, Burnside, Hooker) the Union army had always retreated to lick its wounds and no one had much confidence that Meade would do differently. On the 7th, as Warren's V Corps withdrew along Orange Turnpike from the Federal right flank and approached the Brock Road intersection, every soldier wondered which way they would go. East toward Fredericksburg and retreat, or south toward Richmond? When the column turned south (according to historical accounts) a great cheer went up from the rank and file, such that Grant was afraid it would give away his withdrawal to the Confederates.

Yes, Grant had more men and would need them to sustain the 5:3 casualty rate of the Overland Campaign. More importantly, as GraniteStater has pointed out, he had a clear idea of what was needed to win the war. And balls.

My apology to the women on the forum, if there are any.

PS. Some further thoughts if I may Kensai. I'm a Southerner born and bred and grew up with this "Grant the butcher" nonsense. Grant was a master of maneuver warfare and that's what he tried to do continuously through the Overland Campaign and the siege of Richmond and Petersburg. He let Meade run the show at the Wilderness but then pretty much took over operational control of the Army of the Potomac. He got his fill of frontal assaults at Spotsylvania and found out the limitations of trying to move large bodies of troops, over nonexistent roads, in the middle of the night, with no rest, to attack at dawn etc etc. Yes, Cold Harbor was a disaster but not nearly the mindless bloodbath that some historians have claimed. Read Gordon C. Rhea's multi-volume account of the campaign if you're interested.

Here's a what if: Lee had been commanding the Army of Tennessee and Johnston the Army of Northern Virginia at the start of 1864. My prediction? Lee would have eaten Sherman for lunch, Johnston would have fallen back to Richmond with not much difference in outcome but probably fewer casualties. Atlanta doesn't fall, Lincoln loses the election and we all get to speak with a Southern accent. ;)

PPS. I just can't quit. How about Lee and Grant squaring off in June 1863? The Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia as equal as they would ever be in strength, almost all hard-core veterans, with two chess masters in command during the Gettysburg campaign. I remember Lincoln's telegram to Hooker (GS will correct me if I'm wrong): "If the head of Lee's army is at Martinsburg and the tail of it on the Plank Road between Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, the animal must be very slim somewhere. Could you not break him?". I'll bet USG would have tried.

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Kensai
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Sun May 11, 2014 5:59 pm

You need to understand, though, that the memoirs of Grant are not the most ideal source as they come straight from the man in question. Would he ever admit these thoughts in writing?
I am interested in what his aides were saying about his way of doing things. Is there any record of his "chief of staff" disagreeing or mentioning the potential casualties? That might help shed light...
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tripax
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Sun May 11, 2014 6:07 pm

On the other hand, Underwood's remarks are shaped by/a statement of southern "Lost Cause" authors' views on Grant and on the war in general [still haven't finished Grant's memoirs, but am excited to read Early's next].

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Kensai
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Sun May 11, 2014 7:20 pm

I know one thing. "We" still pay them. :p
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Sun May 11, 2014 9:03 pm

There is no such thing as the Lost Cause

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GraniteStater
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Sun May 11, 2014 10:39 pm

While I'm thinking about it - all Grant's victories came against fortified positions. And he didn't prevail through frontal assaults. He cut them off, he made the position untenable.

His Memoirs are valuable for his reasoning, his thought process. Yes, he would, indeed, take a serious look at striking a strung-out army. Defeat in detail.

He knew what advantages he had and a pretty good size-up of the opponent. He's what a Scot calls, 'canny.'
[color="#AFEEEE"]"Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!"[/color]

-Daniel Webster



[color="#FFA07A"]"C'mon, boys, we got the damn Yankees on the run!"[/color]

-General Joseph Wheeler, US Army, serving at Santiago in 1898



RULES

(A) When in doubt, agree with Ace.

(B) Pull my reins up sharply when needed, for I am a spirited thoroughbred and forget to turn at the post sometimes.





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Mon May 12, 2014 1:40 pm

When Minie ammunition was adopted by the U.S. Army in the 1850's, technology had doomed the frontal assault as performed in the Napoleonic Wars. None of the Civil War combat Generals really got this initially and most failed to grasp this ever. J.J. Smith figured it out. His skirmishers crawled up to rebel redoubts, peppered them with accurate fire while cannon shells exploded over these positions. Neither let up until the main force had double-timed across any open fields. The defenders couldn't do anything until they were facing bayonets. German Sturmtruppen were to re-invent this tactic in 1918.

All Civil War Generals were butchers.
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tripax
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Mon May 12, 2014 2:53 pm

Kensai wrote:I know one thing. "We" still pay them. :p


Just across my desk comes a working paper which is the closest I've seen to an estimate of the effect of such payments in the pre-contemporary era, here. Here is the title, authors, and abstract:

The Long Term Impact of Cash Transfers to Poor Families
Anna Aizer, Shari Eli, Joseph Ferrie, Adriana Lleras-Muney
NBER Working Paper No. 20103
Issued in May 2014
We estimate the long-run impact of cash transfers to poor families on children’s longevity, educational attainment, nutritional status, and income in adulthood. To do so, we collected individual-level administrative records of applicants to the Mothers’ Pension program—the first government-sponsored welfare program in the US (1911-1935) —and matched them to census, WWII and death records. Male children of accepted applicants lived one year longer than those of rejected mothers. Male children of accepted mothers received one-third more years of schooling, were less likely to be underweight, and had higher income in adulthood than children of rejected mothers.

Lleras-Muney is great, and I'm excited to read the paper.

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Re: Frank Underwood's Quote

Sun Mar 12, 2017 1:42 pm

Kensai wrote:Was watching House of Cards (S02E05) and Frank said this thing:

Do you know how Grant defeated Lee? He had more men. That's all. And he was willing to let them die. It was butchery, not strategy, which won the war.


I just want to ask if there is any truth in this or simply an exaggeration in the storytelling (Frank is supposed to be a Southern Congressman).
yes and is supported in many ways, meade to lee during conversation on provisions for the ANV from AoP, remarked ah, so i have 5 to your 1. Grant took 9 months to reach where Mac got in a month, loseing 90k to Mac 10k in doing so, Grant in the 40 days lost more men than had been lost in the last 156 weeks, he was given control of the pow exchange and coose to end it as he intended to use atrition to rub out Lee army, as he had a 2 to 1 manpower advantage. Losses were so heavy, his own subordinates and men wrote about sensles slaughter from frontal assaults all along the line with no percieved benifit, along with no regard for the plight of wounded by Grants refusal to ask for truce to recoveer wounded and bury dead. first lady newspapers and high society termed Grants actions butchery not war, mainly beacause the outcome of it had not occured a dthe war effectivly setteld as a military contest, Grants inifiecency cost more than observers thought should be the case, sherman achived high effiecency as a commander and it was methods the USArmy studdied post war not Grants lack of a strategy and reliance on atrition rates to achieve aims. Grants presidency further harmed his mil reputation and mil anylists saw little to admire from ww1 to ww2, as atrition again overmatched manover and inflicted high losses, around 20 years ago grants bios shifted to a more positive viw, and Rose recent one is now going back the other way as in general, atritional conflicts are again falling out of favour. grant never objected or defended aginst being called a butcher, recognising it as meerly a further cost of clseing out the war.

hanny1
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Re:

Thu Mar 16, 2017 5:01 pm

GraniteStater wrote:While I'm thinking about it - all Grant's victories came against fortified positions. And he didn't prevail through frontal assaults. He cut them off, he made the position untenable.

His Memoirs are valuable for his reasoning, his thought process. Yes, he would, indeed, take a serious look at striking a strung-out army. Defeat in detail.

He knew what advantages he had and a pretty good size-up of the opponent. He's what a Scot calls, 'canny.'


Had you ever read Grants memoirs you would have noticed that not all his victories came against fortified posistions. Grants made more frontl assaults than most, and they nearly all failled which was why he explains he settled on sieges rather than pursue failure.

youkali
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Grant's reputation

Thu Oct 19, 2017 4:05 pm

There's an excellent article on the subject in the 2 Oct 2017 New Yorker. It's titled "Shot of Courage". The article, by Adam Gopnik, is a review of Ron Chernow's new biography GRANT. Gopnik discusses the Underwood view, originally espoused by Liddell Hart, that makes Grant a butcher and Sherman the military genius. That view ignores the fact that Grant was the Commander in Chief of the Union Army, not just the CO of the AoP, and, as Gopnik notes, Grant "quietly but firmly" points out in his memoirs that in Georgia Sherman was doing what Grant had told him to do.

Gopnik also considers those memoirs, as I do, a masterpiece not just of military history, but of American literature.

Another interesting view of the man is provided by Longstreet's obit of Grant:

http://www.granthomepage.com/intlongstreet.htm

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