Friday, November 20, 2015

Short Review of Ulysses S. Grant: A Victor, Not a Butcher


The main point of this book by Edward H. Bonekemper III should not be a surprise to anyone who's acquainted with the history of the Civil War. The author goes to great lengths to prove his thesis that Grant was a victorious general who didn't deserve the epithet as a butcher of men. Instead, Bonekemper argues that Grant deserves a high place among all generals throughout history for his ability to win.

To me, the thesis was obvious and the book provided no great revelations. Nor did it provide an extensive biography of Grant. Nor was it terribly lucid in dealing with the many, many commanders of the Civil War.

The book, however, did provide a fast-paced recounting of Grant's battles and did demonstrate why Grant really should be included in a list of great generals throughout history. While it provided sketchy outlines of Grant's tactics, it did clearly delineate his strategies in his western campaign, in taking Vicksburg, and in his ability to finally destroy Lee's army. I would have liked the author to have spent a bit more research and time in detailing Grant's tactics when covering each battle.

The best generals in history win the love of the men who follow them. Grant's men admired him and trusted him to make their efforts, and in many cases, their deaths, have meaning. I came away from the book with a better appreciation for Grant as a commander who time and again won the trust of those who served under him.

This is not a great book to really learn about the life of US Grant, nor is it a great introduction to the Civil War. However, if you are familiar with Civil War history, Bonekemper's book will add a new dimension to understanding Grant and add a new appreciation for Grant's ability to command.