May 26, 1863: New York Times praises Grant

Ulysses S. Grant

The New York Times editor examines Grant’s repeated successes, and find character traits to explain them. Most notably, “a most extraordinary combination of energy and persistence”. He doesn’t turn back, and he keeps pushing toward the goal. The editor concludes that “U.S. GRANT — or, as his soldiers style him, Unconditional Surrender GRANT — has given the Confederacy blows such as no other arm has dealt, and, if he is let alone, as we trust he will be, he will in due time bring the whole concern to the dust. ”

Gen. Grant and His Splendid Success at Vicksburgh.

The track of this war is strewed with faded and with ruined military reputations. As we look back to the first year of the war, we are absolutely amazed to find how few who then stood out as Generals of mark have retained their place in the public regard. Of course we leave those who have lost their lives — such as LYON, SMITH, KEARNEY, MITCHEL, RENO, STEVENS and SUMNER — out of the question. They died illustrious, but whether they would have kept that lustre, had they lived, no one can say. Aside from these, we think it would be rather difficult to name more than five or six of all the early Major-Generals whose military career has justified the expectations of the people. Their names have all suffered more or less, some from one cause, some from another; MCDOWELL’s from a humiliating defeat, for which he was not at all responsible, STONE’s for a disastrous miscalculation, PHELPS’ for a foolish proclamation, BENHAM’s for a proneness to strong drink, MCCLELLAN’s for “pedantic slowness,” FITZ-JOHN PORTER’s for jealousy and treachery, FREMONT’s for deserting his post because of personal feeling, MILES’ for drunkenness and suspected treason, BUELL’s for lack of earnestness and energy, POPE’s for falsehood and bombastic vaporing, SIGEL’s for unjust treatment of a fellow-General. BURNSIDE’s for self-distrust, HOOKER’s for unfulfilled promises, CURTIS’ for mercenary dealing in cotton, &c., &c. This loss of former prestige probably has not been in all cases fully deserved, but it is none the less an undeniable fact. Of the very few who have escaped it, BANKS, ROSECRANS and GRANT are the chief, and of these, the last named is the one most notable instance.

Gen. GRANT’s fame has been steadily gaining from the outset. Though but a man of forty, at the commencement of the war he had seen more hard fighting than any other officer, having been in every battle of Mexico except that of Buena Vista. Yet, when he took command at Cairo, he was not much known, and attracted little attention. The public had set its heart upon other favorites. If he obtained some little praise for crossing the Ohio so promptly and seizing Paducah in anticipation of the rebels, it was lost the same season, by his battle of Belmont, which the public in its inexperienced judgment of that time, insisted upon styling a defeat because an advance was followed by a retreat. It was, in fact, simply an expedition with a definite purpose — namely to break up the enemy’s camp, and to prevent reinforcements from being sent from Columbus to PRICE’s army in Missouri. This was effectually accomplished, and therefore the movement, though it cost blood, was a complete success.

At Fort Donelson, where Gen. GRANT next appeared on the stage, he won a victory unexampled in its results; but the public still were inclined to attribute it to good fortune rather than to any special military capacity, and were even disposed to find fault that a quarter of the rebel army had been allowed to escape in the night before the surrender. At Pittsburgh Landing, his next scene of action, it was conceded that he fought splendidly; but he was reproached for having been on the enemy’s side of the river at all, without intrenchments and without open communications in the rear. The ultimate victory was again ascribed to nothing but good fortune.

At Vicksburgh, his next theatre of operations, he has labored, everybody admitted, with great energy, yet the impression has generally prevailed that it would be to no purpose. The manifold expedients that he adopted, in order to get a chance at the rebel stronghold, were regarded with a good deal of curiosity, but with very little confidence. The expedient, which at last succeeded, struck the public with not a little surprise. He got his chance at last. The style in which he followed it up — his extraordinary celerity of movement, his striking at unexpected points, his success in thwarting the attempts of the enemy to concentrate, his whipping them in detail every time in six distinct battles, and the magnitude and completeness of his final conquest, which casts into the shade all of the other achievements of the war — all this is now a marvel, and the public is quite ready to accept the conclusion, which the Army of the Tennessee long since formed — that, take him all in all, Gen. GRANT is the most serviceable, and, therefore, the most valuable, officer in the national army.

Why has Gen. GRANT thus at last distanced every other commander? In natural brilliancy he is probably surpassed by many of them; in science he certainly is. It all lies simply in the fact that he is a man of success. Unfavorable as have been the constructions that have been put, by very many, upon his past successes, yet the fact stood that somehow they were achieved; and that was enough of itself, constantly, to brighten his fame, for success is precisely the thing which the people want. But we believe that there are solid reasons for this remarkable success. Gen. GRANT, though perhaps possessed of no great military genius, yet combines qualities which, in such a war as this, are even better calculated to insure success, and which scarcely any of his brother Generals have exhibited in similar complete combination.

First, he has absolute singleness of purpose. From the beginning he has addressed himself strictly to the military work he had in hand, without a thought about cotton speculations or about political advantage; without a look either toward Washington for favor, or toward home for popularity. He has steadily stuck to his own proper business — his duty as a soldier and his devotion to the country his only inspiration.

Second, his Spartan simplicity of character, his abstemiousness, his readiness to share any privation with his soldiers, his impartial justice, his strict discipline, and his absolute personal fearlessness, have given him an unsurpassed moral command over his soldiers, and there is nothing which they are not ready to do and to suffer with him.

Third, his modesty, his straightforwardness, his entire freedom from jealousy, and his manly bearing every way challenge the admiration and whole-souled support of every officer in his army, and in like manner secure the most cordial and effective cooperation of every navy officer who has been associated with him, from Admiral FOOTE to Admiral PORTER.

Fourth, whether he has genius or not, he has sound judgment and sterling sense, which, after all, are the prime intellectual qualifications for success in any sphere of action.

And, Fifth, he has, what tells more than all else, a most extraordinary combination of energy and persistence. In these two moral elements, he probably has not his equal. Nothing daunts him, nothing discourages him. There is nothing he does not dare to undertake, there is nothing he can bear to give up. In that one great point at least, he is a perfect counterpart of the NAPOLEON who said that the word “impossible” was not in his vocabulary. Thus, indomitable resolution and perseverance is that element which, of all others, contributes most to make up the master-spirit in war. It is only GRANT’s preeminence in this that has done most to give him preeminence in everything. It is the motive power that brings into the intensest play every other faculty and quality. Without it the most splendidly endowed mind would be as worthless in military life, as would the most superbly constructed engine without the propelling force of steam.

U.S. GRANT — or, as his soldiers style him, Unconditional Surrender GRANT — has given the Confederacy blows such as no other arm has dealt, and, if he is let alone, as we trust he will be, he will in due time bring the whole concern to the dust.

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One Response to May 26, 1863: New York Times praises Grant

  1. Interesting Times article. Lincoln went through all the Generals he had and yet not unlike him, the tried and true emerge out of the darkness to do the impossible. A bull dog I believe Lincoln characterized him.

    David Quinlan

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