In an interview in AARP, October/November 2015, Bill O’Reilly stated, “Lincoln, I think the greatest American president, would not have been that without U.S. Grant. It’s not just one person.”
Well, I also argue that it’s not just one person, when I hear the constantly reiterated refrain, “Ulysses S. Grant won the American Civil War.” But in Lincoln’s case, I would assert that Grant was actually a drag on his presidency starting in 1864. Grant’s mismanagement of the Overland and Petersburg campaigns nearly led to Lincoln’s electoral defeat by George McClellan. And while General-in-Chief Grant was unnecessarily accompanying Meade (making matters worse, in fact), he gave Henry Halleck oversight of the war in the West. Worse than that, he chose his friend and ally, William T. Sherman, to command the Military Division of the Mississippi. Sherman immediately blew the chance to finish the Atlanta campaign in one stroke at Snake Creek Gap due to his own favoritism and lack of ability.
As my book, Grant Under Fire, notes: “John Winslow’s sinking of the C.S.S. Alabama, David Farragut’s naval victory in Mobile Bay, the defeat of Sterling Price’s invasion of Missouri, Phil Sheridan’s breaking up of Early’s army in the Shenandoah Valley, and William Sherman’s capture of Atlanta greatly improved the Union cause militarily and politically.” These saved Lincoln’s bid for re-election.
The books ends: “In light of Grant’s many episodes of obvious underperformance and failure, simplistically crediting him with the ultimate victory—due to his allegedly outstanding generalship and character—unmasked the partiality of his defenders. The war was not won by any single individual, be it Abraham Lincoln or Ulysses S. Grant. The Union, as a whole, triumphed. The national army, fielding over two million men in toto, led by legions of staff, company, field, and general officers; a correspondingly potent navy; and a far more powerful economy than its adversary were all needed to ultimately subdue the Confederacy.”