Certain historians claim that Ulysses S. Grant “won” the American Civil War, a formulation far too simplistic to accurately reflect what actually happened. This chart is a simple reminder that other factors were involved.
Grant may have led the Union army for the last year of the war, but Abraham Lincoln served as commander-in-chief of the nation’s entire armed forces, and historians rank him as one of the most effective United States presidents.
Naval assets had a hugely positive impact on the Union victory. Without them, Grant’s Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Petersburg campaigns would have been impossible. And the United States Navy strangled the Confederacy with its coastal operations and ever-tightening blockade.
The contributions of over 500 brigadier- and major-generals serving in the Union army and the thousands upon thousands of company- and field-grade officers serving under them were invaluable.
The manpower advantage enjoyed by the United States was immense. General Grant enjoyed an almost two-to-one edge in men, entering the Overland campaign.
The Union had tremendous superiority in technology, with more and better breech-loading and repeating rifles, artillery, ironclads, ammunition, telegraph networks, and steam technology.
The Union had an overwhelmingly stronger economy: more trade, railroads, canals, agriculture, food processing, horses, shipping, shipbuilding, engineering, printing, financial infrastructure, salt production, education, and steel and iron manufactures. The Confederacy led in cotton, tobacco, mules, and slaves, all of which could be readily converted to the Union’s use when its armies occupied southern territory.
The United States government outperformed the Confederacy’s, which also had trouble establishing close diplomatic relations with the nations of the world. Its inability to persuade Great Britain and France to help it win independence squandered a vital opportunity.
It’s irrational to claim that any one man “won” the war. And even this 5% guesstimate of Grant’s contribution is greatly exaggerated. The deep deficiencies in his generalship and character were covered up by his own Memoirs and by biographies written by supporters, as the book, Grant Under Fire, comprehensively demonstrates.
It is packed with information and new findings on Grant and the American Civil War. You can find it on Amazon or on GrantUnderFire.com.