Joseph Rose

Otto Eisenschiml: a scientist looks at Civil War history 6 comments

While Lloyd Lewis composed his book, Sherman: Fighting Prophet—which advanced a romantic, one-sided, and severely erroneous view of William T. Sherman—Otto Eisenschiml was arguing for a more scientific investigation of the American Civil War and its participants. Although he still fell into the trap by believing much of Grant’s Memoirs, Eisenschiml’s method and many of his conclusions help us reach a more correct account of that conflict. I just read […]

Hamlin Garland’s unusual activities

Going through the Hamlin Garland papers at USC today, I noticed some unusual activities of this Grant biographer from the turn of the century. At places, his notes had been obviously censored, with two sections being obviously cut out. Elsewhere, he contradicted or disbelieved his interviewees (most notably in James H. Wilson’s case), yet he said not a word when Grant’s family and supporters made outrageously incorrect claims. Worse, in […]

National Geographic’s free USGS topos on multi-page PDFs 1 comment

You can’t really know a Civil War battle if you don’t know the geography of the battlefield. “National Geographic has built an easy to use web interface that allows anyone to quickly find any 7.5 minute topo in the continental U.S.A. for downloading and printing. Each topo has been pre-processed to print on a standard home, letter size printer. These are the same topos that were printed by USGS for […]

Grant’s 9:30 a.m. arrival at Pittsburg Landing, April 6, 1862 8 comments

It turns out that I have too kind to General Grant in at least one area. The time of his arrival at Pittsburg Landing—after hearing cannon-fire at his headquarters ten miles downriver in Savannah and boarding his flagship Tigress for the trip upriver—has been a subject of controversy.   Grant and many of his friends and supporters selected earlier-than-actual times (with those of J.F.C. Fuller and William Rowley being absurdly […]

Ulysses S. Grant Launched an Illegal War Against the Plains Indians, Then Lied About It just published an article by Peter Cozzens: Ulysses S. Grant Launched an Illegal War Against the Plains Indians, Then Lied About It The president promised peace with Indians — and covertly hatched the plot that provoked one of the bloodiest conflicts in the West In this article, Cozzens cogently argues—and his deep-delving research proves it—that modern biographers of Ulysses S. Grant “have either misinterpreted the beginnings of the […]

The unreliability of Horace Porter’s Campaigning with Grant 4 comments

In Grant Under Fire, I demonstrated how Horace Porter—Ulysses S. Grant’s staffer, friend, and biographer—could not be trusted for a true history of the General in the Overland campaign. Porter’s reverential Campaigning with Grant contained innumerable, implausible justifications and apologies for his chief. It parrots many of the inaccuracies from Grant’s Personal Memoirs. Porter offered a verbatim, 199-word speech by Grant on how he decided to cross the Rapidan downstream […]

Sherman’s 200,000 in Kentucky & bad historiography 2 comments

After Brigadier-General William T. Sherman took over command of the Department of the Cumberland from General Robert Anderson (of Fort Sumter fame) in 1861, he began to get nervous about his army’s dispositions in Kentucky. Sherman believed that the enemy had superior numbers (or easily could have with a rapid concentration, by utilizing the railroad system). In reality, his Federals outnumbered the Confederates on his front by two to one. […]

Waiting for (Don Carlos) Godot: a tragicomedy in two acts 4 comments

Of the myriad blunders that needed to be excused or covered up concerning the Battle of Shiloh, one of the most notorious was Ulysses S. Grant’s absence from his army. Maintaining headquarters from approximately March 17th to the start of the battle on April 6th in a mansion at Savannah, Tennessee—ten miles downriver and on the opposite bank from his army at Pittsburg Landing—General Grant took a steamboat up to […]

Ulysses S. Grant hagiographies

Ethan Rafuse recently commented about “those who have pushed Grant scholarship to the point where history becomes hagiography.” Now, I have just run across Russell Bonds’ review of H.W. Brands’ “The Man Who Saved the Union.” In it, Bonds noted how the publication of William S. McFeely’s “Grant: A Biography” “sparked a flurry of responses trending toward hagiography. More than a dozen biographies, ‘dual biographies’ and studies of Grant have […]

Errors in U.S. Grant Biographies (Part One: Missionary Ridge) 2 comments

Although the standard version of Ulysses S. Grant’s war-time history portrays him to be a military genius and a reliable chronicler of the American Civil War, his biographers have exaggerated, distorted, or omitted certain, salient facts. One of the most stark examples of this practice is from the Chattanooga campaign, which featured many of the most famous Union generals: Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, George H. Thomas, Joseph Hooker, […]

The Historian’s Ten Commandments

I can’t vouch for the authenticity of the following, but it’s amusing and of interest nonetheless. The Historian’s Ten Commandments (Revised and Enlarged) Original attributed to William B. Hesseltine (1902-1963) Department of History, The University Of Wisconsin Thou shalt not use the passive voice. Thou shalt not use the present voice. Thou shalt not quote from secondary sources. Thou shalt not quote more than three lines–and never shalt thou use […]

Errors in Grant’s official map for the Battle of Belmont 2 comments

A close reading of the official reports for the Battle of Belmont indicates that Ulysses S. Grant’s official map, echoed by authors afterward, incorrectly portrayed Jacob Lauman’s move to the right side of the battle line during the engagement. Although this detailed map of the action, which accompanied Grant’s report of the battle, showed Henry Dougherty’s Second Brigade (22nd Illinois and 7th Iowa) moving to the right soon after forming […]

When is a quote on Ulysses S. Grant insufficient for historical purposes? 2 comments

Although it assuredly happens all-too-often in histories and biographies, I have run across many seemingly fabricated stories about an heroic Ulysses S. Grant, which have been repeated without regard to the evidentiary background. One of them, concerning Richard Ewell, figures in my book, Grant Under Fire: In regard to Albert Richardson’s anecdote of Ewell’s warning other rebel officers early in the war of one as-yet-undiscovered federal leader whom they should […]

U.S. Grant’s overconfidence turned into a positive virtue 4 comments

An article in the current (online) New Yorker, “Why the leadership industry rules,” Joshua Rothman discusses the concept of a leader. He refers, at one point, to the Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, in which Grant tells a story of himself as a recently commissioned colonel in the Union’s volunteer army. Approaching the presumed location of an enemy camp, Grant related how, “‘My heart kept getting higher and higher, […]

“Grant Under Fire” and “Lincoln’s Autocrat”

Civil War News has finally posted my response to Dr. John Marszalek’s unprofessional and mistake-ridden review of Grant Under Fire. As the Executive Director of the Ulysses S. Grant Association, whose mission it is to “preserve the knowledge of [Ulysses S. Grant’s] importance in American history,” Dr. Marszalek should have recused himself if chosen for this task. Especially if he himself selected Grant Under Fire for a review, his own […]

Log Book of the Civil War Gunboat “Tyler”

In an auction five years ago, the 1861–62 Log Book of U.S.S. Tyler was sold, as it had been in a previous auction in 2005. As this Civil War Gunboat was engaged in the Battles of Belmont, Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, and Shiloh (the logbook apparently ends sometime in April 1862), a transcription or reproduction of its pages should be of huge interest to many in the American Civil War community. It […]

A response to John F. Marszalek’s review of Grant Under Fire 2 comments

I would have hoped that, as Executive Director of the Ulysses S. Grant Association and with 29 years as a professor (and as a Distinguished Professor Emeritus and director of a Distinguished Scholars Program), Dr. John F. Marszalek would have provided an objective, comprehensive, and professional book review or else recused himself for partiality, especially as he charges me with a lack of objectivity and impartiality. He complains that Grant […]

America’s Civil War (March 2016): Review of “Grant Under Fire”

Dr. Ethan Rafuse, in his review from the March 2016 edition of America’s Civil War, offers a good description of Grant Under Fire: An Exposé of Generalship & Character in the American Civil War. It “offers a strident, contrarian take on the union commander, ” he noted, and ”Rose’s book will surely be welcomed by admirers of other Union generals.” In what appears to be a commendation of the research […]

Ulysses Grant’s Intoxication on the Yazoo River—the Contemporary Evidence 7 comments

While the siege of Vicksburg progressed, on June 6, 1863, Major-General Ulysses S. Grant embarked for a boat trip up the Yazoo River to Satartia, Mississippi. Union troops from there and just inland were retreating south along the river. His chief-of-staff, John Rawlins, had written a letter to Grant early that morning. Rawlins thought that Grant had been drinking the night before, and “the lack of your usual promptness of […]

Grant on crutches at Shiloh? 2 comments

Although it is a rather common assertion in many biographies of Grant and in battle histories of Shiloh, there seems to be little reliable evidence that the General was using crutches when he boarded Tigress at Savannah on April 6th and debarked to ride around the battlefield. This may be one of the stories which had their genesis in his Personal Memoirs (“As it was, my ankle was very much […]

Bruce Catton’s reliability, Ulysses Grant, and the Battle of Chattanooga 6 comments

Although Bruce Catton’s books are far better than many others written about the American Civil War, they cannot be said to be free from substantial mistakes. Starting at the bottom of page 295 in the 1956 edition of This Hallowed Ground, Catton outlined General Ulysses Grant’s plan for the battle at Chattanooga: “Grant proposed to hit the two ends of the Confederate line at once. Hooker would strike at Lookout […]

Did General Joe Hooker disrespect Ulysses S. Grant? 2 comments

Yesterday, I helped confirm one of the many smaller points that Grant Under Fire makes. General Joe Hooker is often criticized for trying it on with his superior, Ulysses S. Grant, on November 21, 1863 at Stevenson, Ala., while the latter was on his way to Chattanooga, Tenn. When Hooker sent a staff officer and wagon to take Grant from the railroad station to Hooker’s headquarters, Grant responded: “If Gen. […]

Directions for Lew Wallace at Shiloh on April 6, 1862 1 comment

Although Grant tried to argue that he wanted Lew Wallace merely to march to Pittsburg Landing and had ordered him there, the evidence contradicts him. Even John Rawlins used a different destination while defending Grant and assailing Wallace.The Third Division’s destination was assuredly William Sherman’s right flank. Lew Wallace and four of his subordinates identified the orders’ stated objective as the right of the army, denoting Sherman’s right. Algernon Baxter, […]

National Archives – Lexington log book April 6, 1862, 4 Pages 2 comments

Here is the log book of U.S.S. Lexington for April 6, 1862, the first day of the Battle of Shiloh. It helps to answer some questions about what happened that day, but raises others. The name of the transport, John Raine, is almost assuredly transcribed incorrectly as John Ramm in the Official Records. Whether the boat actually was John Warner is another question altogether. [All images are from the National […]

Who’s to blame for the Hornets’ Nest surrender at Shiloh? 8 comments

The valiant stand in the Hornets’ Nest position at Shiloh by Union generals William H.L. Wallace and Benjamin M. Prentiss helped to save the rest of the Union army from ignominious defeat on April 6, 1862. Instead of honoring their achievement, General Ulysses S. Grant offered two implausible assertions in his Personal Memoirs. First, he unjustly cast blame on one of his subordinates for the surrender: “In one of the […]

Corrections to “What Trump Could Learn From U.S. Grant”

Some corrections need to be made to the recent article on titled: “What Trump Could Learn From U.S. Grant,” concerning General Ulysses S. Grant’s expulsion of all Jews “as a class” from his Civil War military department in December 1862. [] Grant was not “a cashiered U.S. Army captain,” but had resigned in 1854. He left his family’s leather goods store for good just before his 39th birthday, not […]

Review of “My Greatest Quarrel with Fortune”: Major General Lew Wallace in the West, 1861–1862, by Charles G. Beemer

“My Greatest Quarrel with Fortune”: Major General Lew Wallace in the West, 1861–1862. By Charles G. Beemer, Kent State University Press, 2015 ISBN-10: 1606352369; ISBN-13: 978-1606352366 One hundred fifty years after being denied justice, Lew Wallace is finally receiving a portion of his just due from several historians of the Civil War. And Charles G. Beemer’s new book, “My Greatest Quarrel with Fortune”: Major General Lew Wallace in the West, […]

Maybe the worst insubordination against a commander-in-chief in U.S. history 1 comment

Why do most Grant biographers ignore this damning episode, in early 1868, when General-in-Chief Grant tried to help depose his superior, President Andrew Johnson? [From Grant Under Fire, pg. 560] In what may well have been the worst case of insubordination against a commander-in-chief in the nation’s history, the General-in-Chief actually lobbied certain senators to gain a conviction. Bolstering efforts to overthrow Johnson, Grant publicly forecast a threat to the […]

Four quotes related to the writing of history 2 comments

“Men hate the truth more than falsehood.”—Fire-eater R. B. Rhett Sr. to his namesake son, July 31, 1861, from the private papers of Wiley Sword. “A lot of folks like their Civil War history cut and dried, with a predictable cast of characters – they like to cheer the hero and hiss the villain. The curtain falls, and they say, ‘Very good, just as I remember the play.’”—Brian Pohanka, as […]

Did Grant “win” the American Civil War? 1 comment

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 […]

A great one is gone: Wiley Sword passed away November 9

  According to Crowell Brothers Funeral Homes: Winfield Wiley Sword, age 77, of Suwanee, GA passed away Monday, November 9, 2015. Wiley was born in Mexico, Missouri on December 7, 1937 and lived there until the age of 7. He was a Civil War historian and published author who greatly enjoyed traveling and lecturing. Wiley was also an avid golfer, but nothing meant more to him that this family. […]

Fallacies concerning the Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant 1 comment

Michael B. Ballard’s review of Chris Mackowski’s Grant’s Last Battle: The Story Behind the Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant (November 2015 Civil War News Book Review), exemplifies the mind-set that my book, Grant Under Fire, so comprehensively opposes. Grant “did not rewrite history,” Dr. Ballard maintains, “he wrote it as he understood and lived it.” The reviewer does refer to “the accuracy, or lack thereof, of the memoirs,” yet […]

Bill O’Reilly credits U.S. Grant for Lincoln’s eminence

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 […]

Shiloh, a strategic defeat for the Union?

Grant Under Fire, takes a revisionist view of the Battle of Shiloh, declaring it a strategic defeat for the Union. The text describes John Pope’s and Andrew Foote’s success at Island No. 10 on the Mississippi, and then remarks on how they were next aiming for Fort Pillow and Memphis, Tennessee. It concludes: “Foote expected success within days. Just before the attempt, Halleck summoned Pope’s army to the Tennessee River […]

Grant “Won” the Battle of Shiloh?

Just as Ulysses S. Grant is credited with “winning” the American Civil War, he usually receives the acclaim for Shiloh. A multitude of facts demonstrate why this is wrong. Simply awarding praise to the commanding officer in any engagement would mean that Buell, with his independent army, deserves half (or even more, as Grant was in charge during the losing battle on April 6th). This still completely ignores how they […]

Civil War Bookshelf review of Grant Under Fire

Another positive review for Grant Under Fire just appeared on Dimitri Rotov’s Civil War Bookshelf. He’s too nice in saying that the book, with “798 erudite, well-researched pages, delivers a profound, perhaps unforgettable reading experience,” and “We are in the hands of a fair, informed and intelligent author who delivers a compelling read.” Although the book directly opposes the conventional view of Ulysses S. Grant, I wrote it for those […]

Interview: Joseph A. Rose, “Grant Under Fire”

Harry Smeltzer has just published a lengthy interview with me on his Bull Runnings website. It provides a good perspective on the genesis of Grant Under Fire. Although it will be difficult to change the minds of many who’ve grown up on a diet of adulatory biographies of Ulysses S. Grant, people who’ve actually read the book have been quite complimentary on the depth of its research. I’m even more […]

The Taking of Paducah 1-2-3

On the CivilWarTalk website, several individuals attempted to refute the fact that Grant (admitted in his own, unsubmitted report) had received Frémont’s authorization before setting out to occupy Paducah, Ky. One person, going by the moniker “DanSBHawk” wrote: “Seems like you could put the matter to rest by showing this one telegraph of Grant acknowledging receipt of Fremonts[sic] orders on the 5th. Here it is. In his unsubmitted report, Grant […]

Little Phil: A Reassessment of the Civil War Leadership of Gen. Philip H. Sheridan

With Little Phil: A Reassessment of the Civil War Leadership of Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, Eric Wittenberg has gone against the grain of current Civil War scholarship to look at the facts underneath Phil Sheridan’s sterling reputation. Such revisionism is extremely welcome. Sheridan had a very mixed military career, but his protectors, such as Ulysses S. Grant, and friendly biographers covered up the flaws in his personality and the blunders […]

Lee’s Lost Dispatch and Other Civil War Controversies by Philip Leigh

Lee’s Lost Dispatch and Other Civil War Controversies by Philip Leigh This book is a keeper. Instead of offering the standard, often incorrect, version of American Civil War history, Philip Leigh digs deeply into many of the conflict’s controversies. His analysis of why George H. Thomas would have made a better commander of the Military Division of the Mississippi, as opposed to General Grant’s choice of William T. Sherman, is […]

Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War by Megan Kate Nelson

Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War by Megan Kate Nelson Ms. Nelson’s book is a much-needed reminder of the costs of war, in general, and of the huge and tragic effects of the American Civil War. Among its many strengths, the book provides a compelling look at the destruction of Columbia, South Carolina, by troops under General William T. Sherman (and thus showed how he lied in disclaiming […]

Review of Sean M. Chick’s The Battle of Petersburg, June 15-18, 1864

The Battle of Petersburg, June 15-18, 1864 offers a fresh and balanced look at an engagement that has been often draped in myth. From the start, Sean Michael Chick accurately summarizes the Overland Campaign, detailing the blunders on both sides. He doesn’t let Grant off easily, as many authors try to do, noting at one point his “almost obsessive preference for Sheridan.” When the Army of the Potomac finally reaches […]

Grant’s first “victory”?

Almost universally, Ulysses S. Grant, his biographers, and his other supporters make the claim, when they describe the incident, that he took Paducah, Kentucky, despite the absence of orders from his superior officer, General John Frémont. Grant was quite clear about this in his Personal Memoirs: “Not having received an answer to my first dispatch, I again telegraphed to department headquarters that I should start for Paducah that night unless […]

A strategic database for the American Civil War 1 comment

For a long time I have pondered a potentially worthwhile project: a database that contained the locations (and probable strengths, current commanders, etc.) of the Union and Confederate forces down to the regimental level. The data could then be displayed on an interactive basis. I would think that this would be hugely helpful in any strategic, campaign-level analysis. With appropriate software, one could easily visualize the various units on each […]

President Grant ladles out money to the rich 1 comment

From the book: “For whatever reasons—he seemed fascinated by men of wealth—Grant offered unstinting support to capitalists and big business. He desired, and the very first law he signed mandated, the payment in gold for huge numbers of bonds bought during the Civil War, mostly with depreciated greenbacks, even though the government was not contractually obligated to do so. This provided the bondholders with a gigantic—and wholly unjustified—windfall. With better […]

An alcoholic Ulysses S. Grant resigns his commission

Many modern authors attempt to make a case for General Grant’s sobriety. But, in a general minimization of Grant’s drinking, William C. Davis’ new book, Crucible of Command: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee—The War They Fought, The Peace They Forged, goes so far as to deny the accounts that he abused alcohol or was forced out of the pre-war army, while serving on the Pacific coast in the […]

Time-keeping in the Civil War

Determining when various events took place during the war is, naturally, extremely important in ascertaining what actually happened and why. Standard time zones were not introduced until later in the century, when the requirements of the railroad companies demanded them. Until then, local time ruled. And the unsynchronized setting of timepieces was further exacerbated by their inaccuracies. Ulysses Grant started the war with a watch that was up to an […]

Albert D. Richardson’s problematic biography of Ulysses S. Grant 1 comment

Albert Deane Richardson’s biography, A Personal History of Ulysses S. Grant, originally published in 1868, provided numerous familiar anecdotes about a great and good Grant. The book was republished in 1885 with certain corrections. A scenario in the 1868 edition (pp. 253-54) started with Sherman chasing away the Rebels at Shiloh with some well-aimed artillery: ‘That’s the last of them,’ said Grant. ‘They will not make another stand.’ Then he […]

Commenting on this blog

Please feel free to leave a comment about the website, issues or controversies concerning Ulysses S. Grant, or the forthcoming book, Grant Under Fire. To leave a comment, click on an individual blog post. Along with a discussion of the various Civil War-related issues, I heartily request the identification of any errors found in Grant Under Fire. With all comments, please provide primary source citations to substantiate your findings whenever […]