Battles


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 […]


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 […]


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, […]


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 […]


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, […]


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 […]


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 […]


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, […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]