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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 […]


Ulysses S. Grant Launched an Illegal War Against the Plains Indians, Then Lied About It

Smithsonianmag.com 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 http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/ulysses-grant-launched-illegal-war-plains-indians-180960787/?no-ist 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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


“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 […]


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, […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]