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Grant Moves South (1960)

de Bruce Catton

Sèrie: Grant trilogy (2)

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467339,008 (4.42)4
A Pulitzer Prize-winning historian looks at the complex, controversial Union commander who ensured the Confederacy's downfall in the Civil War. In this New York Times bestseller, preeminent Civil War historian Bruce Catton narrows his focus on commander Ulysses S. Grant, whose bold tactics and relentless dedication to the Union ultimately ensured a Northern victory in the nation's bloodiest conflict.   While a succession of Union generals--from McClellan to Burnside to Hooker to Meade--were losing battles and sacrificing troops due to ego, egregious errors, and incompetence, an unassuming Federal Army commander was excelling in the Western theater of operations. Though unskilled in military power politics and disregarded by his peers, Colonel Grant, commander of the Twenty-First Illinois Volunteer Infantry, was proving to be an unstoppable force. He won victory after victory at Belmont, Fort Henry, and Fort Donelson, while brilliantly avoiding near-catastrophe and ultimately triumphing at Shiloh. And Grant's bold maneuvers at Vicksburg would cost the Confederacy its invaluable lifeline: the Mississippi River. But destiny and President Lincoln had even loftier plans for Grant, placing nothing less than the future of an entire nation in the capable hands of the North's most valuable military leader.   Based in large part on military communiqués, personal eyewitness accounts, and Grant's own writings, Catton's extraordinary history offers readers an insightful look at arguably the most innovative Civil War battlefield strategist, unmatched by even the South's legendary Robert E. Lee.… (més)
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This is the fourth book I've read by this author. The first three were the Army of the Potomac trilogy about the American Civil War, which followed his first history volume which covered aspects of World War II. The growth he accomplished as a history writer between the first volume of that trilogy and the second was significant. This book is better yet in the historical detail he submits to the reader, but I think he has Lloyd Lewis to thank, in part, for that. Between the completion of the Army of the Potomac trilogy and the writing of this book, this author published a half dozen other books on the Civil War. Back in 1950, the first of three volumes on American Civil War general, Ulysses Grant, was published a year after the author, Lloyd Lewis, died, leaving behind significant research for his estate to bestow upon some other historian to finish, which ended up being the author of this book. The strength of this book is the abundance of documentation available and used judiciously by the author to focus very closely on what was and was not happening to Ulysses Grant from the start of the Civil War in 1861 to the capture of Vicksburg in July 1863. If documents differed in their conclusions, the author dutifully points out the discrepancies and offers reasoned analysis on why one source might be more credible than another. The writing in quite engaging through all of this. Nevertheless, I see two weaknesses to this volume as history. First, the reporting is so closely focused on the main subject that concurrent civil war activity taking place beyond Grant's activities is so superficially covered, if at all, that it often fails to give proper perspective to what is reported in the book. A reasonably well-read civil war buff will find themselves automatically filling in facts "not otherwise offered in evidence" to the analysis. At least, I did many times. Secondly, while the author clearly tries to be as open and fair to Grant's reputation as possible throughout the volume, it becomes more than obvious he has a high degree of hero worship going on at the end. A reader might end up with the same conclusion based on what they have just been reading, but I do not believe it is the historian's role to make that conclusion for the reader, and this author clearly does. Having said all this, I do intend to read the final volume in this Ulysses Grant trilogy (which does not cover his presidential years), as well as two well-reviewed recent volumes on Grant by both White and Chernow. Why? Someone might ask. Because I'm a history buff, particularly on the American Civil War, and I already own the books. ( )
  larryerick | Aug 26, 2019 |
This is the second volume in a biography of U. S. Grant. The series was begun by Lloyd Lewis and after he died Bruce Catton finished the last two volumes. Catton is one of my favorite authors and Grant has grown in my estimation the more I read about him. Reading Grant's Personal Memoirs began my real appreciation for him.
The book begins with Grant's first command in the Civil War, the 21st Illinois Volunteer Regiment. The governor's memories of Grant were that he was a plain man a description that followed him throughout the war. Grant took charge in his quiet way and soon his regiment developed a respect for the "quiet man". That was the way it was all through Grant's career in the Civil War as from one command to another he took care of what he referred to as "the business".
This book follows Grant's career through the Battle of Vicksburg. I am reasonably familiar with Grant's military career and was much more interested in Catton's portrayal of the personal aspects of Grant's life. I don't know how Catton felt about Grant before he wrote this book but his admiration for Grant is very apparent here.
A prime example is how Catton goes out of his way to squelch all of the stories about Grant's drinking. He goes into great detail to prove wrong an incident from a book by Sylvanus Cadwallader. Cadwallader was a reporter covering the war who got to know Grant. He supposedly came across Grant on a boat on the Mississippi in the middle of a drinking bout. He spent the next three days rescuing Grant from whiskey and finally getting him back to his command post. Grant's chief aide, John A. Rawlins, was present when Grant got back. Rawlins, whose father had been a drunk, was very severe on Grant about drinking and demamnded the whole story from Cadwallader. Cadwallader then told him everything. Catton cites a personal letter written by Rawlins two days after this supposedly happened which has no mention of the incident. Catton concludes that Cadwallader's story which was published decades after the incident and Grant's death was simply a story to get a book published not true at all. I found it interesting that Catton went to that much trouble to disprove the story which I had read in Cadwallader's book.
Another interesting incident where Catton attests to Grant's character invovled a visit to him by Mary Livermore from the Sanitary Commission in the winter of 1863. She was on a mission to have twenty-one sick soldiers who needed to be discharged from the army. She had heard all of the horror stories about Grant and was prepared for the worst. Catton quotes from her notes, " Grant was not a drunkard....... The clear eye, the clear skin, firm flesh and steady nerves of General Grant gave lie to the universal calumnies then current....". Mrs. Livermore then presented Grant with the story of the sick soldiers and their brief conversation ended inconclusively. The next day a staff officer delivered the signed paperwork to Mrs. Livermore giving the soldiers their discharges.
Catton also described Grant as a man who was most happy when he was with his family. I remember a description of a smiling Grant sitting in a chair with his children all around him playing.
But Grant was also a General and according to Catton a general with a core of iron. He compares Grant and Sherman. Sherman was known as a man who talked about the horror of war but Grant was the general who dealt in casualties as part of the job and never flinched. When Sherman took Atlanta he fought by maneuver and never had great casualties. Grant was never afraid to order an assault and take casualties.
I enjoyed the book. Of course there is much more too it and it was all very well written. Most important this is about Grant as a person and according to the author a very decent person. ( )
  wildbill | Dec 25, 2013 |
A solid survey of Grant's command in the West from 1861 to 1863. Having read the second volume (Grant Takes Command) first, I was a bit disappointed by the prose and organization of this volume. It is still a very good work, just not up to the truly excellent standard of the second volume. There are several places where the narrative moves forward or backwards several months in order to pick up a theme without giving the reader benchmarks to orient the timeline. There is also more telling and assertion about Grant's character than in volume two, which is a masterful example of showing and not telling.

Given that Catton was recruited to complete the work begun by another author, I wonder whether this volume was more influenced by the existing notes while the second volume was more Catton from the start.

Still, this is rightly considered a classic. ( )
  JLHeim | Nov 28, 2011 |
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The Governor of Illinois remembered that "he was plain, very plain," and men said that he usually went about camp in a short blue coat and an old slouch hat, wearing nothing that indicated his rank, nothing indeed that even proved he was in the Army.
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A Pulitzer Prize-winning historian looks at the complex, controversial Union commander who ensured the Confederacy's downfall in the Civil War. In this New York Times bestseller, preeminent Civil War historian Bruce Catton narrows his focus on commander Ulysses S. Grant, whose bold tactics and relentless dedication to the Union ultimately ensured a Northern victory in the nation's bloodiest conflict.   While a succession of Union generals--from McClellan to Burnside to Hooker to Meade--were losing battles and sacrificing troops due to ego, egregious errors, and incompetence, an unassuming Federal Army commander was excelling in the Western theater of operations. Though unskilled in military power politics and disregarded by his peers, Colonel Grant, commander of the Twenty-First Illinois Volunteer Infantry, was proving to be an unstoppable force. He won victory after victory at Belmont, Fort Henry, and Fort Donelson, while brilliantly avoiding near-catastrophe and ultimately triumphing at Shiloh. And Grant's bold maneuvers at Vicksburg would cost the Confederacy its invaluable lifeline: the Mississippi River. But destiny and President Lincoln had even loftier plans for Grant, placing nothing less than the future of an entire nation in the capable hands of the North's most valuable military leader.   Based in large part on military communiqués, personal eyewitness accounts, and Grant's own writings, Catton's extraordinary history offers readers an insightful look at arguably the most innovative Civil War battlefield strategist, unmatched by even the South's legendary Robert E. Lee.

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