wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
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Ulysses S. Grant LeadershipUlysses S. Grant Leadership


Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885)

 American president (1869-77).

Grant (pictured right) was much more successful in the American Civil War as the leader of the Union army against the Confederates under Robert E. Lee.


For more detail see... 

The Battle of Gettysburg in the History Highlights section.


Why was he a great general?


1. Purpose

He wanted nothing less than “unconditional surrender” from the Confederacy and this became his nickname.

As well as attacking the Confederates from different directions, he was the first general to understand the idea of total war including the destruction of the enemy’s supply lines, particularly the railroad.

He described the art of war as:

“Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on”.


2. Tough and determined

He defeated the Confederates by force of numbers in big battles with very high casualties despite severe public criticism. ulysses s grant leadership

His aim was to bludgeon his way to the Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia, saying he would “fight it out on this line if it takes all summer”.

He showed particular determination during the siege and capture of the vital city of Vicksburg on the Mississippi in 1863.

“I can’t spare this general. He fights”, Abraham Lincoln (pictured right) said.



3. Action after reflection

He reflected on his options in solitude and then chose the strategy he thought best.

Then he acted quickly and decisively to carry it out.

He drank heavily, but it never affected his work. Lincoln once joked he would give a barrel of Grant’s whisky to his other generals to make them as successful!


Ulysses S. Grant Leadership

4. Success and humility from failure

Up until the war, he was a failure, like his deputy, William Sherman (pictured right).

Grant didn’t get a commission into the cavalry, and drink and depression forced his resignation from the army.

He then failed at farming and had to suffer the humiliation of asking his father for money and work in his store.

 His failures gave him humility to understand his men.


5. Kindness and respect

He was a highly competent, appreciative and kind man, who was prepared to let others, like Sherman, share the limelight.

He was compassionate towards the enemy in victory and admired by his troops, who were inspired to win the war by Grant’s miraculous victory at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862.

 ulysses s grant leadership

6. Support

He had the loyal support of a loving wife, Julia (pictured right), and President Abraham Lincoln.


Key quotes on law and justice

The will of the people is the best law.

If men make law in slavish obedience to rules, they will fail.

I know no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their strongest execution.


Key quote on war

I have never felt any sort of fondness for war, and I have never advocated it, except as a means of peace.

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