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 (1861-1865) Civil War Battles (Eastern Theater)
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mikecmaps
CAMARILLO CA USA
Posts: 230
Joined: 2020
Grant broke down 1864
11/30/2023 4:08:10 PM


Grant broke down 1864

So, I have read in a number of accounts that on the night of May 6. 1864 Grant broke down and cried on his cot in his tent. But many don’t cite a specific source for the original story.
One example is;
Dowdey, Lees last campaign
P172 After the battle, the need past for an appearance of stoical calm,
he became extremely agitated and broke down on his cot.
That was on the night of May 6th, in reaction to his first battle in Virginia.

Source appears to be James Wilson; Under the Old Flag Vol 1 pp390-391

“But when all proper measures had been taken and there was nothing further to do but wait, both Rawlins and Bowers concurred in the statement that Grant went to his tent, and, throwing himself face downward on his cot, gave way to the greatest emotion, but without uttering any word of doubt or discouragement. What was in his heart can only be inferred, but from what they said nothing can be more certain that he was stirred to the very depths of his soul. How long he remained under extreme tension neither Rawlins or Bowers stated, but they were clear and empathic that they had never before seen him so deeply moved as upon that occasion, and that not till it became apparent that the enemy was not pressing his advantage did he entirely recover his perfect composure.”

https://archive.org/details/undertheoldflag01wilsrich/page/n411/mode/1up

Wilson repeats the same story in “the Life of John A Rawlins” pp216 and cites
Rawlins and Bowers as the source. BG John Rawlins, Chief of Staff, and Col. T S Bowers of Grants staff.

https://archive.org/details/lifejohnraw00wilsrich/page/216/mode/1up

Wilson himself led one of the union cavalry brigades under Sheridan.
Also the National Park Service;
https://www.nps.gov/articles/000/grant-at-the-wilderness.htm
By the end of the day, flames consumed the dead and the dying soldiers on both sides. Grant was deeply disturbed by the profound losses. He chain-smoked throughout the battle, setting a personal record for cigars smoked in a single day. At one point, he broke down and uncharacteristically cried in his tent.

Shelby Foote;
Grant, after that first night in the Wilderness, went to his tent, broke down, and cried very hard. Some of the staff members said they'd never seen a man so unstrung.

But Bruce Catton A Stillness at Appomattox
P103
Grant went into his ten, lay down on his cot, and had a very bad ten or fifteen minutes of it
Citing General Wilson under the old flag vol 1 pp390-91

Even though it turns out that Dowdey, NPS and Foote give good accounts I always prefer to see the source for myself.
And note the source does not say “cry” (not disputing) but “greatest emotion.”
But consistent with Victorians (1912) finding that a Great Man like Grant would not yield to unseemly crying.

respectfully, Mike_C.
mikecmaps
DT509er
Santa Rosa CA USA
Posts: 1528
Joined: 2005
Grant broke down 1864
12/1/2023 12:43:46 AM
Quote:


Grant broke down 1864

So, I have read in a number of accounts that on the night of May 6. 1864 Grant broke down and cried on his cot in his tent. But many don’t cite a specific source for the original story.
One example is;
Dowdey, Lees last campaign
P172 After the battle, the need past for an appearance of stoical calm,
he became extremely agitated and broke down on his cot.
That was on the night of May 6th, in reaction to his first battle in Virginia.

Source appears to be James Wilson; Under the Old Flag Vol 1 pp390-391

“But when all proper measures had been taken and there was nothing further to do but wait, both Rawlins and Bowers concurred in the statement that Grant went to his tent, and, throwing himself face downward on his cot, gave way to the greatest emotion, but without uttering any word of doubt or discouragement. What was in his heart can only be inferred, but from what they said nothing can be more certain that he was stirred to the very depths of his soul. How long he remained under extreme tension neither Rawlins or Bowers stated, but they were clear and empathic that they had never before seen him so deeply moved as upon that occasion, and that not till it became apparent that the enemy was not pressing his advantage did he entirely recover his perfect composure.”

https://archive.org/details/undertheoldflag01wilsrich/page/n411/mode/1up

Wilson repeats the same story in “the Life of John A Rawlins” pp216 and cites
Rawlins and Bowers as the source. BG John Rawlins, Chief of Staff, and Col. T S Bowers of Grants staff.

https://archive.org/details/lifejohnraw00wilsrich/page/216/mode/1up

Wilson himself led one of the union cavalry brigades under Sheridan.
Also the National Park Service;
https://www.nps.gov/articles/000/grant-at-the-wilderness.htm
By the end of the day, flames consumed the dead and the dying soldiers on both sides. Grant was deeply disturbed by the profound losses. He chain-smoked throughout the battle, setting a personal record for cigars smoked in a single day. At one point, he broke down and uncharacteristically cried in his tent.

Shelby Foote;
Grant, after that first night in the Wilderness, went to his tent, broke down, and cried very hard. Some of the staff members said they'd never seen a man so unstrung.

But Bruce Catton A Stillness at Appomattox
P103
Grant went into his ten, lay down on his cot, and had a very bad ten or fifteen minutes of it
Citing General Wilson under the old flag vol 1 pp390-91

Even though it turns out that Dowdey, NPS and Foote give good accounts I always prefer to see the source for myself.
And note the source does not say “cry” (not disputing) but “greatest emotion.”
But consistent with Victorians (1912) finding that a Great Man like Grant would not yield to unseemly crying.

respectfully, Mike_C.
mikecmaps


Ordering thousands of men to their death and maiming all in the attempt to kill thousands more while attempting to win a war, yeah I can understand why a man, why Grant would break down at some point.

Dan
----------------------------------
"American parachutists-devils in baggy pants..." German officer, Italy 1944. “If your experiment needs statistics, you ought to have done a better experiment.” Lord Ernest Rutherford
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 6511
Joined: 2004
Grant broke down 1864
12/1/2023 9:36:08 AM
The anecdote rings true, in my opinion.

There are legitimate reasons for being circumspect, I must admit : not least the determination of certain officers in the AOP to depict Grant as being out of his depth and outclassed by the more dangerous foe he was now up against. A malicious distortion wouldn’t be beyond them, especially if they sensed a hubristic approach from the newly arrived leader who deserved to be knocked down a peg or two.

But I’m convinced that the sheer intensity of the battle in the Wilderness was enough to unnerve the most resolute of soldiers. It really did transcend. As a student of that war’s casualty figures, I must emphasise that I was genuinely shocked when I investigated the actual scale of the fatalities that the Union army suffered in this fighting. Not just the 2,246 officially confirmed as killed in action, but at least two thousand more who died of wounds or were initially posted as missing and were actually dead : many of them burnt alive in the holocaust of infernal woods. Grant himself stated that this was worse than Shiloh, and that was really saying something.

More evidence might be cited when Grant lost his equanimity earlier in the battle, when General Griffin stormed into the HQ assemblage in a rage, declaring that his command had been cut up and that he was outraged by the situation he’d been pushed into.

Grant was aghast, and said “ Who is this General Gregg ? He should be arrested ! “

At that point Meade, in an avuncular manner, bent over Grant and buttoned up his jacket, calming him down, telling him “ His name is Griffin, not Gregg, and that’s just his way of talking “.

There might well have been elements of schadenfreud or condescension in the stories, but I reckon that the pressure that Grant endured was enough to break his composure, and that the Battle of the Wilderness was in some ways the most terrible of the war.

Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Michigan Dave
Muskegon MI USA
Posts: 8319
Joined: 2006
Grant broke down 1864
12/1/2023 11:34:09 AM
Quote:
Quote:


Grant broke down 1864

So, I have read in a number of accounts that on the night of May 6. 1864 Grant broke down and cried on his cot in his tent. But many don’t cite a specific source for the original story.
One example is;
Dowdey, Lees last campaign
P172 After the battle, the need past for an appearance of stoical calm,
he became extremely agitated and broke down on his cot.
That was on the night of May 6th, in reaction to his first battle in Virginia.

Source appears to be James Wilson; Under the Old Flag Vol 1 pp390-391

“But when all proper measures had been taken and there was nothing further to do but wait, both Rawlins and Bowers concurred in the statement that Grant went to his tent, and, throwing himself face downward on his cot, gave way to the greatest emotion, but without uttering any word of doubt or discouragement. What was in his heart can only be inferred, but from what they said nothing can be more certain that he was stirred to the very depths of his soul. How long he remained under extreme tension neither Rawlins or Bowers stated, but they were clear and empathic that they had never before seen him so deeply moved as upon that occasion, and that not till it became apparent that the enemy was not pressing his advantage did he entirely recover his perfect composure.”

[Read More]

Wilson repeats the same story in “the Life of John A Rawlins” pp216 and cites
Rawlins and Bowers as the source. BG John Rawlins, Chief of Staff, and Col. T S Bowers of Grants staff.

[Read More]

Wilson himself led one of the union cavalry brigades under Sheridan.
Also the National Park Service;
[Read More]
By the end of the day, flames consumed the dead and the dying soldiers on both sides. Grant was deeply disturbed by the profound losses. He chain-smoked throughout the battle, setting a personal record for cigars smoked in a single day. At one point, he broke down and uncharacteristically cried in his tent.

Shelby Foote;
Grant, after that first night in the Wilderness, went to his tent, broke down, and cried very hard. Some of the staff members said they'd never seen a man so unstrung.

But Bruce Catton A Stillness at Appomattox
P103
Grant went into his ten, lay down on his cot, and had a very bad ten or fifteen minutes of it
Citing General Wilson under the old flag vol 1 pp390-91

Even though it turns out that Dowdey, NPS and Foote give good accounts I always prefer to see the source for myself.
And note the source does not say “cry” (not disputing) but “greatest emotion.”
But consistent with Victorians (1912) finding that a Great Man like Grant would not yield to unseemly crying.

respectfully, Mike_C.
mikecmaps


Ordering thousands of men to their death and maiming all in the attempt to kill thousands more while attempting to win a war, yeah I can understand why a man, why Grant would break down at some point.

Dan



Mike, & Dan,

I agree, Grant put winning ahead of all costs, it had to get to him??

Regards,
MD

BTW Mike I put your websites into easy "read mores" for access!?
----------------------------------
"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."
DT509er
Santa Rosa CA USA
Posts: 1528
Joined: 2005
Grant broke down 1864
12/1/2023 2:04:27 PM
Quote:
Mike, & Dan,

I agree, Grant put winning ahead of all costs, it had to get to him??

Regards,
MD

BTW Mike I put your websites into easy "read mores" for access!?


I do not wish to get too far ahead of myself here as my study of the US Civil War continues but your comment MD strikes me right where my belief is regarding Union Generalship.

Grant demonstrated his leadership by attack and by the pain of war, not by talk as other Generals did, which by the way based on what I have read and reviewed there seems to be a lot of chest thumping on both sides about the vanquished enemy long before or actually during the battle. Now while this is nothing new to egos of hundreds of Generals throughout history, Union leadership under McClellan seemed to be on an organizational level, exceptional. Under Pope, Halleck, and others before Grant, the word was mightier than the results. Back to McClellan though, my assessment, and I am on the eve of Antietam in my reading, though I have read separate books specific to Antietam, McClellan as mentioned was an exceptional organizer, bringing a trust hard to attain from the frontline troops that was exceedingly exuberant in his presence and in their belief of McClellan. But, IMO, McClellan for all that he did for the Union Army in organization and morale, he seemed afraid of the aspect of losing. Of course, no one wants to lose but as a General there lies the onus of command, knowing when to attack and attack with relentless vigor of which McClellan never demonstrated.

I wanted to wait to voice these thoughts but now seemed to be appropriate with the mentioning of Grants breakdown. Imagine if you could, McClellan being in that position of sending troops into the battle non-stop with conviction and resoluteness that presented casualty lists to the forefront, such as with Grant at Shiloh. I do not believe McClellan could have handled that well; heck for that matter as demonstrated by Grant, maybe no General could after some point.

I guess what I am saying is, McClellan had Lee in his grasp moving into the South Mountain-Antietam battles and he knew it but, IMO he did not have the steel of character, of leadership to press on. I am not equating McClellan to being a coward, but I do believe he was afraid of losing, which he thought he never did.

Dan

----------------------------------
"American parachutists-devils in baggy pants..." German officer, Italy 1944. “If your experiment needs statistics, you ought to have done a better experiment.” Lord Ernest Rutherford
mikecmaps
CAMARILLO CA USA
Posts: 230
Joined: 2020
Grant broke down 1864
12/1/2023 5:30:15 PM


Dan MD Phil & Group

Yes, the story rings true to me in that Wilson cites Rawlins and Bowers as the source both of staff and the most intimate of staff members. I agree with Wilson that it is a positive story in making Grant show responsibility and empathy for the troops. Again Lee – You have to order the death of the army you love. Also, Grant said he was surprised at the vicious carnage of the fighting and surprised Lee did not retreat.

Before coming to Virginia Grant commanded in 8 battles in the west. At Shiloh both sides casualties were about 23k about half total loss at Gettysburg and where each side lost about that same amount. Grants other 6/7 battles union loss was each less than 5000 and total both sides not more than 7000. Only at Chattanooga did both sides casualties top 12000, both sides.
Lees first five battles both side casualties averaged 22k. Grant was surprised at the cohesion shown by the ANV.

Other accounts by Porter (grants ADC), Humphreys (Meade chief-of-staff), and Lyman (Meade ADC) did not include the story.
Rhea also cites the story by Wilson in Rawlins

Dan,

McClellan vs Grant or Lee?
Yes, McClellan like many other field commanders did suffer fear of failure/defeat. Which is not/was not unreasonable and only the foolhardy would not have that feeling. Grant had learned he could always beat rebel troops and would often have them out matched. Thus, the shock and surprise to see the level of fighting in Virginia. The criticism of McClellan, Johnston, Bragg, Rosecrans for slow or reluctance to attack is too easy. They show a realization of their responsibly to not wantonly spill blood to no purpose. Lee knew he had to make one man count as two and he had to be willing to face appalling losses to gain some military object.

Yes, MD, Thanks so much for the read more format - good thing.

Thaks all
Respectfully
Mike_C.
mikecmaps
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 6511
Joined: 2004
Grant broke down 1864
12/1/2023 5:46:33 PM
There was a sensitivity to Grant’s nature that seems so incongruous compared with his combat record .

He couldn’t stand the sight of rare meat . He was upset by the rough handling of horses. He actually wrote that, after the Battle of Champions Hill in May 1863, the appearance of the battlefield affected him profoundly, even though he’d calmly countenanced the slaughter whilst it was raging.

The Wilderness pushed him into a realm of carnage that was stupefying. He was traumatised and yet able to order “ Forward to Spotsylvania” the next day.

That says it all.

As for McClellan, his notorious unwillingness to commit to all out battle is hard to reconcile with the reality of Antietam, which entailed a greater slaughter on one day than any other commander instigated.

It’s baffling.

Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 6511
Joined: 2004
Grant broke down 1864
12/2/2023 3:00:05 AM
Mike_C,
You allude to the combined total of twelve thousand casualties for both sides at Chattanooga. I would stress the importance of the fact that the figure includes a very large proportion of unwounded Confederate prisoners : in terms of actual bloodshed, the rebels suffered extraordinarily few casualties for such an important battle : barely 2,500 killed or wounded .

When citing casualty figures, it’s necessary to focus on their composition. The bare totals do not always equate to slaughter.

At the Wilderness, Grant took 17,666 casualties, of whom roughly one fourth were killed outright or were mortally wounded. A couple of hundred of these victims were estimated to have been burned to death.

Lee suffered 11,000 casualties, but just under 2,000 of them were killed or died from wounds. Lee himself remarked that, while a large number of his men had been wounded, the wounds tended to include a high ratio of slight cases, which he attributed to lack of artillery fire in the woods.

From a similar number of rebel casualties at Shiloh, perhaps 3,500 were killed or fatally wounded.

Grant had a profound aversion to bloodshed : he admitted that, at Shiloh, he was unable to bear the sights and sounds of the field hospitals, and found that experience harder to cope with than facing enemy fire.

Editing: Grant’s Vicksburg campaign included one episode that doesn’t get sufficient acknowledgment, in my opinion. The failed frontal assault on 22 May 1863 was very bloodily repulsed with thousands of casualties, including many left dying wretchedly in front of the rebel works. Not so very different from Cold Harbor one year later. I suppose that the triumphant outcome of his campaign tends to obscure the horrors of that. I must revisit Grant’s memoirs and see what he said.

Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Lightning
Glasgow  UK
Posts: 1071
Joined: 2005
Grant broke down 1864
12/2/2023 9:51:49 AM
Hi all,

If not for McLellan's dithering on the Peninsula and then again, IMHO, the criminal failure to destroy Lee's army at or after Antietam, there would not have been a Fredericksburg, a Gettysburg, a Chatanooga, a Wilderness, a Spotsylvania and so on.

Grant was dealt a poor hand by his precedessors who failed to press the advantage when the Union often had decisive odds in its favour. Grant faced a foe that had been largely shorn of its offensive elan, but still retained a vicious and stubborn character in defence and was now committed to the bitter end. That he broke down is telling of his humanity; we know that senior officers throughout history have had their nerves shredded by the obligations of sending men to their deaths. That he got out of bed the next day and resumed the offensive, when everyone else expected him to order the AoP to withdraw, is even more telling of his resolute desire to finish the war. He made mistakes along the way, mistakes that look obscene to us peering back through history. However, I'm not sure that the Union could have picked a better man to get the job done without them first turning their pistol on themselves.

Cheers,
Colin
----------------------------------
"There is no course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight to the end."
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 6511
Joined: 2004
Grant broke down 1864
12/2/2023 2:49:34 PM
Good points, Colin.

These characteristics are so interesting, aren’t they ?

This war threw up two commanders in Grant and Lee who were, I daresay, rather too keen to fight.

In McClellan and Joe Johnston we might suggest an opposite propensity: too tentative in seeking combat?

All four were soldiers of outstanding ability in different ways.

Excessive zeal for battle cost oceans of blood. So did the reluctance to engage, which you refer to persuasively.

I’m tempted to suggest that Grant was a humane man who wrestled with demons and got the job done. I’m not so sure about Lee : a gracious and courtly man, of high intellect and impeccable conduct….. and yet I think he had a strong killer instinct that allowed him to countenance slaughter with unusual equanimity.

Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
mikecmaps
CAMARILLO CA USA
Posts: 230
Joined: 2020
Grant broke down 1864
12/2/2023 7:28:39 PM


Phil, Colin I like what you say.
Phil
“two commanders in Grant and Lee who were, I daresay, rather too keen to fight.”
Lincoln gave Grant a mandate to fight and take the war to Lee and end it. Grant didn’t use very effective strategy or tactics – hammering proved bad idea and far more costly than needed. Lincoln came to Grant as his last card – Grant should have played his own strategy to land in NC and cut off Lees communications and maneuver away from Richmond for decisive battle, what a pity.

Colin

“poor hand by his predecessors”
In the sense they left a legacy of a defeated AOP even with effects of GB and Lee and ANV with an aura of fighting and maneuver power. 1864 Lee had lost his ability to maneuver and initiative but still had tremendous cohesion in ANV. Had Grant faced anything like Lees ‘62 army hard to imagine the outcome?

“McLellan's dithering on the Peninsula failure to destroy Lee's army at or after Antietam, there would not have been a Fredericksburg, a Gettysburg, a Chattanooga, a Wilderness, a Spotsylvania and so on.”

Colin I’d say more Johnstons wounding lead directly to Lee command and save Richmond and defeat AOP for two years. I am convinced Johnston would have abandoned Richmond IMO and McClellan would have been the great war hero after taking Richmond and the war end by end 1862. (sorry yeah counter factual) President McClellan?? Wow! I know?

Phil, Casualties - i was only saying very general numbers to make point that Grant really had no exposure , yeah Shiloh, to the level of fighting in Virginia for two years. Which is why Meade was not impressed by Grants bravado confidence. Grant in wilderness kind of had his nose rubbed in Lees and ANV fighting power that all the AOP men and commanders knew sadly from bloody experience even Antietam and Gettysburg AOP felt no great elation for. Grants leadership brought AOP down even from where they started by July Aug ’64. Hard to imagine that without Grant Union Great superiority of troops and resources war may not have ended as well as it did.

Thanks, good discussion,
Yours
Mike_C.
mikecmaps

Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 6511
Joined: 2004
Grant broke down 1864
12/3/2023 3:16:00 AM
Mike_C,

Excellent point you make about the importance of Joe Johnston’s wounding propelling the war on a very different trajectory by virtue of Lee’s assumption of command. I couldn’t agree more ; and Joe Johnston himself admitted it.

While it’s counter factual to muse on McClellan taking Richmond and the Union winning the war in 1862, it does raise the prospect of a “ McClellanesque” peace, with the institution of slavery left intact and a future without Reconstruction and Jim Crow. What kind of America then ? Indeed, what kind of World?

Editing : but even by earlier 1862, Grant was already convinced that this was to be a war of complete conquest, so maybe my musings about McClellan holding sway are fanciful? Such was the impact of Shiloh, although I’ve read that Grant had ventured his opinion after Fort Donelson. And, it must be said, Seven Pines was remarkably bloody, so Little Mac had already experienced something pretty nasty, too.
I wonder if Grant’s advocacy could have stood up to the highly esteemed verdict of McClellan, who wrote that letter from Harrison’s Landing after the Seven Days had shown another horrific bloodbath.


Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

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