- Grant’s Lieutenants: From Cairo to Vicksburg, and: Grant’s Lieutenants: From Chattanooga to Appomattox
In 1989 Kent State University Press published a collection of essays edited by Gary Gallagher, each of which addressed a narrow aspect of the Antietam Campaign. With this Gallagher injected new life into what arguably seemed a somewhat stale Civil War historiography and, over the next two decades, he published more than one dozen similar volumes addressing the conflict’s eastern campaigns. Steven E. Woodworth and the University Press of Kansas recently entered into [End Page 1334] this realm, producing two volumes on Ulysses S. Grant and the subordinates who served under him during the war. There is not a mediocre essay in either collection, several break new ground, and some are quite provocative.
Woodworth’s first volume, published in 2001, addresses Grant’s western campaigns through the fall of Vicksburg. Its essays look at the “usual suspects” such as William Tecumseh Sherman and James B. McPherson, but two stand out as exceptional. Stacy D. Allen’s “‘If He Had Less Rank’” looks at Grant’s relationship with Lew Wallace, and it attempts to untangle the events of 5 April 1862, in and around Pittsburg Landing. At approximately 10:00 AM Grant sent word to Wallace, whose division was camped six miles away at Crump’s Landing, that he was under attack and that Wallace’s division needed to move immediately to reinforce him. It was 7:00 PM and the day’s fighting had ended before Wallace arrived on the battlefield. Journalists, aided and abetted by Grant, subsequently placed a large portion of the blame for the near-defeat at Shiloh on Wallace’s shoulders, charging that his division had been lost and could not find its way to the battlefield. In his essay Allen undertakes a wonderful piece of historical detective work in an effort to determine what, exactly, happened on that day, and she argues convincingly that bad luck, poor intelligence, and misunderstood communications were mostly to blame for the division’s late arrival, not dilatoriness on Wallace’s part. “It is simply ludicrous,” Allen concludes, “to blame Wallace for the carnage at Shiloh, as if the absence of his division somehow improved the accuracy of the Confederate musketry and artillery fire” (p. 84).
The other essay worthy of special note in the first volume is that by Lesley J. Gordon on Grant and William S. Rosecrans. Gordon follows the trajectory of their relationship, from friends to bitter enemies, and finds that misunderstandings before and during the Battle of Iuka were the starting point of the relationship’s rapid decline. “Both men made mistakes at Iuka,” Gordon argues. “But when newspaper reporters judged Iuka’s winners and losers, these two individuals’ frustrations and failures turned into personal antagonism” (p. 116). Subsequent events at Corinth, Gordon continues, poisoned the relationship permanently. “The relationship between William S. Rosecrans and Ulysses S. Grant was not doomed from the start,” Gordon concludes, but “Grant could not bear Rosecrans’s arrogance, nor could he endure the press’s continued favoring of his subordinates” (p. 127). It is worth noting the similarities in the tales weaved by Allen and by Gordon: confusion on the battlefield between Grant and his subordinates, battles where victories were not as complete as, in retrospect, seemed possible, a press prepared to assign blame, and a Ulysses S. Grant determined that his name would not be dragged through the mud.
The second volume, From Chattanooga to Appomattox, has essays of similar quality, the most noteworthy of which are those by Ethan Rafuse on George Meade and by Mark Grimsley on Henry Halleck. Rafuse lays out in great detail the evolving nature of Grant’s and Meade’s relationship. They made a good team, he contends, because they had similar ideas about...