Review: Grant Takes Command

Grant Takes Command by Bruce Catton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ulysses S. Grant is one of those exceptional individuals and rare generals in American history. He was incredibly humble compared to his colleagues like McClellan, Roscrans, Hooker, and Burnside. Even better, he was much more capable than all of them combined. Perhaps his only character flaw which also affected his presidency was that he always thought the best in the others, even if that opinion was not justified. Halleck tried to sabotage him earlier in his career yet Grant did not believe Halleck was behind it until later. As president, Grant chose cabinet members poorly because he also thought they could do no wrong (they were as corrupt as they came).

Grant Takes Command is the sequel to Grant Moves South. In 1863, Grant was now the victor of Vicksburg. He was now the general with the best track record. Grant had a plan to keep up the pressure on the South and marched into Tennessee to save the Union army after the reverse at the Battle of Chickamauga. By contrast, Meade, the victor of Gettysburg, was criticized for being too slow by not capitalizing on his victory.

Grant now had to learn to play army politics, especially after Congress revived the rank of Lieutenant General. Fortunately, Grant had excellent allies and friends. Catton was excellent in describing this supportive network. I was surprised how close Grant was to his wife Julia and how she had permission to visit him at his headquarters.

Catton ended the book with Grant ready to fade into obscurity and retirement. That was not to be.

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