Crucible of Command: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee--The War They Fought, the Peace They Forged
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Then came the Civil War that made them both commanders of armies, leaders of men, and heroes to the multitudes of Americans then and since who rightfully place them in the pantheon of our greatest soldiers. Forged in battle as generals, these two otherwise very different men became almost indistinguishable in their instincts, attributes, attitudes, and skills in command.
Each the subject of innumerable biographies, Generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee have never before been paired as they are here. Exploring their personalities, their characters, their ethical and moral compasses, and their political and military worlds, William C. Davis, one of America's preeminent historians, uses substantial, newly discovered evidence on both men to find surprising similarities between them, as well as new insights and unique interpretations on how their lives prepared them for the war they fought and influenced how they fought it.
Crucible of Command is both a gripping narrative of the final year of the war and a fresh, revealing portrait of these two great commanders as they took each other's measure across the battlefield with the aid of millions of men.
moment was ripe if the general assault were renewed. Violating his own rule against believing the politician, Grant gave way to his optimism and ordered Sherman and McPherson to attack. The enemy repulsed them at heavy cost, as well as McClernand, who had overstated the strength of his position. At the end of the day Grant had a long list of casualties and a secure supply line, but he did not have Vicksburg. “I intend to lose no more men,” he told Porter.103 Seeing the strength of the enemy
I may be better, but I see no prospect of it now,” he told her. “I have always remained the same sinful Robert Lee.”76 She did not appreciate his sense of humor, and never would. It did not help that his banter often took a sarcastic turn, as when she scolded him when he told her he found her last lecture disappointing, then backpedaled in his next letter by assuring her that “I was not ‘disappointed in my lecture this time’ for I read it more plainly than it was written & felt it more deeply
emancipated most of his slaves years before the war, and had sent to Liberia those who were willing to go; that the latter were writing back most affectionate letters to him, some of which he received through the lines during the war.” He went on to quote Lee as saying, “So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interests of the South. So fully am I satisfied of this, as regards Virginia especially, that I
passed,” he wrote Mary, “for I know I fall short of my obligations.”67 Lee may have been telling his wife what he knew she wanted to hear, but seeing the face of battle at last also may have started the process of impelling Lee to turn his face more heavenward on his own. During that march Grant studied the landmarks of the battles they fought, like the Castle San Juan de Ulloa and the mountain pass at Cerro Gordo, which he thought impregnable.68 Scott halted at Puebla on May 15 to refit and
above a river bend that kept them out of sight from Columbus. A spatter of musketry from woods lining the bank meant that Belmont would soon know they were coming, so Grant put the infantry on its way immediately under McClernand and remained behind to get the artillery off-loaded. In just minutes, skirmishing began and then he heard the cannon of the Lexington and Tyler as they passed the bend to distract Columbus’s batteries. Grant mounted his horse and posted a few companies down the riverbank