General U.S. Grant Under Fire - Speaker Joseph Rose
Time & Location
About the Event
We open our 2021 programme of meetings with what promises to be a highly controversial talk and discussion on the life and historiography of one of the Civil War’s most important characters, Ulysses S Grant.
Joseph Rose challenges Ulysses S. Grant’s reputation as a military genius and reliable chronicler of the Civil War. Defenders ignore his suffering the biggest surprise of the war, committing the worst official act of anti-Semitism on U.S. soil, coming closest to losing Washington, and pursuing simplistic strategies and tactics, with impetuous frontal assaults against fortified positions. Grant practiced favouritism—trashing enemies, elevating friends, and arranging battles to fit his prejudices. Rose resolves such controversies as Grant's partying with Confederates on flag-of-truce boats, blaming Lew Wallace at Shiloh, pretending he always planned on passing Vicksburg, taking credit for Missionary Ridge, and leaving wounded men to suffer between the lines. Rose overturns old tales by detailing Grant’s corruption in Cairo, occupation of Paducah under orders, blunders in the Delta, and non-triumphal Wilderness exit. Grant’s Memoirs are shown to be unreliable. Brave and persistent, Grant achieved victory at Donelson and at Vicksburg by hedging inert enemy commanders against rivers. Naval forces—whose impact he minimized—played crucial roles. He also refused to acknowledge the essential services of Washburne, Rawlins, Dana, and Halleck. Rose furthers redeems the reputations of Lee, McClernand, Warren, Thomas, Rosecrans, Buell, Meade, and others from 150 years of untruthful attacks.
Joseph Rose grew up in Upstate New York reading the West Point Atlas of American Wars, World Book Encyclopedia, 1938 Jane's Fighting Ships, and other works in his father's collection of military history. During a career in healthcare management, he took a cross-country trip and visited battlefields of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Nothing was out of the ordinary, until discussions and debates on a Yahoo Group, the Civil War Western Theater Discussion Board (CWWT), persuaded him that history, especially in Ulysses S. Grant's case, can be terribly miswritten.
Declarations that Grant was not tactically surprised at Shiloh or that he ordered the Army of the Cumberland to ascend Missionary Ridge at Chattanooga sent the author scrambling to the New York Public Library in search of primary sources concerning these battles. Painstaking research, using everything from manuscripts in repositories across the country to the internet, confirmed that Grant, particularly in his Personal Memoirs, and the numerous defenders of his generalship and character have distorted the historical record. And there is an immense institutional resistance from their side, which quashes dissent and ignores—if it can't crush—revisionism unfavorable to Grant.