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The Armies of US Grant by James R Arnold

Book Review by Neil Morley

For those members of the ACWRT(UK) fortunate enough to attend the meetings at the Civil Service Club in London cannot fail to be interested in the variety of books and other Civil War memorabilia which appear on the raffle table. I am sure that everyone who looks at the selection chooses in their own mind which item they would they would pick if fortunate enough to have their ticket drawn out of the hat. This happened to me and I was delighted to pick this book.

It can hardly not have been noticed that I am an admirer of US Grant. For me, this book gives a much more balance approach to the successes and failures of Grant from the early days of the Civil War. Was he successful because of his exemplary strategy or was this frequently more by luck or good fortune? The balance is drawn in the book as to what went well and why and what did not go so well. It appears that on a number of occasions Grant succumbed to going on a ’bender’ and it is very much to the credit of Rawlings that he kept Grant on the straight and narrow.

From the early days of the conflict the Army in the West received the inferior weaponry to the Army of the Potomac and because both sides in the war had scavenged Europe for any weapons they could get hold of, no doubt at inflated prices, they were supplied with arms that any country had found inferior.

At the end of each section there is a Combat Assessment as well as an Order of Battle which lists the units involved. This is not of particular interest to me but to many Civil War historians is of importance and shows how the author has carefully researched the topic. There is much to learn from this well written and researched book.

The narrative contains many examples of:

Where Grant got it wrong or made a misjudgement.

Where Grant was lucky or fortunate.

Where Grant got it spot on.

None of the great generals either in the American Civil War or any other conflict manage to get it right all of the time.

An insightful read.


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