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Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won…
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Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won the Civil War

by Charles Bracelen Flood

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Union generals Grant and Sherman shared a similar background of failure and frustration, though at the beginning of the War Between the States, Grant was probably the bigger failure of the two. Both men were very dependent upon their families for support of one sort or another, be it as simple as Grant working in his father's leather shop or a bit more complicated like Sherman benefitting from the political influence of his politically-connected family.

Just four years later, the pair was largely credited with winning the war and preserving the Union. They would go on to worldwide and national fame, something they could hardly have imagined possible in 1860 when the coming war was still brewing. Grant, of course, would become president of the United States (although his presidency is seen as somewhat of a failure due to the scandals occurring during his years in office), and Sherman would become head of the U.S. Army and would remain a soldier for almost five decades before finally retiring on his 64th birthday.

Theirs was a special bond, one that involved true friendship and a melding of two very different military minds into one mindset that overwhelmed all the resistance that Robert E. Lee and the rest of the South could throw at them. They were exactly what the Union needed and they came along at precisely the right moment to save that Union. "Grant and Sherman" tells their story in just over 400 pages; it's a story well worth considering. ( )
  SamSattler | Aug 28, 2014 |
Not a bad book for old Civil War buffs. The title is of course a tautology since it goes without saying that Grant and Sherman were the two best generals in the North and the North won. Very good on family life, early careers, and skill sets, gets bogged down after the war in the Sherman feuds. Tries to make a case for Grant as flexible and capable battlefield manager, instead of the usual meatgrinder view. ( )
  annbury | Feb 4, 2013 |
Many historians have often characterized the relationship between Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson as a close relationship, in which Lee trusted Jackson implicitly. Lee himself said that Jackson's death after the Battle of Chancellorsville was 'like losing my right arm.' For the remainder of the war, Lee lacked a similar relationship with any of the other Confederate generals.

Less publicized, probably because the Union war effort is seen in such blunt, unpoetic and non-mythologized terms, is the close relationship between Union generals U. S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman. Grant trusted Sherman completely, as is evident from his lack of concern when the subordinate general abandoned normal military tactics and procedure and marched through Georgia with no communication with the commanding general for weeks.

Charles Bracelen Flood has attempted to explore this unique relationship in "Grant and Sherman: The Friendship that Won the Civil War." Beginning with their backgrounds, he shows their similarities. He then goes on to demonstrate the growing trust between the two generals during the early years of the war, when both served in the western theater. He also strongly implies that, at different times, each one helped to preserve the other's military position in times of outside criticism.

The focus on these two individuals offers an interesting look at the Civil War, particularly the Union war effort, in terms of the relationships between the military and political leaders. Instead of focusing on battlefield tactics, it is interested in backroom tactics. What emerges is a portrait of an environment in which overcoming political obstacles is as important in the outcome of the war as defeating the opposing army. (This, of course, is not an unexplored area in other American conflicts: frequently George Washington's generalship in the American Revolution is studied in this way, as is Dwight Eisenhower's command of the multi-national allied forces in World War II.)

Unfortunately, Flood oversteps by describing the relationship as a friendship, rather than a partnership. Ultimately, he may be correct, but the description he provides, like that which is often provided of Lee and Jackson, is of a highly successful partnership rather than a friendship. A similar relationship could be described, using similar letters and other evidence, of the close relationship between Grant and Abraham Lincoln, but none would suggest that it was a friendship, despite its success.

As such, I found the book a frustrating read. Flood, who also wrote "Lee -- The Last Years," a book which I greatly admire, is convinced he is describing a friendship rather than a partnership. Page after page, I just did not see it, much as I might want to agree with the hypothesis in my heart. Still, there is value in the joint biography, in suggesting the importance of relationships and cooperation in overall Civil War strategy. ( )
  ALincolnNut | Nov 10, 2009 |
This book is on my list of "Books to read again." (When I get caught up on all the ones I haven't read yet, that is). What a study in contrasts these two men were. ( )
  LeahsChoice | May 23, 2009 |
This brief book retells the highlights of the lives of Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman. There’s no analysis, a few inaccuracies, and some major elisions, but it’s still a great story. You’ve got Grant, Sherman, Lincoln, the Civil War – it would be pretty hard to make it dull. And you can’t help but wonder what would become of men in today’s world who had to slog through all the setbacks Grant and Sherman had and still go on to push themselves to the top. The two men became friends, and their friendship helped to sustain each of them. As Sherman said of Grant later, "He stood by me when I was crazy and I stood by him when he was drunk, and now we stand by each other always."

I wouldn’t recommend this as the sole source of background on the Civil War or its northern generals, but it’s not a bad place to start. ( )
  nbmars | Aug 22, 2008 |
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Epigraph
As soon as real war begins, new men, heretofore unheard of, will emerge from obscurity, equal to any occasion.
--William Tecumseh Sherman, six weeks before Bull Run

I knew whereve I was that you thought of me, and if I got in a tight place you would come if alive.
--Sherman to Grant, March 10, 1864, summing up their successful Western campaigns

But what next? I suppose it will be safe if I leave General Grant and yourself to decide.
Abraham Lincoln to Sherman, after congratulating him on his capture of Savannah, Christmas 1864

He stoof by me when I was crazy and I stood by him when he was drunk, and now, sir, we stand by each other always.
--Sherman, speaking of Grant

I know him well as one of the greatest purest and best of men. He is poor and always will be, but he is great and magnanimous.
--Grant, praising Sherman in a letter to Jesse Grant, his father

We were as brothers, I the older man in years, he the higher in rank.
--Sherman, summing up their friendship
Dedication
To my wife, Katherine Burnam Flood, and to our children, Caperton, Lucy, and Curtis
First words
In the early hours of April 7, 1862, after the terrible first day of the Battle of Shiloh, Brigadier General William Tecumseh Sherman came through the darkness to where his superior, Major General Ulysses S. Grant, stood in the rain.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0061148717, Paperback)

The lives of Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman are classic underdog stories. Both of these "obscure failures" experienced more disappointment than success prior to the start of the Civil War. By 1861, they had each resigned from the U.S. Army and failed in several civilian pursuits between them, including farming, real estate, retail, and banking. Further, Grant was known as a drunk and Sherman was labeled insane. But once they threw themselves into the war effort, their best traits and talents began to reveal themselves. Even their motives were similar--both men joined the war not to eradicate slavery but to hold the Union together, believing that secession was equal to treason. This dual biography gracefully reveals how the two men grew to be "as brothers," why their partnership proved essential to victory for the Union, and how well they complemented and helped each other in their lives and careers, despite some major differences. For instance, though he possessed tremendous talent, Sherman was insecure and initially asked Abraham Lincoln never to give him a superior command. Grant, on the other hand, never doubted his ability to lead, and he quickly, if quietly, moved up the chain of command. Once he recognized Sherman's abilities, Grant made sure to keep him close, and they grew to depend upon each other completely. Through their near-daily interaction, even when separated by distance, both men honed their skills and eventually came up with a winning strategy for the war, which they executed in a brilliant two-pronged assault.

The book also discusses Grant's and Sherman's marriages, their relationships with their soldiers, and their dealings with politicians to provide well-rounded and complete portraits of these fascinating leaders. Grant and Sherman is a thoughtful portrait of the two men who "other than Lincoln... would have more to do with winning the war that preserved the Union than anyone else." --Shawn Carkonen

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:51:47 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"We were as brothers," Sherman said, describing his relationship to Grant, a friendship forged on the battlefield. They were prewar failures--Grant, forced to resign from the Army because of his drinking, and Sherman, who held four different jobs during the four years before the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter. But heeding the call to save the Union, each struggled to join the war effort. And taking each other's measure at the Battle of Shiloh, ten months into the war, they began their unique collaboration. They shared the demands of family life and the heartache of loss, including the death of Sherman's favorite son. They supported each other in the face of criticism by press and politicians. Their growing mutual admiration and trust, which President Lincoln increasingly relied upon, would set the stage for the crucial final year of the war.--From publisher description.… (more)

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