Thursday, March 17, 2022

Grant by Ron Chernow

Before I read this book, the story I knew of Grant was one when Lincoln was to me about the drinking habits of Grant and hence why Grant should be fired.  Lincoln supposedly replied “ find out what he drinks, and give it to the rest of my generals, he fights!”

In this book, I learnt that “if Lincoln freed the black man, Grant made him a citizen”. That was the major contribution of grant, sending federal troops to the South to protect the blacks in voting process, effectively ending the Ku Klux clan until their resurgence much later in the 1960s.

This is a bloody thick book: I remember reading nearly 3 hours of it in a sitting on my ebook , and still wondering the next few days when I was reading it, why am I not done yet ?   When I laid my hands on the physical book, did I learn that it was hell of a thick book.

It was great to learn more about other colourful characters like Sherman and his March through Georgia, Sheridan and his leadership to raise the men from the dead.

Some highlights:
1. However great Lee was as a tactician, Grant surpassed him in strategy. It was like 刘邦vs 项羽。
2. Military leadership: need for supreme audacity, vital importance of speed and element of surprise.
3. Grant had to take on General Harris. As Grant dreaded the approach, he found that Harris had absconded in response to Grant’s approach. “ Harris had been as afraid of me, as I had of him”. Henceforth, Grant would project himself into his enemies minds, and comprehend their fears and anxieties.
4. At Shiloh, Grant was stunned by combative spirits of his foes, he knew this would be a long grinding war of attrition, beginning his belief that this would be total warfare where all of southern society has to be defeated.
5. Frederick Douglas”once a black man has a musket on his shoulders and bullets in his pocket, no powers of earth can deny him that he has earned the citizenship of United States.
6. When brought with a major expenditure, Grant approved it with startling speed, “in war? Anything is better than indecision. We must decide. If I am wrong, we will soon find out and we can do other things. But not to decide waste both time and money”
7. Grant was a superb communicator, making sure the officers in one place knew what was happening elsewhere.
8. Once Sheridan knows what he wants to do, Grant trust him and let him do it.
9. Grant’s eternal assumption that when his adversary strengthened one part of the line, he has weakened another .
10. Grant showed how to motivate commanders by delegating authority to them - a trust that worked well with the talented but not the incompetent.
11. A soldier was stricken by a bullet up his neck, which spouted blood. “I’m killed”the soldier slumped to the ground.Sheridan “you are not hurt a bit! Pick up your gun and move to the front!” So commanding was Sheridan’s words that the soldier picked up his musket, stumbled a few steps before keeling over and dropping dead.

No dancing girls on top

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