Southeastern Historian Writes of Grant's Leadership Qualities

Released: 2/6/2013 9:55 AM EST
Source Newsroom: Southeastern Louisiana University
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Newswise — HAMMOND – Prior to the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant demonstrated few leadership qualities, but his efforts in the epic conflict unveiled the uncommon drive that characterized his later leadership characteristics, according to a newly released book by a Southeastern Louisiana University military historian.

“The Leadership of Ulysses S. Grant: A General Who Will Fight” by Southeastern Professor Harry S. Laver provides a detailed study of leadership based on Grant’s rise from undistinguished cadet to commanding general of the U.S. Army.

“His performance as a cadet at West Point was mediocre, where he finished in the bottom half of his class,” said Laver.

However, Laver explained, Grant’s early service in the Civil War – particularly at the battles of Shiloh and Vicksburg – provide he was something more than a rumpled westerner with a reputation for drink.

“When it was most crucial, Grant proved his integrity, tenacity and analytical skill while leading his men to victory,” he added.

The book represents a detailed analysis of leadership that explores Grant’s rise from undisciplined cadet to General in Chief of the U.S. Army. A specialist in the American Civil War, Laver closely examines Grant’s Civil War career that began with his appointment as a colonel of volunteers through Shiloh, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, the Overland Campaign in Virginia and, finally, his acceptance of Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.

Laver said some scholars have attributed Grant’s success to superior manpower and technology. Others credit the help he received from other Union armies or even to a ruthless willingness to sacrifice his own men. Laver, however, refutes those arguments and identifies the general’s “analytical determination” as the explanation for his success.

“Grant’s leadership skill, professional competence and unshakeable resolve enabled him to analyze his environment, adapt to changing circumstances, and focus on his objective,” said Laver, author of the book “Citizens More than Soldiers: The Kentucky Militia and Society in the Early Republic.” Laver also co-edited with Jeffrey J. Matthews “The Art of Command: Military Leadership from George Washington to Colin Powell.

Virginia Tech Civil War expert William C. Davis said Laver’s book shows Grant as a subtle and sophisticated leader, unlike his portrayal as a “crude and clumsy butcher” in other historical works.

“By tracing Grant’s experiences from boyhood and West Point, through the Mexican War and service in the pre-Civil War Army, Laver discovers a logical progression in Grant’s development as an analytical thinker and planner,” Davis writes.

“The Leadership of Ulysses S. Grant: A General Who Will Fight” was published by the University Press of Kentucky.
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