From Publishers Weekly
In line with the recent rise in the Union military leaders stock among historians, this engaging if reverential study pegs Grant as the greatest general of the Civil War. Historian Bonekemper (How Robert E. Lee Lost the Civil War) contends that Grant relied whenever possible on maneuver, distraction and stealth rather than brute force, and that his brilliantly successful campaigns were marked by comparatively modest body counts. Even the bloody war of attrition against Lee in 1864, the main count in the "butcher" indictment, was a strategically sound approach, he says, with its carnage less the fault of Grant than of inept subordinates who squandered the opportunities created by his flanking maneuvers. The authors celebration of Grant dovetails with his disparagement of Lee, whom he feels lacked Grants mastery of grand strategy, and whose unnecessarily aggressive campaigns, in which he sacrificed many more men than Grant did during the war as a whole, make him the real butcher. Bonekempers interpretation of Grant is not groundbreaking (although scholars and buffs will appreciate his exhaustive tabulation of casualties in Grants engagements), and the comparison with Lee is perhaps unfair given the vastly greater resources in men and material that Grant enjoyed. But he offers a lucid and vigorous narrative of Grants campaigns that vividly conveys the generals energy, daring and shrewdness, as well as the unassuming personality that has made him a symbol of the age of the common man triumphing over Lees backward-looking aristocracy. Photos and maps.
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From the Inside Flap
Civil War hero General Ulysses S. Grant has been unfairly maligned because of the bloody 1864 campaigns he conducted against Robert E. Lee to secure final victory for the Union. Victor, Not A Butcher takes you into those decisive campaigns to prove that far from being a crude butcher (as he has been characterized not only by Southern partisans, but by historians) Grant's casualty rates actually compared favorably with those of other Civil War generals. Grant was an inspired military leader with a genius for issuing lucid orders, maneuvering his troops adroitly, and making excellent use of his staff. His perseverance, decisiveness, moral courage, and political acumen place him among the greatest generals of the Civil War-indeed, of all military history.
Author Ed Bonekemper traces Grant's record of unparalleled success-Forts Henry and Donelson, Shiloh, Iuka, Corinth, Raymond, Jackson, Champion's Hill, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, the Overland Campaign, the James River crossing, Five Forks, Petersburg, and Appomattox-showing how Grant won his victories through expert execution of carefully planned military strategies, not the meat-grinder tactics of myth.
This book also explores the paradoxes of Grant's early life, discussing how he was reluctant to attend West Point and never distinguished himself among his contemporaries there. Bonekemper also deals forthrightly with Grant's struggles in civilian life-and particularly the allegations of alcoholism and other factors that led his contemporaries (as well as historians of later generations) to underestimate him.
Bonekemper identifies the key elements of Grant's success as a general. He even demonstrates that as a military strategist and leader, Grant outshone his much-lionized rival, Robert E. Lee. He examines casualty records that prove that Grant lost fewer men in his successful effort to take Richmond and end the war than his predecessors lost in making the same attempt and failing. Bonekemper proves that it was no historical accident that Grant accepted the surrender of three entire Confederate armies-at Fort Donelson in 1862, Vicksburg in 1863, and Appomattox Court House in 1865. (No other general on either side accepted the surrender of even one army until Sherman accepted the capitulation of the remnants of the Army of Tennessee at the war's end, in mid-April 1865.) His tactics are studied carefully by American military personnel to this day.
Ulysses Grant won the Civil War. He was responsible for virtually all major Union victories in the West, the "Middle," and the East. Bonekemper ably silences Grant's critics and restores Grant to the heroic reputation he so richly deserves.