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The Civil War NewsI recommend this book to those interested in the military career of Grant. It contains some fine analysis on his development as a commander.
— Robert L. Durham
What made Ulysses S. Grant tick? Perhaps the greatest general of the Civil War, Grant won impressive victories and established a brilliant military career. His single-minded approach to command was coupled with the ability to adapt to the kind of military campaign the moment required. In this exciting new book, Michael B. Ballard provides a crisp account of Grant's strategic and tactical concepts in the period from the outset of the Civil War to the battle of Chattanooga—a period in which U. S. Grant rose from a semi-disgraceful obscurity to the position of overall commander of all Union armies. The author carefully sifts through diaries and letters of Grant and his inner circle to try to get inside Grant's mind and reveal why those early years of the war were formative in producing the Civil War's greatest general.
Chapter 1:Training Grounds
Chapter 2: Belmont
Chapter 3: Forts Henry and Donelson
Chapter 4: Shiloh
Chapter 5: Securing Northern Mississippi
Chapter 6: First Attempts to Take Vicksburg
Chapter 7: Months of Frustration
Chapter 8: April 1863
Chapter 9: Fighting to Reach Vicksburg
Chapter 10: Assault, Siege, and Surrender
Chapter 11: Chattanooga and Another Siege
Chapter 12: Wrapping Up Service in the West
Posted April 4, 2010
This short book's cover claims that it will explain how Grant evolved as a General prior to being named General-In-Chief. In other words, other accounts focus on how Grant went unrecognized when he first checked into the Willard Hotel, etc., without ever analyzing how Grant went from being a failure at everything he tried to being the man who stayed at the Willard before winning the Civil War. Certainly it was not croissants.
I do believe the book works toward that goal by discussing his campaigns in the West along with an analysis of his mistakes, his methods, and his interactions with his subordinates and superiors.
My criticism focuses on the odd fact that just as the story moves to its crescendo with the taking of Vicksburg and the subsequent lifting of the siege of Chattanooga, the pretty good maps that accompanied the descriptions of earlier campaigns more or less disappear. What maps are included for these last two campaigns either do not include relevant geography or do not put place names on the map corresponding to the discussion in the text.
This is particularly unfortunate since these last battles are the most complicated and took place over the longest period of time. And it is inexplicable since all the maps in the book seem to have been hand-drawn. It would have taken very little extra effort to include additional maps containing the relevant information to aid in understanding the complicated troop movements that were taking place at Grant's direction.
Thus, in the end, I had to skim the last 30 pages since it rapidly got to the point where the text was opaque and not decipherable, and the sad fact is that I can unequivocally recommend this book only to people already completely familiar with the topics discussed.