Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won the Civil War

Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won the Civil War

by Charles Bracelen Flood

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"We were as brothers," William Tecumseh Sherman said, describing his relationship to Ulysses S. Grant. They were incontestably two of the most important figures in the Civil War, but until now there has been no book about their victorious partnership and the deep friendship that made it possible.

They were prewar failures--Grant, forced to resign from the Regular Army because of his drinking, and Sherman, who held four different jobs, including a beloved position at a military academy in the South, during the four years before the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter. But heeding the call to save the Union each struggled past political hurdles 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. Often together under fire on the war's great battlefields, they smoked cigars as they gave orders and learned from their mistakes as well as from their shrewd decisions. They shared the demands of family life and the heartache of loss, including the tragic death of Shermans's favorite son. They supported each other in the face of mudslinging criticism by the 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. While Grant battled with Lee in the campaigns that ended at Appomattox Court House, Sherman first marched through Georgia to Atlanta, and then continued with his epic March to the Sea. Not only did Grant and Sherman come to think alike, but, even though their headquarters at that time were hundreds of miles apart, they were in virtually daily communication strategizing the final moves of the war and planning how to win the peace that would follow.

Moving and elegantly written, Grant and Sherman is an historical page turner: a gripping portrait of two men, whose friendship, forged on the battlefield, would win the Civil War.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429968911
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 10/01/2005
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 489,915
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Charles Bracelen Flood is the author of Lee: The Last Years, Hitler: The Path to Victory, and Rise and Fight Again, which won an American Revolution Round Table Award. He lives in Richmond, Kentucky.

Read an Excerpt

Excerpted from Grant and Sherman by Charles Bracelen Flood. Copyright © 2005 by Charles Bracelen Flood. Published October 2005 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.


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. Sherman had reached the conclusion that the Union forces under Grant's command could not endure another day like the one just ended. When the massive Confederate surprise attack on the vast federal encampment beside the Tennessee River began at dawn on April 6, Grant's command had numbered thirty-seven thousand men. Now seven thousand of those were killed or wounded, another three thousand were captured, and more than five thousand were huddled along the bank of the river, demoralized and useless as soldiers. Sherman, who had been wounded in the hand earlier in the battle, was coming to tell Grant that he thought they should use the transport vessels near them at Pittsburg Landing to evacuate their forces so that they could "put the river between us and the enemy, and recuperate."

Sherman found Grant alone, under a tree. Hurt in a fall from a horse on a muddy road a few days before, Grant was leaning on a crutch and held a lantern. He had a lit cigar clenched in his teeth, and rain dripped from the brim of his hat. Looking at the determined expression on Grant's bearded face, Sherman found himself "moved by some wise and sudden instinct" not to mention retreat and used a more tentative approach. "Well, Grant," he said, "we've had the devil's own day of it, haven't we?"

"Yes," Grant said quietly in the rainy darkness, and drew on his cigar. "Lick'em tomorrow though."

That was the end of any thought of retreat. At first light, Grant threw his entire force at the Confederates under General P.G.T. Beauregard, and after a second bloody day, Grant, with Sherman right beside him, had won the biggest Northern victory of the Civil War's first year. The author and Confederate soldier George Washington Cable wrote, "The South never smiled after Shiloh."

* * *

Shiloh was a great victory in itself, but that meeting in the rain symbolizes something more. Enormous military and political results flowed from the friendship between Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman, two men who had been obscure failures before the Civil War. Their relationship as superior and subordinate began when they moved toward the Battle of Shiloh, which took place ten months into the conflict. At Shiloh they came together on the field, and here Grant and Sherman took each other's measure under fire and began two years of successful cooperation and friendship. They separated in the final year of the war to lead armies in different areas, but though their headquarters were hundreds of miles apart, they remained in virtually constant contact by what was then known as the "magnetic telegraph." Throughout the war, each supported the other's efforts in every way; each furthered and on occasion saved the other's career.

In some ways the two men were different. Grant, whom a fellow officer described as "plain as an old stove," was reserved in manner and worked with decisive inner power. A man who knew Sherman described his torrential energy: "He is never quiet. His fingers nervously twitch his whiskers…One moment his legs are crossed, and the next both are on the floor. He sits a moment, then paces the floor."

Sherman was an intellectual, widely read in military history and theory. Early in the war, Sherman, greatly talented but insecure, asked President Abraham Lincoln to agree that he would remain as second in command in a specific assignment and not have to lead it. By contrast, Grant operated on military intuition, thinking boldly and acting with quiet confidence: another officer said that Grant looked "as if he had determined to drive his head through a brick wall, and was about to do it." (As Grant advanced into Confederate territory, Abraham Lincoln said of him, "When Grant once gets possession of a place, he holds on to it as if he had inherited it.")

Grant needed a gifted and effective subordinate, and at first Sherman needed a man to give him orders and then stand by him, no matter what. And each needed a friend. They worked together for twenty-three months, planning, consuming countless cigars, learning the lessons taught them by their battles and campaigns.

At that point, in March of 1864, Lincoln summoned Grant east to assume command of all the Union armies and to oppose Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia during the final year of the war. Before they parted, Grant and Sherman agreed on what each had to do next. Grant would attack Lee in northern Virginia, working to outflank Lee until he could break through Lee's extended and continually thinning lines. Sherman would march southeast from Chattanooga, Tennessee, disemboweling the South.

Turning that strategy into action, Grant's forces and Sherman's Army of the West supported each other as effectively as if the two men had remained together. By then the two leaders thought alike, and any differences they had were quickly resolved.

After Grant came east to take the Union supreme command, he and Sherman did not meet again for a year. When they did, it was Sherman who traveled north on a swift courier vessel from his successful Carolina campaigns to meet Grant at City Point, Virginia, prior to a conference with Lincoln concerning what all three knew would be the closing scenes of the war. As Grant walked down the dock to where Sherman was coming ashore, one of Grant's staff witnessed this:

In a moment, they stood upon the steps, with their hands locked in a cordial grasp, uttering words of familiar greeting. Their encounter was more like that of two school-boys coming together after a vacation than the meeting of the chief actors in a great war tragedy.

Soon after that conference at City Point, Grant forced Lee's final defeat at Appomattox Court House, and in North Carolina Sherman brought to an end the resistance of the South's other remaining large army under Joseph E. Johnston.

Grant and Sherman learned the lessons that led to the final victory during many desperate hours in dramatic campaigns. Those who believe that the North's greater industrial strength and manpower guaranteed the South's eventual defeat forget that those well-equipped Union columns had to be led by generals. The North had other good generals besides Grant and Sherman, as well as many that Lincoln tried in various areas who failed, but the partnership between these two leaders was unique. Grant and Sherman's way to victory required intelligence, luck, and brave soldiers, but it was built on the mutual trust that their friendship inspired.

What People are Saying About This

Jay Winik

"Charles Flood's Grant and Sherman is the story of two remarkable men, an extraordinary friendship, and a partnership that won the Civil War. Shedding fresh light on these two men, it is by turns evocative, charming, and often absorbing."
author of April 1865: The Month That Saved America

Thomas Fleming

"For those who think there is nothing new to be said about the Civil War, Grant and Sherman will be a pleasant surprise. The book is a unique blend of emotional power and historical insight. A must read."
author of Liberty! The American Revolution

Sidney Offit

"Charles Bracelen Flood's masterpiece ranges from vivid battlefield reports to intimate sketches of Grant's and Sherman's marriages to subtle cameo sketches of the officers and politicians who harassed or supported them. Fusing his talents as a resourceful scholar and distinguished novelist with a touch of the poet, Charles Bracelen Flood has achieved a moving and inspired classic of American history."

Charles P. Roland

"This book describes with force, clarity and admirable terseness the forging in the field of the historic leadership team that was essential to Union victory. Civil War scholars and general readers alike will profit from its insights."
author of American Iliad: The Story of the Civil War

John Marszalek

"Charles Bracelen Flood studies the friendship between Grant and Sherman and rightly concludes that it had a major impact on the results of the Civil War. Thoroughly researched and written with verve, this book is easy reading and provides rewarding insight into a friendship which influenced the lives of two significant individuals and the war in which they played such crucial roles."
Professor Emeritus of History, Mississippi State University, and author of Sherman: A Soldier's Passion for Order

Josiah Bunting III

“[A] powerful and illuminating study of a military collaboration that won the war for the Union.”

Mike Pride

“Grant and Sherman...captures both the glory and the sorrow of comrades parting after a long ordeal.”

John Y. Simon

"Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman forged a superb partnership during the Civil War, a team of opposites drawn together, striving to end a horrendous conflict without excessive suffering and bloodshed. Ironically, they succeeded by rendering war too terrible for the South to continue. Charles Bracelen Flood skillfully explores the dynamics of an unlikely partnership formed on horrifying battlefields. Both Grant and Sherman have attracted more than their share of biographers, but never before an author been audacious enough to tackle both at once. Their subtle and complex relationship deserves attention from a sophisticated and experienced writer; Flood is up to the task."
editor of The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant

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Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won the Civil War 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a great read. Flood is an excellent writer who brings this vital friendship to life. I have became a charles flood fan.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fascinating look at two very opposite personalities. I definitely came away with a deeper understanding of both men and the conflict that brought them together.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*makes a bigger nest for silverwind and him to share*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read a couple of books about these two, but it was nice to see how similar they both are.
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