Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

More on Grant: Sherman’s appreciation

You know how after you learn a new word you keep coming across it? Well, I am not reading anything about the Civil War these days, having spent far too much time on it in the past-there is lots of other history out there to read. But not long after I blogged Ta-Nehesi Coates’s terrific ...

U.S. Army
U.S. Army
U.S. Army

You know how after you learn a new word you keep coming across it? Well, I am not reading anything about the Civil War these days, having spent far too much time on it in the past-there is lots of other history out there to read. But not long after I blogged Ta-Nehesi Coates's terrific column on Ulysses S. Grant, I was looking for a specific essay on U.S. generalship in World War II and in the same musty volume (Military Leadership and Command: The John Biggs Cincinnati Lectures 1987) came across this comment from crazy old William Tecumseh Sherman about his friend Grant, written in a letter to a friend:

I am a damn sight smarter than Grant. I know a great deal more about war, military history, strategy and grand tactics than he does; I know more about organization, supply, and administration, and about everything else than he does. But I tell you where he beats me, and where he beats the world. He doesn't care a damn for what the enemy does out of his sight, but it scares me like hell. ... I am far more nervous than he is. I am more likely to change my orders, or to countermarch my command than he is. He uses such information as he has, according to his best judgment. He issues his orders and does his level best to carry them out without much reference to what is going on about him."

Tom again: I've read a lot about Grant, but I don't remember seeing that interesting quotation before. In the book I was reading it was footnoted to T. Harry Williams' McClellan, Sherman and Grant.

You know how after you learn a new word you keep coming across it? Well, I am not reading anything about the Civil War these days, having spent far too much time on it in the past-there is lots of other history out there to read. But not long after I blogged Ta-Nehesi Coates’s terrific column on Ulysses S. Grant, I was looking for a specific essay on U.S. generalship in World War II and in the same musty volume (Military Leadership and Command: The John Biggs Cincinnati Lectures 1987) came across this comment from crazy old William Tecumseh Sherman about his friend Grant, written in a letter to a friend:

I am a damn sight smarter than Grant. I know a great deal more about war, military history, strategy and grand tactics than he does; I know more about organization, supply, and administration, and about everything else than he does. But I tell you where he beats me, and where he beats the world. He doesn’t care a damn for what the enemy does out of his sight, but it scares me like hell. … I am far more nervous than he is. I am more likely to change my orders, or to countermarch my command than he is. He uses such information as he has, according to his best judgment. He issues his orders and does his level best to carry them out without much reference to what is going on about him.”

Tom again: I’ve read a lot about Grant, but I don’t remember seeing that interesting quotation before. In the book I was reading it was footnoted to T. Harry Williams’ McClellan, Sherman and Grant.

Meanwhile, Time magazine reports that Civil War re-enactment is becoming less popular, apparently because it isn’t so much fun with real wars going on.

By the way, the same musty volume (Military Leadership and Command) had a very good piece by John M. Gates on American military leadership in the Vietnam War. I’d never heard of Gates before but was really impressed by his analysis.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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