Grant Moves South, though written 56 years ago still reads as if it's refreshingly new. It traces the development and personal growth of a man that became one of America's most outstanding military leaders. Though often vilified as being coarse and a drunkard, Catton presents a strong case that he was anything but. He did have some detractors, but for the most part they were other officers that were rivals of Grants, and they were often subordinates that he may have had to discipline. Catton portrays Grant as someone who is highly principled, highly committed to his mission, and protective of those he commanded. He intuitively knew that troops with high morale can accomplish great things.
Catton traces Grant's Civil War service from his call-up in early 1861 to the summer of 1863. We see victories at Fort Donelson, Shiloh, and the war-changing victory at Vicksburg. There is too much detail and emphasis on the actual battles and the conflicts between Grant and some of his fellow officers. I did enjoy the author's descriptions of the battlefield living conditions, even down to the food, living and health conditions. I was surprised to read about what an important role river gunboats played in the war.
I read this on a Kindle, and the maps provided left a lot to be desired. As we are witnessing the war from a general's perspective, the scope is quite large in terms of geography and numbers of troops. Communication was often spotty because of distances and low technology. Catton shows how the conduct of war is often without a great deal of precision. Confusion often reigns due to the horror of the fighting, bad maps, poor communication, horrible terrain and bad weather.
Catton makes the point that should be obvious, but is often omitted, that the war was fought entirely in enemy territory. Union soldiers were in a strange land with different people than Grant's midwestern soldiers were used to. And then there was the slavery issue. Slaves were thought to be property in the eyes of the South. And as such they were treated as collateral spoils of war by the North. Once an area was vanquished, the slaves were freed. And once the slaves were freed all forms of production stopped, for slaveowners did not work. It was abundantly clear that without the cash flow of cotton and other agricultural products, the south was ill prepared to finance a war.
Very early on Grant came to the conclusion that this was not going to be a war of capturing territory or merely winning battles, but a war of total destruction of the enemy. Once vanquished in battle troops were "paroled", were issued papers, and were freed never to fight again. This saved the expense of transporting and feeding prisoners. Once released from service, it was impossible to get them back in uniform. This, to me was one of the biggest surprises of the book. Even more amazing is that it worked.
- Paperback: 576 pages
- Publisher: Little, Brown; Reprint edition (12 July 1990)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316132446
- ISBN-13: 978-0316132442
- Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 3.5 x 23.5 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 885 g
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- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 65,870 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)