Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Booknotes: The Decision Was Always My Own

New Arrival:
The Decision Was Always My Own: Ulysses S. Grant and the Vicksburg Campaign
  by Timothy B. Smith (SIU Press, 2018).

Most admirers of U.S. Grant's Civil War career agree that the Vicksburg Campaign was the general's masterpiece. Prolific western theater military historian Timothy Smith certainly seems to concur with this view, arguing that the campaign was the "showcase of Ulysses S. Grant’s military genius."

"Showing how and why Grant became such a successful general," Smith in his new book The Decision Was Always My Own: Ulysses S. Grant and the Vicksburg Campaign "presents a fast-paced reexamination of the commander and the campaign. His fresh analysis of Grant’s decision-making process during the Vicksburg maneuvers, battles, and siege details the course of campaigning on military, political, administrative, and personal levels. The narrative is organized around Grant’s eight key decisions: to begin operations against Vicksburg, to place himself in personal charge of the campaign, to begin active operations around the city, to sweep toward Vicksburg from the south, to march east of Vicksburg and cut the railroad before attacking, to assault Vicksburg twice in an attempt to end the campaign quickly, to lay siege after the assaults had failed, and to parole the surrendered Confederate garrison rather than send the Southern soldiers to prison camps."

Smith also shows how Grant's management of off the battlefield issues rebounded to his credit. "The successful military campaign also required Grant to master political efforts, including handling Lincoln’s impatience and dealing with the troublesome political general John A. McClernand. Further, he had to juggle administrative work with military decision making. Grant was more than a military genius, however; he was also a husband and a father, and Smith shows how Grant’s family was a part of everything he did." In the end, "Smith shows how Grant’s decisions created and won the Civil War’s most brilliant, complex, decisive, and lengthy campaign."

The book is the third volume in SIU Press's relatively new World of Ulysses S. Grant series, for which Smith also serves as co-editor with John Marszalek.

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