Instigator / Pro
Points: 14

CIVIL WAR SHOWDOWN: ULYSSES S GRANT vs. ROBERT E LEE

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After 2 votes the winner is ...
oromagi
Debate details
Publication date
Last update
Category
History
Time for argument
Three days
Voting system
Open voting
Voting period
One week
Point system
Four points
Rating mode
Rated
Characters per argument
10,000
Contender / Con
Points: 0
Description
THBT: Over the course of the American Civil War, US Grant's generalship proved to be superior to the generalship of RE Lee.
DEFINITIONS:
The AMERICAN CIVIL WAR was "a civil war in the United States from 1861 to 1865, fought between the northern United States (loyal to the Union) and the southern United States (that had seceded from the Union and formed the Confederacy)."
ULYSSES S. GRANT was "an American soldier and politician who served as the 18th president of the United States from 1869 to 1877. Before his presidency, Grant led the Union Army as Commanding General of the United States Army in winning the American Civil War."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulysses_S._Grant
ROBERT E LEE was "an American and Confederate soldier, best known as a commander of the Confederate States Army. He commanded the Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War from 1862 until its surrender in 1865."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_E._Lee
GENERALSHIP [noun] is "the skills or performance of a good general; military leadership, strategy."
https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/generalship
SUPERIOR [adjective] is "higher in quality."
BURDEN of PROOF
Burden of Proof is shared.
PRO must prove that Grant was superior to Lee in military leadership.
CON must prove that Lee was superior to Grant in military leadership.
No alternative approaches are invited (i.e.' Sherman was superior to both', or 'Jackson was the only true leader of men', etc)
PRO is requesting sincere and friendly engagement on this subject.
No trolls or kritiks, please.
- RULES --
1. Forfeit=auto loss
2. Sources may be merely linked in debate as long as citations are listed in comments
3. No new args in R3
4. For all relevant terms, individuals should use commonplace understandings that fit within the rational context of this resolution and debate
Round 1
Published:
Many thanks to PoliceSheep for accepting this debate.

THBT: Over the course of the American Civil War, US Grant's generalship proved to be superior to the generalship of RE Lee.

I.  Grant won the war

  • Grant was the winningest general of the war, defeating six confederate armies.
  • Only three entire armies surrendered during the war's course from Bull Run to Appomattox:
    • Buckner’s at Fort Donelson,
    • Pemberton’s at Vicksburg, and
    • Lee’s at Appomattox.
      • All three surrenders were Confederate surrenders to  US Grant.
        • "As the byproduct of a string of battlefield victories, he forced the unconditional surrender of three enemy armies, something no other general officer in American history ever accomplished — not Dwight Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur, George Washington or Winfield Scott." [1]

  • The number one job of any general is to be victorious in the event of war.  Grant did his job, Lee did not.
II. Grant beat Lee in the head-to-head match up

  • After Lincoln gave Grant command of the whole Union army in March 1864, Grant chose to stay with Meade's Army of the Potomac.  Grant did not underestimate Lee as an enemy.  Grant coordinated six simultaneous attacks to keep Lee and Johnston from reincforcement.
    1. Meade & Grant occupy Lee
    2. Butler occupying the defenses at Richmond
    3. Sigel marching up the Shenandoah Valley
    4. Crook in West Virginia
    5. Sherman to face Johnston and capture Atlanta
    6. Banks to capture Mobile, Alabama
  • Unlike all previous Union commanders of the Army of the Potomac, Grant did not pause after battle with Lee.
    • "Although previous Union campaigns in Virginia targeted the Confederate capital of Richmond as their primary objective, this time the goal was to capture Richmond by aiming for the destruction of Lee's army. Lincoln had long advocated this strategy for his generals, recognizing that the city would certainly fall after the loss of its principal defensive army. Grant ordered Meade, "Wherever Lee goes, there you will go also.""  [2]

    • "Although disappointed by the tactical setbacks, Grant refused to accept defeat, and in doing so transformed the battle into a strategic victory for the Union. When a general worried about Lee's next move, Grant tersely replied, "I am heartily tired of hearing what Lee is going to do. Some of you always seem to think he is suddenly going to turn a double somersault, and land on our rear and on both our flanks at the same time. Go back to your command, and try to think what we are going to do ourselves, instead of what Lee is going to do. And what Grant did, instead of retreating as the Army of the Potomac had always done in the past, was march south. When the troops realized what was happening, they wildly and spontaneously cheered Grant. The Northern press followed suit, praising the general-in-chief's determination to confront Lee." [3]
  • Grant's maneuver proved irresistible: Four times, Grant engaged Lee with his right while sending whatever he could left (South) to try to get between Lee and Richmond.  In the space of six weeks Lee was forced to Petersberg, where he could either maneuver or keep Richmond but he could not do both. 
    • That is, in just over six weeks, Grant's strategy and initiative achieved what McDowell, McClellan, Burnside, Hooker, and Meade could not accomplish in three years prior.  Victory was inevitable after this although the siege lasted another nine months.
III. If you run a "moneyball" style empirical analysis of generals in great battles,

  • "Inspired by baseball sabermetrics, I opted to use a system of Wins Above Replacement (WAR). WAR is often used as an estimate of a baseball player’s contributions to his team. It calculates the total wins added (or subtracted) by the player compared to a replacement-level player. For example, a baseball player with 5 WAR contributed 5 additional wins to his team, compared to the average contributions of a high-level minor league player. WAR is far from perfect, but provides a way to compare players based on one statistic."  [4]

  • "I used Wikipedia’s lists of battles as a starting point. While not comprehensive, Wikipedia’s lists include 3,580 unique battles and 6619 generals, which provided a sufficient sample to create a model. I then developed a function that could scrape key information for each battle, including all of the commanders involved in the battle, the total forces available to those commanders, and the outcome of the battle. The resulting dataset provided a large sample of battles to create a baseline (replacement-level) performance, against which I would compare the performance of individual generals." [4]
    • "Grant's performance commanding Union troops in 16 battles earned him the seventh spot on the list – and the U.S. presidency. Although his performance on the battlefield is clearly much better than those of his contemporaries, it should be noted that his Civil War arch-rival, Robert E. Lee, is so far below him on the list that he actually has a negative score." [5]
      • "Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate States Army, finished with a negative WAR (-1.89), suggesting an average general would have had more success than Lee leading the Confederacy’s armies. Lee was saddled with considerable disadvantages, including a large deficit in the size of his military and available resources. Still, his reputation as an adept tactician is likely undeserved, and his WAR supports the historians who have criticized his overall strategy and handling of key battles, such as ordering the disastrous ‘Pickett’s Charge’ on the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg. In the words of University of South Carolina professor Thomas Connely, “One ponders whether the South may not have fared better had it possessed no Robert E. Lee.”  [6]

IV.  Grant adapted tactically while Lee did not

  • The Civil War is correctly characterized as a tactically transitional war. 
    • The war began with generals on both side who read  their Von Clausewitz and emulated Napoleon.  Wars were won by speed and agression: Nathan Bedford Forest's axiomatic:"I always make it a rule to get there first with the most men." 
    • However, significant improvements in musket and cannon range and accuracy due to rifling, reload rates due to percussion caps, and lethality due to ease with which minie ball ammunition shattered bone and penetrated flesh.
      • The range at which an an infantry line could deliver destruction to a charging mass of men increased five-fold, making direct charges increasingly less successful.  A generation of generals who learned to succeed by constant offensive failed to adapt to the new, profound advantage to well-entrenched defenders.
      • Grant has unjustly acquired a reputation of a Butcher who favored frontal assaults but we have to remember that Grant was always on the offensive,  he fought every battle as an invader not a defender.  Lee chose the offensive even when the overall strategic goal should have been preserve the Confederacy until the US gives up- a defensive objective.  Grant should have the far higher casualty rate as the attacker but in fact Grant's losses in terms of real numbers and percentages are far better than Lee's.
        • By imposing 191,000 casualties on his opponents, Grant achieved a plus-37,000 margin. Considering the breadth and depth of Grant’s successes in a necessarily offensive mode, even a negative-37,000 margin would have been expected and militarily acceptable. What he achieved with his tolerable losses was amazing.  Grady McWhiney and Perry D. Jamieson, who shed light on Grant and Lee’s casualties in their book Attack and Die: Civil War Military Tactics and the Southern Heritage, point out that an average of “only” 15 percent of Grant’s Federal troops were killed or wounded in his major campaigns over the course of the war, a total of slightly more than 94,000 men. In contrast, Lee had greater casualties both in percentages and real numbers: An average of 20 percent of his troops were killed or wounded in his major campaigns, a total of more than 121,000 (far more than any other Civil War general). Lee had 80,000 of his men killed or wounded in his first 14 months in command (about the same number he started with)." [7]

  • Grant saw the entire theater of war and his strategies reflect national perspectives, particularly the prioritization of Vicksburg and the coordinated attacks of 1864.  Lee's strategic scope seldom ranged beyond his beloved state and army of Virginia and Richmond.
  • "Grant is considered Americas' first modern general, leading from a central command center, using common sense, and delivering coordinated attacks on the enemies armies." [8]

V.  CONCLUSION
  • Grant enjoyed less of the romantic deification that Lincoln and Lee acquired during the war. 
  • Grant had little charisma or erudition but he won the Civl War through
    • stubborn single-mindedness,
      • an absolute focus on his target
    • Clarity of purpose
      • Grant's objectives and orders were famously laconic, direct and unmistakable
    • superior resourcefulness,
      • Grant practiced a policy of maximum utilization, particularly demonstrated by the use of all available soldiers on every front.
      • Less than any other Civil War general, Grant saw little value in reserves
    • unshakeable fortitude and guts
      • "A famous anecdote encapsulates Grant's unflinching attitude to temporary setbacks and his tendency for offensive action. Sometime after midnight, Sherman encountered Grant standing under a tree, sheltering himself from the pouring rain and smoking one of his cigars, while considering his losses and planning for the next day. Sherman remarked, "Well, Grant, we've had the devil's own day, haven't we?" Grant looked up. "Yes," he replied, followed by a puff. "Yes. Lick 'em tomorrow, though. [9]
  • In spite of popular reputation, Grant merits full credit for the Union victory and was the best general of the Civil War.
I look forward to PoliceSheep's R1.

Forfeited
Round 2
Published:
Unfortunately, PoliceSheep has forfeited R1.


PRO extends all R1 arguments and looks forward to PoliceSheep's R2 reply.
Forfeited
Round 3
Published:
PoliceSheep has forfeited twice.  Even if PoliceSheep brings a persuasive counterargument in R3, PRO declares a win based on RULES #1 and #3

Please vote PRO and
thanks to all VOTERS for their kind consideration.
Forfeited
Added:
--> @Trent0405, @Ragnar
thanks for voting.
"Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!"
Instigator
#3
Added:
That was an unfortunate outcome.
#2
Added:
[1]https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/ulysses-s-grant-myth-unconditional-surrender-begins-fort-donelson
[2]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overland_Campaign[3]https://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Battle_of_the_Wilderness
[3]https://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Battle_of_the_Wilderness
[4]https://towardsdatascience.com/napoleon-was-the-best-general-ever-and-the-math-proves-it-86efed303eeb
[5]https://www.wearethemighty.com/history/best-generals-ranked-by-statistics?rebelltitem=10#rebelltitem10
[6]https://towardsdatascience.com/napoleon-was-the-best-general-ever-and-the-math-proves-it-86efed303eeb
[7]https://www.historynet.com/the-butchers-bill.htm
[8]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulysses_S._Grant_and_the_American_Civil_War
[9]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Shiloh
Instigator
#1
#2
Criterion Pro Tie Con Points
Better arguments 3 points
Better sources 2 points
Better spelling and grammar 1 point
Better conduct 1 point
Reason:
Forfeiture. I do note however what a good job con did of showcasing the likely tactics of Robert E. Lee. 😁
#1
Criterion Pro Tie Con Points
Better arguments 3 points
Better sources 2 points
Better spelling and grammar 1 point
Better conduct 1 point
Reason:
Full Forfeit.