A General Who Will Fight: The Leadership of Ulysses S. Grant

A General Who Will Fight: The Leadership of Ulysses S. Grant

A General Who Will Fight: The Leadership of Ulysses S. Grant

A General Who Will Fight: The Leadership of Ulysses S. Grant


Prior to his service in the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant exhibited few characteristics indicating that he would be an extraordinary leader. His performance as a cadet was mediocre, and he finished in the bottom half of his class at West Point. However, during his early service in the Civil War, most notably at the battles of Shiloh and Vicksburg, Grant proved that he possessed an uncommon drive. When it was most crucial, Grant demonstrated his integrity, determination, and tactical skill by taking control of the Union troops and leading his forces to victory.

A General Who Will Fight is a detailed study of leadership that explores Grant's rise from undisciplined cadet to commanding general of the United States Army. Some experts have attributed Grant's success to superior manpower and technology, to the help he received from other Union armies, or even to a ruthless willingness to sacrifice his own men. Harry S. Laver, however, refutes these arguments and reveals that the only viable explanation for Grant's success lies in his leadership skill, professional competence, and unshakable resolve. Much more than a book on military strat-egy, this innovative volume examines the decision-making process that enabled Grant both to excel as an unquestioned commander and to win.


The Commander must have a great force of will.

—Carl von Clausewitz

Sunday, April 6, 1862, dawned quietly as Ulysses S. Grant sat down at the breakfast table of the Cherry mansion in Savannah, Tennessee. Shuffling through a stack of mail on the table, he leaned forward to take the first sip of coffee when up the Tennessee River valley came the rumbling of artillery fire. With the cup poised at his lips, he paused, listened for a moment, then returned the coffee to the table and announced to his staff, “Gentlemen, the ball is in motion. Let’s be off.” Making their way out the front door and down stone steps crafted years ago by slaves, he and his staff were soon on board the Tigress, whose crew was frantically working to get up a head of steam for the nine-mile trip south to Pittsburg Landing. There, an army of Federal soldiers was camped near a small log Methodist church known locally as the Shiloh Meeting House. Inexplicably, Grant had established his headquarters at distant Savannah on the opposite, eastern side of the river, and, while he spent most of each day with his army, this Sunday morning the Confederates had caught him as unaware as a sleeping sentry.

For the men of Grant’s command, the day had begun with the drowsy routine of a Sunday morning. As the first streaks of light ribboned from the eastern sky, nearly forty thousand Union soldiers— and calling them soldiers at this point of the war required a bit of imagination—awakened to the clank of pots and pans, the scent of wood smoke and bacon. Mostly farm boys from Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and other midwestern states, this was a green army; some . . .

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