I just finished Volume I of U.S. Grant's Personal Memoirs and loved it. He is a clear writer, has an unassuming attitude and a marvelous dry sense of humor.
He describes an encounter with Mexican forces during the Mexican American War.
At last I got pretty close up without knowing it. The balls commenced to whistle very thick overhead, cutting the limbs of the chaparral right and left. We could not see the enemy, so I ordered my men to lie down, an order that did not have to be enforced.He charges the Mexican line and discovers
the ground had been charged over before. My exploit was equal to that of the soldier who boasted that he had cut off the leg of one of the enemy. When asked why he did not cut off his head, he replied: "Some one had done that before." This left no doubt in my mind but that the battle of Resaca de la Palma would have been won, just at it was, if I had not been there.During the Vicksburg campaign Grant captures Jackson, Mississippi, capital of the state.
I sent for the corps commanders and directed the dispositions to be made of their troops. Sherman was to remain in Jackson until he destroyed that place as a railroad centre, and manufacturing city of military supplies. He did the work most effectually.I can only imagine the effectiveness of Sherman destroying the place as a railroad center.
Sherman and I went together into a manufactory which had not ceased work on account of the battle nor for the entrance of Yankee troops. Our presence did not seem to attract the attention of either the manager of the operatives, most of whom were girls. We looked on for a while to see the tent cloth which they were making roll out of the looms, with “C. S. A.” woven in each bolt. There was an immense amount of cotton, in bales, stacked outside. Finally I told Sherman I thought they had done work enough. The operatives were told they could leave and take with them what cloth they could carry. In a few minutes cotton and factory were in a blaze. The proprietor visited Washington while I was President to get his pay for this property, claiming that it was private. H asked me to give him a statement of the fact that his property had been destroyed by National troops, so that he might use it with with Congress where he was pressing, or proposed to press, his claim. I declined.
He is tough, and persistent. The Vicksburg campaign occurred as it did partially because Grant didn't want to retreat to Memphis. He recognized retreating would have been the correct strategic move, and Sherman argued for retreat, but Grant thought the Union needed a victory, not another retreat.
The most amazing thing to me is the rapidity of Grant's movements; he's always moving forward. It is a stark contrast with the lassitude of the Eastern commanders.