U.S. Grant, Artistic Genius…

…no, not some trove of still lives painted in retirement, squirreled away in the famous tomb, newly discovered by a maintenance worker, but rather the claim, in almost as many words, by esteemed military theorist James J Schneider in his 1994 book The Structure of Strategic Revolution:

Before [military historian and theorist J.F.C.] Fuller began his study of Grant, he accepted the conventional view that Grant was a “butcher and Lee one of the greatest generals this world has ever seen.” But after he completed his comparative study of the two generals he concluded: “Few generals-in-chief have suffered greater injustice than Grant. The reason for this misunderstanding is obvious…the 1864-5 campaign…was the first of the modern campaigns; it initiated a[n] epoch, and did not even resemble the wars ten years before its date.” Grant arrived at his operational vision through perceptual speed and a “gift of historic imagination,” that enabled him to “take in at a glance the whole field of war, to form a correct opinion of every suggested and possible…campaign, their logical order and sequence, their relative value, and the interdependence of one upon the other.”

Schneider pinpoints the “precise date” of “the birth of operational art” – the basis of truly modern warfare from the Civil War up to the apparent eclipse of major inter-state war – as having occurred on April 4, 1864, the date of a letter from Grant to Sherman, in which Grant, for the first time grasping the possibilities and necessities of industrial age conflict and the “distributed campaign,” described a plan working “all parts of the [entire Federal] army together.” How Schneider’s analysis of Grant’s military artistic “genius” figures in his book focusing on the Soviet Union, written and published during the years of that state’s collapse, is something beyond the scope of an OTC post – but I promised Chris on Twitter, in a sidebar to all this discussion lately of the Confederacy, that I’d dig up some quotes justifying my claims as to the world-historical significance of the Union strategy. One major quote will have to do for now. Perhaps we can discuss further in the comments or at a later time. (In part, I just wanted to test/demonstrate the new OTC archive, another event, as I’m sure will be acknowledged, of very great import.)


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