Was Grant a Drunk? (Part 2)

ulysses-grantApparently my last post on Grant has caused some confusion over at Richard Williams’s blog.  Williams interprets my language as an attempt to downplay or ignore those historians who have argued that Grant was an alcoholic or that his fondness for it hampered his leadership on the battlefield.  First, let me be very clear that I have nothing at stake in this debate beyond my interest in Grant as an important historical figure.  Second, I am not a Grant scholar.  What I know is based on having read a number of journal/magazine articles along with a few recent biographies by William McFeely, Jean Edward Smith and especially, Brooks Simpson’s Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph and Adversity, 1822-1865, which has been acknowledged by the historical community as the best of the lot.  [By the way, Joan Waugh also bases her short commentary on this issue on Simpson’s work.]  I’ve learned something from all of these studies.  Williams cites a short essay by Edward Longacre at the History News Network as evidence of Grant’s addiction.  Longacre’s characterization may be right depending on how we define our terms and how we weigh the evidence.  Of course, there is always the danger of presentism in applying modern definitions and accompanying judgments one way or the other.  Even with those concerns the discussion/debate ought to continue since we are dealing with an important individual in American history and how we understand and evaluate Grant’s public career matters.  As for where I stand on the issue right now I will leave you with a recent post by Brooks Simpson over at Civil Warriors.

Still, I can’t help but wonder if this debate is about much larger issues.   Many take on a defensive posture when it comes to certain conclusions and generalizations because they are connected to much larger assumptions about the war.  Both Grant and Robert E. Lee are useful in this game.  Believing that Grant was an alcoholic fits neatly into that larger image of a dirty/God-less/industrial North that stands in sharp contrast with a peaceful/agrarian South.  Believing that Grant was a drunk reinforces his image as a “butcher” who achieved victory simply by massing overwhelming resources against Lee, the Army of Northern Virginia and the rest of the Confederacy rather than engaging in sophisticated and complex maneuvers.  Finally, it reinforces the view that the United States army was made up of barbarians whose only goal was to pillage the good people of the South who wanted nothing more than to be left in peace.

The above image of Grant is one of my favorites from the Civil War era.  A number of things come to mind when I look at it, including alcohol, but that constitutes just one fraction of my overall assessment of the man.

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35 comments… add one
  • Raffi Apr 7, 2010 @ 9:17


    You have some good points here, especially where you “wonder if this debate is about much larger issues.”

    To those who want to bash Grant’s generalship on the basis that he was a “drunk,” congratulations to their beloved General Lee, who lost to a “drunk” ! haha

    On a more serious note, I say who cares if he was a drunk or not? It doesn’t change what happened on the battlefield, what happened as President, etc. The record is the record, and we can analyze it for what it is — and him being a drunk does not change that record. So I think you touch on something important here when you seem to suggest that focusing on this issue loses sight of the bigger (and historically more significant and influential) picture.

    It reminds me of all the scandalous speculation surrounding Lincoln’s sexuality. I really don’t care, because it doesn’t change what Lincoln did in a realm of influencing history, especially as President.

  • toby Apr 6, 2010 @ 1:28

    One thing that has struck me in my own reading is how common it was to level the accusation of drunkeness at brother officers or superiors in letters and diaries. At the time of the Civil War, it seemed to have been a standard way to shaft a rival officer or an unpopular superior, or excuse a defeat.

    • toby Apr 6, 2010 @ 2:29

      Bit off-topic, but we have often discussed Grant’s “cinematic” appearances. Recently, two references to Grant in American novels occurred to me – they possibly reflect the fact that the great critic Edmund Wilson wrote a book about Civil War literature (“Patriotic Gore”) and praised Grant’s memoirs highly.

      (1) Norman Mailer’s “The Naked and the Dead” is set in the WWII Pacific Campaign. Mailer was a war correspondent so the novel is pretty gritty and realistic. No spoilers, but there are many characters and viewpoints. The three main protagonists are a brutal, fascistic Sergeant, his liberal Lieutenant, and the General, an ambitious and self-serving individual. To illuminate the General’s character, it is recounted that at West Point, he argued for Grant over Lee as a strategist. For going against the conventional wisdom of the day, he receives a hazing from the class, and is described in the Class yearbook as “the Stragegist”. For a book written in the late 1940s, Mailer gets it pretty much right historically.

      (2) F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tender is the Night”. This (spoiler alert!) recounts the fall of Dick Diver, a brilliant young psychiatrist who marries one of his wealthy and beautiful patients. The novel has parallels with “the Great Gatsby” but has a better claim to be Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. Dick adopts his wife’s idle, wealthy lifestyle and they move to Europe. But as Nicole (his wife) regains her mental health, he succumbs to alcoholism. They divorce and Dick moves back to the US, a tragic broken man. They keep in touch intermittently by letter (this is recounted in a sort of epilogue) but Dick seems to be living a shiftless life moving from small town to small town in rural New York state. Nicole retains some feelings for Dick, and thinks of him “like Grant at Galena”, a hero hidden in obscurity, awaiting his moment. Fitzgerald’s metaphor shows he had a working knowledge of Grant’s biography.

      With Wilson’s praise of his writing and these references in fiction, it suggests that Grant’s image among American may have always been more sophisticated that the perception of a clownish drunk who made good.

      [I know there is a recent book about Grant’s “image” – I have not read it yet, so I am not sure if it treats of Grant’s image in American fiction.]

      • Kevin Levin Apr 6, 2010 @ 2:34


        Thanks for the Mailer and Fitzgerald references. You are thinking of Joan Waugh’s new study of Grant and historical memory: http://www.amazon.com/U-S-Grant-American-America/dp/0807833177/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1270551851&sr=8-1 I read just about all of it, but don’t remember coming across any analysis of American fiction. I will have to check.

      • Bob Huddleston Apr 6, 2010 @ 5:38

        Thanks for the reference to Mailer. However, let me correct one error: he was not a war correspondent: he was a private, with a cook MOS.

        • toby Apr 6, 2010 @ 23:38

          I find it hard to picture Norman Mailer as a cook! Thanks for the correction.

  • heidic Apr 5, 2010 @ 3:36

    I believe, based on what I have read about Grant and alcohol, that his image as a drunkard has extended from, as Kevin points out, the vision of the North being a Godless industrial machine and the South being the agrarian idyllic community. I don’t believe that Grant drank any more or any less than any other army officer, but rather, his drinking has become a point of focus because he is so famous and because of the contrasting visions of the North and South.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 5, 2010 @ 3:42


      I tend to agree with you, but it should also be pointed out that some of these rumors were furthered during the war by Northern politicians and officers as well. See Brooks Simpson’s biography on this issue.

  • Bill Bergen Apr 4, 2010 @ 9:06


    Thought you might enjoy this exchange, starting with the text of a letter I wrote this morning in response to an article in the Outlook section of today’s Washington Post:

    Dear Ms. Wilson,

    Thank you for your interesting reply. I appreciate that your piece was light-hearted, and the overall point is one that I believe true–Americans do love redemption. Overall I enjoyed the piece.

    However, there are two things wrong with perpetuating this “tidbit.” One is that really is no dispute–no serious student of Grant’s life believes that whatever problem he might have had with the bottle affected his judgment during the war, or, more crucially, that he was ever drunk while his armies were in active operations (or his presidency for that matter).

    Two, and more crucially, the largest contingent of those who wish to perpetuate the image of Grant as a drunk are doing so for their own purposes, and in this sense repeating discredited notions about a long-dead person can do real harm. A respected Civil War blog, Civil War Memory, neatly summarized this view last June:

    “Believing that Grant was an alcoholic fits neatly into that larger image of a dirty/God-less/industrial North that stands in sharp contrast with a peaceful/agrarian South. Believing that Grant was a drunk reinforces his image as a “butcher” who achieved victory simply by massing overwhelming resources against Lee, the Army of Northern Virginia and the rest of the Confederacy rather than engaging in sophisticated and complex maneuvers. Finally, it reinforces the view that the United States army was made up of barbarians whose only goal was to pillage the good people of the South who wanted nothing more than to be left in peace.”

    That Neo-Confederate trope is not one that I think the Washington Post, or any respectable writer, would wish to perpetuate.


    On Sun, Apr 4, 2010 at 11:08 AM, Cintra Wilson wrote:
    > Dear Sir:
    > I take full responsibility for the historical view employed for that particular segment.
    > This is a widely-held but somewhat scurrilous tidbit of history that is much disputed. My point was — he had a bad reputation as a drinker but overcame it well enough to become President.
    > It’s not exactly a think piece. I doubt my utilizing of a disputed — but never fully refuted — bit of gossip about Grant is going to damage his reputation any further, in this context, or bring any serious Grant scholars to their knees.
    > It’s a tabloid piece, to wit: it is meant to be a little over-the-top, for the sake of being ENTERTAINING.
    > CW
    > On Apr 4, 2010, at 8:00 AM, Bill Bergen wrote:
    >> Text of letter sent to the letter of the editor of the Washington Post:
    >> Cintra Wilson’s “Don’t worry Tiger: We all love a second act” (Sunday, April 4, 2010) continues a long-discredited smear against Ulysses S. Grant.
    >> Grant, Wilson writes, “was infamous throughout his military career for being a staggering lush, given to dipsomaniacal benders” and cites two statements to support that proposition. One was from a general who, while assuring Grant of his admiration, was trying to undermine him to win a promotion for himself. The other source is a newspaper editor several hundred miles from the front who based his reports on those circulated by another general who was also seeking advancement.
    >> That Grant drank to excess occasionally seems clear. He resigned his commission in the pre-war army under unclear circumstances that might have involved drunkenness on duty. There are other plausible, but by no means clear-cut, accounts of Grant drinking to excess a few times while off duty during the Civil War. However, there is no creditable evidence that alcohol ever affected his battlefield performance and zero indication that Grant won at Vicksburg “despite being drunk.” As for the quote by Lincoln that “if he could find the brand of whiskey Grant drank, he would promptly distribute it to the rest of his generals,” there is no contemporary account of Lincoln saying any such thing.
    >> That the Washington Post, which has in recent years favorably reviewed books that demolishes these canards, would allow such drivel to be published is most disappointing.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 4, 2010 @ 12:24

      Hi Bill,

      Nice to hear from you and thanks for mentioning the blog in your response. Some myths die hard.

  • Bob_Pollock Oct 26, 2009 @ 13:19

    You're right, of course, that the Anaconda Plan was not Grant's. If that's what Petraeus meant, but maybe he just called his plan the Anaconda Strategy as a reference to the CW not specifically Grant.
    I don't know enough about Petraeus' Iraq operations to compare them to Grant's stategies in 1864, and this little blurb I quoted obviously filters whatever Petraeus actually said. The real point here is that a current military leader still finds inspiration in Grant rather than say…Lee.

  • Bob_Pollock Oct 26, 2009 @ 8:19

    You're right, of course, that the Anaconda Plan was not Grant's. If that's what Petraeus meant, but maybe he just called his plan the Anaconda Strategy as a reference to the CW not specifically Grant.
    I don't know enough about Petraeus' Iraq operations to compare them to Grant's stategies in 1864, and this little blurb I quoted obviously filters whatever Petraeus actually said. The real point here is that a current military leader still finds inspiration in Grant rather than say…Lee.

  • Mike Jul 1, 2009 @ 11:58

    Thanks Kevin I just finished Sarah Morgan’s Civil War dairy it was riveting and quite informative.

  • Mike Jun 30, 2009 @ 11:13

    Well I work in a Rural HS with a less that 1300 vol Library. Now we would not allow a stundent to turn in a paper with just 1 source either.

    I have not been back on the Civil War as an area of personal reading for almost 20 years. So 99% of the books you refer too were not out when I was Reading Foote, Cannon and Shelby. So I am playing catch up. I found this site while researching a paper for my town’s namesake Gen P. R. Cleburne of the Army of Tennessee. I found the 2 books you suggested at the Museum here in town so I will be spending some time in their research library as I try to complete the research part of this paper for Cleburne’s Birthday next March 2010.

    After reading your articles on the Crater I doubts about Black Confederates in any large numbers has grown tremendously.

    • Kevin Levin Jun 30, 2009 @ 11:28


      Good luck with your research on Cleburne. You may want to check out Google Books for access to titles that you come across here and elsewhere.

  • Kevin Levin Jun 30, 2009 @ 6:13


    Sorry for sounding like a jerk, but given the amount of serious research that’s been done on Grant in the past few years it seems odd to base a judgment on an encyclopedia entry. Do you know who wrote it?

    If one of my students handed a paper based on an encyclopedia entry I would immediately hand it back.

  • Mike Jun 30, 2009 @ 5:10

    Kevin I posted the reference to Encarta because I wanted to show Bob that I was not alone in my assessment of Gen Grant. Beside the fact that Encarta is an accepted reference tool at my ISD. What is odd about giving reference to my opinion? You and Bob questioned my reason and since I have not read much on Grant in past 5 years it was a handy reference that I had bookmarked on my PC. As for General David Petraeus a simple Google search will show he has his owe Distracters and Critics.

  • Bob Pollock Jun 29, 2009 @ 17:37

    Let me add also this from the Washington Times in April regarding recent comments by General David Petraeus:

    “Petraeus said each night he would read three to five pages of the book, “Grant Takes Command,” by John A. Rawlins [should be Bruce Catton], a history of former president Ulysses S. Grant’s time commanding Union forces during the last year and a half of the Civil War. From such studies he gleaned what he called “the Anaconda Strategy,” Grant’s plan for occupying Richmond, a strategy Petraeus tried to emulate in Baghdad.”

    Wow, our current miltary leader is trying to emulate an “average general”?

    • Brooks D. Simpson Oct 25, 2009 @ 13:24

      “From such studies he gleaned what he called “the Anaconda Strategy,” Grant's plan for occupying Richmond, a strategy Petraeus tried to emulate in Baghdad.”

      If that's true, that explains much, since the Anaconda Plan was not Grant's plan, and it has very little to do with his 1864 campaign. People who claim that their thinking is based on history should get the history right.

  • Bob Pollock Jun 29, 2009 @ 16:11


    Of course Grant could not have done what he did without Lincoln’s support and the Industrial and man power of the North. The fact that Grant was able to garner and keep Lincoln’s support and Grant’s ability to recognize the resources he had available and utilize them effectively is part of what makes Grant one of the best Generals in military history. One reason Lincoln liked him is because he worked with what he had without always asking for more. His campaign against Forts Henry and Donelson was swift and decisive. His campaign against Vicksburg is lauded by most military historians as one of the most brilliant ever conducted. At Chattanooga Grant breaks the Confederate siege and drives Bragg off the heights of Missionary Ridge. Grant is the only general of the war to have three entire armies surrender to him. All he did was win against every Confederate General he faced, including the idol of the Confederacy, Lee.

    Have you read “The Generalship of Ulysess S. Grant” by J.F.C. Fuller? Fuller had this to say:

    “In this conflict a close examination will show that whilst Lee fought like a paladin, as a general-in-chief he was inferior to Grant. Grant maintained his direction by a most careful adjustment, and constant readjustment, between concentration and distribution of force; he never changed his controlling idea, though he frequently modified his means of action. Lee, I maintain, was an indifferent general-in-chief, not because he failed to win battles, but because his strategy, though it often led to brilliant tactical successes, was not of the type which could win the war. This, then, is their difference: Grant understood the meaning of grand strategy, Lee did not. He never seems to have realised the uselessness of squandering strength in offensive actions as long as the policy of the Richmond Government remained a defensive one. He never seems to have been able to focus the war as a whole, as one picture. He could see bits of it clearly enough, but the whole was beyond his vision; consequently, outside the Army of Northern Virginia, his influence on the grand strategy of the war was negligible.”

    Then there is Eisenhower (this is from the Grant Association webpage):

    General Dwight Eisenhower admitted in 1946 that he had long thought Grant was an alcoholic but after going through WWII he had changed his mind, knowing a drunkard could never have waged and won the Civil War. In 1945, Eisenhower wrote to the author of Grant of Appomattox, William Brooks, commenting on USG’s report to the Secretary of War in 1865:

    That report impressed me mightily… ever since I read that report my respect for Grant has been high, in spite of the many bitter criticisms that I have read both of his military ability and his personal habits. With respect to this last item I am delighted that you have handled it so carefully and logically. It never seemed possible to me (and I have thought about it often during the months since December 1941) that a man who so constantly under the influence of liquor could have pursued a single course so steadfastly, could have accepted frequent failures of subordinates without losing his equilibrium, could have made numbers of close decisions which involved a nice balance between risk and advantage, and could have maintained the respect of such men as Sherman, Sheridan, Meade and, above all, President Lincoln.

    In July, 1964, General Eisenhower had a long interview with Walter Cronkite on the beaches of Normandy on the 20th anniversary of D-Day. He said then:

    I think Ulysses S. Grant is vastly underrated as a man and as a general. I know people think this and that about his drinking habits, which I think have been exaggerated way out of line. The fact is, he never demanded more men or material from the war department, he took over an army that had a long history of retreating and losing. That army had no confidence in their fighting ability and Grant came in as a real outsider. He had so many disadvantages going into the 1864 campaign, now 100 years ago. But he met every test and rose to the occasion unlike I’ve ever seen in American history. He was a very tough yet very fair man and a great soldier. He’s not been given his due.”

    Eisenhower continued on to say:

    Grant devised a strategy to end the war. He alone had the determination, foresight, and wisdom to do it. It was lucky that President Lincoln didn’t interfere or attempt to control Grant’s strategic line of thinking. Lincoln wisely left the war to Grant, at least in the concluding moves after he came east. Grant is very undervalued today, which is a shame, because he was one of the greatest American generals, if not the greatest.

    When Richard Nixon told Eisenhower in 1956 that it was common knowledge Stonewall Jackson was the greatest Civil War general, followed by Lee, Eisenhower interrupted him:

    I wouldn’t say that, Dick. In fact I think it’s not a very reasoned opinion. You forget that Grant captured three armies intact, moved and coordinated his forces in a way that baffles military logic yet succeeded and he concluded the war one year after being entrusted with that aim. I’d say that was one hell of a piece of soldiering extending over a period of four years, the same time we were in the last war.”

    Dulles, who was present, remarked that Nixon said nothing in response!

    General Eisenhower also stated that Grant’s memoirs were the best military memoirs ever written.

    Regarding Grant’s Presidency this comment is long already, so let me just say there is a reason Grant has risen to 23 on the Presidential Rankings list.

  • Mike Jun 29, 2009 @ 14:08

    Based on my Miltary Science training and History Degree I see Grant as an Average Gen and all those he replaced a sorry as dirt. Grant could not done what he did without Lincoln’s support and the Industrial and man power of the North.

    Bob I have read plenty and Grant had one of the most scandle ridden Terms in White House History.

    Per Encarta
    Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885), 18th president of the United States (1869-1877). Grant was a puzzling figure in American public life. He was a failure in his early ventures into both business and military life. In four years of commanding Union forces he climbed to the highest rank in the U.S. Army and directed the strategy that successfully concluded the Civil War in 1865. His two terms as president of the United States are considered by many historians to be the most corrupt in the country’s history. Yet from accounts of Grant’s contemporaries, as well as from his own memoirs, there emerges a personality of strong character and considerable dignity.

    • Kevin Levin Jun 29, 2009 @ 14:24


      Of course, you are entitled to any view of Grant you prefer, but it doesn’t help much if you do not provide reasons for that view. An Online reference to Encarta is very odd.

  • David Rhoads Jun 29, 2009 @ 8:41

    While never using the word “butcher”, Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, Lee’s second-in-command, was willing to characterize Lee at Gettysburg in this way:

    “That he was excited and off his balance was evident on the afternoon of the 1st, and he labored under that oppression until enough blood was shed to appease him.”

    Needless to say, this sort of thing didn’t go over well with many of Longstreet’s old comrades-in-arms and contributed to his being cast in the role of Judas in the Lost Cause mythology. The fact that Longstreet was an old friend of Grant and a post-war Republican didn’t help his reputation in the South either.

  • Jarret Jun 29, 2009 @ 7:50

    I always thought it was a true testament to the staying power of the Lost Cause that Grant can still be called a “butcher” for his actions at Cold Harbor. Robert E. Lee, on the other hand, can essentially pull the same kind of moves at Gettysburg: release his men into a frontal assault suicide mission, and go down in history as a noble, valient hero. Certainly, more perceptive scholars would characterize both mens’ actions as evidence of the war’s realities outpacing the the evolution of battle tactics, but in much of the general culture, Lee is never referred to as a “butcher.”

    – Jarret

  • Bob Pollock Jun 29, 2009 @ 4:51


    May I suggest you expand your reading list? There are numerous studies that would easily refute your contention that Grant was “an Average General with overwhelmimg resources” and that he was far from being a “Sorry President.”

  • Mike Jun 29, 2009 @ 4:22

    IMO, Grant was simply an Average General with overwhelming resources. A Sorry President but seen within the times he lived a drinker but not a DRUNK. Now if the CW Academia wants to grill someone let’s put William T. Sherman on the Pit.

    • Kevin Levin Jun 29, 2009 @ 4:31


      With all due respect, suggesting that Grant was “an Average General with overwhelming resources” doesn’t tell us much of anything. I don’t think “Academia” is “grill”ing anyone. Perhaps you can clarify what you mean or provide a specific example. As for Sherman, he has been the subject of numerous recent biographies and other studies. I would be more than happy to suggest a few if you are interested.

  • James F. Epperson Jun 29, 2009 @ 3:23

    Isn’t Al Franken one of the sources Waugh uses? 😉 To people with an entrenched view of the world, even the suggestion of revision is seen as a threat. And, to be honest, recent Civil War scholarship has been hard on many who revere Confederate icons. I’m not suggesting there is anything wrong with the work, just noting the fact.

  • James F. Epperson Jun 29, 2009 @ 2:47

    Kevin, I think Richard saw your suggestion (via Waugh) that Grant wasn’t a drunk as another instance of “modern [liberal] revisionists” changing Civil War history away from what the “true narrative” should be, just as the notion that slavery was at the heart of it all bothers him, the suggestion that Grant wasn’t a drunk bothers him.

    • Kevin Levin Jun 29, 2009 @ 3:12


      But I didn’t say he was or wasn’t a drunk. I stated that I thought the evidence was “weak or inconclusive” which is a far cry from a denial. Leave it to those pesky revisionists to challenge all things sacred, including the “Grant the drunk” mantra. I’m sure Al Franken has something to do with this. 🙂

  • Bob Pollock Jun 28, 2009 @ 18:35

    If you read my comment on Richard’s blog you know how I view Grant’s drinking. As a young man I myself drank to excess on a number of occasions for a number of reasons. As I have grown older, I almost never drink and when I do (maybe once a year) It’s only a couple drinks. I am not an alcoholic and have no addictions. How we understand the terms is important.

    I think you and Richard are saying similar things in regard to the “larger issues.” You are just coming at it from different directions. However, I also think you are right that the image of Grant as a drunk extends well beyond the modern defenders of the Confederacy. At U.S. Grant NHS visitors ask about Grant’s drinking habits almost every day. I think in some way it fits with Grant’s image as an American “every man.”
    A man who, in contrast to the eastern aristocratic Lee, was an average man of the rough and tumble west. That place where Frederick Jackson Turner said democracy was born and reborn with each new settlement. Eastern intellectuals hated Grant, especially Charles Sumner, and as Frank Scaturro wrote in “President Grant Reconsidered,” eastern intellectuals are also the historians of the early twentieth century from whom much of the public perception of Grant comes. How we view Grant influences not only how we view the Civil War (and vice versa), but also how we view Reconstruction and the Gilded Age (and vice versa).

    • Kevin Levin Jun 29, 2009 @ 1:17


      I think we are saying sort of the same thing, which is why I find it so strange that he would look upon that particular post with suspicion. I’m not sure I understand what point he is making, though I found his most recent comment re: Grant’s drinking and his willingness to sacrifice his men as helping to make one of my points. If Williams were aware of the facts one would have to conclude that alcohol has nothing to do with a willingness to be aggressive. Just ask Robert E. Lee.

  • Cash Jun 28, 2009 @ 17:06


    I’ve done a lot of reading on Grant and drinking. The conclusion I’ve come to is that Grant drank no more than anyone else in the Army at the time, and drank less than a number of others. He got drunk on occasion, like almost every other officer in the Army. He even liked the taste of alcohol, like almost every other officer in the Army. I don’t find evidence he was a drunkard as we understand the term. I think Bruce Catton’s handling of the issue was an attempt by Catton to deny nearly every incidence of drinking by Grant that was alleged. Brooks Simpson, in my view, has the most balanced view with the best handling of the available evidence. As much as I like Ed Longacre, I disagree with his conclusion about Grant being an alcoholic.

    On a separate note, I find it strange that today’s neo-Confederates dismiss Grant as nothing more than a drunken butcher. What does that say about Lee that he was beaten by this “drunken butcher?”


    • Kevin Levin Jun 28, 2009 @ 17:11


      To be fair, I think the image of Grant as a drunk extends much further than the neo-Confederate community – whatever that might mean. The interesting point is that it was Lee “the gentleman” who sacrificed many more men in costly attacks compared with Grant “the drunk.”

  • Larry Cebula Jun 28, 2009 @ 16:41

    Nineteenth century standards were sometimes looser than those today, at least in regards to how much drinking made a man an alcoholic. I can’t find the quote, but a English visitor to Jacksonian America wrote home that in America a man is not considered drunk so long as he can move or make a sound.

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