Ulysses S. Grant #POTY1863

Earlier today the Museum of the Confederacy held their symposium to determine 1863’s Person of the Year.  Most of the choices were once again predictable, though a few are just downright odd to me.  Robert Krick’s selection of Stonewall Jackson is neither surprising or interesting in any way.  I want to hear more about why Jennifer Weber believes Clement Vallindigham is so important.  Ed Ayers decided to change things up by giving a nod to the United States Colored Troops.  That makes perfect sense to me.  Here is the final tally.

Joe Glatthaar should have had it much easier by selecting Ulysses S. Grant, who is the logical choice.  Jackson coming in a close second is just downright bizarre.  And how the USCTs placed last even with a charismatic advocate like Ed Ayers is inexplicable to me.  Oh well.

I am sure everyone had a fun time, which is ultimately what this is all about.

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12 comments… add one
  • Ryan A Feb 25, 2013 @ 13:27

    Lee always complained about not being able to press the advantage enough in his battles – even his overwhelming victories. Even after Fredericksburg, he made a comment that the bloodletting on the 13th was enormous but that it did not go far enough for him. I think Lee was ruthless, as Matt points out, and understood the grim “arithmetic” that Lincoln referred to at one time – namely by inflicting as much physical damage to Federal armies and affecting the US’ resolve to make war. He did it in spectacular fashion, considering that he lost alot of his own men in the process – almost 90,000 casualties before the Overland Campaign in 1864. He always complained and he seemed to have very little patience for subordinates that didn’t perform up to his standards or exemplify the “aggressive Confederate” mindset of battle. Jackson was a notable exception, with his performance at Antietam and Second Manassas being the only battles where he was not involved in some considerable mistake or mistakes on his part being called out by Lee. Jackson’s tardiness at Chancellorsville and his haphazard handling of the flank attack on May 2nd probably would have drawn the ire of Lee after the battle but his wounding and subsequent death made it difficult for anyone to criticize Stonewall. At any rate, it was the repeated attacks on the morning of May 3rd at Fariview that were the most decisive aspect of Chancellorsville turning into Confederate victory. Jackson pushed back one corps on the 2nd and was stopped cold when he ran into the Union defensive line. It took the capture of Hazel Grove and the relentless and tremendously costly frontal attacks on Fairview by Stuart and Rhodes that accomplished the breakthrough.

  • Matt McKeon Feb 24, 2013 @ 16:55

    Lee was a killer. I realize he had nice manners, but he was a lot more George Patton than his popular image would suggest.

  • Dudley Bokoski Feb 24, 2013 @ 6:28

    Thanks, Kevin:

    I actually like Grant a lot, but I guess I’ve become so jaded by reading accounts of how bad the Confederate opposition was in the west I probably give him less credit than he is due. One thing which impresses me about him, having read so many of his reports in the O.R. is how clear minded he was about where his focus should be and how to achieve objectives. I wouldn’t call him brilliant, but I would say he was exceedingly logical, and had the ability to understand what was important and what wasn’t.

    As for Jackson, I tend to agree with you that his claim on 1863 is narrowly based. It has always been a point of contention as to who came up with the idea of the flank march at Chancellorsville (on which his claim rests). Lee, diplomatically, tried to explain after the war his role in the plan. Others give Jackson credit for the germ of the idea. And the whole discussion ignores the outstanding performance of Stuart after Jackson’s wounding in reuniting the separated wings of the Confederate Army.

    But you do have to feel badly for Meade. You win Gettysburg and not one vote!

    • Kevin Levin Feb 24, 2013 @ 6:31

      Good point re: Meade. He is a much more interesting choice than Jackson. Jackson is certainly a contender for an award for “Most Outstanding Performance” in a campaign, but I just don’t see what difference it made. Granted, I am no military historian, but didn’t Lee acknowledge this by deciding to go north?

      • Dudley Bokoski Feb 24, 2013 @ 8:58

        Lee expressed some disappointment in Chancellorsville after the war. From his comments I believe he understood the need for a decisive victory, one which would destroy a Union army and be a tipping point in Northern public opinion and in Europe. Chancellorsville wasn’t that. And I believe you’re correct in observing that this played a big role in Lee heading North. Time was against him and he had to strike a decisive blow.

        • Michael Lynch Feb 24, 2013 @ 10:15

          He did that after the Seven Days Battles, too, didn’t he? Complained that he hadn’t been able to deliver a real knockout, I mean.

  • Jobu Feb 24, 2013 @ 6:22


    • Kevin Levin Feb 24, 2013 @ 6:23

      Sure. You can find a reason to nominate Lincoln for every year. 🙂

  • Dudley Bokoski Feb 24, 2013 @ 5:40

    Why do you believe Jackson’s coming in second was bizarre? Not saying anything negative about your opinion, just wondering what historical reason you have for making such an adamant statement.

    If you are judging by battlefield achievements 1863 is a more difficult year to make the award in that where 1862 saw a series of battles in both theaters, 1863 was less fluid and focused around the twin Union victories of Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Chancellorsville, of course, was the spring board to the Gettysburg Campaign and must be included. I suppose those who supported Jackson did so because his attack there was a decisive check to Union plans for the year and ultimately put the Confederates back on the offensive.

    I’m surprised Meade didn’t gain at least a smattering of votes. He took control of an evolving situation, confronted by arguably the most powerful army the Confederates would put in the field, and fought off ferocious attacks for three days. Granted, he did not concentrate rapidly enough to prevent the rout the first day nor did he pursue as aggressively as the President desired in the aftermath, but he was a pivotal character at a pivotal point.

    I would have voted for co-winners in Porter and Farragut. The Navy gets far less credit than due for securing the Mississippi River. While Grant does deserve credit for the land campaign which took Vicksburg, I would argue that any competent Union general (given the advantages enjoyed in that theater) would have done the same.

    The idea of a person of the year for each year of the war seems a bit odd, in any case. It reduces the complexity of the war and the amazing logistical challenges down to battles and leaders. It also ignores the role of industrial production and technology in the outcome. But I suppose it is a good conversation starter.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 24, 2013 @ 5:45

      Hi Dudley,

      I definitely don’t want to make too big a deal about this. Like I said, it’s an entertaining format for a weekend symposium that no doubt left attendees with a good deal to think about.

      I just don’t see any reason to nominate Jackson for 1863. Yes, he thwarted a major Union thrust in May 1863, but it changed very little. That’s it. As we all know, Jackson died ten days later. I have no doubt that Krick would find a way to nominate Jackson for 1864. 🙂 Grant is the obvious choice and he should have handily beat the other nominees.

  • Joshua H. Feb 23, 2013 @ 17:55

    Would the USCT qualify as person of the year? Seems like it would be more people of the year or unit of the year. Maybe that’s why they had so few votes

    • Kevin Levin Feb 23, 2013 @ 18:05

      Ayers took his cue from the fact that Time magazine has recently given its POTY award to a group as opposed to an individual.

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