Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Grant surrounds Vicksburg

On this date in 1863 Union Major Gen. Ulysses Grant surrounded Vicksburg in the culmination of his brilliant campaign to capture that key city.
Honored and popular with contemporaries, Grant's reputation suffered for a long time among historians and the public. He was often portrayed as a butcher, unconcerned with casualties and as an inept president whose administration was rife with corruption. I've heard it suggested that Grant's reputation was tarnished by advocates of the "Lost Cause" mythos, who hated him as the victorious conqueror of the South and an energetic defender of the recently freed blacks.

His repuation has recovered somewhat recently, first as a general and more recently his administration. He was never the "butcher" portrayed by his critics. His campaign against Lee was so bloody because Lee was an exceptionally skilled foe. Both were brilliant and it's little surprise that a contest between two such evenly matched leaders would be long and difficult. Grant's administartion was indeed corrupt, but it was an era of corruption throughout American politics and his administration had major challenges.

M3 Grant tank

Grant was a hero, and for nearly 100 years his portrait has been on the $50 US currency (since 1913). A GOP congressman has twice (2005 and 2010) introduced legislation to substitute Ronald Reagan for Grant. Polls show that something like 70% of people polled oppse the idea, while only 10% support it. That's about as lopside as it gets in polling (more than 10% of people believe they ahe seen a ghost!).

I, for one, am glad this idea isn't getting any traction. Grant doesn't have enough recognition as it is, so let's keep him on the $50 bill.

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