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Campaigning with Grant by Horace Porter
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Apr 08, 12

bookshelves: civil-war-history, civil-war-memoirs
Read from February 24 to April 07, 2012

Horace Porter, the author, was one of the members of Civil War Union General Ulysses S. Grant's staff, so this is, for the most part, an eyewitness account. The memoir begins in October of 1863 when Porter joins the staff, goes through the major campaigns which Grant oversaw, and concludes with the celebratory parades in Washington D.C. just after the surrender of the Confederate armies. We meet famous commanders such as Meade, Sherman, Sheridan, and Custer as well as details of battles such as the Wilderness and the Crater. Much detail is, of course, given to Grant himself: his habits, appearance, manners, interaction with other officers and his staff, etc., etc.. This particular edition (one of the Time-Life Collector's Library Of The Civil War series) is a reprint of the original 1897 first edition. Hence the reader must keep in mind that, at that time, Grant was still revered by many as the "Savior of the Union" and the hero worship given here is at times quite obvious (Grant doesn't cuss, lie, gossip, lose his temper, fear danger, etc.), and on occasion is quite over the top as the following two passages indicate: (from page 242) "General Grant's desk was always in a delirious state of confusion; pigeon-holes were treated with a sublime disregard, and he left his letters piled up in apparently inextricable heaps; but, strange to say, he carried in his mind such a distinct recollection of local literary geography as applied to his writing-table that he could go to it and even in the dark lay his hand upon almost any paper he wanted." and this (from page 249) "If he had lived in ancient days he might, in his wrath, have broken the two tables of stone: he would never have broken the laws which were written on them". With a commander who could see in the dark and was holier than Moses, no wonder the South lost the war! These instances aside, the book is well-written, interesting, and gives a thorough history of the latter half of the Civil War's eastern theater.
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