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The apparent rulers of the nation are imposing personages: it is by them the mob are influenced; it is they whom the spectators cheer. The real rulers are secreted second-raters; no one cares for them or asks after them, but they are obeyed implicitly and unconsciously by reason of the splendor of those who eclipsed and preceded them. All governments are infested by a class of second-rate men but the America left by Lincoln was absolutely overrun by such men.

Sometimes the shadow of an important man is not only the safest place to be but also the most advantageous. Porter certainly found it so giving up a combat role to become a staff officer which saw him breveted from a lieutenant colonel to a major-general and provided his meal ticket for the rest of his life since he would remain as an aide to Grant through the White House years and finally end up as vice president of the Pullman Palace Car Company and ambassador to France from 1897 to 1905. To suspect his account of Grant in the war as in any way objective would be an error.

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Ironically he does offer an intelligent assessment of the conflict as a whole by categorizing first the problems of the Confederacy as the weaker party and their inability to:

  • Sustain adequate forces in multiple theaters
  • Find opportunities to improve the correlation of forces by;
  • Attracting allies
  • Destroying enemy armies
  • Seizing and holding new territories and their resources
  • Terminating the conflict quickly with favorable terms

He compares these to the advantages of the “modern” union army:

  • Superior logistics system capable of storing and transporting massive amounts of supplies
  • Standardized rations allowing forces to remain concentrated rather than foraging wide areas
  • Better use of railroads and steamships
  • Telegraphic communication links to distant theaters

He is at least honest in his assessment that the union ability to equip, coordinate, sustain and move larger armies was offset by Lincoln’s inability to find generals who could capitalize of their advantages. Of course his answer is that Grant was the paragon of men who could do so and by singing his hosannas he turned a staff job into a life of security and ease.

West Point graduation - Gen. Horace Porter, Member of Board for Visitors, addressing cadets; William H. Taft, seated.

West Point graduation – Gen. Horace Porter, Member of Board for Visitors, addressing cadets; William H. Taft, seated.

Campaigning with Grant  Horace Porter Hardcover. Reprint. Originally published: New York : Century, 1897. xviii, 546 p., [33] leaves of plates : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

In 1863 Horace Porter, then a captain, met Ulysses S. Grant as Grant commenced the campaign that would break the Confederate siege at Chattanooga. After a brief stint in Washington, Porter rejoined Grant, who was now in command of all Union forces, and served with him as a staff aide until the end of the war. Porter was at Appomattox as a brevet brigadier general, and this work, written from notes taken in the field, is his eyewitness account of the great struggle between Lee and Grant that led to the defeat of the Confederacy.

As a close-up observer of Grant in the field, Porter was also able to draw a finely detailed, fully realized portrait of this American military hero—his daily acts, his personal traits and habits, and the motives that inspired him in important crises—rendered in the language that Grant used at the time. Porter intended to bring readers into such intimate contact with the Union commander that they could know him as well as those who served by his side. He acquits himself admirably in this undertaking, giving us a moving human document and a remarkable perspective on a crucial chapter of American history.

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