Most of Grant's troubles during his presidency can be linked back to one character "flaw:" Loyalty. Grant was loyal to a fault. He chose old Army and war buddies to serve, then stuck by them with they faltered. But you can't overlook that Grant took over the reins of this country after the most volatile period in its history, a civil war that literally pitted brother against brother. It was this climate that America turned to its conquering general to save it. A general who owed his military success in large part to his bullheaded and determined nature to not back down and to attack, attack and attack. This nature served Grant, and the country, well during the war. Not so much in politics.
Grant's legacy is always overlooked. It is important to remember that Grant was particularly hated amongst the south, the one part of our country that lives and breathes history. His reputation began being sullied the minute Sherman lit the fires in Atlanta. The efforts to sully Grant's reputation only increased as attempted to recognize the black man's rights during reconstruction and suppress white supremacists such as the KKK.
We remember a college history professor once asking our US History pre-1865 class which side had the best commanders during the Civil War. The near unanimous answer was the Confederacy. The professor's response: Why? They lost. The North obviously had the best commanders, because they won. We agree. Sure, there are any number of reasons why the North won the war: better industrial base, more legitimate cause, superior political leadership, etc. But despite the false belief that Gen. Robert E. Lee was the greatest military mind of the time, it really was Grant. Grant harnessed his former quartermaster skills and used those to bring the full weight and strength of the North's military and industrial capacities to bear on Lee and the South. Grant made his bones fighting and winning engagements during the Spanish-American war. Lee made his scouting out a route for the US to use for an attack. That was the difference. Grant's utter terror at failing or turning from a fight made him an absolute beast on the battlefield. And it was calculated. For all his failings in the business world, he had correctly surmised that Lee and the South could not continue to bleed. Therefore, he set out and bloodied the hell out of them.
But all that is forgot. The South and the Confederacy is romanticized today. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jeb Stuart are hailed as fallen heros, martyrs who died for lost world. Grant is villified as a drunk and inept administrator. It is that kind of thinking that prompts a United States Congressman such as Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (R-NC) to introduce legislation replacing Ulysses S. Grant's picture on the $50 Bill with Ronald Reagan's.
Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot? We realize today GOP drinks the Ronald Reagan as Messiah Kool-Aid to the point that their tongues and lips are stained a permanent cherry red. But are kidding us? As Yglesias notes:
In a better world, GOP stalwarts would be standing up for Grant as one of the
leading figures of their party’s founding. Grant stood for a humane approach to
Native American policy, and did more for African-Americans than any president
between Lincoln and Johnson. He deployed federal troops against the Ku Klux
Klan, got Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1875. And of course before
becoming President, he won the Civil War, which was kind of a big deal.
Shocker this bill comes from a Congressman from the South, huh? Come on, GOP. Do you really think it is a good idea for you to be for taking away the one historical reminder that one of your past leaders literally fought and bled against slavery in this country? Right now? You don't think it's good to have someone that is inappasite of the Joe the Plumbers or Tea Partiers right now? Really?
Think McFly. And while you're thinking, one of you may want to pick up a copy of Jean Edward Smith's excellent book "Grant" and send it to McHenry. Respect our past, jagoff.