The Leadership Principles of Ulysses S. Grant - Stories & Myths (Episode 16)

Considered one of the three greatest American leaders by Teddy Roosevelt, U.S. Grant led the union to victory as a general and the nation to peace as president. Learn the timeless leadership principles that brought Grant success on this week's Stories & Myths with Craig von Buseck.

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Forward! The Leadership Principles of Ulysses S. Grant

Victor! The Final Battle of Ulysses S. Grant

More Books by Craig von Buseck


meeting with Christian book

owners, bookstore owners, and

meeting with uh various

different kinds of folks uh to

talk about my different books

and hopefully to uh encourage

them uh stock their shelves

with those books and what books

are those that you'll be

promoting? The ones behind me.

Alright. Yes. So, so it should

should be an entertaining

interesting time. So, uh I'll

I'll probably do a couple of

research stops along the way.

Um I had stopped at Fort

Donelson a couple of years ago

after I had gone to the Ulysses

S Grant Presidential Library

and then I was heading up to

Pennsylvania to visit with my

parents and so I stopped at

Fort Donelson but I didn't have

enough time to get over to Fort

Henry uh which was the first

fort that grant uh defeated. it

actually wasn't grant. It was

his planning but it was the

navy that defeated Fort Henry

but then Grant and the Navy

working together defeated Fort

Donald and so I plan to stop at

Fort Henry because it's kind of

right on the way. Nice And then

uh also there may be a couple

other stops depending on how

much time I have. Uh Mark Twain

Birthplace is about an hour and

a half from where Yes. uh well,

not his birthplace but his

where he grew up. He was born

in Florida, Missouri which is a

little bit uh further west but

uh Hannibal is about an hour

and a half from where we're

going to be. So, if I find the

time I might zing up there as

well. So, It should be. It

should be an interesting time.

Awesome. Awesome that I plan to

hear or I look forward to

hearing some stories about it

next week and um at the office

and here on um on your podcast

stories and myths. That's

right. Yes. So, what do we got

on top for this evening? So,

we're actually going to be

talking about one of your grant

books. We're going to be

talking about the leadership

one. Um just got a couple of

questions about that and so um

this is the second It is called

the lord. The leadership

principles of Ulysses S Grant.

That's right, which is the

companion book to the biography

Victor, the final Battle of

Ulysses S Grant. So, and this

one came out in May of 2021,

right? And the biography Victor

came out in April. So, just a

month apart and so yeah. Um so,

I'll go ahead and jump right

into my first question. So,

Roosevelt declared in nineteen

mightiest among the mighty dead

loom. the three great figures

of Washington Lincoln, and

Grant. So, why did Grant's

reputation suffer such a

decline since that point? Well,

it's interesting II. Don't know

if there would be anyone today

who would say the same thing

now, everything shifts with

context and with time and uh

we've had an awful lot. You

know, we've had more than a

century since

Uh Teddy Roosevelt made that

quote and there have been a lot

of great American leaders since

that time but when you look

back from 1900 back to 1776 and

consider what Teddy Roosevelt

said, uh what I didn't share in

that quote was that he said in

the second tier there would be

people like Patrick or not not

Patrick Henry but Alexander

Hamilton, Tom Thomas Jefferson,

John Adams, Benjamin Franklin,

Franklin, those Teddy Roosevelt

considered those second tier

and he considered the first

tier Washington, Lincoln and

Grant basically people of that

era looked at Washington as the

father of the country and he,

you know, not only as a general

but also as a two-term

president and his important

contribution of not uh going

for a third term but retiring

and saying I'm not a king. we

don't want a king In America,

we want a president and so that

very important contribution,

Then, they looked at Lincoln in

his work in saving the union

and keeping it from being

divided and conquered and they

looked at grants in two

different ways. One was his uh

military strategy working with

Lincoln. I mean, Lincoln and

Grant had very similar strategy

but Lincoln Lincoln didn't have

the military training that

Grant had and so Lincoln needed

Grant. That's why three full

years went by where the union

lost. Most of the time, the

only place that the union was

winning was out west where

Grant was in charge because

Grant was a military genius as

far as his strategy was

concerned and as far as his

discipline was concerned and so

that's why Lincoln brought him

east so that the north's

strongest general went up

against the strongest general

in Robert E. Lee. So, it was

kind of like Rocky Balboa

against Apollo Creed and um and

Grant one and so he he not only

was hailed for winning the war

but he also uh helped the

country steer through the

dangerous waters of

reconstruction and of the rise

of Jim Crow racism in the south

uh basically, you know, the uh

the Southern aristocrats and

politicians who were in charge

before the war very quickly

became in charge again after

the war because they suppressed

uh the black vote and so it was

the same people voting for the

same people and they wanted to

continue slavery just in

different terms and that is you

know the uh Jim Crow racism and

grants fought against that for

all. 8 years of his two terms

as president and this is what

we forget. You know, I know

growing up that I was told that

Grant was one of the worst

presidents we ever had because

of the scandals that took

place. Well, that was nothing

but Southern Pro Southern

Confederate propaganda. It's

simply not true. The truth of

the matter is that Grant is one

of the most important

presidents we ever had because

he kept us together. He kept

the the country unified. He Jim

Crow. He knocked down the KKK.

He came out with the Civil

Rights Act of 1975. He came out

with the KKK laws and so he's,

you know, slogan was let us

have peace and he did that in

three ways. One, he tried to

reconcile wherever he could

with the south as long as they

obey the laws. federal, state,

and local two, he kept the

Union Army uh deployed

throughout the south to enforce

that and three, he he helped to

form the justice department and

his attorney general along with

Grant uh went after the KKK and

basically in the courts, they

wiped them out and so the KKK

was pretty much uh toothless

for the next 20 years because

of Ulysses S Grant, we forget

how important he was not only

as general but also as

president and then of course as

elder statesman in those last 2

years as he was writing his

memoirs, he not only wrote

about his experiences but he

reminded the country that the

war was not about state's

rights. The war was not about

tariffs. The only way they were

the war was about tariffs and

state's rights was as it was

connected to slavery. The war

was about slavery. Grant made

that very clear in his memoirs

and he made it very clear to

the people that he spoke to

including Chancellor, a Von

Bismarck. He said we had to

destroy slavery. It was a

cancer upon our country and so

that is why the people of the

nineteenth century next to

Lincoln and very closely next

to Lincoln. So, Ulysses S Grant

as one of the great leaders in

American history happily after

100 years of what is called the

law school which is a pro

confederate uh philosophy of

writers and historians and

media mogul after 100. years of

knocking grants reputation down

and raising Lee's reputation up

um after the civil rights

movement uh writers and

historians and educators

started to take a second look

at Grant and started to look at

the actual documents which is

what historians are supposed to

do and what journalists are

supposed to do and so in the

last Twenty-five or 30 years,

there has been a reexamine of

the importance of Ulysses S

Grant That's one of the reasons

why I wrote these two books.

Victor and Forward. Awesome.

So, Grant, look for the

advantage in every setback. So,

how was this a key to his

success? well II mentioned

earlier for uh Henry and Fort

Donaldson Grant. um saw the

strategy right away uh when he

was employed as a colonel in

the uh Union Army in Illinois

and he was placed under uh

General Freeman uh who was the

general of the west at the time

free mantle gave grant a

promotion to Brigadier General

and he basically said go get

him. Well, uh Freeman

unfortunately made some really

bad decisions and Lincoln

removed him and brought in

General Hallock Hallock was a

good politician but not a very

good Uh he was good at uh the

paper pushing part of being a

general. He was not good in the

field. He just wasn't good in

the field and yet Grant now had

to answer to Hallock and so

Grant saw very clearly that the

key to um to defeating the

south was to control the

rivers. It would be like us

controlling the highways and

airports today uh because

rivers could be, you know,

things and troops and supplies

and weapons could be moved in

rivers both in the summertime

and in the winter time. So,

it's vitally important and so

Grant saw that what he needed

to do first was to take the two

forts uh that were on the

Cumberland and the Tennessee

Rivers Fort Henry which was an

Earth and fort and it was not

very well built and then Fort

Donaldson which was a

combination of earth and also

Woodstock which was actually

well built and so he went to

Hallock to request permission

all the while Grant was making

plans for how he would do this.

In fact, he went and he talked

to the Admiral um of the navy

because back then there there

was no joint chiefs of staff.

The navy was in charge of the

navy and the army was in charge

of the army. So, the army

generals had to go and ask for

permission uh to use the boats

and so Grant went and spoke

with the commandant of the navy

in that area who agreed that

that was what needed to happen.

I believe it was uh admiral

Foot and um So, Grant went to

Hallock with this plan and

because it wasn't hall's plan,

he said, no, I don't want you

to do that even though it was

the obvious thing to do and so,

grants uh almost quit because

of this because he was so

discouraged by this politics

and yet he thought, okay, his

wife encouraged him and said,

no, you know, tough it out.

stay there. Something will

change. Well, what changed Is

that Abraham Lincoln was sick

and tired of the union just

sitting around doing nothing

and so he gave an order that by

this date, I want action. while

the only plan that Hale had was

grants and so he took it on as

his own and said, oh, I think

that is a very good idea Now

that Lincoln ordered him to

move forward and so he went

ahead and gave permission for

grant to go ahead and to

attack. So had Grant not made

his plans, had not been

proactive By the time Hallock

would have said, yes, there

would have been nothing in

place but Grant had not only

made his plans, he had started

stockpiling all the equipment

and the weapons and the

uniforms and everything that

was needed. The Navy got all

their plans together. So, as

soon as Hallock said, yes, they

were off. I think the next day

or maybe 2 days and um it had

been raining torrential and so

the Tennessee River had flooded

and so um the navy floated

right into Fort Henry. They

literally floated right into

the fort because it had flooded

and so it was the army never

even got there and so the navy

uh telegram uh or telegraphed

uh to general grant saying Fort

Henry has fallen Grant forward

to that that to Hale but he

never ask permission to move on

to Fort Donaldson. He just went

and did it because he thought

if I ask permission, he might

say no. So I'm just going to go

with uh interpreting his

original uh orders as taking

both forts, right? And so,

Grant, go out there and

surrounded three sides of the

fort, the other side was facing

the river and so the navy gun

boats went down to Tennessee

and then up the Cumberland and

started shelling Fort Donaldson

from from the but the

Confederates had built a very

good fort and the Confederates

actually took out the gun

votes. Uh they didn't sink but

they damaged them and killed a

lot of the navy. uh Navy

sailors So, the navy actually

uh retreated because their

boats were not capable of

keeping up the war and so Grant

said, okay, I guess we're just

going to have to take this and

so um he he gave the order to

charge on all fronts. It took

several days uh but eventually

uh they were able to overwhelm

the forts and um and they won.

So that's an example of how

grant um made his plans um his

strategy but then he stuck to

it and pushed forward. Awesome.

So, during the Civil War,

General Grant had a gift for

identifying talent and um

trustworthy people. So, how did

this help the union to win the

war? Well, the generals that we

know of as the great generals,

many, if not, most of them were

picked by Grant at one point

along the lines. Okay And those

that we don't really know about

or at least that your typical

person doesn't know about um

god on Grant's bad side which

could happen. There were some

generals who really uh made him

angry. Uh some that he fired uh

McLennan was an example. So

McLennan was a political

general. This was one of the

crazy things about the Civil

War is that they had most of

the generals and officers were

West Point excuse me, West

Point trained or one of the

other uh military colleges like

um the Citadel or or the uh

VIVI, right? But the majority

were from West Point. however,

because um the war was looked

on as a Republican war at the

beginning, Lincoln needed to uh

pull over to his side Democrats

who agreed with the war because

many Democrats did not and they

actually fought tooth and nail.

They were called Copperheads

because they would snip. uh the

face of liberty off of a copper

penny and of a fix it to their

shirt or their hat or their

lapel of their coat and so they

were named copperheads. There's

actually a movie named

Copperhead that kind of gives

that perspective. It's very

good. Ron Maxwell, the director

of Gettysburg and and Gods and

Generals also directed this

very very good movie but um so

Lincoln needed these Democrats

and so he turned I mean, right

now, it seems ridiculous but he

turned several of these

politicians into generals and

so, some of the more famous

were uh Fremont and II had

mentioned uh McLennan who was

actually uh Lincoln's friend in

Illinois and then probably the

most famous or infamous is

General Ben Butler uh who got

the name the beast Ben Butler

because he was put in charge of

New Orleans after New Orleans

was taken by the navy and uh

was a lot of you know, uprising

of the Southerners even though

the city had fallen the

citizens were doing things

like, you know, women would

come out and drop their chamber

pot onto the heads of generals

and things like that and uh

there's a lot of different

things but we're basically laid

down the law and said uh you

know, if this happens again,

the women are going to jail and

any men that pull anything like

that we're going to hang

without trial. Oh wow. And so

they called him the beast Ben

Butler and actually Still have

chamber pots uh from that era

where they they put the picture

of Ben Butler in the bottom of

the bowl. And then they still

exist. to this day. You can

get, I mean, it's a collector's

item. How would you like to be

like, oh, have you seen my

ancestors picture? Look at this

chamber pot, isn't it? Yeah.

photos in it. What did you make

of it? It's it's rather it's

hysterical but um at any rate,

uh so most of these political

generals were terrible

generals. Um they were good

politicians and that worked for

a time but most of them you

know, got pushed out. So,

McLennan made the mistake of

ranting against grant in the

newspaper which was against

army regulations and the next

day he was gone. As soon as

Grant saw that he fired him.

Ben Butler uh held on for a

long long time but finally he

uh did some things that were

out of bounds and Grant fired

him and so was just what's

that? a chamber pot Uh no but

uh he he made some some

mistakes uh and basically He

became very ineffective,

bottled up in uh what was

called the Bermuda hundred

which was just a small little

area south of Richmond and he

couldn't go north southeast or

west. They were stuck right

there. Grant said they were

like a wine bottle firmly

corked and so he got rid of of

Ben Butler but some of the

people that that grant raised

up uh included uh General

William to Sherman who grant

new at point and he had left

and people thought he was

crazy. Um at the beginning of

the war um because he said it's

going to take this long and

it's going to be this many

casualties. He was almost

exactly right on in the end.