Grant the Relentless Invoked as a Model for Authors

Amanda at Mad Genius Club:

One might argue that Grant’s simple faith in success, not only saved his career, it also saved the war for the Union, and made Grant into a legend. Not because Grant was the most talented or creative officer in uniform. He wasn’t. No, not in his own Army; and certainly not compared to the Confederate side, either. Grant was just the man who didn’t let setbacks cripple him as he drove forward. Grant’s friend (and right-hand man) General Sherman once said, after the disaster at Shiloh, “We’ve had the devil’s day.” To which Grant merely replied, “Yup. Lick ’em tomorrow, though.”

If you can be that author — the man or woman who simply refuses to accept setbacks — you will be able to carve legitimacy out of even the most inhospitable publishing terrain.

Now, the history nerd in me is bellowing that this is unfair to Grant. Managing armies in the 1860’s was a maddening affair, as the careers of McClellan, Rosecrans, Beauregard, and others will testify. One of the things Grant and Lee had in common was the ability to grasp the essential and edit out the rest, to keep operations focused, to select competent subordinates and not micromanage them. To look at Grant’s campaigns, from Fort Henry all the way through to Appomatox, is to see a man who made KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid) his watchword (this is especially true of the Vicksburg campaign. No one but Grant could have pulled that off. No one).

That said, Amanda’s point stands. Grant’s thoroughgoing Relentlessness, his refusal to accept defeat, was perhaps his strongest characteristic. I submit that no general, North or South, who experienced what Grant experienced on the first day of Shiloh would have had the sands to fight back the next day. No, not even Lee or Stonewall Jackson (Lee’s retreat from Antietam is perhaps the best analogy for this).

Shelby Foote observed that at the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864, Grant was outfought by Lee as thoroughly as Hooker had been, at Chancellorsville the year before (and on much the same ground). But while that was an embarrassing failure to Hooker, it was a mere nothing to Grant, who simply moved south anyway, and fought again, dragging Lee on a game he could not win no matter how many times he knocked the Union army back from the objective of the day. “If it gets to Petersburg,’ Lee observed, that summer “it will become a siege, and then only a question of time.” It got to Petersburg, and became a siege, and then only a question of time. Lee understood the game. He could not undo it, because Grant was not the sort of man who would be undone. Grant was more than a general; he was a Terminator.


Referring to it as “faith in success” has perhaps a better ring to it, though. Anyone in the game of producing art of any variety ought to have some.

Anyway, read the whole thing, as it’s about a metric for “legitimacy” necessary for publishing in the new age.


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