Yes. Yes he did.
And now for some American history to give much-needed perspective on the kind of information warfare tactics long used by white nationalists.
There have been many sad attempts over the last several decades to attach the term “butcher”, notably deserved by traitor General Lee, instead on U.S. General Grant.
The argument/propaganda tends to go like this: while Grant decisively defeated pro-slavery forces, even capturing multiple armies, too many people died when Grant pressed forward on battlefields to end the war quickly. Somehow Grant should have had fewer casualties while more expediently winning a war that Lee was intentionally making more brutal.
Think about the irony of this propaganda line meant to denigrate Grant.
The pro-slavery militant states seceded by declaring war and then blamed high casualty rates caused by their own leadership tactics (expressly ordering the butchering of U.S. soldiers) on…their sworn target of attack, the United States.
Who was the real butcher?
Also think about the fact that Grant not only was a brilliant tactician, he was the father of the civil rights movement after he ended war. He literally both stopped the pro-slavery Generals butchering Americans and then worked on a foundation of civil rights to protect against the tribal southern militias (e.g. KKK) trying to continue to butcher Americans after emancipation.
Let’s look now at Chernow’s seminal new work. He seems very decisively to neutralize the anti-Grant propaganda with some first-person source material. It establishes clearly how Grant thought deeply both strategically and tactically how to end the war quickly and minimize suffering:
Start with how Grant is described as reflecting upon battles solemnly, highly concerned with the rate of casualties after doing everything he could to be mindful and transparent of the costs.
Conversely then we see pro-slavery Confederate General Lee intentionally delaying aid to wounded soldiers who lay exposed and dying on a battlefield. The traitorous Lee maintained a butcher’s mentality through the war, using inhumane tactics against non-whites as well as dehumanization of those who fought to protect the U.S. from its enemies.
Chernow shows here how Lee thought bureaucratic delays to aid would help him maximize suffering of U.S. men, very overtly butchering them and leaving them to die in the worst conditions because he was “intent on teaching a lesson to Grant”.
I have yet to find regrets or similar thoughts in Lee’s writings that achieve the moral high ground of Grant. Instead I find repeated references to this “teaching a lesson” mantra, such that butchering Americans was a pro-slavery political terror tactic.
It’s easy to see why pro-slavery historians have for so long tried to project this “butcher” label onto the wrong man and away from those who had started a war to expand slavery Westward. Grant clearly had more quickly and decisively defeated Lee compared to anyone before him. The “heritage” revisionists hate Grant for that simple fact alone.
Lee’s leadership not only never managed to capture any forces (frequently murdering prisoners of war instead). His men (i.e. General Nathan Bedford Forrest) were infamous instead for cruelly deceptive and inhumane tactics during war and later starting the KKK to spread terror campaigns nationally after the end of official hostilities (i.e. to this day Forrest, Arkansas is named for the pro-slavery anti-American terrorist).
Let’s look next at General Forrest, known among pro-slavery groups as “The Wizard of the Saddle” (later named first “Grand Wizard” of the KKK). During war his reputation was built around things like escaping from battle by grabbing a “small” U.S. soldier as hostage and using him as a human shield.
His specialty was sabotaging U.S. supplies and communications, using deception tactics and deceit in what he described as “a heap of fun and to kill some Yankees”. Most infamously General Forrest drove over 2,000 pro-slavery forces towards U.S. soldiers in Fort Pillow on April 16, 1864, he twice waved a “flag of truce” at them.
Here two soldiers recall what they witnessed after Forrest stormed the fort and literally butchered hundreds of U.S. soldiers who were surrendering:
General Chalmers (Mississippi cavalry who later became known for using violent voter suppression to win a seat in Federal government) reportedly bragged about this event in words similar to General Lee that a butchering at Fort Pillow was intentional and to teach “the mongrel garrison” a lesson.
Harper’s Weekly described the situation in their 1864 news report as murdering women, children and civilians then mutilating the dead:
“Both white and black were bayoneted, shot, or sabred; even dead bodies were horribly mutilated, and children of seven and eight years, and several negro women killed in cold blood. Soldiers unable to speak from wounds were shot dead, and their bodies rolled down the banks into the river. The dead and wounded negroes were piled in heaps and burned, and several citizens, who had joined our forces for protection, were killed or wounded. Out of the garrison of six hundred only two hundred remained alive. Three hundred of those massacred were negroes; five were buried alive.”
General Forrest himself wrote, like Lee and Chalmers said above, that he was intent on being a butcher to send a specific message to the U.S. about white supremacy.
It is hoped that these facts will demonstrate to the Northern people that the Negro soldier cannot cope with Southerners
In case it isn’t clear why we’ve slid into discussion of Generals of the pro-slavery rebellion beyond General Lee himself. The massacre at Fort Pillow was clearly widely reported and of much discussion in early 1864.
Widely reported. Clearly about being a butcher.
This run-up of events needs to be extremely clear because in July 1864 it was pro-slavery forces directly under General Lee who butchered Black U.S. soldiers trying to surrender and again afterwards as prisoners. Here are the recollections from the Battle of the Crater in Virginia:
Who was the real butcher?
Those who ignore or revise history to denigrate Grant are actually hiding the pro-slavery mentality of excessive cruelty in battle and after. People have unfairly and intentionally attacked Grant’s reputation by projecting the crimes of Lee and his men for their own political gain.
Once people admit Grant is the one who stopped these butchers and their massacres and inherent inhumanity of pro-slavery forces, it could open the door to some other very relevant facts about white nationalists and why they continue to be threats to the U.S. even today.
Grant emancipated his slave before war, then rose through ranks to win the war, then started a civil rights movement and wrote a memoir that admitted faults and fears for a lasting peace to be achieved.
Lee threw away his citizenship so he could start a war to expand the enslavement of humans, and repeatedly left thousands of men dying in great pain for his unjust cause, leaving a legacy of white supremacists who to this day try to defame and denigrate the real American heroes.
Who was the real butcher?
Greenwald provides further analysis of how Grant was brilliant and determined with his strategy, which meant he accepted criticism, while Lee romanticized blunders and infamously would shine his boots sooner than check the welfare of his troops.
Approximately a year earlier, in July 1863, Lee launched a massive assault against Union forces near a small hamlet in southeastern Pennsylvania. That assault, labeled “Pickett’s Charge,” cost Lee’s forces approximately 6,000 men. Yet, that charge has been romanticized and remembered more favorably, and is part of the lore of the fallen Confederacy. Meanwhile, Grant’s assault gave him the moniker “The Butcher.”
Delving even further, Grant had also launched a massive assault against a protruding salient at Spotsylvania Court House. That one broke the Confederate line, ushered in 18 hours of fierce hand-to-hand combat and almost resulted in breaking Lee’s army in half. Grant is not remembered as a butcher for that action.
A “butcher” does not have strategic vision and would continue to batter his head against an entrenched enemy, continue to throw men recklessly against his position. Grant, however, did have a vision: destroy Lee’s army. And if Cold Harbor did not offer that opportunity, then another place of his choosing would.
Grant was no butcher. Chernow closes the case on this, with Grant himself explaining why the title could never fit:
Now if we could just get journalists to stop repeating the “butcher” propaganda, and instead fairly depict Grant for the humanitarian leader and brilliant military mind he really was who earned global respect for his values and achievements.