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Comparing Grant and Lee

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Summary: This is a 3-page paper on social sciences. The paper has 1 source and is in MLA format. The paper compares and contrasts the two famous American civil war generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee.

Comparing Grant and Lee

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            Ulysses Grant and Robert Lee were the two most prominent Generals during the civil war who proved to be the backbone and core support of their respective sides. Both Grant and Lee were remarkable soldiers. Being a natural soldier made them “marvelous fighters” and “their fighting qualities were very much alike”.

(Catton, 506) Both men has shown extraordinary level of bravery and stoutness during the battles when their sides were weak and victory was hopeless. Grant showed this kind of valor in Mississippi Valley, while Lee stood firmly on the trenches of Petersburg while there was no hope for any survival. (Catton, 506) Both leaders had the ability to think swiftly and act upon it faster as Catton (506) says that “they had too; the ability to think faster and move faster than the enemy”.

These were the main qualities behind the success of these two Generals in some major battles. The most striking similarity of the two leaders was their ability to switch from war to peace when they got the chance and were sure that they will make peace. When they realized that there is a genuine possibility of making peace both the leaders gave up fighting and met at Appomattox, which became the turning point of the U.S. history and made possible the reconciliation of the two sides. If they had not taken this step the United States of today would never had materialized with such might and prosperity.


            Grant and Lee both leaders were entirely different regarding their personalities and social backgrounds. Robert Lee belonged to the old aristocracy and had firm belief in the traditional way of life of the already gone Middle Ages. He was from Virginia where the conservative culture still prevailed. His family was one of the last of those who represented the old chivalry brought in the New World by the British. His way of life could be traced back to the age of Knighthood and English country squire. (Catton, 505) Lee firmly believed that social inequality has its own advantages and dividing the society into leisure class and common class is necessary. He believed that this leisure class of men i.e. the aristocracy has the responsibility to lead the nation. Lee was so much immersed in the ideology of the aristocracy that during the war after sometime it was felt that all the confederates were fighting only for Lee because it seem that Lee was the best symbol of the confederacy and the way of life it was standing for. Grant on the other hand came from an entirely different social background. Originally from the Western frontier where his father was a tanner Grant was not a person who earned every privilege from the time he was born unlike his counterpart Lee. Grant had come up the hard way through out his life and he didn’t have any thing particular about him despite his tough personality and firm physique of the mountaineers. Unlike Lee who was fighting to preserve the past Grant had nothing in his eyes but the future. He firmly believed in democracy and a society where every individual will have equal rights and opportunities. He wanted to change the society to the one where nobody has any born privileges but only those, which the people have earned and won with their own efforts.

            Another difference between the two leaders was that Grant saw himself in relation to the whole national community. It was because the Westerners who were mainly the working class people of the United States hope prosperity only when there businesses run smoothly without any obstacles and hindrances. This is only possible when all the roads are open and opportunities are available for every individual do his/her best to win an achievement. So Grant was fighting for the survival of his nation as a whole he fought for every one, from the peasants and farmers to the merchants and the industrialists he thought of everyone and could not stand aside while the whole nation and its integrity was at stake. On the other hand Lee was the man who only saw himself in relation to his own region and the society he lived in. His loyalty only goes to the region where his society prevailed at the time regardless to the impacts of his deed on the entire nation. His only meaning of life was to defend the way of living and social lifestyle and prevent anything that changes it or threatens it dominance in that particular region.

            Grant was the symbol of modernism, bustling cities, age of machine and industry. He supported everything, which tends to abolish all the old traditions and customs based on the classes and inequalities of the society and privileges by birth. He wanted change and modernization in every aspect of society and rejected preservation of all those old customs and values, which hinder the pace of modernization and change in the society. Lee on the other hand seems to have emerged from the ancient chivalry with lance in his hand and silken banner fluttering over his head. He thus lived in the old age, which had virtually met its end long ago, but this arrogant and proud man has firm belief on his customs and values and he not only wanted to preserve them but also wanted to promote them and spread them throughout the country. (Catton, 506)


            The comparison between Ulysses Lee and Robert Grant clearly explicitly shows that both General who fought with each other during the Civil War were entirely different regarding social backgrounds and their point of views. But regarding their personalities they have some striking similarities. For e.g. both of them never gave up and were great fighters. But were remarkable planners and decision maker and were swift to move. They also had the tendency to give up fighting and sit on the negotiation table when they had chance thus changing the history of the United States forever.

Work Cited

Catton, Bruce. “Grant & Lee: A Study in Contrasts” The American History. 1956

Cite this Comparing Grant and Lee

Comparing Grant and Lee. (2016, Sep 09). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/comparing-grant-and-lee/

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