SOCIAL SCIENCES

Crucible of Command: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee—the War They Fought, the Peace They Forged

Da Capo. Jan. 2015. 656p. illus. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780306822452. $32.50; ebk. ISBN 9780306822469. HIST
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Davis (The Pirates Laffite) compares the experiences and leadership styles of Ulysses S. Grant (1822–85) and Robert E. Lee (1807–70) in this dual biography. Grant fought with an optimistic confidence in his ability to change the American Civil War, while Lee showed a spirit of pessimistic fatalism. Grant's confidence led him to underestimate the enemy at times but ultimately brought him victory, while Lee's fatalism ironically freed him to take incredible risks that frequently resulted in battlefield successes, but in the end, contributed to his defeat. Davis debunks many of the myths surrounding the two generals and treats both fairly. A typical chapter describes what the men did during a certain period, offers critiques of their mistakes, and praises their successes. During most of their lives—even during the Civil War—the generals had very little to do with each other; however, the comparisons between the two are helpful for understanding the general sensibilities of North and South.
VERDICT Accessible to all readers, this history will appeal to anyone who enjoys comparative biography. Lee and Grant viewed the war very differently and Davis only touches on whose perspective was closer to reality. For a more rigorous assessment of the subjects at the end of the war as well as the lost cause myth, see Elizabeth Varon's Appomattox.

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