Two important names that will forever be linked with the American Civil War are Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee.
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The rivalry of these two men is surrounded by pivotal moments in the history of the United States. Though the two men differed in almost every aspect of their lives, they also shared several similarities. Both men were powerful leaders in their own way, in spite of coming from different backgrounds, and leading their respective troops in the way they best saw fit. Grant came from a working-class family, he was a nationalist with ideas that privilege and respect was earned through hard work. Lee was brought up among the aristocratic society in Virginia, and believed the separation among social classes was necessary. While Lee and Grant each had their own unique ideals that garnered their success, they also both possessed several of the same traits that made the two men more alike than they probably realized.
Ulysses S. Grant served as the general to the Norths Union Army during the Civil War. Born in Ohio, Grant was no stranger to hard work and perseverance, growing up in a working-class family. In the time leading up to the Civil War he was not a well-known man, unlike his parallel. Grant had fallen on hard times, unable to support his family, when the South had succeeded from the Union. The North needed experienced officers such as himself, and he was appointed to lead a volunteer regiment. This group of men truly tested the leadership skills of Grant. The regiment had been deemed untrainable, but he was able to instill discipline, and in turn gained the groups allegiance and respect (Waugh, 2017). His ability to inspire and lead a group of men that all others had given up on displayed the patience and time he was willing to put in to his subordinates. His patience can also be seen in the way that he fought too. Throughout battle Grant fought with a calmness that impressed those around him (Waugh, 2017). As the war went on Grant continued to gain more confidence in himself and the Union Army. He was able to learn from his mistakes and mold himself in to a strong role model for those around him. He had an unwavering courage that showed he was a man with a true force of will. Regardless of the outcomes, or setbacks experienced along the way Grant continued to fight, he was able to face uncertainty with strength and determination (Wagner, 2014).
Robert E. Lee was born in Virginia and was accustomed to an aristocratic, high society, lifestyle. He served as a general in the Souths Confederate Army during the Civil War. Lee fought to uphold his ideals of society, believing that there should be a working class and a leisure class. He believed that it was an advantage for human kind to have inequity among social classes (Catton, n.d.). A man that chose to lead by example, oftentimes Lee would put himself on the front lines of battle to inspire his people. He was truly compassionate towards his soldiers in the sense that he genuinely wanted them all to succeed. He made sure all of his soldiers were being used to their highest potential by putting them in positions that he knew they would excel in. To Lee it was a leaders responsibility to assist less experienced, or less talented, members of his army by finding them positions that best suited their personal abilities (Crocker, 1999). The loyalty Lees soldiers had towards him can easily be seen by how willing they were to continue fighting for him. At the end of the Civil War his soldiers were beaten down and struggling, but they regarded Lee as a symbol of everything they were fighting for, and willing to die for (Catton, n.d.). Lees soldiers continued to fight and support him until the very end, when he finally surrendered. Their allegiance to him was more important than their personal feelings about the war they were fighting.
While both Grant and Lee were dissimilar in most aspect of their lives, from their differing American experiences, growing up in different social classes, to the way they led their respective armies, it almost does not seem possible that they could also share several similarities. Nonetheless, these men did share several qualities that made it possible for them to be the infamous leaders they were. They both possessed perseverance that resulted in refusal of giving up, regardless of the circumstances that were in their ways. They shared a stubbornness that gave them a sense that they did not want to admit defeat. Each man was a risk taker that used the resources readily available to him to try and achieve success for their army.
Along with their undeniable commitment to what they were fighting for was also their tenacity and fidelity to their soldiers and ideals. Both of these virtues are visible through their leadership styles, even though they each led their troops differently. Perhaps most importantly though among the things these men had in common was their ability to so quickly transition from war to peace (Catton, n.d.). After Lee surrendered, they were able to civilly work out the terms, and thus starting a new chapter in American life and history. Grant was willing to accept almost any terms of Lees surrender as long as they were reasonable (Johnson, 2016), show casing their ability of respect and forgiveness. The meeting and discussion they had to work out the terms of surrender also conveyed the mutual respect they had for each other. The behavior of Grant and Lee gave a feeling of hope that there was a possibility for reconciliation between the North and South.
In conclusion, though both Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee were vastly different they also shared several similarities. It is these difference, and similarities, that have linked their names not only with the Civil War, but as important historical leaders that helped to promote lasting change in the United States. Grant built all of his ideals around hard work and perseverance, while Lee believed in loyalty to society and leading by example. Regardless of their distinct differences, Grant and Lee also shared strong determination, refusal to give up, and the ability to transition quickly from war to peace. Two true great Americans, who despite being almost complete opposites also shared some of the same characteristics and ideals which made them successful.
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