12. Ulysses S Grant is vilified for his war tactics and his corrupt Presidency.
Grant’s reputation as a general during the Civil War suffers from the high casualty rates suffered by his commands. Particularly during his Overland Campaign in 1864, Grant’s casualty lists, published in Northern newspapers, led to his being widely known as Butcher Grant. Rumors of his excessive drinking persisted throughout the war. Claims that his tactics relied on brute force, leading to the high casualty rates, dogged him during the war. Yet Grant accepted and agreed with Lincoln’s assessment of the war. The destruction of the Confederate Armies took precedent over the capture of territory. Once assigned as commander of all the Union armies Grant pursued that destruction relentlessly. And, as a percentage of the troops involved in combat, Robert E. Lee’s casualties often exceeded Grants. Yet Lee enjoyed the reputation of a brilliant tactician, while Grant did not, for a century after the war.
As President he initiated reforms which created the modern civil service, removing political patronage from the hiring of workers. He supported the rights of Blacks in the American South, and took steps to crush the Ku Klux Klan in the states of the former Confederacy. Yet his two administrations were marked with corruption, though through the activities of associates. Grant’s personal integrity, maligned during his lifetime by enemies and critics, has been proven irreproachable during his military and political career. During the Lost Cause period in the late 19th and early 20th century, Grant continued to be vilified while many of his former opponents, especially Robert E. Lee, were elevated to a point of reverence. Grant’s memoirs, completed shortly before his death from throat cancer, became an American classic regarded highly by critics, historians, and the public. Yet in many regions, he remains villainized by history.