Anonymous asked in Arts & HumanitiesHistory · 10 years ago

American Civil War buffs---General Robert E Lee vs. General U.S. Grant?

Which was the better general?

The know-it-all teenagers that live in my house say it's Lee, but I say it's Grant because Lee lost and also because he was from the South. Not really disrespecting the South, but it always seemed to me like they were less prepared for war than the North.

Looking for validation here!!! All opinions will be tolerated!

16 Answers

  • no
    Lv 7
    10 years ago
    Best Answer

    Just before Virginia seceded, Lincoln told the secretary of War to give command of the American Army to Robert E. Lee. Colonel Lee had been the commandant of West Point, and had proven himself in several field positions. Lee of course turned the appointment down even though the ranking general of the entire military, General Scott asked him to take the post also.

    With NO replacements, NO money, No supplies and an Army less than a quarter the size of the U.S. Army Lee ran circles around the Northern Army for years, and had more victories than defeats. He only surrendered when the last of his food was captured near Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia.

    Grant was a good general, but there was absolutely NO comparison between the two.

    If you need further proof, look at what the U.S. Army Academy at West Point and the Naval Academy in Annapolis says about the two also. You may look at the classes at Sandherst also (Brits version of Westpoint). All agree that Lee was superior.

    Since you already stated that you have made up your mind, I immagine that the incorrect answer before mine will get the "best answer" points... but that doesn't matter.. only the truth matters.

  • Anonymous
    4 years ago

    This Site Might Help You.


    American Civil War buffs---General Robert E Lee vs. General U.S. Grant?

    Which was the better general?

    The know-it-all teenagers that live in my house say it's Lee, but I say it's Grant because Lee lost and also because he was from the South. Not really disrespecting the South, but it always seemed to me like they were less prepared for war than the North....

    Source(s): american civil war buffs general robert lee general grant:
  • 5 years ago

    Historians mostly from from the South have totally distorted the reputations of these two men. Lee has been elevated to almost mythological heights while Grant was a drunkard butcher who only won because of overwhelming superiority in numbers.

    The facts tell a different story.

    Lee never won a battle outside of his home state. That means he had the luxury of in-depth knowledge of the land, roads and rivers. He enjoyed the support of partisan citizens and his troops fought with that extra fervor that comes when fighting on your own soil. Also, he was lucky to initially fight against inferior generals. Lee was defeated every time he fought on union soil. Contrast that with Grant who fought every battle in hostile territory sometimes hundreds of miles from friendly soil. Grant never lost a battle.

    Grant was considered a butcher but Lee lost a larger percentage of men per battle when compared to Grant. Remember, that Grant was usually on the offense while Lee primarily fought defensively. Typically the offensive side will lose more troops than the defense. We hear how Grant allowed his troops to be slaughtered at Cold Harbor but Lee lost 3 times that number in the misguided Pickett's charge. Even in Lee's much heralded victories in the 7 days and Chancellorsville battles he lost more troops than the North did. There was no way the South could prevail with these kind of results.

    Lee had absolutely no strategic skills with regard to the war. As a commander of an army it is expected that they should provide some kind of strategy for victory. It appears that Lee's only strategy was to defend VA and hopefully win a few major battles that would bring Lincoln to the bargaining table. Here he terribly misjudged Lincoln. Conversely, Grant understood that victory would come by controlling the west which included the Mississippi and the major railways. Then he could surround the remaining Rebels and tighten the noose while starving them.

    In my opinion Lee's tactics only hastened the end of the war. He neglected to defend the places that were strategically vital while squandering his forces in meaningless battles.. Generals Beauregard and Joe Johnston were much more conscious of a proper strategy which in my opinion was to drag the war on by denying the North any major victories while conserving troop strength and resources until hopefully the North would tire of the sacrifice and concede to Confederate demands. But Lee's fame grew with his dramatic victories and so he was encouraged to continue that path to defeat.

    • Joshua5 years agoReport

      "Lee had absolutely no strategic skills with regard to the war." Its a unanimous conclusion with a substantial majority of leading civil war historians that Lee was superior tactician. You neglect the fact that Lee won several battles outnumbered 2-1.

  • Anonymous
    10 years ago

    Lee and many other Southern leaders fought in the Mexican American war, Grant was the only northern General who did. Thus Grants statement before he was recalled to duty. The North will loose the war if I am not recalled. He was the only Northern General who understood Southern field tactics. I Believe Grant was a better infantry General than Lee. But Lee, and Stonewall, were far better Calvary leaders. Cut and slash, were Grant was more hold and out flank them. With Burnside a great Napoleonic stratagem but tearable field leader. So Burnside to tell him were the weak spot was and Grant to pressure it. And the Il. General post master, horse hater, political appoint as his calvary leader to keep StoneWall from cutting his rear lines. Cant remember his name but a great Calvary leader. Better than Custer by far. And wrote the book for Shermans march to the sea. Our finest General in our history. Mad Anthony Wane. Never lost a skirmish,never lost a engagement,never lost a battle. retired from 2 wars undefeated.. Mad he was. In all he did but war.

  • How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
  • 10 years ago

    I lived in Northern Virginia for twenty years and those people don't think the war is over yet. I've seen brawls break out in bars over your question.

    In my estimation Lee was the better general but Grant had the brute force of an industrial complex..


  • Anonymous
    10 years ago

    All things being equal, Lee was more imaginative and savvy. More able to adapt on the fly. Grant had the numbers and the government's military industrial complex, as primitive as it was back then.

    This is like asking if the manager of the Twins is better than the manager of the Yankees.

  • 10 years ago

    Lee. Lee actually won many of the battles fought between the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia after Grant became the General in Chief of the armies, but unlike previous generals Grant didn't retreat to lick his wounds. Grant just changed direction and kept pushing forward because he knew Lee couldn't afford the attrition of constant fighting. It wasn't superior tactics that lead to Lee surrendering to Grant, it was the fact that Grant didn't give him time to relax.

  • 10 years ago


    Lee was good, no doubt about it, but Grant had a grasp of the politics of the thing, and of the relation of forces, that made him unbeatable.

    Grant KNEW that he could take huge casualties, like at "the Wilderness," and still win -- and he made a cold calculation to trade lives in the short run for time, and hopefully, in the long run, fewer casualties.

    Ultimately, there was NO POSSIBLE way for Lee to win -- but Grant could still have lost it.

    But Grant knew enough, and was good enough, so that he didn't. And thanks to him and Lincoln, the slaver dictators who had run the U.S. since Washington's day were defeated, and the U.S. became a modern capitalist nation.

    By the way... "because he was from the South"? I'm not sure if that means you buy that regionalist crap about Southerners all being backward, or that you think Lee had something to do with the PREPARATIONS for the war. [He didn't. The sleazebags leading the "Confederacy" were poorly prepared because when they started the war by attacking federal installations they assumed they were better than the "barbarous Yankees" and would win almost immediately Lee knew better, but he wasn't listened to.]

    As far as that regionalist crap goes, approximately one quarter of the officer corps of the victorious Union armies were from the South (Apologies - fact check reveals it's ONE SIXTH, and only of the ranks of colonel and higher. Sorry) . And one out of every four Southern soldiers wore a BLUE uniform.



  • 5 years ago

    Lee did more with less than any general in the history of warfare .......that,is a fact

  • Anonymous
    10 years ago

    Well, first and foremost, Grant won, so, hey.....that ends that debate.

    But more to the point........Grant was fighting for the right IDEA, and therefore, I think that made "winning" all the more important to him. Lee was probably smart enough to know that he was fighting a losing battle, and he would ultimately "lose", even if he won, ya know?

    He was also smart enough to probably know that he was fighting the industrial North, and in a short war, maybe he had a chance, but in the long run......the North held all the cards, and he knew it.

    It was only a matter of time, before he was beaten, and Grant knew, it was a simple matter of waiting, and wearing the South down....until they ran out of supplies, or the will to fight any longer, after suffering major loses.

    I think both were equally capable of sending countless men to their deaths, it killing matches......

    but Grant led his side to victory......"drunk" as he may or may not have, what does that say about the south? They couldn't beat a drunk, with this great general of theirs?

    And as a sidebar..........Grant had CLASS. At the official SURRENDER was Grants RIGHT, and duty, to accept Lee's personal sidearm......(his sword) part of his unconditional surrender. As a Gentleman, and fellow officer, Grant decided to NOT humilate Lee in front of his troops, and did not require him to do that . ALLOWING him to keep it, and whatever dignity he had left. After such a bloody war, it was the honorable thing to do. Both sides fought well, but the North won. There was no point to rubbing it in. Records show that Lee was grateful for that gesture. It showed RESPECT for the other side, even in their defeat.

Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.