Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Grant v. Lee Twitter Experiment










From time to time, as Cosmic Americans know, I ask some sort of little question on Twitter to get the ball rolling toward a conversation. Recently I asked the hypothetical: "Who would you rather have on your side, Grant or Lee...and why?" Kind of a silly question of course, since there are so many other factors to consider when it comes to victory and defeat, but my point was to get people talking about the military prowess of each commander. 

The most interesting thing happened. The votes were unanimously cast for Ulysses S. Grant. This surprised me a little - the Twitter universes is a big place, and surely there have to be some Lee fans out there. But not this time.

A number of things could explain this. One, we are naturally looking at these two men retrospectively and well, we know who won. So yes, we all like to pick a winner.

But I think there is more to it than that. Answers indicated that Lee was overrated both in his time and by subsequent generations...that he was too audacious and unnecessarily bled his army to defeat. Grant, on the other hand, masterfully used the resources that those before him did (or could) not. This suggests to me that myths surrounding both men have changed drastically over the last several decades. 

Others suggested that northern leaning sentiment is slowly taking over the Internet - that perhaps a less technologically savvy older generation favors the Lee camp and thus doesn't really use social media platforms to speak their minds. I'm not sure if I agree with this - I have seen plenty of web-based pro-Confederate groups who maintain active forums declaring the many virtues of their beloved Robert E. Lee.

At least one person figured that I might have driven the pro-Lee crew away and they just did not participate. After all, besides being a "Yankee metrosexual wearing purple sunglasses" I am also on record as favoring the Union cause...maybe I was just baiting them. (I wasn't. I am also on record as stating that I think RE Lee was a hell of a soldier) 

I'll give the Lee crew a chance to weigh in here. But as it stands so far - Grant is a clear winner in the "who would you rather have on your side" contest.

And by the way, the winner of last week's "Bibliophiles Unite" contest on Twitter was @WeezieWeaver - she figured out after a few helpful hints that the book in question was Marshall W. Fishwick's Lee After the War published way back in 1963. Well done.


1 comment:

  1. I don't think Lee was either "too audacious" or that he "unnecessarily bled his army to defeat." Rather he was desperate, for as he said himself, if the war drew out long enough eventually the North would find a general who would win. Lee was as audacious as he had to be, and while he was the consummate predictor of his opponents, he was also a gambler, and with every battle he knew he was gambling. Put it this way: had Lee had more resources at his disposal, he would have taken fewer daring risks, for they would have been less necessary for the survival of the CSA. But had resources been more equal on both sides I'd side with Grant because Lee couldn't seem to get away from thinking about warfare the way it was fought in an earlier century. Of course he was brilliant, but he was a bit behind the times. He suffered from the same shortcoming that his country-at-large did, one of the great lessons of the war.