Jump to content
Shiloh Discussion Group
idaho native

Peter Cozzen's Article re Grant & Rawlins

Recommended Posts

Profound thoughts? Well no pressure there! :)

I don't know about profound thoughts on my part, but that's a very good, insightful article that Peter wrote.

There has always seemed to be a school of thought that Rawlins was the power behind the throne where Grant was concerned. I don't know as I believe that, but he clearly had an important role. I wish I could remember who it was or where I've read it, but there's at least one historian who thought that Rawlins' role was overrated, or at least where his role as Grant's drinking watchdog was concerned. Especially in Rawlins' own mind. That was the argument I think, but I'll have to leave it at that for now, because I just can't remember anything else about it.

Peter, what do you think about it? Do you think Rawlins was really the brains behind Grant's successes?

The two do seem to have drifted apart somewhat as time went by, but still, it is a mystery as to why Grant had so little to say about Rawlins in his memoirs. I've thought perhaps Rawlins' sometimes abrasive personality came to wear on Grant some over time, but I don't know as that really explains it.

It's not exactly a new observation, but the difference between Grant's life during the four years of the war and his life on either side of those four years is pretty striking. It's like during that four year period he really found his place in the world, whereas before and after the war, not so much. His life before the war is often called a failure, but I don't know as I'd go that far. There are a lot of ways to define success or failure, and there were elements of Grant's life, even when things were going badly for him, that clearly kept him going. First and foremost was his family. He struggled with finances and finding a career, but his wife and his kids were his rock.

What put me in mind about all that was the section of Peter's article where he stated that Rawlins and Sherman had saved Grant from military oblivion after Shiloh. I've wondered before what he would have done, and what would have become of him, had he actually gone ahead and resigned at that time. Not to mention the difference in the war from that point on. As a military commander Grant had a purpose, and laser-like focus. As a civilian, Grant had trouble finding a purpose, aside from his family. A solid family life is no small thing and it was the source of much of Grant's inner strength, or so I believe. But outside of that setting and outside of the war, Grant often struggled to find his way.

It's very ironic in a way. War, and especially combat, is probably the most chaotic and terrifying experience imaginable, and yet in was in that very setting that Grant excelled. He developed an inner calm in situations that cause many people to just flat lose it. Rawlins appears to have been much the same, but Rawlins was not the source of this for Grant. It was something he developed, or discovered, on his own.

Well, I don't know how profound all that is, but it's the best I can do. ;)

I'd love to hear more about how much influence you think Rawlins had over Grant, Peter. It's a good subject.


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I read this article yesterday evening and pondered about it last night.

The premise that intrigues me most is the oft repeated allegation, of innumerable eminent historians, that Grant at best could not hold his liquor and at worst was an alcoholic and that therefore there was a need for someone like Rawlins, Charles Dana or others to protect him from himself. No documentation that is provided however substantiates this allegation, it just ties back to his supposed reason for resigning his commission in 1854 and his purported spree in June 1863. There is evidence that when men, such as McPherson (after Ft. Donelson) and Dana (in 1863) were sent to check on Grants alleged drinking habits that they reported back he was not and had not abused the bottle therefore I think the jury is still out as to whether there was any problem in the first place. If there was that is one thing but if not historians should not continue to promote the perception that Grant drank to much.

I find it interesting that during the war, Rawlins, Dana, James, H Wilson and others appeared to stand by and support Grant but after the war and also after his death (those that were still alive aka Dana and Wilson) they spoke disparagingly of him. As per Perry's comment it is difficult to ascertain what happened to cause this change of events. What happened that caused this about face? I do not know that anyone has or has offered an answer.

I think Peter has written an interesting article that provides food for thought but there still remains many unanswered questions as to whether Grant really did or did not have a drinking problem and to what extent Rawlins or anyone's actions did to ameliorate the problem. Having said this I am curious to read what others think.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

WHen I first got the magazine I emailed the editor and somewhat

berated him for perpetuating the often disputed fact of

Grant's over imbibing. He was very kind in response. It was too long

ago and not saved email to recall much.........Not only does history media as in this headline, seem to take pleasure in this over reaching myth, it feeds the general publics view of Grant. Most of the time this specific issue is the general publics ONLY view of the man who saved the nation from splitting into two(not a bad idea considering the Feds growth&power)........I could go on and on and may after I read the article again,


PS I don't dispute Grant's drinking it sure NEVER seemed to get in the way of vital decisions or actions. Often a drunks actions will be erratic, unpredictable etc. none of that in Grant's life

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...