Grant and Lee a Study in Contrasts Essay
“Grant and Lee: A Study in Contrasts,” written by Bruce Catton compares and contrasts the characteristics and lives of two leaders of the Civil War. Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, two very strong and very different generals, met on April 9, 1865 at Appomattox Court House in Virginia to bring to a close the Civil War. By this time, America had become a country that was starting over with the simple core belief in equal rights for everyone. Lee, who is from Virginia, had very traditional and old fashioned beliefs.
He strongly believed in the idea that having unequal, leadership, and social categories provided an advantage to society. The Confederacy embraced Lee as their leader as well. Furthermore, Confederate soldiers considered Lee the symbol of everything for which they had been willing to die for. On the other hand, Grant was raised very differently from Lee, his father had been a tanner on the Western frontier, and he was brought to be a hardworking man and to make something of himself. Grant primarily focused on democracy and believed that no individual was born into any type of class.
Moreover, he believed that society should have privileges that each man should win for themselves and not just have privileges because you were born into an aristocratic family. He is seemingly the complete opposite of Lee in his belief that each person has the ability to work hard and gain their own good fortunes. Grant believed in a balanced social structure that did not limit anyone to any particular fate. He believed that life was a competition and everyone should get the chance to reach their limits.
Grant had a more modern outlook on life and Lee would rather live in accordance with the past. Also, Lee and Grant were most different when it came to loyalty. Lee saw himself very much in relation to his own region. He was brought up in a static society where change was not known. Therefore, his loyalty would only be to the society in the location he lived and would fight to the limit to defend it because he believed that it gave his life the deepest meaning. On the other hand, Grant would fight for a broader concept of society so that there could be growth and expansion.
He would fight for the Union with everything he had because he strongly believed in the Western way of living he was raised in. Although Grant and Lee had individual beliefs that clashed with one another they also had a few things in common. For example, Catton points out they were both great fighters that displayed a lot of tenacity and fidelity to their separate causes. Grant battled and endured his way down the Mississippi Valley despite his military handicaps and personal discouragements while Lee still had faith at Petersburg after all hope was lost.
Also, their fighting qualities were very similar and they both refused to give up as long as they were able to fight. They were both also very daring and resourceful in that they had the ability to move quickly and think faster than the enemy. Most importantly, they were alike in the sense that they had the ability to turn away from war and come to peace once the fighting had ended. As a result, this helped the nation become whole and united again. Their gathering at Appomattox was a great moment in American history.
In our modern society today I think that we can now discuss our political differences and beliefs in peace and overall our nation is one that is very united as a whole. We live in a country that strongly follows Grant’s belief in equal rights for everyone in which citizens are able to vote for who they want as President of the United States. Also, although people will always disagree and agree on some things we carry on the beliefs of Lee and Grant in that we can always come together and discuss things in a peaceful manner much like they did at Appomattox on April 9, 1865.
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