David Petraeus says of all the people profiled in obits in the NYT he’d want to have dinner with U.S. Grant

Historians in the News
tags: David Petraeus, Ulysses S Grant



If you could have dinner with one person who is no longer with us, and whose obituary was published in The New York Times, who would it be, and why that person? Not Forgotten is asking that question of a variety of influential people this summer in a series of posts called Breaking Bread.

Today we have David H. Petraeus, a former C.I.A. director and the highest-profile general from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I would like to host General Grant for dinner at the Lotos Club, one of the oldest literary clubs in the United States (founded in 1870, early in President Grant’s administration). Besides celebrating writers and those in the arts, the club, in Midtown Manhattan, has also recognized military and government leaders (including the former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and me) at its annual state dinners.

Hosting Grant — a great writer as well as a great leader — at the Lotos Club would thus be very fitting. He would feel welcome there.

Coincidentally, the lovely old townhouse that houses the club, on East 66th Street just off Fifth Avenue, is next door to the address at which Grant lived the final years of his life.

I have long admired Grant and felt that some historians were unduly critical of him at various points in the last century (although more recent biographies have once again recognized his extraordinary qualities and how fortunate we were to have him in uniform during the Civil War, in particular).

In my view, Grant stands alone among American military leaders as hugely impressive at all three levels of war: tactically (as shown in his capture of Forts Henry and Donelson in Tennessee early in the war); operationally (the Vicksburg victory in 1863, one of the greatest operational-level campaigns of all time); and strategically (devising and overseeing the first truly comprehensive strategy for the Union forces to defeat Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army). ...




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