Grant’s decisions underscored his competence, in these ways:
- He showed decisiveness. When named commander of a new western division, Grant was given the choice of keeping or replacing Major Gen. William Rosecrans as commander of the Army of the Cumberland. He replaced Rosecrans with Major Gen. George Thomas, who had saved Rosecrans’ army as it retreated from Chickamauga.
- He delegated authority. Despite lingering injuries from two months earlier when his horse fell on him, Grant joined Major Gen. William Sherman for a painful, 60-mile horseback trek over the mountains to Chattanooga, whereupon he asked that Sherman be promoted to command the Army of the Tennessee in Grant’s place.
- He executed bold plans. To adequately fight on the western front, Grant approved Gen. William “Baldy” Smith’s creative plan to open a supply route—the “Cracker Line”—and executed it within days in an almost bloodless operation that right away brought 400,000 rations and 39,000 pounds of forage to troops who’d been subsisting on short rations.
- He credited others. In the wake of their victory at Vicksburg, Grant’s troops gave him the credit, which he directed to Thomas and Smith in dispatches to Washington, D.C.
“This department was completely ‘out of joint’ when we first arrived,” wrote Gen. Oliver Howard. “I cannot be too thankful for the policy that placed these three departments under Grant.”
- He substituted action for hesitation. Both sides were stunned at how quickly Grant turned the Union’s fortunes.
“You have no conception of the change in the army when Grant came,” one veteran wrote. “He opened up the Cracker Line and got a steamer through. We began to see things move. We felt that everything came from a plan. He began the campaign the moment he reached the field.”