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How Grant ‘closed the deal’ with Lee

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

Take a lesson in clear, concise communication from Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s last letters to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Grant was responding to a letter from Lee suggesting that they negotiate the terms of surrender, even though everybody, including Lee’s generals, knew very well that the South had reached the end of the line.

Grant’s response:
  • Made it clear that he was not going to negotiate. “The terms upon which peace can be had are well understood,” Grant wrote, so there was no point in meeting for that purpose.

  • Recognized Lee’s sincerity, saying he was “equally anxious for peace with yourself, and the whole North entertains the same feeling.”

  • Restated the benefits of surrendering on a large scale. If the South laid down its arms, Grant wrote, peace would come sooner, saving thousands of lives and hundreds of millions of dollars in property “not yet destroyed.”

  • Ended on a personal note, by repeating his hope of ending the war without losing one more life.
The whole letter was just more than 100 words long. Simple, yet effective.

— Adapted from A Victor, Not a Butcher: Ulysses S. Grant’s Overlooked Military Genius, Edward H. Bonekemper III, Regnery Publishing Inc.

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