December 23, 2012 · 10:00 am
I loved the candid and at the same time generous description of Union’s general Warren problem with micro management given by Ulysses S. Grant in his “Personal Memoirs”:
Warren’s difficulty was twofold: when he received an order to do anything, it would at once occur to his mind how all the balance of the army should be engaged so as properly to co-operate with him. His ideas were generally good, but he would forget that the person giving him orders had thought of others at the time he had of him. In like manner, when he did get ready to execute an order, after giving most intelligent instructions to division commanders, he would go in with one division, holding the others in reserve until he could superintend their movements in person also, forgetting that division commanders could execute an order without his presence. His difficulty was constitutional and beyond his control. He was an officer of superior ability, quick perceptions, and personal courage to accomplish anything that could be done with a small command.
Well intentioned, with good ideas, forgetting the bigger picture, wanting to keep everything under control, uncapabale of delegating and empowering… evidently, general Warren must had been an excellent officer of a lower rank (“with a small command“) who was raised to his level of incompetence (“His difficulty was constitutional and beyond his control“) following “The Peter Principle” :-).
October 7, 2012 · 10:00 am
A small post to share a hilarious anecdote I read today in the “Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant” (which I started reading some months ago, and about which I expect to write further later on in the blog).
After relating how the Battle of Chattanooga was won, U. S. Grant explains in the book some key moves made by the confederate general Braxton Bragg, his personality, etc.
Bragg was a remarkably intelligent and well-informed man, professionally and otherwise. He was also thoroughly upright. But he was possessed of an irascible temper, and was naturally disputatious. A man of the highest moral character and the most correct habits, yet in the old army he was in frequent trouble. As a subordinate he was always on the lookout to catch his commanding officer infringing his prerogatives; as a post commander he was equally vigilant to detect the slightest neglect, even of the most trivial order.
I have heard in the old army an anecdote very characteristic of Bragg. On one occasion, when stationed at a post of several companies commanded by a field officer, he was himself commanding one of the companies and at the same time acting as post quartermaster and commissary. He was first lieutenant at the time, but his captain was detached on other duty. As commander of the company he made a requisition upon the quartermaster—himself—for something he wanted. As quartermaster he declined to fill the requisition, and endorsed on the back of it his reasons for so doing. As company commander he responded to this, urging that his requisition called for nothing but what he was entitled to, and that it was the duty of the quartermaster to fill it. As quartermaster he still persisted that he was right. In this condition of affairs Bragg referred the whole matter to the commanding officer of the post. The latter, when he saw the nature of the matter referred, exclaimed: “My God, Mr. Bragg, you have quarrelled with every officer in the army, and now you are quarrelling with yourself!”
… I tried to rationalize it: having those two hats at the time, Bragg might have wanted to leave in written a record of his request from one side and his denying of it from the other… seeing the reaction of the commanding officer, it seems that there wasn’t a rational side to it. 🙂