Lick ’em Tomorrow

By | March 3, 2021

[March 3, 2021]  After the first day of the Battle of Shiloh of the American Civil War, 6 April 1862, sometime after midnight, then Union Brigadier General William T. Sherman came upon then Major General Ulysses S. Grant was standing under a tree.  Sherman remarked, “Well, Grant, we’ve had the devil’s own day, haven’t we?” Grant looked up. “Yes,” he replied, “Lick ’em tomorrow, though.”

Soldiers on both sides expected Grant’s Union forces to retreat after the first day at Shiloh.  Confederates had beaten Grant’s men that day, driving them from their main line.  Furthermore, the night of April 6 – 7 was miserable with storms in the area, constant shelling of Confederate camps by Union gunboats, and tending to the many wounded and dead on the battlefield.  Rest for the weary soldier was impossible.

A retreat by Grant was the obvious choice.  The Confederates had achieved a clear victory that first day and Union divisions were worn down.  Several subordinate commanders under Grant asked what preparations Grant had made for withdrawing. Grant’s own staff officers requested that he make ready for a retreat.

Even the aggressive General Sherman was brave enough to admit he was thinking in terms of retreat.  He came upon Grant under his tree in the rain with the idea of broaching the subject, as “the only thing just then possible, as it seemed to me, was to put the river between us and the enemy and recuperate.

A determined Gran, his mind already made up.  He would attack in the morning.  And that’s what they did. The best action after a setback – regroup and “lick ’em tomorrow.”  U.S. General Colin Powell said, “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” Don’t get down on yourself or your unit when bad things happen.  Deal with it by regrouping and lick the problem.

Thus, there would be a second day at Shiloh, with the Union on the offensive “as soon as the day dawned,” as Grant had planned.  One Union trooper wrote, “No one talked of tomorrow. We knew we had to fight a victorious enemy who was expecting an easy ending to the battle, nothing less than an unconditional surrender, but we knew in our hearts that we were going to lick them.”1

The morning of 7 April arrived, and along with additional reinforcements, Grant’s army launched a counterattack along the entire line.  Confederate forces were forced to retreat, ending their hopes of blocking the Union’s advance into northern Mississippi.2


Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

24 thoughts on “Lick ’em Tomorrow

  1. Colonel Klink

    Recommended Gen. Grant’s autobiography. Many lessons applicable to today. Humans really haven’t changed much in the last few 10s of thousands of years.

  2. Army Vet

    Gen. Grant, for some unknown reason, has been kicked around as a drunkard and moron by historians and we are taught the same in history courses. My thinking is the opposite, that he was a great man. How else could he be so successful on the Civil War battlefield and then elected as President of the US? Huh? Simple, we have misinterpreted him. I recommend reading his autobiography. That way you can get a better idea for yourself what he was like.

    1. Deplorable John

      Excellent point, Army Vet. Oh, great article yesterday on the National Guard.

  3. Congressman

    🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸 Patriot here 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸
    Amazing what a positive attitude can do.

    1. Renee C.

      Patriot here! Thanks Gen. Satterfield for a very interesting and historical article. I never knew this much about Gen. Grant. I’ll be reading his autobiography.

  4. Janna Faulkner

    Wow, great article, Gen. Satterfield. Thanks for both the history and leadership lessons.

  5. Max Foster

    Retreat is rarely a good option. In this case it appeared to be the obvious choice – to save your forces for another day when you can organize better and restock ammo, food, and other supplies. Gen. Grant chose to do what was not obvious and attack! It paid off handsomely although he was criticized for his decision because of the amount of casualties.

    1. Len Jakosky

      Yes, but he also helped win the war. Gen. Grant was no pussy like to many “men” today who are largely a bunch of hen-pecked, spoiled men who use perfume to make themselves smell better.

      1. Dennis Mathes

        You got that right, Len. I see ’em every day, pussy men or as Arnold S. says, “girlie men.” Ha Ha.

  6. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    Thanks to Gen. Satterfield for a spot-on article about the ultimate in what a positive outlook can bring in the face of terrible events. Those who keep their heads, while others around them are losing theirs’s is the ultimate in great leadership.

  7. corralesdon

    Another excellent article using a classic historical event to emphasize the importance of a point, in this case, that optimism will win out.

    1. Silly Man

      😊 Go Texas! We are happy Texas is still part of the United States and are leading us in the anti-PC, anti-Marxist ideology movement.

  8. Dale Paul Fox

    Grant attacked at 6:00 a.m. on April 7. Beauregard immediately ordered a counterattack. Though his force was initially successful, Union resistance stiffened, and the Confederates were compelled to fall back. Around 3:00 p.m., Beauregard broke contact with the Yankees and retreated toward Corinth. The carnage was unprecedented with some 23,800 casualties—more casualties than the Revolution, War of 1812 and Mexican War combined.

    1. Scotty Busy

      Two days of fierce fighting resulted in nearly 24,000 dead, wounded or missing, and made the nation realize that The Civil War would not end quickly or without a high price in human lives. It is said that after Shiloh, the South never smiled again.

    1. Anya B.

      Thanks Lady Hawk for the reference, yes, good recommendation.

  9. Army Captain

    Good history lesson. There is much more that Gen. Satterfield did not cover that would place this battle and Grant’s optimism in greater context. For example, this battle was the bloodiest anyone had ever seen. The carnage was tremendous. Also, Grant’s aide had his head blown off by a cannonball as he stood next to grant. These are terribly shocking to any human. To remain positive that he could carry the day on day 2 of Shiloh speaks volumes.

    1. rjsmithers

      Goodness, that is amazing. For us sitting in a comfortable chair reading about it makes it impossible for us to really get a feel for the terror that day. How it felt and to make the right decision instead of retreat is telling.

      1. Doug Smith

        Army Capt, thanks for your educated, experienced comment. No one can know the horror of the battle of Shiloh. Nor, what it took to make a difficult decision to attack the second day of the battle.

      2. Kenny Foster

        Well said, everyone. This topic cannot be overlooked, ever! 😊
        Perpetual optimism wins!

  10. ARay Pittman

    Optimism, a great attitude and an eye for the future will carry us through.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      You got that right, ARay. We must, however, still be careful and not let optimism get us to ignore unreasonable risks.


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