"like Grant took Richmond"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Sep 22 19:54:33 UTC 1999

George Thompson writes:

>        This past weekend one of NYC's local pro football teams was whipped
>50 to 21.  The NYTimes quoted the coach as saying afterwards "they
>went right through us like Grant took Richmond". . . .  (NYTimes,
>September 21, 1999, p. D4, col. 2)  This is an old and familiar
>phrase to me, having heard it often from my father in the 1950s,
>though he would phrase it more consistently, eg., "he took him like
>Grant took Richmond."  Presumably this expression dates to when the
>Civil War was still a living memory -- it's hard to believe that it
>was coined by some history buff and taken up by a generation that
>wouldn't have understood the allusion.  Still, I don't find
>it in The Making of America.  The other source I checked was the RLIN
>cooperative library catalog, which showed a screenplay from 1949:
>Miss Grant Takes Richmond, by Nat Perrin and Frank Tashlin.  Is it
>possible that it originates with some piece of mid-20th century
>popular culture?  I would expect Gone with the Wind to have given us
>*"like Sherman took Atlanta".
>        Any thoughts?

George et al,

I read the same quote from N. Y. Giants coach Jim Fassel, and I read it as
a mixed allusion:  I thought what he MEANT to say was that the Redskins
went through the Giants defense [burning, pillaging, etc.] like Sherman
went through Atlanta.  Maybe I'm just not as familiar with what Grant did
to Richmond (other than indirectly, by defeating the forces of the

>        My apologies to our southern correspondents if this awakens painful

Memories of Civil War battles or of Sunday's Giants' performance?


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