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May 12, 2006
Energy crisis: Why we should study Gen. Grant
I was walking through the University of Texas campus yesterday, looking at all these students wearing backpacks equipped with a water bottle. I thought of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. His big breakthrough came at the Battle of Vicksburg. With their control of Vicksburg, the Confederates plugged the Mississippi River. Grant wanted to circle his army around Vicksburg and attack them from behind, but this would have meant establishing massive and slow supply trains. So Grant did something radical: He went without supplies and fed his army off the ground.
Now, as we face today's energy crisis, we've gotten in the bad habit of lugging our supplies around. The water bottle is a small example, a Winnebago a big one. Carrying our supplies is convenient if we have limitless energy. If we have what we need, we don't need to ask for help. We don't need to knock on doors or talk to people, not even to ask them where there might be a water fountain. Grant's army surely made life miserable for the farm folks behind Vicksburg. But it doesn't have to be that way for us. If we carry less and talk to each other more, we'll waste less energy and maybe even make more friends in the process.
Special weekend bonus: Abraham Lincoln's words when he learned of Grant's victory at Vicksburg: "The Father of Waters flows unvexed to the sea."