General Grant did not win one single battle against General Lee’s vaunted Army of Northern Virginia until the last nine days of the Civil War—but he won the war. How, you ask? Two reasons: 1) He understood that he could outlast Lee no matter how many battles he lost, and 2) He had a nearly pathological determination and persistence.
That first point, which just seems logical and about as simple as “1, 2, 3” to us today, was out-of-the-box thinking at the time. That was not even a concept in military doctrine in the 1860s. That could be a blog in itself, but I want to focus briefly on the second point.
What separated General Grant from the five commanding generals that preceded him was that rather than retreat and lick his wounds after getting beaten by General Lee—he kept advancing! Grant kept moving forward or around General Lee, forcing yet another battle, and another, and another. He would not disengage. In 1864 that was a radical idea for many reasons that I will not enumerate, but suffice it to say that it wore down Lee’s army to the point where, regardless of the fact that Lee won over a dozen battles against Grant, by April 1865 it could no longer effectively resist. Grant won because of sheer determination and persistence.
Grant’s campaign against Lee reminds me of community banks and ICBA. The core nature of community bankers and community banks is determination and persistence. Everything that can be thrown at a community banker has been thrown, not just recently but for decades now, yet community bankers and ICBA will not disengage. We will not quit. We know we will eventually prevail on our issues because there is no “give up” in ICBA. We keep tight hold of the issue, just like a bulldog on a bone, and won’t let go. And whether it takes a month, a year or years—we will eventually win out on the major challenges that face us.
ICBA and community banks and bankers are a tough bunch. We are not, in the words of Thomas Paine, “sunshine soldiers or summer patriots.” We are community bankers who will fight today and tomorrow for our industry and our right to determine our own futures.
So like General Grant, we will persist with dogged determination, regardless of the number of battles we lose, and eventually we will win the war.