Today, April 27, 2009, marks the 187th anniversary of the birth of Ulysses S. Grant. Hiram Ulysses Grant was born in Point Pleasant, Ohio, to Jesse Root Grant and Hannah Simpson Grant. His parents would move the family to Georgetown, Ohio in the fall of 1823. As a child, Grant loved animals and became quite accomplished with horses. Grant described an incident, early in his life, when one of his horses, was frightened by a large dog. Each time he would try to ride it, the horse would start kicking. Says Grant, “Finally I took a bandanna – the style of handkerchief in universal use then – and with this blindfolded the horse. In this way I reached Maysville (Ohio) safely the next day, no doubt much to the surprise of my friend.”(i) Later in his youth, Grant tells how he had wanted a young colt, owned by Mr. Ralston. Grant’s father, Jesse, had offered $20 for the horse, but was refused. Grant, pressing his father was told to go back, offer $20 again. If it were not taken he could offer $22.50 and as a last resort to offer $25. Grant tells what happened when he went to meet Mr. Ralston, “Papa says I may offer you twenty dollars for the colt, but if you won’t take that, I am to offer twenty-two and a half, and if you won’t take that, to give you twenty-five.”(ii) Obviously young Hiram got his colt, for $25.
Grant would receive a general education, from John D. White. Mr. White was a strict disciplinarian and used a long beech switch to get the children’s attention. Grant remembered that many switches might be used on a given day, but never retained any negative feeling for his teacher. When Grant was 16 he attended school in Ripley, Ohio. In 1839 he would be appointed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, by Ohio Congressman Thomas L. Hamer. He had vowed not to go, but Jesse Grant did not take “no” for an answer.(iii) Grant would start at West Point in the fall of 1839, graduating in 1843. Upon arriving at West Point, Grant found that Representative Hamer had incorrectly listed his name as, Ulysses Simpson Grant, Simpson being his mother’s maiden name. The new name stuck, and Grant would forever be known as Ulysses S. Grant. His friends called him Sam, as U.S. also stood for “Uncle Sam.” Grant said of the military, “A military life had no charms for me, and I had not the faintest idea of staying in the army even if I should be graduated, which I did not expect.”(iv)
Grant maintained solid grades while at West Point. He was not enamored with tactics, artillery or other military sciences, but was one of the most accomplished horsemen, at West Point, setting several riding records, that would be sustained for many years. He did very well in mathematics, writing and drawing.(v) Grant could be found in the library, reading novels, and other books, on a regular basis. He also was an accomplished artist, producing many wonderful paintings. While his natural talent was with horses, seeming to make cavalry his logical fit, upon graduation (21st in a class of 39) he would become a second lieutenant and a regimental quartermaster in the infantry. Grant was assigned to the 4th United States Infantry, at Jefferson Barracks, in Saint Louis, Missouri. While serving in Missouri, Grant would meet his future wife, Julia, sister of his friend Fred Dent, his roommate at West Point. They would court for several years, while Julia lived with her father, Colonel Frederick Dent, at their estate, White Haven (now the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic site in St. Louis).
In 1844, Grant’s 4th Infantry regiment would be sent to Texas, which had recently been annexed. In 1846, the Mexican war would commence, and Grant would be assigned to General Zachary Taylor’s command. While still a quartermaster, Grant would be very close to the action at the front. He would serve bravely at the battles of Resaca de la Palma, Palo Alto and Monterrey. While at Monterrey, Grant would be sent with a dispatch, for more ammunition, having to ride through an area covered by snipers. He rode his horse, with one leg over the saddle, so the horse could protect him from fire. This did not escape notice. It was during the early battles of the Mexican War, when he was under the command of Taylor, that he took notice of how Taylor commanded. He dressed plainly and issued written orders plainly, and clearly. This would have a lifetime effect on Grant, who later would dress, and command, similarly.
When General Winfield Scott took command, of the Mexican War, Grant, and the 4th Infantry, would be under his command. Grant would take part in the siege of Veracruz, and the overland attack against Mexico City. Again he was commended for his bravery, receiving brevet promotion twice, at Molina del Rey and Chapultepec. At Chapultepec, Grant would receive permission, from a priest, to haul a howitzer to the top of the church’s belfry. As Grant said, “The effect of this gun upon the troops about the gate of the city was so marked that General Worth saw it from his position.”(vi) Many officers, including Major Robert E. Lee, commended Grant’s performance here.
On August 22, 1848, Grant received a leave of absence to marry Julia Dent. She would bear him four children: Frederick Dent Grant, Ulysses S. “Buck” Grant, Ellen “Nellie” Grant and Jesse Root Grant.
After the Mexican War, Grant would be stationed at Sackett’s Harbor, New York, Michigan and finally the Pacific Coast. He was assigned to Fort Vancouver, in the Washington Territory, in 1852, where he would continue his quartermaster duties, as a first lieutenant. Because of his small children, and the danger of traveling across the isthmus of Panama, Grant left Julia in St. Louis. On July 5, 1853, Grant would be promoted captain, commanding Company F, 4th U.S. Infantry, stationed at Humboldt Bay, California. He performed his duties well. While stationed in the west, Grant would miss Julia immensely and suffer from bouts of depression. In order to send extra money home, Grant tried his hand at farming vegetables, losing most in the flooding Columbia River. Other entrepreneurial ventures also failed. In the spring of 1854, Grant was known to be drinking, and it may have hampered his job performance. Writing Julia, on March 6, 1854, Grant stated, “I sometimes get so anxious to see you, and our little boys, that I am almost tempted to resign and trust to Providence, and my own exertions, for a living where I can have you and them with me. It would only require the certainty of a moderate competency to make me take this step. Whenever I get to thinking upon the subject however poverty, poverty, begins to stare me in the face and I think what would I do if you and our little ones should want for the necessities of life.”(vii) Grant would request, and receive a leave of absence, in March 1854, officially resigning from the army on July 31, 1854. It has been speculated that Grant, fearing being cashiered, resigned as a better alternative.
Grant would arrive in St. Louis during the late summer of 1854. He would build a rough home, on Colonel Dent’s plantation, that he affectionately called Hardscrabble. During the next several years, he would try his hand at farming, selling firewood, real estate and collecting rents, and other debts. However, he was unable to make a satisfactory living in St. Louis. In May 1860, Grant humbled himself and moved his family to Galena, Illinois, where he worked as a clerk in his father’s dry goods store. Living in a small house, above the Mississippi River, Grant was able to enjoy his family, and earn enough to support them. Things, however, would change drastically after Abraham Lincoln was elected president, and inaugurated during the Winter Secession Crisis of 1861.
Grant, while not a follower of politics, had voted for Buchanan, a Democrat, in 1856. While not voting for the presidential contest in 1860, due to not having lived in Illinois long enough, he supported Democrat Stephen Douglas for president. However, with the firing on Fort Sumter, on April 12, 1861, Grant was for the Union. Writing his father, on April 21, 1861, Grant vividly described his feelings about the sectional difficulties, “Whatever may have been my political opinions before I have but one sentiment now. That is we have a government, and laws and a flag and they must be sustained. There are but two parties now, Traitors & Patriots and I want hereafter to be ranked with the latter, and I trust, the stronger party.”(viii)
After Abraham Lincoln’s call for 75,000 militia volunteers, Grant would go to Springfield, Illinois, and assist Governor Richard Yates, with organizing Illinois’ volunteer infantry regiments. Wanting a colonelcy in the rapidly expanding U.S. Army, Grant would write U.S. Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas:
Colonel. L. Thomas,
Adjt. Gen. U.S.A.
Sir: – Having served for fifteen years in the regular army, including four years at West Point, and feeling it the duty of every one who has been educated at Government expense to offer their services for the support of the Government, I have the honor, very respectfully, to tender my services, until the close of the war, in such capacity as may be offered. I would say, in view of my present age and length of service, I feel myself competent to command a regiment, if the President, in his judgment, should see fit to intrust one to me.
Since the first call of the President I have been serving on the staff of the Governor of this State, rendering such aid as I could in the organization of our State militia, and am still engaged in that capacity. A letter addressed to me at Springfield, Illinois, will reach me.
I am very respectfully,
Your obt. svt.,
Grant never received a reply to his letter. While visiting his parents, in Covington, Kentucky, Grant went to Cincinnati, to make his case with recently promoted US Major General George B. McClellan. Calling at McClellan’s headquarters, on two successive days, McClellan refused to see him. It has been speculated by Grant’s biographers, that McClellan knew of the circumstances surrounding Grant’s resignation, and his alleged drinking problem.
Returning to Illinois, Grant would be appointed colonel of the 21st Illinois Infantry regiment, a regiment that he had mustered into service, in Mattoon, Illinois. The regiment had previously refused to serve under their assigned colonel and was considered insubordinate. Grant would drill his men, make sure they had what they needed and would earn their trust. Leaving Springfield, Illinois, on July 3, he and his regiment were ordered to Quincy, Illinois. Upon arriving in Quincy a dispatch was awaiting him, ordering him to Ironton, Missouri. While waiting for his riverboat to arrive, to take his regiment across the Mississippi River, he received another dispatch directing him to Palmyra, Missouri, where another Illinois regiment was engaged with the Confederates. Upon his arrival at Palmyra he was sent to Florida, Missouri, where a regiment of Confederates, commanded by CS Colonel Thomas Harris was reported to be camped. Grant said this about what he experienced, “As we approached the brow of the hill from which it was expected we could see Harris’ camp, and possibly find his men ready formed to meet us, my heart kept getting higher and higher until it felt to me as though it was in my throat…..When we reached a point from which the valley below us was in full view I halted. The place where Harris had been encamped a few days before was still there and the marks of recent encampment was plainly visible, but the troops were gone. My heart resumed its place. It occurred to me at once that Harris had been as much afraid of me as I had been of him….From that event to the close of the war, I never experienced trepidation upon confronting an enemy, though I always felt more or less anxiety.”(x) Grant was coming into his own.
In July 1861, while camped at Mexico, Missouri, Grant learned that Illinois Congressman Elihu Washburne had submitted Grant for a brigadier generalcy. He was listed number one, of seven, on a list sent to President Lincoln, and would be confirmed in August. US Major General John C. Fremont, then in command of the Western Theater, assigned Grant to command of the District of Southeast Missouri, encompassing the area south of St. Louis, and southern Illinois. Grant would set up his headquarters at Cairo, Illinois, the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Shortly after setting up his headquarters, Grant would receive intelligence that Confederate forces, commanded by CS Major General Leonidas Polk, had established a fort at Columbus, Kentucky. This act, having violated Kentucky’s neutrality, gave Grant the opportunity to capture Paducah, which he accomplished, with no bloodshed, on September 6. Grant would spend the next couple of months drilling his troops, now numbering close to 20,000, at Cairo.
In early November, Grant learned that Polk was crossing Confederate troops to a small camp, in Belmont, Missouri. This created a dangerous situation for other troops, under his command, in Missouri. Having sent a dispatch to St. Louis, that went unanswered, Grant under his own initiative set out to shore up the situation. On September 7, his forces steamed down the Mississippi River, and made land fall just north of Belmont, out of the range of the heavy artillery, at Columbus, Kentucky. Grant’s five infantry regiments, and a small cavalry command, marched approximately three miles south of their landing point, to attack CS Brigadier General Gideon Pillow’s five Rebel regiments. After having significant success, over running the Confederate defenders, the Federal troops would lose cohesion, while pilfering through the Confederate camp. The situation was described as “carnival like.” Grant, gaining control of the situation, ordered the camp burned. Some wounded Rebel soldiers would burn to death, in their tents. With the Confederates scattered, and in full retreat to Camp Johnston, Grant started his troops back to their transports, with over 100 prisoners and 2 captured guns. Unfortunately the Federals would be caught in an ambush by reinforcements, arriving from Columbus, and heavy artillery from the heavy Confederate guns, on the Kentucky shore. Grant was able to extricate his troops and board his transports for their journey back to Cairo. Grant would be the last person to board, and would state in his memoirs, “I was the only man of the National army between the rebels and our transports. The captain of the boat that had just pushed out but had not started, recognized me and ordered the engineer not to start the engine; he then had a plank run out for me. My horse seemed to take in the situation. There was no path down the bank and everyone acquainted with the Mississippi River knows its banks, in a natural state. do not vary at any greater angle from the perpendicular. My horse put his fore feet over the bank without hesitation or urging, and with his hind feet well under him, slid down the bank and trotted aboard the boat.”(xi) While considered a Federal victory, it was not without significant losses. Grant would suffer 498 casualties, while the Confederate losses would be close to 1,000. Belmont would help shape Grant. It was his first major battle, as an independent commander. Here he would start to show the first glimmers of his future greatness.
After returning to Cairo, Grant did not rest long. With US Major General Henry W. Halleck now in overall command, of the Western Theater, he had a new superior officer giving orders. In January 1862, Grant had learned that the Confederate garrisons at Forts Henry and Donelson, were vulnerable. He would travel to St. Louis, on January 23, to make his case with Halleck. He was unsuccessful. Grant described what happened, “I had known General Halleck but very slightly in the old army, not having met him at West Point or during the Mexican war. I was received with so little cordialiaty that I perhaps started the object of my visit with less clearness than I might have done, and I had not uttered many sentences before I was cut short as if my plan was preposterous. I returned to Cairo very much crestfallen.”(xii) Again, on January 28, Grant wired Halleck, “…if permitted, I could take and hold Fort Henry on the Tennessee.” Finally, after being prompted by his commander, US Major General George B. McClellan, Halleck, on January 30, 1862, issued the following order to Grant.
Brig. Gen. U.S. Grant
Make your preparations to take and hold Fort Henry. I will send you written instructions by mail.(xiii)
On February 6, 1862, working in cooperation Flag Officer Andrew Foote’s gunboats, Fort Henry was captured. Grant had disembarked his troops north of the fort, and was marching south, when a greatly reduced garrison, commanded by CS Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman, surrendered to Foote. Unfortunately, for Grant, Tilghman had sent most of his garrison to Fort Donelson, eleven miles east, on the Cumberland River. The capture of Fort Henry opened the Tennessee River all the way upriver, to Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
Grant, wasting no time after the fall of Fort Henry, advised Halleck that he would push east, taking Fort Donelson, on February 8. Over the coming days, Grant would receive reinforcements and would make his plans to invest Fort Donelson. At the time he estimated that there were 21,000 troops garrisoned at the fort. He opposed them with 15,000. With the arrival of US Brigadier General Lew Wallace’s brigade (they had been left to guard Fort Henry), and additional forces sent by Halleck, Grant would have close to 18,000 troops. Over the coming days, the Federal army searched weak points in the fort’s defenses, while the Confederate forces tried to determine a means of escaping. On February 15, CS Brigadier General Gideon Pillow was ordered to find an escape route. His forces overwhelmed the Federals initially, but Grant, who had been conferring with Foote, arrived back and brought order out of chaos. Knowing that the fort’s commander, CS Brigadier General John B. Floyd, had weakened the fort’s defenses, Grant immediately sought out US Brigadier General Charles F. Smith ordering him, “General Smith, all has failed on the right. You must take Fort Donelson.” Neither man wasting words, Smith promptly replied, “I will do it.”(xiv)
Charles Smith was a longtime regular army officer, who had been Grant’s instructor, at West Point. Wasting no time, he sent in his division. While not able to carry the entire fort, they were able to push into the outer works. This action, and the aborted attempt by Pillow, made it clear to Floyd, that his position was untenable. Overnight, February 15–16, a most unusual series of events took place within the Confederate bastion. Floyd, afraid of reprisals, and becoming a prisoner of war, turned command over to Pillow. Pillow, for similar reasons turned command over to CS Brigadier General Simon B. Buckner. Buckner agreed to surrender the fort after the other two generals had fled. Their up-and-coming cavalry commander, Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest, was aghast at what he was witnessing.
Floyd: “General Buckner, if I place you in command, will you allow me to get out as much of my brigade as I can?”
Buckner: “I will, provided you do so before the enemy receives my proposition for capitulation.”
Floyd (turning command to Pillow): “I turn the command over sir.”
Pillow: “I pass it.”
Buckner: “I assume it. Give me pen, ink and paper, and send for a bugler.”(xv)
Forrest, obviously perturbed with their lack of intestinal fortitude, stated, “…there is more fight in these men than you suppose.” He would cut his way out, escaping with his entire command.
Overnight, Grant would receive the following letter from General Buckner.
Headquarters, Fort Donelson
February 16, 1862
Sir: – In consideration of all the circumstances governing the present situation of affairs at this station, I propose to the Commanding Officer of the Federal forces the appointment of Commissioners to agree upon terms of capitulation of the forces and fort under my command, and in view suggest an armistice until 12 o’clock to-day.
I am, sir, very respectfully,
Your ob’t se’v’t,
Brig. Gen. C.S.A.
To Brigadier General U.S. Grant
Com’ding U.S. Forces
Near Fort Donelson(xvi)
Grant, receiving the letter through enemy lines, quickly replied to Buckner.
Headquarters Army in the Field,
Camp near Donelson,
February 16, 1862
General S.B. Buckner,
Sir: – Yours of this date, proposing armistice and appointment of Commissioners to settle terms of capitulation, is just received. No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works.
I am, sir, very respectfully,
Your ob’t se’v’t,
Buckner was incensed with Grant’s reply. They had been friends for many years, and Buckner, during a period of time when Grant was in need, had loaned Grant money to travel from New York City to St. Louis. He promptly replied.
Headquarters, Dover, Tennessee,
February 16, 1862
To Brig. Gen’l U.S. Grant,
Sir: – The distribution of forces under my command, incident to an unexpected change of commanders, and the overwhelming force under your command, compel me, notwithstanding the brilliant success of the Confederate arms yesterday, to accept the ungenerous and unchivalrous terms you propose.
I am, sir,
Your very ob’t se’v’t,
Brig. Gen. C.S.A.(xviii)
Grant would meet Buckner, at the Dover Hotel, and receive his surrender. The capture of the army, at Fort Donelson, was Grant’s first capture of three different Confederate armies. It would launch Grant into celebrity status, get him promotion to major general volunteers and create a significant amount of jealousy on the part of Henry Halleck. A loving public would also send him boxes of cigars. Over the coming weeks, due to the enemy capturing his wires to Halleck, Halleck would essentially have Grant arrested, with his command turned over to General Charles Smith. Lincoln would intercede on Grant’s behalf, forcing Halleck to restore Grant to command, on March 13, 1862.
With the Tennessee, and Cumberland Rivers, now open to Union gunboats, Tennessee was laid open to investment by the Federal forces. Overall Confederate theater commander, CS General Albert Sidney Johnston would be forced to retreat from Kentucky, through Tennessee and into northern Mississippi, setting the stage for the first terrific battle of the Civil War. With his retreat, Johnston left Nashville, and western Tennessee open to capture by the Federals. Nashville would fall to US Major General Don Carlos Buell, on February 25.
Meanwhile, Grant is planning his own offensive, against Albert Sidney Johnston’s Army of the Mississippi, then at Corinth, Mississippi – a vital railroad crossroads. Using the recently captured Tennessee River, Grant starts moving his Army of the Tennessee to Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, utilizing it as a staging area for an upcoming attack on Corinth. Unfortunately, Johnston was also planning an offensive action against Grant. On April 6, Johnston would strike first. Unprepared for the Confederate attack, two divisions of Grant’s army would be overrun in little more than an hour. The Confederates would push their advantage throughout the day, with some of the fiercest fighting taking place in a field, forever dubbed the Hornet’s Nest. At the end of the first day’s fighting U.S. Grant had his army deployed along the Pittsburg Landing Road, in a very strong position. Meeting Grant, late that evening, US Brigadier General William T. Sherman stated, “Well, Grant, we’ve had the devil’s own day, haven’t we?” Grant, confidently replied, “Yes. Lick ‘em tomorrow, though.”(xiv) They would indeed “Lick ‘em” the next day. With the arrival of D.C. Buell’s Army of the Ohio, Grant unleashed a fierce attack, against the Confederate position, on April 7. CS General P.G.T. Beauregard, now commanding the Army of the Mississippi (A.S. Johnston had been killed the previous day), was caught by surprise. His troops made a strong stand, but would be overwhelmed. Being routed, they would retreat all the way to Corinth, with portions of Grant’s army in pursuit. Shiloh would be a Union victory, but it would come at a terrible price with total combined casualties of nearly 24,000. In the aftermath of Shiloh, Grant would be accused of drinking again, and being unfit for command. Lincoln, however, sustained him stating, “I can’t spare this man, he fights.”
During the fall, of 1862, Grant would attempt to take northern Mississippi, and its crown jewel, Vicksburg. After having his supply line cut, by CS Major General Earl Van Dorn, at Holly Springs, Grant would pull back to Memphis. On December 26, Grant would try again, to take Vicksburg. Sending US Major General W.T. Sherman, via Navy gunboats, to Chickasaw Bayou, just north of Vicksburg. For four days Sherman would attempt to break the Confederate works, commanded by CS Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton. He would suffer repulse, after bloody repulse, being forced to return to Memphis.
In the early spring of 1863, Grant would again start his offense against Vicksburg. Previously trying to approach it from the north, he had been stymied. For the coming campaign he determined to approach it from the south. In late April, Rear Admiral David D. Porter’s gunboats would run the defenses, of Vicksburg, getting south of the city. Grant’s army, having marched down the west side of the Mississippi River, were transported to the east – landing firmly in Confederate held Mississippi. Cutting his supply line, Grant would win a string of important battles: Grand Gulf (April 29), Port Gibson (May 1), Raymond (May 12), Jackson (May 14), Champion’s Hill (May 16) and Big Black River Bridge (May 17) putting him in position to approach Vicksburg, from the east. His army would arrive at Vicksburg on May 18 and attempt several assaults, before settling in for a siege. Over the next several weeks, Grant would siege the city, while looking for an opening to break their defenses. Finally, with the Confederates running out of supplies, Grant would receive Pemberton’s surrender, on July 4. This would be the second army that Grant would capture, and it would come on the same day that the north had learned of US Major General George Meade’s victory, at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The North was jubilant. There would be no calls for Grant’s removal after this important victory – a victory that opened the entire Mississippi River, splitting the Confederacy in two.(xv)
On September 19–20, US Major General William S. Rosecrans’ Army of the Cumberland fought CS General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee in northern Georgia. In a terribly bloody defeat, at the Battle of Chickamauga, Rosecrans would be pushed back to Chattanooga, where he would be surrounded by the Confederate army, to the south, and east and the Tennessee River, to the north. He would be bottled up there for nearly a month, running very low on supplies. On October 17, Grant would be placed in charge of the newly formed Military Division of Mississippi. He would command all armies in the western theater. Being brought to Louisville, he would meet Secretary of War Edwin Stanton who apprised him of the situation in Chattanooga. He was given two nearly identical orders, with his new command. One left the Army of the Cumberland under the command of William S. Rosecrans, reporting to Grant, and the other replaced Rosecrans with US Major General George H. Thomas, who would report to him. Being given the choice by Stanton he chose the latter. Late the same evening, Stanton would receive notice of Rosecrans’ intention to abandon Vicksburg. After conferring with Stanton, Grant immediately dictated an order, removing Rosecrans from command replacing him with George Thomas. This was promptly telegraphed to Chattanooga. Later the same evening he would send the following order to Thomas, “Hold Chattanooga at all hazards. I will be there as soon as possible.” Thomas quickly replied, “I will hold the town till we starve.”(xvi)
U.S. Grant would depart for Chattanooga on October 21. It would be a long and arduous trip, much of it by horse, over the very rough ground of Waldron’s Ridge. This was the current route of Thomas’ supply line, but was so difficult to traverse that many dead mules were seen along the way. Additionally, Grant was still suffering from an injury to his leg, and often had to be carried over areas to dangerous to cross by horse. He would arrive in Chattanooga on October 23, and would meet with Thomas the same night. He learned of the precarious situation of the Army of the Cumberland, suffering from lack of supplies. The same evening he would telegraph the war department and request that W.T. Sherman be placed in command of the Army of the Tennessee. The next day, he would survey the lines, and investigate means of supplying his starving army. It was quickly determined, by the Army of the Cumberland’s chief engineer, US Brigadier General William “Baldy” Smith, that a better supply line could be made, by capturing Brown’s Ferry and establishing a river route to the supply depot, at Bridgeport, Alabama. Thomas had approved Smith’s plan and Grant concurred. Thus, within several days of his arrival, the army was supplied.
Grant, and Thomas, then went to work on planning their offensive operations. With Confederate troops well fortified on Lookout Mountain, and Missionary Ridge, to the north, and east of Chattanooga, a bold plan would be required. Grant had already ordered Sherman’s Army of the Tennessee east, to assist in the planned operations. Additional troops had arrived, from the east, commanded by US Major General Joseph Hooker. Over the next several weeks the army would be re-provisioned, while Grant waited for Sherman to arrive. By the third week of November, all the pieces were in place. On the morning of November 24 the offensive commenced. Hooker’s divisions attacked the Confederate’s left flank, at Lookout Mountain. Incredibly, his attack was successful and he was able to make his way part way up the precipice. There he faced troops under the command of CS Major General Carter Stevenson. He would continue fighting through the day. Early on the morning of November 25, the Federal army in Chattanooga saw the results of Hooker’s attack. Upon the summit flew the “Stars and Stripes.” The men were ecstatic and offered many cheers for Hooker’s soldiers. Meanwhile, on the other end of the line, Sherman’s Army of the Tennessee struggled. They had encountered much rougher ground than expected, and had started their attack from the wrong location. They would be held there, through much of the day, by CS Major General Patrick Cleburne’s veteran division. Grant, desperate for a breakthrough, ordered what his considered his reserve troops, Thomas’ Army of the Cumberland, to attack the center of the line. The proud soldiers ordered their ranks, and started across the plain, towards Missionary Ridge. Only ordered to take the first rifle pits, they accomplished this, and more. Once they had cleared the rifle pits, they kept going, right up Missionary Ridge. Grant, watching the action with Thomas, asked, “Thomas, who ordered those men up the ridge?” Thomas tersely replied, “I don’t know; I did not.” Grant, concerned that his best made plans might fail said, “Well, somebody will suffer if they don’t stay there.”(xvii) It turned out successful, with Thomas’ men carrying the center of Missionary Ridge, scattering the Rebels, and Sherman rolling up their right flank. Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee retreated into Georgia with the Federal army safely holding Chattanooga.
On March 2, 1864, at the request of Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. Congress re-authorized the rank of lieutenant general. Grant had captured two Confederate armies and had disposed of the Army of Tennessee, at Chattanooga. Lincoln had Grant in mind when he lobbied Congress for the re-authorization. Grant, ordered east, was fairly certain he would be promoted. Upon his arrival in Washington City he received his commission directly from Lincoln. He would be the first man, since George Washington, to hold this rank. With his promotion he would be in command of all Federal ground forces. Making his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac, under the command of US Major General George G. Meade, he immediately went to work planning the strategy for the spring 1864 campaign season. His plan would involve simultaneous movements by the Army of the Potomac, Sherman’s western army and two smaller armies, in the Shenandoah Valley and the Virginia Peninsula.
During the first week of May, the Army of the Potomac started forward, crossing the Rapidan River, to attack CS General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Over the next six weeks, in what is called the Overland Campaign, Grant would battle Lee’s army in a series of flanking movements designed to uncover the Confederate capital, Richmond. Starting with the Battle of the Wilderness (May 5–7), Grant would pound Lee’s army, moving to Spotsylvania Court House (May 8–21), North Anna (May 23–26) and Cold Harbor (May 31–June 12).(xviii) The Federal army would suffer terrible losses, nearly 60,000, and Grant would be dubbed the Butcher. Knowing he could not break Lee north of Richmond, Grant would cross two major rivers, the Chickahominy and James, and appear below Richmond, at Petersburg. This movement was made so successfully, that Lee did not know where Grant’s army had gone.
Over the next ten months, Grant would lay siege to Petersburg, and Richmond. Continually lengthening his lines, Lee would be forced to do the same. Grant knew his strategy of attrition would break Lee. He could replace his troops with fresh recruits, while Lee could not. Not only were no fresh recruits forthcoming, for Lee, by the late winter, of 1865, Lee was suffering a very high desertion rate. On April 1, US Major General Phil Sheridan defeated CS Major General George E. Pickett, at Five Forks. This allowed Grant to cut off Lee’s supply lines, from the south. The next day, April 2, the Federal forces broke through at Petersburg, forcing Lee to retreat along the Appomattox River. Grant, concerned that Lee would escape, and join CS General Joseph E. Johnston’s army, in North Carolina, pushed Lee’s army hard. Finally corning them at Appomattox Court House, Grant would receive Lee’s surrender on April 9, 1865.(ixx) While the Civil War continued, for several more weeks, the fate of the Confederacy was sealed.
After the Civil War, Grant would continue to be in charge of the army. President Andrew Johnson would attempt to make him Secretary of War, wanting to remove Edwin Stanton. Grant refused the offer, but Stanton would be removed anyway. Grant, for a short period of time, would sit on the cabinet, as Secretary of War but would retain his command of the army. Becoming the Republican nominee for president, in 1868, Grant would be elected by an admiring public. He would serve two terms, both plagued by scandal. After his presidency, Grant would lend his name to a financial partnership, which would fail. Having borrowed money, to keep the business afloat, Grant would be near bankruptcy. In the early 1880’s he would be diagnosed with throat cancer. In an effort to provide financial support for his wife, and family, Grant determined to write his memoirs. He would finish his memoirs days before he died, on July 23, 1885. Published by Mark Twain, the book would sell over 300,000 copies. Julia Grant would receive over $450,000 in royalties for the book, which is considered one of the finest memoirs of its kind. General Ulysses S. Grant is a true American HERO.
(i) Grant, Ulysses S., Grant Memoirs and Selected Letters, published by The Library of America 1990, Pg. 26.
(ii) Grant, Ulysses S., Grant Memoirs and Selected Letters, published by The Library of America 1990, Pg. 26.
(iii) Ulysses S. Grant, at Wikipedia, was used to research portions of this article.
(iv) Grant, Ulysses S., Grant Memoirs and Selected Letters, published by The Library of America 1990, Pg. 31.
(v) Ulysses S. Grant, American President an Online Reference Resource, manuscript can be found here.
(vi) Grant, Ulysses S., Grant Memoirs and Selected Letters, published by The Library of America 1990, Pg. 109.
(vii) Grant to Julia, March 6, 1854, as referenced in, Grant Memoirs and Selected Letters, published by The Library of America 1990, Pgs. 953–954.
(viii) Grant to Jesse Root Grant, April 21, 1861, as reference in, Grant Memoirs and Selected Letters, published by The Library of America 1990, Pg. 957.
(ix) Grant, Ulysses S., Grant Memoirs and Selected Letters, published by The Library of America 1990, Pg. 158.
(x) Grant, Ulysses S., Grant Memoirs and Selected Letters, published by The Library of America 1990, Pgs. 164–165.
(xi) Grant, Ulysses S., Grant Memoirs and Selected Letters, published by The Library of America 1990, Pg. 184.
(xii) Grant, Ulysses S., Grant Memoirs and Selected Letters, published by The Library of America 1990, Pg. 190.
(xiii) Hurst, Jack, Men of Fire: Grant, Forrest and the Campaign That Decided the Civil War, published by Basic Books 2007, Pg. 72.
(xiv) Hurst, Jack, Men of Fire: Grant, Forrest and the Campaign That Decided the Civil War, published by Basic Books 2007, Pg. 275.
(xv) Hurst, Jack, Men of Fire: Grant, Forrest and the Campaign That Decided the Civil War, published by Basic Books 2007, Pg. 298.
(xvi) Grant, Ulysses S., Grant Memoirs and Selected Letters, published by The Library of America 1990, Pg. 207.
(xvii) Grant, Ulysses S., Grant Memoirs and Selected Letters, published by The Library of America 1990, Pg. 208.
(xviii) Grant, Ulysses S., Grant Memoirs and Selected Letters, published by The Library of America 1990, Pg. 208.
(xiv) Noirot, Michael, Shiloh: The First Great Battle of the Civil War, published on ThisMightyScourge.com, for more information click here.
(xv) Vicksburg, at BattlefieldPortraits.com, was used to research this article.
(xvi) Cozzens, Peter, The Shipwreck of Their Hopes: The Battles for Chattanooga, published by University of Illinois Press 1994, Pg. 7.
(xvii) Cozzens, Peter, The Shipwreck of Their Hopes: The Battles for Chattanooga, published by University of Illinois Press 1994, Pg. 282.
(xviii) See the Overland Campaign, at Wikipedia, for more information.
(ixx) For a complete essay on the Appomattox Campaign, see Robert E. Lee Surrenders the Army of Northern Virginia.