Ulysses Simpson Grant


The best evidence of the changes that had occurred in warfare from Jomini to Clausewitz can be found in the campaigns of Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant. The latter was born Hiram Ulysses Grant in Ohio but through confusion at West Point he became Ulysses Simpson Grant. Appointed to the military academy, he found it distasteful and hoped that Congress would abolish the institution, freeing him. He excelled only in horsemanship for that he had displayed a capability early in life and graduated in 1843, 2lst out of 39 graduates. Posted to the 4th Infantry, since there were no vacancies in the dragoons, he served as regimental quartermaster during most of the Mexican War. Nonetheless he frequently led a company in combat under Zachary Taylor in northern Mexico.

He came to greatly admire his chief but was transferred with his regiment to Winfield Scott’s army operating from the coast. He received brevets for Molino del Rey and Chapultepec. With the resumption of peace he was for a time stationed in Mexico, a country which he came to admire greatly, and then was posted to the West coast. Separated from his wife, he tried numerous business ventures to raise enough capital to bring her to the coast but proved singularly unsuccessful. On July 31, 1854, he resigned his captaincy amid rumors of heavy drinking and warnings of possible disciplinary action by his post commander.

His return to civilian life proved unsuccessful. Farming on his father-inlaw’s land was a failure, as was the real estate business and attempts to gain engineering and clerk posts in St. Louis. He finally became a clerk in a family leather goods store in Galena, which was run by his two younger brothers. Before he had been there long the Civil War broke out. Offering his services to the War Department and to General George B. McClellan in Ohio, he met with no success in gaining an appointment.

When Kentucky’s fragile neutrality was falling apart, Grant moved quickly from his Cairo, Illinois base to take Paducah, Kentucky at the mouth of the Tennessee River. His subsequent action at Belmont, Missouri, turned into a defeat following early success. In a joint operation with the navy his land forces arrived too late to take part in the capture of Fort Henry but at neighboring Fort Donelson a major engagement was fought by the ground forces, defeating a Confederate breakout attempt. When asked for terms his reply earned him the nickname “Unconditional Surrender” Grant. He got in hot water with his superior, Henry W. Halleck, over reports not being filed and his unauthorized trip to Nashville. Ordered to remain at Fort Henry while his forces advanced up the Tennessee, he was restored to field command upon the injury of General Charles F. Smith. Surprised by the Confederate attack at Shiloh-William T. Sherman was in charge on the field at the time-Grant recovered to score a major victory on the second day.

Again in trouble with Halleck, he was demoted to second-in-command of Halleck’s field army in the slow advance on Corinth, Mississippi. Subsequently restored to command, he was thwarted in his attempt to reach Vicksburg by following the railroads through central Mississippi when his supply base at Holly Spring was destroyed by Confederate cavalry. Over the next months he tried various routes to get at the river city but didn’t launch his final thrust until late April 1863. In a brilliant manner he shifted his troops south of the city and advanced on Jackson to defeat Joseph E. Johnston before scoring two victories over Pemberton at Champion’s Hill and Big Black River Bridge – and finally besieging Vicksburg. With the July 4, 1863, capitulation of the city he was awarded a major generalcy in the regular army. His return was complete.

After some minor operations in Mississippi he was given charge of all the armies in the West and raised the siege of Chattanooga and sent Sherman to raise that of Knoxville. That winter he was appointed to the re-created grade of lieutenant general and given command of all the Union armies. He also received the thanks of Congress. Making his headquarters with George G. Meade’s Army of the Potomac, he hammered away at Lee – the devout follower of jomini – in his Overland Campaign. Despite heavy losses at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor, Grant kept going. His attack at the latter was one of two movements he wished he had never ordered (the other was at Vicksburg). Swinging south of Richmond he besieged Petersburg and after a 10-month siege took both cities. Pursuing Lee to Appomattox, he had virtually ended the war. Meanwhile, the other armies under his direction had torn the Confederacy apart.

In the postwar reorganization of the army he was promoted to full general in 1866 and oversaw the military portion of Reconstruction and the reduction of the army. During Andrew Johnson’s fight with the Radical Republicans in Congress Grant was in an awkward position. He was ordered to replace the suspended Edwin M. Stanton as secretary of war, in violation of the Tenure of Office Act. He weathered the storm and became the party’s nominee for president in 1868. Elected, he served two terms during which-although he personally remained untainted-there were many scandals, especially in relation to the Whiskey Tax and the appointment of Indian agents. Despite his interest in creating a peace with the Indians, Custer’s Massacre occurred during his tenure. Also the freedmen lost much ground during his term, as the white supremacists regained control in the Southern states. During his term the problems with England evolving from the Civil War were resolved and an attempt to gain Santo Domingo for the United States failed. Thwarted for a third term, he embarked on a two-year tour around the world, which took on the appearance of a political campaign. Denied renomination in 1880, he was involved in a number of unsuccessful ventures, the worst of which-in the brokerage firm of Grant & Ward-wiped him out. He then wrote his excellent Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, while dying of cancer of the throat. His family realized profits of almost $450,000. Shortly before his death at Mount McGregor, New York on July 23, 1885, he had been placed on the retired list with the rank of general in order to ease his financial situation. His remains lie in a mausoleum on the Riverside Drive in New York City.

Military Achievements

  • Colonel, 2Ist Illinois (June 17, 1861)
  • Brigadier General, USV (July 31, 1861, to rank from May 17)
  • Commanding District of Ironton, Western Department (August 8-21, 1861)
  • Commanding U.S. Forces Jefferson City, Western Department (August 21-28, 1861)
  • Commanding Post of Cape Girardeau, Western Department (August 30-September 1, 1861)
  • Commanding District of Southeast Missouri, Western Department (September 1 – November 9, 1861)
  • Commanding District of Southeast Missouri, Department of the Missouri (November 9 -December 23, 1861)
  • Commanding District of Cairo, Department of the Missouri (December 23, 1861-February 21, 1862)
  • Major General, USV (February 16, 1862)
  • Commanding District of West Tennessee, Department of the Missouri (February 21 – March 11, 1862)
  • Commanding District of West Tennessee, Department of the Mississippi (March 11 – April 29 and June 10 – October 16, 1862)
  • Second-in-command, Department of the Mississippi (April 29 – June 10, 1862)
  • Commanding Army and Department of the Tennessee (October 16, 1862 – October 24, 1863)
  • Commanding 13th Corps, Army of the Tennessee (October 24 -December 18, 1862)
  • Major General, USV (July 4, 1863)
  • Commanding Military Division of the Mississippi (October 18, 1863-March 18, 1864)
  • Lieutenant general, USA (March 2, 1864)
  • Commander-in-chief, United States Army (March 12, 1864 – March 4, 1869)
  • General, USA (July 25, 1866)
  • Secretary of war ad interim (August 17, 1867 January 14, 1868)
  • President of the United States (March 4, 1869 – March 4, 1877)