U.S. Grant


U.S. Grant”

The Rise of  Unconditional Surrender Grant He sat opposite
the impeccably dressed Lee, in plain clothes and muddy boots. His overall
appearance did little to suggest that he was the highest ranking general in the
union army. How such an unlikely hero attained this position then managed to
outmaneuver the most talented general of both armies, is a question worthy of
investigation. Ulysses Simpson Grant™s rise through the ranks of the union army
was nothing short of remarkable. The following pages will reveal how Grant
achieved that ascent, as well as providing a glimpse into Grant™s character,
and war philosophy.

The onset of
the war found Grant working as a clerk in his father™s leather shop. Some
viewed him as a failure, although it is apparent that Grant never saw himself
in that light. A West Point graduate and Mexican War veteran, he entered the
union volunteers a colonel. By a political fluke he was promoted to brigadier
general, of which his father gave him some practical advice.Be careful, Ulysses,
you™re a general now: it™s a good job, don™t lose it?(Foote, Vol 1 196). Grant
gained notoriety in the western theatre, where most of the fighting was waged
for control of arteries of commerce, such as rivers and railroads. His first
action would be at Belmont on the Mississippi River. Instead of a
demonstration, as was suggested to him, he made an all out assault. They routed
the enemy, then were surrounded by the enemy, then cut their way back out
through the enemy. It was an indecisive battle but it decisively defined Grant
as a soldier. He was calm under fire, poised, confident, and aggressive (Grant,
Encarta). Ever eager to go on the offensive, Grant finally convinced his
superior officer, Halleck, to permit him to attack Fort Henry, then Fort Donelson.

The result was
two impressive victories. The victory at Fort Donelson lifted Grant onto the
national stage. An old friend of Grant™s, general Buckner, commanded the
confederate soldiers at Fort Donelson. He was forced to accept Grant™s
conditions of ?no terms except unconditional and immediate surrender?(Foote,
Vol.1 214). This earned U.S. Grant the nickname of Unconditional Surrender Grant.
Buckner took offense at the strict terms, referring to them as unchivalrous. In
war, chivalry was of no consequence to Grant. He was not a man who reveled in
the glory found in war, as many of his fellow officers did. He was described
instead as a ?plain businessman of the Republic?(Foote, Vol.2 343). During the
Mexican War, Grant had written to his wife.

If we have to
fight, I would like to do it all at once, and then make friends?(Foote, Vol.1
215). On the war that he was currently engaged in, he said, ?It was one of the
worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least
excuse?(Jordan 153). In reply to what his philosophy was on how to fight a war,
he once stated, ?find out where your enemy is, get at him as soon as you can
and strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on?(Jordan 153). Simplicity
was a virtue to him. Following the victory at Fort Donelson, where Grant had
captured more prisoners than all the other Union generals combined (Foote,
Vol.2 212). He was promoted major general of the volunteers (Grant, Encarta).
At Shiloh, the union army was attacked while it was spread out too thin. Grant
commanded one-third of his army known as the Army of Tennessee.

Though it was
viewed a Union victory, the federals suffered more casualties than the three
previous American Wars combined. Of the 24,000 casualties, many were Grant™s
(Foote, Vol.1 350). Halleck blamed Grant for poor generalship, and personally
took command of the army. Grant retained his position in name only. Rumors
surfaced tied to Grant™s past, that he had been drunk and negligent. Halleck
never totally trusted Grant, finding him to be rash in judgment. Grant grew
impatient. He was a man of action, and Halleck had put a leash around his neck.
He considered resigning, but an old friend, General Sherman convinced him
otherwise. Pressure was amounting in Washington to take action against Grant.
Lincoln quickly put an end to this, stating that he could not be spared,
because ?he fights?(Grant, Encarta). After Shiloh, Gran! t was also forced to
change his prewar thoughts of the confederates. He had believed that their
cause would falter quickly.

Now he realized
that there was ?no hope of saving the Union except by complete conquest?(Foote,
Vol.1 351). His next major object of conquest would be Vicksburg. It provided a
complex challenge, due to its location, as well as being heavily fortified. He
devised several plans, adjusting each new plan to correct the shortcomings of
the previous attempt. He was ever persistent, always believing he was closer to
victory than defeat. He never seemed to allow himself to entertain a gloomy
prospect. After his fifth such attempt ended without success, the grumbling
started once again about his alleged problem with the bottle. Lincoln™s
response was classic, ?If I knew what brand of whiskey he drinks, I would send
a barrel or so to some other generals.? He then added ? What I want, and what
the people want, is a general who will fight battles, and win victories. Grant
has done this, and I propose to stand by him?(Foote, Vol.2 217).

However, others
in the war department sent journalists to cover the Vicksburg campaign and
check up on Grant at the same time. Their findings served to give credence to
Lincoln™s faith in his western general. As Grant moved among his men chewing
restlessly on the end of his unlighted cigar, journalists were puzzled because ?he
seemed to amount to a good deal more than the sum of all his parts?(Foote,
Vol.2 218). He projected a quiet confidence and his men believed in him. One
reporter wrote, ?his equinimity is becoming a curious spectacle to me?(Foote,
Vol.2 219). Often quiet, one staffer described him as ?a man who could be
silent in several languages?(Foote, Vol.2 218). As to his drinking, the stories
were always conflicting, never conclusive. Grant™s seventh plan of attack on
Vicksburg proved successful. After a six-week siege, 30,000 confederates
surrendered on July 4th, 1863. The Mississippi was now controlled by the union,
and Grant was promoted to major general of the regular army (Grant, Encarta)
Grant™s next heroic task was to rescue the federals bottled up at Chattanooga.
He cut through the enemy lines to free the besieged army of Ohio, for which he
was promoted supreme commander in the west.

After the
battles of Chattanooga and Knoxville, Grant had put together quite an
impressive resume; he had won 17 battles, captured 100,000 prisoners, and had
taken 500 pieces of artillery (Foote, Vol.2 918). In recognition of his
accomplishments, In February of 1864, Congress revived the rank of Lt. General,
held only by George Washington and Winfield Scott before him. The former tanner
living in obscurity, was now the supreme commander of all union soldiers. When
Grant met with Lincoln after his promotion, he asked what was expected of him.
Lincoln replied ?The taking of Richmond?(Foote, Vol.3 8). Grant promised he
could do it with sufficient troops. Lincoln agreed to supply the troops, as
well as not to interfere militarily. All Lincoln ever wanted was someone who
would not procrastinate, but take responsibility and act.

After being
frustrated by five different eastern commanders, Lincoln believed he had
finally found his man. Grant™s plan was simple. Sherman would go after Johnston™s
army as he moved from west to east and in effect, cutting the confederacy in
half. Grant would go with the Army of the Potomac as they pursued Lee™s Army of
Virginia. He would face an adversary like none he had ever faced. Robert E. Lee
had become a legend in the north, as well as the south. Veteran northern
soldiers wondered aloud what Bobby Lee would do to their new general from the
west. After crossing the Rapidan River, Grant™s army became engaged with Lee™s
at the Wilderness. Lee almost turned both of his flanks, but his army managed
to maneuver out of their predicament. Following the Wilderness, the union
troops expected to head back across the Rapidan, as so many times before, but
instead they headed south. Retreat for Grant was never a consideration. After
learning of Grant joining the Army of the Potomac, Longstreet told Lee ?We must
make up our minds to get into a line of battle and stay there for that man will
fight us everyday and every hour ?till the end of the war?(Foote, Vol.3 123).
Grant ordered a sidling movement to get around Lee™s army, but Lee beat them to
Spotsylvania where another ferocious battle was fought. The southerners were dug
in behind entrenchments and the federal assaults were repelled. One of Lee™s
staffers referred to Grant™s tactics as butchery. Lee defended Grant, saying,
?General Grant had managed his affairs remarkably well up to the present
time?(Foote, Vol.3 214). Later, Lee made a comment of Grant that was less
flattering saying ?

His talent and
strategy consist in accumulating overwhelming numbers?(Dowdey 373). Again,
Grant tried to force Lee™s army out in the open where he was confident he could
defeat them. He tried to get between Lee and Richmond, and again, as if reading
Grant™s mind, Lee beat him to Cold Harbor. Here, behind earthen works, the
confederates slaughtered the on-rushing union soldiers. Grant later stated that
?I always regretted that last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made?(Grant,
Memoirs). The casualties suffered from the Wilderness to Cold Harbor were
appalling; almost 40,000. He received 40,000 reinforcements (Grant, Memoirs).
Lee™s losses were half that amount, but his manpower was limited and his
reinforcements were few. Although Grant had not defeated Lee™s army, he had
managed to get within ten miles of Richmond. He decided to cross the James
where he had access to Petersburg and Richmond. There he could starve Lee™s
army of food and supplies. Finally Grant stole a march on Lee. He skillfully
executed the crossing of the river before Lee was aware that he had left his
front, and in effect sealed the fate of the confederate army. Grant did not
want a siege due to not wanting to prolong the war, but that is what he had to
settle for. His army branched out around Petersburg, and settled in for the
winter. Lee™s army attempted to escape Petersburg in the spring, and General
Sheridan smashed into its right flank at Five Forks, allowing Grant to get in
front of his army instead of pursuing.

 As Lee had anticipated Grant™s every move from
the Wilderness to Cold Harbor, now it was Grant who caused, and knew
beforehand, every movement that Lee made. With his army decimated and no where
left to turn, Lee decided to surrender at Appomatox Courthouse. When Grant
first received the letter from Lee indicating his willingness to discuss terms
of surrender, he was ?jubilant?(Grant, Memoirs). But as he sat opposite of Lee,
he ?felt anything other than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought
so valiantly for so long?(Grant, Memoirs). His terms for surrender were
generous, even compassionate. All officers were aloud to retain their sidearms,
and at Lee™s request any soldier owning a mule or horse was permitted to keep
them for farming. Lee, in turn, was appreciative saying ? this will have the
best possible effect on the men?(Foote, Vol.3 948). Lee™s secretary later paid
tribute to Grant™s liberal terms stating ?as far as it was possible, General
Grant took away the sting of defeat from the confederate army. He triumphed?without
exultation, and with a noble respect for his enemy?(Jordan 200). In so doing,
he set the stage for the beginning of reconciliation. Most importantly, he had
enabled Lincoln to preserve the Union.-M

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