Ulysses S Grant Essay

This essay has a total of 4245 words and 17 pages.

Ulysses S Grant

ULYSSES S. GRANT


"Grant: a biography" by William S. McFeely.
Published by: Norton,Ww
Copyright 1981

Ulysses Simpson Grant, (1822-1885), American general and 18th President of the United
States. Grant, the most capable of the Union generals during the Civil War, was a master
strategist. He won the first major Union victories. President Abraham Lincoln staunchly
defended him against critics and promoted him to command all Union forces. Grant accepted
Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House. However, Grant had no
disposition for political leadership, and as president (1869-1877) he scarcely attempted
to control events. He made injudicious appointments to public office, and official
corruption tainted his administration, although Grant himself was not involved in the
peculations.

Grant was born in Point Pleasant, Ohio, on April 27, 1822, and baptized Hiram Ulysses. The
eldest son of Jesse Root Grant and Hannah Simpson Grant, he came from a family that, he
proudly declared, had been American "for generations, in all its branches, direct and
collateral." In 1823 his father moved his tanning business to Georgetown, Ohio, where
"Lyss" spent his boyhood. His education at a grammar school in Georgetown, at Maysville
Seminary in Maysville, Ky., and at the Presbyterian Academy of Ripley, Ohio, was
superficial and repetitious, and the boy showed no scholarly bent. He became noted,
however, for his sturdy self-reliance and for his ability to ride and control even the
wildest horses.

MILITARY LIFE
In 1839, Jesse Grant secured for his son an appointment to the U. S. Military Academy.
When he arrived at West Point he learned that he was on the muster roll as Ulysses Simpson
Grant, through an error of the congressman who had nominated him. Finding it impossible to
change this official listing, Grant accepted the inevitable and dropped Hiram from his
name.

"A military life had no charms for me," Grant said later, and his only purpose at the
academy was "to get through the course, secure a detail for a few years as assistant
professor of mathematics at the Academy, and afterwards obtain a permanent position as
professor at some respectable college." Understandably, his West Point record was not
spectacular. In 1843 he graduated in the middle of his class (21st in a class of 39), was
commissioned brevet 2d lieutenant, assigned to the 4th U. S. Infantry, and sent to
Jefferson Barracks, near St. Louis, Mo. There he began to learn his army duties and, even
more important, met his future wife, Julia Dent, sister of a West Point classmate. The
orders that sent Grant's regiment to the Southwest frontier in May 1844 temporarily
interrupted his romance.

Grant served with distinction in the Mexican War (1846-1848), a conflict that he privately
deplored as an unjust war to extend slavery. Promoted on Sept. 20, 1845, to full 2d
lieutenant, he took part in the battles of Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, and Monterrey.
Grant's commanding general in all these engagements was "Old Rough and Ready," Gen.
Zachary Taylor, whose informal dress and lack of military pretension he was to copy in
later years. In 1847, Grant's regiment was transferred to the army of Gen. Winfield Scott,
and he participated in all the battles that led to the capitulation of Mexico City:
Veracruz, Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Churubusco, Molino del Rey, where he was made 1st
lieutenant for his bravery, and Chapultepec, where he was brevetted captain. Besides
teaching Grant the practical lessons of warfare, the Mexican conflict gave him a personal
acquaintance with most of the men who were later to command the Confederate armies.

After the Mexicans surrendered, the American military establishment was drastically
curtailed, and Grant was assigned to routine garrison duty. His four years at Sackets
Harbor, N. Y., and Detroit, Mich., were pleasant, because Julia, whom he had married on
Aug. 22, 1848, was with him. But in 1852, when the regiment was transferred to Fort
Vancouver on the Columbia River, his wife and young family had to be left at home. Grant's
next two years, spent in barracks life on the West Coast, were the most miserable in his
career. His duties were dull and routine; his superior officer, Col. Robert Buchanan, rode
him hard; his income was inadequate, and efforts to increase it by farming and cattle
raising were unsuccessful. Most of all, he missed Julia, the one woman in his life. Like
so many other peacetime officers of the period, Grant began drinking. Though he was
promoted to a captaincy, he continued forlorn and unhappy, and a quarrel with Colonel
Buchanan helped to precipitate his decision, on April 11, 1854, to resign his commission.

Returning to Missouri, Grant settled his family on 80 acres of land given him by his
father-in-law and tried to farm. With grim humor he called the place "Hard Scrabble," for
he had to bear all the work of clearing the land, hauling wood, plowing, and cultivating
his crop. After four years he abandoned farming and set up an unsuccessful real-estate
business in St. Louis. In 1860 he moved to Galena, Ill., where he worked in his father's
leather shop.

Not particularly interested in politics, Grant was nominally a Democrat at this time; but
when the South seceded, he had no trouble in making up his mind to support the Union
cause. He helped organize the first company of Union volunteers in Galena and accompanied
the men to Springfield. At the request of the Illinois governor, Richard Yates, he
remained to muster in the new volunteer regiments, for his experience as quartermaster,
commissary, and adjutant in the field made him invaluable. Grant longed for active duty,
however, and on May 24, 1861, tendered his services to the U. S. government, suggesting
modestly that he was "competent to command a regiment." Failing to secure such an
appointment, he accepted from Governor Yates the command of the 21st Illinois Regiment,
quickly brought it under excellent discipline, and did good service against guerrillas in
Missouri.

On Aug. 7, 1861, President Lincoln appointed Grant brigadier general of volunteers, and he
took up headquarters at Cairo, Ill. Only a few days after he assumed his new command, he
occupied Paducah, Ky., at the strategic junction of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers. On
November 7 he attacked the Confederates at Belmont, Mo., in an assault that was not well
planned or executed. The arrival of Confederate reinforcements compelled him to retreat.
The general was still learning his trade.

In February 1862, after much persuasion by Grant, Gen. Henry W. Halleck, Grant's superior
officer, authorized him to move against Forts Donelson and Henry, the Confederate
positions guarding the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers. With 17,000 men and a flotilla of
gunboats under the command of Commodore Andrew Hull Foote, Grant captured Fort Henry on
February 6 and promptly moved against Donelson 12 miles (19 km) away. When the Confederate
commander there, Brig. Gen. Simon B. Buckner, asked for terms of capitulation, Grant
replied tersely: "No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be
accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works." On February 16, Buckner
surrendered with over 14,000 men. The capture of Forts Henry and Donelson, the first major
Union victories in the war, opened up Tennessee to the Federal armies. For the first time
"Unconditional Surrender" Grant became prominent on the national scene. Despite Halleck's
jealousy, Lincoln made him major general of volunteers.

Grant's next important battle was at Shiloh, or Pittsburg Landing, Tenn., on April 6-7,
1862. Early in the morning of April 6, Gen. Albert S. Johnston's Confederate army burst
through the unfortified Union lines near Shiloh meetinghouse and threatened to drive
Grant's men back into the Tennessee River. Historians differ on almost every aspect of the
battle: whether Grant was at fault in being at Savannah, 9 miles (14 km) from Pittsburg
Landing, at the beginning of the battle; whether Grant was surprised by Johnston; whether
Union troops should have been entrenched; whether Grant was personally responsible for
checking the Confederate advance; and whether the arrival of Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell's
army saved the day for the Union cause.

At any rate, on April 7 the Union forces recaptured the initiative and drove the
Confederates back in great disorder. When the news reached the North, a storm of abuse
broke out against Grant, who was blamed for this bloodiest battle yet to occur on the
American continent, and it was falsely whispered that he had been drunk and negligent of
his duty. But Grant also had defenders, among them Lincoln, who said simply, "I can't
spare this man--he fights."

On April 11, General Halleck arrived at Pittsburg Landing and took personal command of the
army. In the ensuing campaign against Corinth, Miss., Grant occupied an ambiguous and
humiliating position. Nominally second in command of the army, he was in fact ignored
during the slow advance that occupied the Union troops until the end of May. When Halleck
was called to Washington in July, Grant was left in command of the District of West
Tennessee, holding a wide territory with few troops. He was, nevertheless, able to drive
Maj. Gen. Sterling Price's Confederates from Iuka, Miss., on September 19-20, and a part
of his army, under Brig. Gen. William S. Rosecrans, defeated Price and Maj. Gen. Earl Van
Dorn at Corinth on October 3-4.

On Oct. 25, 1862, Grant was made commander of the Department of Tennessee and was charged
with taking Vicksburg, Miss., the principal Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi
River. He first followed a rather conventional strategy, advancing with 30,000 men
overland through Mississippi while sending Brig. Gen. William T. Sherman's troops down the
river from Memphis. On December 20, Van Dorn destroyed Grant's principal supply base at
Holly Springs; nine days later Sherman was bloodily repulsed at Chickasaw Bayou.

Grant now faced the most important decision of his career. To pull back to Memphis and
mount a new expedition would be an admission of defeat and a severe blow to Union morale.
To any retreat Grant had an instinctive aversion. "One of my superstitions," he wrote,
"had always been when I started to go anywhere, or to do anything, not to turn back, or
stop until the thing intended was accomplished." He decided, therefore, "There was nothing
left to be done but to go forward to a decisive victory." That is precisely what he did,
in a plan as brilliant in conception as in execution.

Abandoning the overland approach, Grant moved his army to the position Sherman had
occupied across the Mississippi from Vicksburg and ostensibly busied his troops during the
rainy winter months in constructing a canal bypassing Vicksburg, while beginning to gather
supplies for a daring experiment. By April 1863 he was ready. He ran his provisions down
the river under the guns of Vicksburg, marched his men through the backcountry, reached a
position on the west bank of the Mississippi below Vicksburg, crossed over to high ground
on the eastern side, and commenced operations behind the Confederate lines. Grant had cut
himself off from communications and supplies from the North; his troops had to subsist on
the country until victory. He drove inland to Jackson, Miss., held off a threatened attack
from Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's army to the north, and pushed Lieut. Gen. John C.
Pemberton's troops on the west into the defenses of Vicksburg. After a regular siege, on
July 4, 1863, Pemberton was obliged to surrender his 30,000 men.

The victory was one of the most decisive in the war. It eliminated a major Confederate
army from the conflict; it cut off the trans-Mississippi states from the rest of the
Confederacy (the capture of Port Hudson, La., by Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks promptly
followed); and it brought to the attention of the Northern government and people the
ablest Union general of the war. President Lincoln wrote Grant a personal letter of
congratulations and nominated him major general in the Regular Army.

Grant's next major engagements saw him in a different field of operations. In September
the Confederate general, Braxton Bragg, defeated Rosecrans at Chickamauga and placed the
Union army in Chattanooga under virtual siege. Grant was summoned to the rescue. He acted
promptly: Rosecrans was replaced by Maj. Gen. George Henry Thomas; Sherman's troops were
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