Ulysses S. Grant

By Henry M. Hunt

Like Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, the greatest soldier of the war, and in many respects the greatest of American presidents, was of extremely humble origin. He was born at Pt. Pleasant, Ohio, April 27th, 1822, his parents being Jesse R. and Hannah Simpson Grant. Both were natives of Pennsylvania, but of Scotch descent, and his father was a tanner and dealer in leather. Young Grant's early education was derived from the common school, his humble studies being diversified with work of all kinds in his father's tannery. When 17 years of age hewas successful in securing admission to the Military Academy at West Point. Here he studied diligently, but failed of any special distinction, graduating in 1843 as the 21st in a class of 39. Receiving the commission of 2nd Lieutenant, he was assigned to the 4th Infantry with which he went to Mexico. He was engaged in every battle of the Mexican War with the exception of Buena Vista, and received two brevets for gallantry at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma. In 1848 he was married to Julia T., daughter of Frederick Dent, a prominent merchant of St. Louis, having the year before being made 1st Lieutenant for meritorious services at Molina del Rey and Chapultepec. He was raised to the rank of captain in 1853. Two years later he resigned his commission and engaged in farming near his wife's home in St. Louis. Hisindustry in this line, however, was poorly rewarded, and in 1859 ne removed to Galena, Illinois, and engaged in the leather and saddlery trade, with his father as a partner. In this humble occupation he was engaged at the breaking out of the Civil War. At 39 years of age, he was entirely unknown to public men. He was aroused however, by President Lincoln's first call for troops, and four days after it had been issued he was drilling a company of volunteers at his new home. He also offered his services to the adjutant general of the army, but his offer was ignored. The attention of Gov. Yates, of Illinois, was attracted to him, and as a result he was employed in the organization of volunteer troops, and also placed at the head of the staff of the state executive. After five weeks of this duty, he was appointed colonel ofthe 21st Illinois Infantry, and after organizing and drilling his regiment, he crossed with it into Missouri, where it formed part of theguard of the Hannibal & Hudson R. R., and was occupied in watching the movements of partisan forces in Missouri. Within a month he wasplaced in command of the troops in Mexico, forming part of Gen. Pope's forces, and very shortly afterward was promoted to be brigadiergeneral of volunteers, his commission being dated back four months. He assumed command of the troops at Cairo in less than a week, andwithout orders he seized Paducah at the mouth of the Tennessee River, thus commanding the navigation not only of that stream but also ofthe Ohio. By this stroke Kentucky was secun d to the Union, for the state legislature, which up to that time had occupied a neutral attitude,at once declared in favor of the North.

He was engaged in various minor military operations until February, 1862, when, in conjunction with the naval forces, he moved up theTennessee River against Fort Henry and prepared to attack Fort Donelson. Again acting in the absence of orders he began a siege of the fortwith 15,000 men against a garrison 21,000 strong. The siege lasted three successive days and ended with the unconditional surrender of theConfederates, with 65 cannons, nearly 18,000 small arms and some 15,000 soldiers. Grant's entire loss was less than 2,000. That of the enemyabout 2,500. This was the first important victory won by the North during the war and it resulted in the states of Kentucky and Tennessee falling into the hands of the government, while the navigation of the Cumberland, Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers was open for hundreds ofmiles. His success set the North literally on fire, and Grant, hitherto almost unknown, became the hero of the hour. He was immediatelycommissioned major general of volunteers and placed in command of the district of West Tennessee. By the sudden death of Gen. C. F. Smith,the command of 40,000 men devolved upon him. A portion of the force, after waiting several weeks at Pittsburg Landing in preparation for anattack upon Corinth, were surprised April 6th, 1862, by an over-whelming Confederate force under the command of Gen. A. S. fohnston. It hadbeen driven from its camp and routed with heavy loss, when Grant arrived on the field of battle, reformed the lines, and, aided by heavyreinforcements, renewed the conflict, continuing it with vigor until the Confederates retreated to Corinth in a disorganizedcondition. In this conflict Grant was slightly wounded. After the evacuation of Corinth, Gen. Halleck was called to Washington and Grantbecame commander of the army of West Tennessee. He issued severe orders against the guerilla spies and traders who made a practice ofcrossing the lines and carrying information and stores to the enemy, and he vigorously silenced the publication of treasonable matterin the newspapers in the territory over which he had control. September of the same year he ordered an advance from Corinth to stop theprogress of that portion of the Confederate army under Gen. Price, and in the battle fought at Iuka on September 19th he gained a completevictory. Shortly after moving his headquarters to Jackson, Tennessee, the Confederates, under Price and Van Dorn, 40,000 strong, attackedhis position at Corinth, which was held by Gen. Rosecrans with about 20,000, but were repulsed with heavy loss. On October 16th Grant'sdepartment was extended by the addition of a portion of Mississippi as far as Vicksburg, and was designated as the department ofTennessee, the forces under his command being constituted the 13th army corps.

His next serious and notable engagement ended in the surrender of Vicksburg wi h 27,000 prisoners on July 4, 1863. This opened theMississippi to the sea, and as a token of recognition Grant was promoted to the rank of major general of the regular army, and shortlyplaced in command of the military department of the Mississippi, comprising the departments commanded by Sherman, Thomas, Burnside andHooker.

He reached Chattanooga on October 23d, and found it beleaguered and almost surrounded by hostile forces. Four days later he relieved it bythe battle of Lookout Valley, which was fought under his direction. In the following month he fought the battle of Chattanooga, drivingBragg from positions that seemed well-nigh impregnable and utterly defeated him. His skill in this battle called out a high eulogy fromGen. Halleck, who said that the highest praise was due to the commanding general for his admirable skill in dislodging the Confederatesfrom positions apparently impregnable. This victory demolished the last important force west of the Allegheny, and cleared the way forthe entrance of the national armies into Georgia.

Congress was not slow to recognize the ability and daring of Grant, and the first measure passed in the session of 1863-4 was a resolutionreturning thanks to him and his army, and providing that a gold medal be struck in his honor. Resolutions of thanks were also adopted by theLegislatures of New York and Ohio. Meanwhile the remarkable success, or rather series of successes, which he had achieved, createdgeneral enthusiasm in the North in favor of his appointment as the leader of the national armies, and in February, 1864, a bill was passedby Congress providing the rank of lieutenant general. It received the signature of President Lincoln on March 1. Grant was at once nominated and the Senate confirmed the nomination on the following day. Upon assuming the command of the armies of the United States, he announced that his headquarters would be in the field, and until further orders would be with the army of the Potomac. He at once prepared toencounter in person the army of Northern Virginia, under Lee, and at the same time to occupy the remaining force of the enemy, so that in no emergency could any portion of the Southern army gain any support from another. Sherman was sent to Georgia, Butler to Richmond, and Sigelto the Valley of Virginia. Directing himself in person the army of the Potomac, he opened the campaign by crossing the. Rapidan towardRichmond, having first appointed Gen. Sheridan commander-in-chief of all the cavalry of his army. On the day after crossing he met theConfederates near Mine Run, and inaugurated the great battle of the Wilderness, which was without decisive results. Growing out of thisconflict was the dispatch of Grant, dated May 11, which closed with the now famous words, “ I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes allsummer.” Then followed the battle of Spottsylvania, in which Grant achieved partial success. For the greater portion of the winter of 1864-5Grant's army remained inactive before Petersburg, while Sherman was operating in Georgia and the Carolinas with good results, takingSavannah, Charleston and Wilmington in rapid succession. The movements of Sigel and Butler, however, were foiled by the enemy, Lee beingneither defeated in the open field nor cut

off from Richmond. The great problem of the war was now to be solved by the siege at Petersburg.

The great Confederate general attempted to create a diversion by the invasion of Maryland and an attack upon the capital of the UnitedStates, but the effort was not crowned with success, Sheridan driving back the invaders by the valley of the Shenandoah. At the same timeJohnston had been unable to check the advance of Sherman, and Hood, who succeeded him, was forced to vacate Atlanta. Everything was now inshape for the final campaign. Lee had 73,000 fighting men in the lines at Richmond, while with Sheridan's forces Grant had 110,000 in the worksbefore Petersburg and Richmond. Petersburg fell on the 2d of April. Richmond went on the following day, the Confederates flying post hastetoward Lynchburg. Grant, however, was close in pursuit, and finally Lee found himself completely surrounded, out-generaled, out-marchedand out-fought. His surrender took place at Appomattox Court House, April 29, 1865, 27,000 men, all that remained of his army, laying downtheir arms.

In the history of the world no warrior has a greater record than that of Grant for the ten days preceding this event. He had capturedPetersburg and Richmond, his army had fought a dozen battles, including those of Five Oaks and Sailors' Creek; had captured 20,000 men inactual battle, and received the surrender of 27,000 men. Thus an army of 70,000 troops had been completely annihilated. At the same timehis force had never been more than one-third greater than those of his opponents. With the surrender at Appomattox, and at which magnanimousterms were granted to Lee, the Confederates virtually gave up the conflict, and the greatest civil war in history came to a close.

Grant then returned to Washington, where he established his headquarters. Congress again recognized his services by passing a bill torevive the grade of general of the United States, and he was commissioned to that position. He was engaged in the work of disbanding hisarmy when President Lincoln was assassinated. Probably he would have encountered the same fate—for he was one of those against whom themachinations of the conspirators were directed—had he not declined to accompany the President to the theatre where the crime wascommitted.

Although Johnson now became president, Grant was the most prominent figure in the life of the nation. Great honors were showered upon him,and he was the recipient of ovations in every town and village he visisited. When President Johnson suspended Secretary Stanton fromoffice in August, 1867, Grant was appointed Secretary of War ad interim, and held the office until the following January, when, theSenate refusing to sanction Stanton's removal, the latter resumed charge of the war portfolio. Johnson was very anxious that Grant shouldretain the office in the face of the action of Congress, but he absolutely refused, contending that as the Secretary of War was hissuperior, he could not assume the responsibility of orders which would destroy his character before the country. This stand earned forhim the undying enmity of Johnson, but his popularity with the majority of the people remained unshaken, and at the RepublicanNational Convention held in Chicago, May 21, 1868, he was unanimously nominated for president, Schuyler Colfax being placed on the ticketwith him. In the election that followed he secured twenty-six States, receiving 214 electoral votes against eighty received by hisopponents, Seymour and Blair.

His first administration was distinguished by a large reduction of the national debt, and by the Geneva arbitration, the latter of whichresulted in the settlement of difficulties with England growing out of depredations committed by privateers fitted out in Great Britainduring the war.

Grant was again re-nominated and re-elected to the presidency in 1872, receiving a larger vote and larger majority than any othercandidate from the days of Washington.

On retiring from office at the close of the second term, March 4, 1877, he was succeeded by Rutherford B. Hayes, and made a tour of the worldaccompanied by his wife and oldest son. In every country of Europe, as well as in Ind'a, Burmah, China and Japan, he was received withdistinguished honors by all the crowned heads, and all in authority, as well as the populace, vied with each other in doing him honor. On hisreturn to the United States in September, 1879, he was welcomed by his countrymen in an unbroken line from the Pacific coast to the East, thedemonstrations of honor, love and respect being greater than had ever before been accorded to any living American. At the close of that yearhe also visited the West Indies and Mexico. His name was again submitted as a candidate for the presidency by the convention which met inChicago, June, 1880. He received on the first ballot 304 votes, on the thirty-fourth, 312, and on the thirtysixth (when Garfield wasnominated), 307 votes.

Settling down in New York, he became actively interested in railroad and other enterprises. In 1882 he was appointed one of thecommissioners to negotiate the commercial treaty with Mexico, and March 14, 1885, he was placed on the retired list of the army with the rankand full pay of a general. It seemed at this time that he would live to a good old age, and enjoy in the meridian of life all the rest and comfortwhich he had so well earned by his many years of labor in the field, as wJl as in the presidential chair. This, however, was not to be. In 1884 hewas attacked by a fell disease (cancer of the mouth), and after a few months of terr.ble suffering, which he bore with great fortitude, and during which he wrote stories of the different battles of the campaign, together with a large volume of personal memoirs, he passed away atMt. McGregor, near Saratoga, in the State of New York, July 23d, 1885. The interment took place at Riverside Park, New York, on August 8th, andthe civic and miltary procession of the funeral was never equalled, either in extent or in the number of distinguished people from allparts of the country who participated in the event.