Ulysses S. Grant
American General and 18th President of the United States of America, Ulysses S. Grant, was a master war strategist who won the first major Union victories during the Civil War; however, political leadership proved to be far different from military leadership for Grant. While in office from 1869-1877 Grant scarcely attempted to control events, made injudicious appointments to public office, and had official corruption taint his administration, although Grant himself was never said to be actually have been involved in this corruption.
‘The military life had no charms for me,’; Grant said later. After graduating from the Untied States military academy Grant was commissioned as Brevet 2nd Lieutenant, assigned to the 4th U.S. Infantry, and sent to Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, MO. While stationed at Jefferson Barracks Grant met his future wife, Julia Dent, who was the sister of one of Grant’s West Point classmates. This romance was temporarily interrupted however, when orders were given that sent Grant’s regiment to the Southwest frontier in May of 1844.
When the south seceded from the Union Grant had no troubles making up his mind to fight for the Union cause. Grant organized the first group of Union volunteers in Galena and accompanied the men to Springfield. Grant longed for active duty and, on May 24, 1861, offered his services to the U.S. government, suggesting that he was ‘ competent to command a regiment.’; Although he failed to gain this 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 August 7, 1861, President Lincoln appointed Grant Brigadier General of volunteers, and he took up headquarters in Cairo Illinois. Only a few days after he assumed his new command, he occupied Paducah, Kentucky at the strategic junction of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers. On November 7th he attacked the Confederates at Belmont, MO in an assault that was neither well planned nor well executed. The arrival of Confederate reinforcements compelled Grant to retreat.
‘Unconditional Surrender’; Grant became prominent in the nation in 1862 when he captured forts Donelson and Henry within twenty days and captured over 14,000 Confederate troops in the process.
Grant’s next important battle was at Shiloh, or Pittsburgh Landing, Tennessee on April 6th and 7th, 1862. Early in the morning of April 6th, General Albert S. Johnston’s Confederate Army burst through the unfortified Union near Shiloh meetinghouse and threatened to drive Grant’s men back into the Tennessee River. Historians differ on almost every aspect of the battle, but at any rate on April 7th Union forces recaptured the initiative and drove the Confederates back in great disorder.
After many more decisions and battles Grant was ready for his final push. Sheridan’s victory at Five Forks (April 1, 1865) was the beginning of the end. The next day when Grant the Confederate right, Lee was obliged to abandon Richmond and Petersburg and march West, hoping to join the army of General Johnston. Grant cut off his retreat and a series of running battles made it clear to the Confederates that further resistance was futile. On April 9, 1865 Lee surrendered and the Union was restored.