Golden Nuggets from U. S. History

The Blue Quill Series
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Grant, as General-in-Chief, Reports to Lincoln

President Lincoln appointed Ulysses S Grant to General-in-Chief of the Armies of the Potomac in March, 1864. Some time later Lincoln asked him for an estimate of Confederate strength.

Grant replied that he estimated the South's strength at about 1,000,000 soldiers because the Union Army had 250,000 and every time one of his general's reported on a battle they claimed they were out-numbered 4 to 1.

More about Grant.

Grant was born in Ohio in 1822 and attended West Point graduating in the middle of his class. He fought in the Mexican War under Generals Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott and later fought Indians along the western frontier. A growing family didn't mix well with service in the wild west so he left the army. At the onset of the Civil War he was working in his father's leather store in Galena, Illinois. The Governor appointed him to command an untrained bunch of volunteers and by September, 1861, he had whipped the unit into shape and was promoted to brigadier general.

Early strategy of the North was to control the Mississippi River and so Grant and others were sent into action in western Kentucky and Tennessee. Grant, in Tennessee, targeted Fort Henry and Fort Donelson and achieved a small victory at Henry then moved on to Donelson. After four days of heavy fighting, Feb. 13-16, 1862, the Confederate commander, Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner, asked for surrender terms. Grant replied that "no terms except unconditional surrender were acceptable." He became a Northern hero for this response and was tagged with the nickname of "Unconditional Surrender" (US) Grant. These victories led to his appointment as major general of volunteers. After an unsuccessful and bloody battle at Shiloh, TN, Grant won at Vicksburg, Mississippi, a key city on the river, cutting the Confederacy in two, and breaking the Confederate hold on Chattanooga.

More Grant victories followed and his rapid rise in the ranks caused some jealousy among his peers who reported to Lincoln that ol' Ulysses was leaning a little heavy on the bottle. Lincoln let them know that he liked Grant because "this man can fight." Lincoln appointed him General-in-Chief in March, 1864 and Grant then directed General Sherman to drive through the South while he pinned down General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.

When Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865 at Appomattox Court House, Grant provided generous terms of surrender which prevented trials for treason.

A symbol of Union victories in the Civil War, Grant was the logical candidate for President in 1868 and, when elected, brought many of his Army staff to the Whitehouse.

Although scrupulously honest, Grant was criticized for accepting presents from admirers and for allowing himself to be seen with Jay Gould and James Fisk, two speculators who plotted to corner the gold market. The scheme was undermined when Grant authorized the Secretary of Treasury to sell enough gold to wreck it.

In his campaign for re-election in 1872, Grant was attacked by Liberal Republican reformers but defended by the "Old Guard" of the Republican Party.

Though he assisted the people of the South at times with military force, Grant allowed Radical Reconstruction to run its course.

Upon leaving the Presidency, Grant became a partner in a financial firm which went bankrupt. Soon afterwards he learned he had cancer of the throat. To pay debts and provide for his family he wrote his memoirs. He died in 1885 shortly after completing the book which earned $450,000 to $500,000 and provided a comfortable existence for his widow Julia, who died in 1902.

Did You Know?
About 620,000 soldiers died during the Civil War, almost as many as the combined American dead of all other wars from the Revolutionary War (1775-1783) through the Vietnam War (1957-1975). The Union lost about 360,000 troops, and the Confederacy about 260,000. More than half the deaths were caused by disease. About a third of all Southern soldiers died in the war, compared with about a sixth of all Northern soldiers.

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