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Transcribed by Sharon Elijah January 8, 2021
ULYSSES SIMPSON GRANT, the eighteenth President of the United States, 1869-’77, was born April 27, 1822, at Point Pleasant, Clermont County, Ohio. His father was of Scotch descent, and a dealer in leather. At the age of seventeen he entered the Military Academy at West Point, and four years later graduated twenty-first in a class of thirty-nine, receiving the commission of Brevet Second Lieutenant. He was assigned to the Fourth Infantry and remained in the army eleven years. He was engaged in every battle of the Mexican war except that of Buena Vista, and received two brevets for gallantry.
In 1848 Mr. Grant married Julia, daughter of Frederick Dent, a prominent merchant of St. Louis, and in 1854, having reached the grade of Captain, he resigned his commission in the army. For several years he followed farming near St. Louis, but unsuccessfully; and in 1860 he entered the leather trade with his father at Galena, Illinois.
When the civil war broke out in 1861, Grant was thirty-nine years of age, but entirely unknown to public men and without any personal acquaintance with great affairs. President Lincoln’s first call for troops was made on the 15th of April, and on the 19th Grant was drilling a company of volunteers at Galena. He also offered his services to the Adjutant-General of the army, but received no reply. The Governor of Illinois, however, employed him in the organization of volunteer troops, and at the end of five weeks he was appointed Colonel of the Twenty-first Infantry. He took command of his regiment in June, and reported first to General Pope in Missouri. His superior knowledge of military life rather surprised his superior officers, who had never before even heard of him, and they were thus led to place him on the road to rapid advancement. August 7 he was commissioned a Brigadier-General of volunteers, the appointment having been made without his knowledge. He had been unanimously recommended by the Congressmen from Illinois, not one of whom had been his personal acquaintance. For a few weeks he was occupied in watching the movements of partisan forces in Missouri.
September 1, he was placed in command of the District of Southeast Missouri, with headquarters at Cairo, and on the 5th, without orders, he seized Paducah, at the mouth of the Tennessee River, and commanding the navigation both of that stream and of the Ohio. This stroke secured Kentucky to the Union; for the State Legislature, which had until then affected to be neutral, at once declared in favor of the Government. In November following, according to orders, he made a demonstration about eighteen miles below Cairo, preventing the crossing of hostile troops into Missouri; but in order to accomplish this purpose he had to do some fighting, and that, too, with only 3,000 raw recruits, against 7,000 Confederates. Grant carried off two pieces of artillery and 200 prisoners.
After repeated applications to General Halleck, his immediate superior, he was allowed, in February, 1862, to move up the Tennessee River against Fort Henry, in conjunction with a naval force. The gunboats silenced the fort, and Grant immediately made preparations to attack Fort Donelson, about twelve miles distant, on the Cumberland River. Without waiting for orders he moved his troops there, and with 15,000 men began the siege. The fort, garrisoned with 21,000 men, was a strong one, but after hard fighting on three successive days Grant forced an “Unconditional Surrender” (an alliteration upon the initials of his name). The prize he captured consisted of sixty-five cannon, 17,600 small arms and 14,623 soldiers. About 4,000 of the garrison had escaped in the night, and 2,500 were killed or wounded. Grant’s entire loss was less than 2,000. This was the first important success won by the national troops during the war, and its strategic results were marked, as the entire States of Kentucky and Tennessee at once fell into the National hands. Our hero was made a Major-General of Volunteers and placed in command of the District of West Tennessee.
In March, 1862, he was ordered to move up the Tennessee River toward Corinth, where the Confederates were concentrating a large army; but he was directed not to attack. His forces, now numbering 38,000, were accordingly encamped near Shiloh, or Pittsburg Landing, to await the arrival of General Buell with 40,000 more; but April 6 the Confederates came out from Corinth 50,000 strong and attacked Grant violently, hoping to overwhelm him before Buell could arrive; 5,000 of his troops were beyond supporting distance, so that he was largely outnumbered and forced back to the river, where, however, he held out until dark, when the head of Buell’s column came upon the field. The next day the Confederates were driven back to Corinth, nineteen miles. The loss was heavy on both sides; Grant, being senior in rank to Buell, commanded on both days. Two days afterward Halleck arrived at the front and assumed command of the army, Grant remaining at the head of the right wing and the reserve. On May 30 Corinth was evacuated by the Confederates. In July Halleck was made General-in-Chief, and Grant succeeded him in command of the Department of the Tennessee. September 19 the battle of Iuka was fought, where, owing to Rosecran’s fault, only an incomplete victory was obtained.
Next, Grant, with 30,000 men, moved down into Mississippi and threatened Vicksburg, while Sherman, with 40,000 men, was sent by way of the river to attack that place in front; but, owing to Colonel Murphy’s surrendering Holly Springs to the Confederates, Grant was so weakened that he had to retire to Corinth, and then Sherman failed to sustain his intended attack.
In January, 1863, General Grant took command in person of all the troops in the Mississippi Valley, and spent several months in fruitless attempts to compel the surrender or evacuation of Vicksburg; but July 4, following, the place surrendered, with 31,600 men and 172 cannon, and the Mississippi River thus fell permanently into the hands of the Government. Grant was made a Major-General in the regular army, and in October following he was placed in command of the Division of the Mississippi. The same month he went to Chattanooga and saved the Army of the Cumberland from starvation, and drove Bragg from that part of the country. This victory overthrew the last important hostile force west of the Alleghenies and opened the way for the National armies into Georgia and Sherman’s march to the sea.
The remarkable series of successes which Grant had now achieved pointed him out as the appropriate leader of the National armies, and accordingly, in February, 1864, the rank of Lieutenant-General was created for him by Congress, and on March 17, he assumed command of the armies of the United States. Planning the grand final campaign, he sent Sherman into Georgia, Sigel into the valley of Virginia, and Butler to capture Richmond, while he fought his own way from the Rapidan to the James. The costly but victorious battles of the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, North Anna and Cold Harbor were fought, more for the purpose of annihilating Lee than to capture any particular point. In June, 1864, the siege of Richmond was begun. Sherman, meanwhile, was marching and fighting daily in Georgia and steadily advancing toward Atlanta; but Sigel had been defeated in the valley of Virginia, and was superseded by Hunter. Lee sent Early to threaten the National capitol; whereupon Grant gathered up a force which he placed under Sheridan, and that commander rapidly drove Early, in a succession of battles, through the valley of Virginia and destroyed his army as an organized force. The siege of Richmond went on, and Grant made numerous attacks, but was only partially successful. The people of the North grew impatient, and even the Government advised him to abandon the attempt to take Richmond or crush the Confederacy in that way; but he never wavered. He resolved to “fight it out on that line, if it took all summer.”
By September Sherman had made his way to Atlanta, and Grant then sent him on his famous “march to the sea”, a route which the chief had designed six months before. He made Sherman’s success possible, not only by holding Lee in front of Richmond, but also by sending reinforcements to Thomas, who then drew off and defeated the only army which could have confronted Sherman. Thus the latter was left unopposed, and, with Thomas and Sheridan, was used in the furtherance of Grant’s plans. Each executed his part in the great design and contributed his share to the result at which Grant was aiming. Sherman finally reached Savannah, Schofield beat the enemy at Franklin, Thomas at Nashville, and Sheridan wherever he met him; and all this while General Grant was holding Lee, with the principal Confederate army, near Richmond, as it were changed and helpless. Then Schofield was brought from the West, and Fort Fisher and Wilmington were captured on the sea-coast, so as to afford him a foothold; from here he was sent into the interior of North Carolina, and Sherman was ordered to move northward to join him. When all this was effected, and Sheridan could find no one else to fight in the Shenandoah Valley, Grant brought the cavalry leader to the front of Richmond, and, making a last effort, drove Lee from his entrenchments and captured Richmond.
At the beginning of the final campaign Lee had collected 73,000 fighting men in the lines at Richmond, besides the local militia and the gunboat crews, amounting to 5,000 more. Including Sheridan’s force Grant had 110,000 men in the works before Petersburg and Richmond. Petersburg fell on the 2d of April, and Richmond on the 3d, and Lee fled in the direction of Lynchburg. Grant pursued with remorseless energy, only stopping to strike fresh blows, and Lee at last found himself not only out-fought but also out-marched and out-generaled. Being completely surrounded, he surrendered on the 9th of April, 1865, at Appomattox Court House, in the open field, with 27,000 men, all which remained of his army. This act virtually ended the war. Thus, in ten days Grant had captured Petersburg and Richmond, fought, by his subordinates, the battles of Five Forks and Sailor’s Creek, besides numerous smaller ones, captured 20,000 men in actual battle, and received the surrender of 27,000 more at Appomattox, absolutely annihilating an army of 70,000 soldiers.
General Grant returned at once to Washington to superintend the disbandment of the armies, but this pleasurable work was scarcely begun when President Lincoln was assassinated. It had doubtless been intended to inflict the same fate upon Grant; but he, fortunately, on account of leaving Washington early in the evening, declined an invitation to accompany the President to the theater where the murder was committed. This event made Andrew Johnson President, but left Grant by far the most conspicuous figure in the public life of the country. He became the object of an enthusiasm greater than had ever been known in America. Every possible honor was heaped upon him; the grade of General was created for him by Congress; houses were presented to him by citizens; towns were illuminated on his entrance into them; and, to cap the climax, when he made his tour around the world, “all nations did him honor” as they had never before honored a foreigner.
The General, as Commander-in-Chief, was placed in an embarrassing position by the opposition of President Johnson to the measurers of Congress; but he directly manifested his characteristic loyalty by obeying Congress rather than the disaffected President, although for a short time he had served in his cabinet as Secretary of War.
Of course, everybody thought of General Grant as the next President of the United States, and he was accordingly elected as such in 1868 “by a large majority,” and four years later re-elected by a much larger majority — the most overwhelming ever given by the people of this country. His first administration was distinguished by a cessation of the strifes which sprang from the war, by a large reduction of the National debt, and by a settlement of the difficulties with England which had grown out of the depredations committed by privateers fitted out in England during the war. This last settlement was made by the famous “Geneva arbitration,” which saved to this Government $15,000,000, but, more than all, prevented a war with England. “Let us have peace,” was Grant’s motto. And this is the most appropriate place to remark that above all Presidents whom this Government has ever had, General Grant was the most non-partisan. He regarded the Executive office as purely and exclusively executive of the laws of Congress, irrespective of “politics.” But every great man has jealous, bitter enemies, a fact Grant was well aware of.
After the close of his Presidency, our General made his famous tour around the world, already referred to, and soon afterward, in company with Ferdinand Ward, on New York City, he engaged in banking and stock brokerage, which business was made disastrous to Grant, as well as to himself, by his rascality. By this time an incurable cancer of the tongue devolved itself in the person of the afflicted ex-President, which ended his unrequited life July 23, 1885. Thus passed away from earth’s turmoils the “father of this regenerated country” as was Washington the father of the infant nation.
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