Ulysses S. Grant at Cold Harbor - July, 1864.
Voted by the editors of Civil War Times Illustrated as the most famous photograph taken in the Civil War.
It is by far the most famous picture ever taken of Grant.

Ulysses S. Grant
(1822-1885)


Ulysses S. Grant, hero of the American Civil War and President of the United States, is probably the most famous person to bear the distinguished name of Grant. An intensely modest, honest, unassuming, and inherently noble man, throughout his life he exemplified the characteristic Grant courage and tenacity represented in the Clan Grant motto, "Stand Fast!".

Grant was born in Point Pleasant, Ohio, in 1822, the son of Jesse Grant and Hannah Simpson. Jesse Grant descended from Matthew Grant (b. 1601 in Devon, England) who emigrated from Plymouth, England to North America in the mid 17th century settling in Windsor, Connecticut where he worked as a town surveyor.

Though Grant's ancestor Matthew Grant appears to have been of a line long removed from the Highlands of Scotland, the family's oral tradition said they were of Scottish origin. Matthew Grant's grandson, Noah Grant, married a woman named Grace Miner, whose line supposedly descended from King David I of Scotland, thus Ulysses carried this distinguished blood from his great-great-great grandmother's line. Ulysses Grant's mother, Hannah Simpson, was of Scots-Irish extraction from Northern Ireland, and not much is known about her line.

Ulysses S. Grant was actually born Hiram Ulysses Grant, but due to an error by the congressman who submitted his name to West Point, Grant's name was listed as "Ulysses S. Grant" on the academy registers when Grant entered West Point. Rather than contest it, Grant simply changed his name. He often said that the "S" stood for "Nothing". Senior cadets at West Point jokingly assumed the U.S. Grant on the roles stood for "Uncle Sam" Grant and this West Point nickname, "Sam", stuck with Grant for the rest of his life. His wife, however, always called him "Ulyss", "Lyss", or "Mr. Grant".

Grant married Julia Boggs Dent a young woman from a slave owning family from Missouri. His relationship with his wife was a devoted and happy one, and Grant delighted in his wife and children - his family was the most important thing in his life, and many observers noted this throughout his life. (Grant once said to an aide, "Ah, you know my weaknesses, my children and my horses.")

Ulysses S. Grant graduated middle of his class from West Point. He served with heroic distinction in the Mexican War of 1847 under Winfield Scott and Zachary Taylor and much of what Grant learned of warfare came from his brilliant insights at his observations of the Mexican campaign, especially Taylor, whose informal style Grant seemed to model himself after.

When the war ended, Grant was assigned to the remote outposts of California and the coast of the Pacific Northwest. It was here in California, isolated and away from his family, that Grant's reputation for drinking was formed. Grant suffered intense loneliness throughout his life, and this period in California, away from his wife and children, led him to one of the lowest points in his life. Suffering under the heavy hand of a martinet of a commanding officer, Grant indulged in drink. One of these drinking incidents during this assignment at Fort Humboldt, California led to his quiet resignation from the military, and Grant's life reached its nadir. For seven years after resigning from the army he tried his hand at various businesses and money making ventures, which all failed, due mostly to bad luck more than inept business sense. He was reduced to selling his pocket watch to buy Christmas presents for his children, one year, and ultimately to selling firewood on a St. Louis street corner. Finally, Grant humbled himself and, after swearing he would neverwork in his father's tannery and leather shop, asked his father for a job. He worked as a clerk in his father's leather goods store in Galena, Illinois, under the supervision of his two younger brothers, until the outbreak of the War.

Grant's life seemed like one destined for obscurity until Confederate forces fired on Ft. Sumter in April, 1861. When war broke out, Grant's patriotism was reignited and he immediately re-applied for military service. Rumours of his drinking problems in California dogged him, however, and it seemed no one was interested in his service, until Grant received the unlikely patronage of Elihu Washburne, a congressman from Illinois and Grant's hometown of Galena. Washburne petitioned for a position for him and Grant was ultimately appointed commander of the 27th Illinois Regiment.

 

 

Grant's star rose rapidly and his Civil War career is one of victory after victory. His campaign in the West began with the victories at Ft. Henry and Ft. Donnelson in Tennessee, and this brought him advancement to the rank of Major General, and ultimately the command of the Army of the Tennessee.

 

At Shiloh, Grant turned a surprise attack by Confederate forces, and what almost became a total Union rout, into a victory. He pursued the Confederate forces through Mississippi and his brilliant campaign and siege of the fortress city of Vicksburg, called "The Gibraltar of the West", led to a victory that is considered by most Civil War historians to be the turning point of the Civil War - it cut the Confederacy in half,

closed the Mississipi to them, and forced the Rebels into a defensive campaign through the end of the war. Grant was next called to Chattanooga, Tennessee where Union forces were under siege, and on the verge of starvation. Within one week of taking command, Grant had broken the siege and reopened the supply lines to feed the army. With the supply lines now open, Grant next organized the assault of Lookout Mountain, south of Chattanooga. Union forces took matters into their own hands at Missionary Ridge where they stormed the Confederate positions and ended up driving the Rebel forces back into Georgia. Grant's victory at Chattanooga left the Union army now poised to strike straight straight into the heart of the deep south.

Grant had now developed the reputation of being a fierce fighter. An intensely modest, unassuming man, one who would go unnoticed in a crowd, and described by one author as "a rumpled, quiet, little man", Grant's inner character was one of great intellect and bulldog tenacity. He had an almost superhuman ability to concentrate even with the chaos of war all about him. Nothing much seemed to scare him, and he had an almost preternatural calmness no matter the situation. Most of all though, Grant was a fighter. Whereas the Army of the Potomac in the east had gone through commanding general after commanding general (McClellan twice, Burnside, Pope, Hooker, and George Meade) and had retreated even after a victory, or worse, failed to pursue and follow through on a victory, Grant's campaigns in the West had been intensely aggressive and offensive.

Abraham Linclon took notice of this man in the west, a man who fought, and when those jealous of Grant's success and recognition tried to curb his advancement, claiming Grant had been drinking, and calling for his removal from command (vicious rumours mostly fueled by Grant's rivals), President Lincoln flatly stated, "I cannot spare this man! He fights!".

When a group of officials came to see Lincoln about the rumors of Grant's drinking, Lincoln is supposed to have said, "If it [drink] makes fighting men like Grant, then find out what he drinks, and send my other commanders a case!". In the end, almost none of the gossip and rumors of Grant's supposed alcoholism were true. First hand accounts by his closest associates, as well as numerous visitors to his headquarters, and accounts of those that saw him throughout the War, speak to Grant's complete sobriety, polite manner, and intense concentration. Grant suffered from intense migraine headaches due to stress, and he was often nearly disabled by them. It is thought that much of the rumor of Grant's drinking stem from the misunderstanding of his headaches as signs of "hangover". In fact, when Grant's wife was in camp with him she often tended to her husband's headaches by giving him mustard foot baths and warm compresses for his head.

After his victory at Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1864, Grant was promoted to the rank of Lt. General of the Armed Forces, a position only ever held by George Washington. This put Grant in overall command of all Union forces. Abraham Lincoln had finally found the general he had been looking for. "Grant is my man. And I stand by him the rest of the war", said Lincoln. The President assured Grant that so long as Grant fought, he would stay out of Grant's way, support him, and insure he had all the manpower and equipment needed to finish the job. For Lincoln knew, as Grant did, that the objective was not the capture of Richmond, the objective was Robert E. Lee and the destruction of his Army of Northern Virginia. On this Grant and Lincoln saw eye to eye.

I t was never in Grant's nature to retreat, or to fight a defensive war. He is said to have had a superstition about ever retracing his steps, and for Grant this meant no retreat, and no giving up of ground. He would go out of his way to sidestep, or take any other route, than to fall back. Grant's philosophy of war was one of seizing the initiative, keeping the enemy off balance, and constantly staying on offense with his force's momentum continuing forward. Grant also differed from the other generals that preceded him in one other important way; Grant knew that the objective was not territory, but the Confederate armies themselves. Whereas other commanders had been concerned with maneuver - flanking enemy armies and seizing cities - Grant knew that seizing a city meant nothing with enemy armies still in the field. The only sure way to end the war was to destroy the Confederate Armies in the field and in 1864 Grant set out to do just that.

In May, 1864, Grant launched an invasion of the south with the intent of luring Lee into the open by moving against the Confederate capitol of Richmond. Lee anticipated this, and Grant battled Robert E. Lee to a draw in the Wildnerness where, for the first time, the Army of the Potomac marched south after a battle in Virginia, instead of retreating, as all previous Union generals had done. Grant forced Lee onto the defensive, and as William Tecumseh Sherman began his march to the sea, from Atlanta in the west, Grant pursued the Army of Northern Virginia until the siege of Petersburg, which lasted for nine months. Grant's disastrous assault at Cold Harbor, which left thousands of Union soldiers dead within just half an hour, was the only mistake to which he ever admitted, after the war. "I have always regretted the second assault at Cold Harbor was made. No advantage whatsoever, was gained, to make up for the terrible loss of life", said Grant. Though Grant was labeled a "butcher" for this (by Mary Lincoln, who despised Grant, whom she thought hard and cruel) most historians have pointed out that the losses of Grant at Cold Harbor were no worse than any others, in some cases much less (such as "Pickett's Charge" at Gettysburg which was ordered by Lee), than many of the other ferocious battles fought throughout the war.

It is important to point out, at this point, that while Grant has gone down in history maligned as a "butcher" and Lee as a "great general", a simple review of the losses of both armies during each of the major engagements shows, percentage for percentage, Lee suffering equal, or greater, loses than Grant. It is partly on this basis, as well as many other details too numerous to include here, that most civil war and military historians have had a complete reassessment of Grant as both a general, and a tactician, and most have a completely different opinion of him than the reputation that has maligned the man, and which has filtered down to the public through popular legend. Yet, surprisingly, this change in historical opinion seems to have not done much to change popular public opinion. The myths of "Grant the drunk" and "Grant the butcher", still persist, even today. It is also worth noting that the reputation Grant suffered as both an "alcoholic" and a "butcher" seem to have been ideas vigarously promoted and promulgated by southern historians who had a vendetta, or historians sympathetic to the southern cause, in the years after the war. Even a cursory study of the quotes and opinions of those from Grant's own time, those who campaigned with him, and those who fought against him, will show a radically different opinion of the man, of his generalship, and of his character - almost a complete 180 degree difference in most cases - than his reputation as it has developed in popular public opinion. (See the quotes and ancedotes at the bottom of this page).

Ulysses S. Grant accepted the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, and in effect the surrender of the Confederacy, from General Robert E. Lee at Appamattox Courthouse on April 9th, 1865. "There is nothing for me to do, but to go and see General Grant. And I would rather die a thousand deaths", said Lee. Lee, understanding that his position of responsibility meant he would suffer the harshest punishment, was prepared to be Grant's prisoner and to be severely humiliated in defeat. Grant, however, understood that reconciliation was the order of the day. Therefore Lee was stunned at General Grant's magnanamity and his generous terms of surrender. Grant later wrote that he was "depressed at the defeat of a foe who had fought so valiantly", though he believed it was for "the worst cause for which anyone ever fought". Grant refused to humiliate Lee by demanding his sword (which Lee had expected he would) and he agreed to a parole of Lee and his army. Grant even offered up 25,000 rations to Lee's army, which was on the verge of starvation. He allowed all of Lee's officers, and any man who owned a horse, to keep their mount, as well as their side-arms and personal belongings.

L ee was said to be "overcome" by Grant's generous terms and his magnanimity. Tears formed in Lee's eyes as he read the terms of surrender, and he said with great emotion, "General Grant, this will have the most happy effect upon my men". When General Lee left Appamattox Courthouse, the Union soldiers outside began to celebrate. Grant rushed outside and ordered the celebration stopped, saying, "The war is over, the Rebels are our countrymen again." and that they were gallant men that were feeling their defeat bitterly and "we shall not glorify in their downfall."

G eneral Grant's magnanimous terms to General Lee were a principal source of reconciliation between North and South, and years later, as General Grant was dying in his home in upstate New York, old Confederate veterans would go to see him, or walk past his home and salute. They never forgot this act of generosity by a foe they thought would imprison and humliate them. Grant gave the honor of accepting the official surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, to Brigadier General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain - the hero of Little Round Top, at Gettysburg. Of like nature with Grant, he would not glory in the downfall of the enemy. When the Confederate soliders stacked their weapons and furled their colors for the last time, Chamberlain ordered his men to present arms - the snap-to of which surpirsed General Gordon of the Confederacy. This simple, honorable salute - solider to soldier - deeply moved Gordon. He turned on his horse and presented his sword, touched it to the toe of his boot and bowed, saluting Chamberlain in return.

After Lincoln's assassination, coming only a few days after the signing of the terms at Appamattox, it was General Ulysses S. Grant who literally held his bleeding, dying, country together. A panic set in, in Washington, and assassins were thought to be everywhere, and those in high office looked to punish the south. But it was Grant who kept calm and enforced order. He refused to take vengeance on the south, or to allow his terms of parole for southern officers, as presented to Lee, to be overridden. In defiance of President Andrew Johnson, Grant swore to resign in protest if Johnson attempted to try Robert E. Lee for treason. A Federal Grand Jury had already indicted Lee, and Lee made a personal appeal to Grant's honor, and his terms, and Grant put his career on the line in defiance of Johnson and those government officials who were bent on vengeance against Lee and the rest of the southern leadership. Johnson needed Grant's support, and Grant knew his popularity would not allow Johnson to accept his resignation due to the popular protest that would result. Johnson knew this too. President Johnson backed down, and all talk of trying southern officers, or Robert E. Lee, for treason, was quietly dropped. For this act, amongst his many others, Grant won the eternal affection and admiration of the south, and those who had once fought against him. Shortly after, Grant was nominated for the Presidency on the Republican ticket. He was virtually swept into office.

As President, Grant's administration came under a cloud due to corruption amongst his cabinet members and their associates. However, Grant himself was never truly tainted by this, and anyone who knew him even a little recognized that Grant was guilty only of an almost childishly naive faith in the goodness and honesty of others, and he was often taken advantage of for these reasons. Personally, he was as modest, honest, and incorruptable a man as any of them had ever known. As one person put it, "Grant was so honorable, that he was incapable of seeing intentional dishonor or intentional deceit in anyone else. It was unthinkable to him". This allowed many scoundrels to take advantage of Grant during his administration. This naivety in Grant, as to the deceitfulness of others, seems to have been a strange character flaw in the man.

History has besmirched Grant's character for drinking, and his presidency for corruption, but many recent biographies and historical studies have come to Grant's defense. Not only have they dispelled most of the rumours of his drinking as slander (Grant only ever drank when he was lonely and away from his family and many, many associates, including his staff and the various newspapermen and commanders who knew him, often defended him at the time, protesting to the President and his superiors that such rumours were outrageous slander by jealous rivals and that Grant himself was completely sober throughout every battle which he fought) but later reassessment of his presidency has also shown that it was Grant's policies that led to a peaceful reunion and reconciliation with the south during the Reconstruction era.

Grant was also symapthetic to the plight of the American Indians in the West and it was his peace policy towards the Indians that earned the enmity of those opposed to any peace with the Indians and which drove a wedge between him and his former comrades William Tecumseh Sherman and Phil Sheridan who wanted to brutally subjegate the Indians, applying their policy of "total war" to the tribes of the west just as they did to the Confederacy. In 1872, it was Ulysses S. Grant that established the National Park System in the United States when he signed the bill that created both the park system itself, and the first national park in the United States, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

Upon leaving the presidency, Grant embarked on an around the world trip with his wife Julia and two of their sons. During his travles Grant met all the world's royalty, and received lavish receptions and gifts (Grant even went to Scotland, and to Grantown, but a meeting with the Earl of Seafield who was the Chief of Clan Grant, and a trip to Castle Grant, was only missed due to a conflict in invitations. Grant thoroughly enjoyed his meeting with the Duke of Argyll and he talked often about his stay with the Duke, saying it was one of his fondest memories). Everywhere he went, Grant was treated as a conquering hero - he was rated on par with a Napoleon or Frederick the Great, by Europeans, and he was received with awe and respect wherever he went, much to the General's great surprise.

Late in life, Grant's wealth was wiped out in a devastating business venture, when a partner committed gross acts of fraud and left his partners, of which Grant's eldest son was one, and Grant himself a significant investor, completely bankrupt. Honest to a fault, and repaying every debt he ever held to anyone throughout his life, Grant was forced to borrow $150,000.00 from the Vanderbilts. Demonstrating the great affection Mr. Vanderbilt held for the general and former president, he wrote him a check without question, as a personal loan to Grant himself. Grant used the money to try to salvage the failing business venture. But when the depth of the fraud was discovered, the loan from Vanderbilt didn't even make a dent. Ulysses S. Grant was devastated. He sank into a depression that he never truly recovered from. Associates of the firm remember seeing the General sitting in his office the day the terrible news was discovered, staring at the floor, close to a complete breakdown.

To repay the loan from Vanderbilt, Grant would turn over almost all the personal gifts presented to him on his around the world journeys by the world's dignitaries. Many of these items were later donated to the Smithsonian Institute by Vanderbilt. It is a testament to the fiercely honest character of Grant, as a man, that he felt compelled to turn over everything of value, all his personal gifts and property, even his shoulder straps from the Vicksburg Campaign, to attempt to repay a debt he owed. This characteristic is attested to throughout Grant's life. Once, during his near impoverished state in St. Louis, James "Old Pete" Longstreet (Later one of Lee's most trusted Generals) met Grant on the street. Grant pressed a five dollar gold piece into his hand, as repayment for a debt nearly 15 years old. Longstreet tried to refuse it, telling Grant that he was more in need of it than himself, but Grant replied saying, "No, you must take it, Pete. I simply cannot live with anything in my possession that is not mine!"

Now destitute, and fearing for his family's future, U.S. Grant set to work on his personal memoirs in the hopes it might generate some income for his family. It was at this time that Grant was also diagnosed with the throat cancer that would claim his life. Ulysses S. Grant fought his final battle against death itself. Showing the same "Stand Fast" determination he had displayed throughout his life, racing against death, Grant worked feverishly on his memoirs as the cancer ate away at him. So sick some days he could barely sit in a chair, he continued to write. There were no drugs he could take for the pain. He couldn't tolerate a drop of alcohol. He refused morphine or other narcotics because they "fogged" his mind, as he put it, and thus he wouldn't be able to write. He was in excruciating pain while he wrote his memoirs. His suffering was terrible. Frequently he sat on the porch of his home at Mt. MacGregor, in upstate New York, to write, a knit cap on his head and a scarf around his throat. Old civil war veterans would salute him on his porch, as they passed by his home, not wanting to disturb him, but wanting to see their old commander one last time. His old friends and comrades would visit him at Mt. MacGregor in his last days and try to cheer the old General up with talk of days gone by. Even his former foes, from the Confederacy, would stop to visit and pay their respects to the man who had showed such magnanimity to them at their downfall. As one veteran said, "there were many tears shed".

Ulysses S. Grant died just three days after laying down his pen for the last time. His son Fred reached over and stopped the clock on the mantle at the moment of his death. 8:06 a.m., July 23, 1885. Then he returned to his father's bedside to stroke his forehead one last time. Across the country, church bells rang out, 63 times, once for each year of the general's life. The general's completed memoirs were published by his good friend, the author Mark Twain, and Twain personally presented Julia Dent Grant with a check for $200,000.00 as her advance for the book, the largest sum ever for a book at that time. Grant's last battle had been with death, and his courage and determination had saved his family from poverty. Eventually his memoirs went on to earn the family over $450,000.00, assuring their financial security. The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant have gone on to be considered one of the greatest, historical, military accounts ever written, and they hey have been called the "one of the greatest works of literature in American history". Mark Twain himself said they ranked above Caesar's Commentaries.

The General's funeral drew over 1.5 million people as it paraded, six miles, through New York City. Winfield Scott Hancock, called "Hancock the Superb", and the greatest corps commander in the Union Army, led Grant's funeral procession. Union and Confederate veterans were pall bearers (Union General William T. Sherman and Confederate General Joe Johnston among them) and hundreds of Confederate veterans were present in the funeral procession along with old veterans from Grant's armies. A newspaper the day after the funeral said of it all, "if the war didn't end in 1865, it certainly ended yesterday". Ulysses S. Grant was buried in a temporary mausoleum in New York's Riverside Park, until the permanent mausoleum called "Grant's Tomb" was later erected in its place. The words over the doorway of the mausoleum are taken from Grant's first presidential campaign, "Let Us Have Peace".

Ulysses S. Grant Quotes & Anecdotes

    Grant's Philosophy On War

  • "I don't believe in strategy in the popular understanding of the term. I use it to get up just as close to the enemy as practicable, with as little loss of life as possible. Then, up guards, and at 'em." -- In a conversation.


  • "I never held a council of war in my life. I heard what men had to say--the stream of talk at headquareters,--but I made up my own mind, and from my written orders my staff got their first knowledge of what was to be done. No living man knew of plans until they matured and decided." -- In a conversation.


  • "The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and as often as you can, and keep moving on." -- Ulysses S. Grant


  • Grant's "Stand Fast!" Determination and Fighting Spirit

  • "No other terms than unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works." -- To General Simon Bolivar Buckner at Fort Donelson, Feb. 16, 1862


  • "I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer." -- Note sent with Congressman Washburne from Spotsylvania, May 11, 1864, to General Halleck.


  • "If you see the President, tell him from me that whatever happens there will be no turning back." -- To journalist Henry Wing at the Battle of the Wilderness.


  • "Oh, I am heartily tired of hearing about what Lee is going to do. Some of you always seem to think he is suddenly going to turn a double somersault, and land in our rear and on both of our flanks at the same time. Go back to your command, and try to think what are we going to do ourselves, instead of what Lee is going to do." -- An uncharacteristic burst of temper from Grant when being reminded repeatedly of the powers of Robert E. Lee.


  • "The enemy hold our front in very strong force, and evince a strong determination to interpose between us and Richmond to the last. I shall take no backward steps."--A communique to General Halleck from the Wilderness


  • General William Tecumseh Sherman related a story about Grant, during the battle of Shiloh, that is the epitomy of the Clan Grant motto "Stand Fast!":

    At the end of the first day of the battle of Shiloh, the Union Army had suffered terrible losses after confederate forces under Albert Sydney Johnston had launched a surprise attack on their encampment at Pittsburgh Landing on the Tennessee River near the old church at Shiloh. The Union Army had seen their lines almost break during the most intense and terrible fight of the war to that point. Sherman's corps had taken it the hardest. It was one of the worst battles yet seen in the war. The Union commanders were convinced that they must retreat across the Tennessee River and regroup. Most of Grant's officers were in a panic.

    Thousands of men lay dying and injured on the battlefield and a terrible thunderstorm started during the night. Grant went out with the intent to sleep under an oak tree to escape the screams of the dying and injured men who had been moved to his headquarters which was used as a temporary hospital, but the pounding rain kept him awake. Sherman went to find him during the night, with the intent of telling Grant they were whipped and to ask about organizing a retreat.

    Sometime after midnight, amidst the flashes of lightning and the roll of thunder, he came upon Grant standing under the oak tree holding a lantern. The collar of Grant's long frock overcoat was pulled up around his ears, and the brim of his slouch hat was pulled down low, with the rain pouring off it. Grant had a lit cigar clamped between his teeth. Sherman wrote that he somehow felt "moved", in that moment, not bring up the idea of retreat and instead he said,

    "Well, Grant, we've had the Devil's own day, haven't we?"

    "Yes", said Grant, and took a puff on his cigar which lit up his face in the darkness, "Yes. Lick 'em tomorrow, though."

    (Instead of a retreat, Grant ordered an attack at first light, the next day, and he drove the Confederate forces from the field, resulting in one of the first major Union victories of the war.)



Quotes & Anecdotes About Ulysses S. Grant

    What Historians Thought of Grant

  • "Grant the general had many qualities but he had a thing that's very necessary for a great general. He had what they call "four o'clock in the morning courage." You could wake him up at four o'clock in the morning and tell him they had just turned his right flank and he would be as cool as a cucumber. Grant in the Wilderness, after that first night in the Wilderness, went to his tent, broke down, and cried very hard. Some of the staff members said they'd never seen a man so unstrung. Well, he didn't cry until the battle was over, and he wasn't crying when it began again the next day. It just shows you the tension that he lived with without letting it affect him... Grant, he's wonderful." -- Shelby Foote, famous Civil War Author and Historian


  • "There is no difficulty in composing a final evaluation of Ulysses S. Grant. With him there be no balancing and qualifying, no ifs and buts. He won battles and campaigns, and he struck the blow that won the war. No general could do what he did because of accident or luck or preponderance of numbers and weapons. He was a success because he was a complete general and a complete character. He was so complete that his countrymen have never been able to believe he was real...Grant was, judged by modern standards, the greatest general of the Civil War. He was head and shoulders above any other general on either side as an over-all strategist, as a master of global strategy. Fundamentally Grant was superior to Lee because in a modern total war he had a modern mind, and Lee did not. Lee was the last of the great old-fashioned generals, Grant was the first of the great moderns." -- T. Harry Williams, Military Historian


  • What His Friend's Thought of Him

  • "It will be a thousand years before Grant's character is fully appreciated. Grant is the greatest soldier of our time if not all time... he fixes in his mind what is the true objective and abandons all minor ones. He dismisses all possibility of defeat. he believes in himself and in victory. If his plans go wrong he is never disconcerted but promptly devises a new one and is sure to win in the end. Grant more nearly impersonated the American character of 1861-65 than any other living man. Therefore he will stand as the typical hero of the great Civil War in America." -- Union General William Tecumseh Sherman


  • "I'm a darned sight smarter than Grant; I know a great deal more about war, military histories, strategy and grand tactics than he does; I know more about organization, supply, and administration and about everything else than he does; but I'll tell you where he beats me and where he beats the world. He don't care a damn for what the enemy does out of his sight, but it scares me like hell." -- Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman


  • "I always knew when I was in trouble that Grant was thinking about me and would get me out. And he did." -- Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman


  • "Grant is a mystery, even to himself." - William Tecumseh Sherman


  • "Grant stood by me when I was crazy and I stood by him when he was drunk. And now we stand by each other always." -- Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman


  • "Grant is my man. And I stand by him to the end of the War!" - President Abraham Lincoln


  • "I cannot spare this man. He fights!" - President Abraham Lincoln


  • "[A group of Congressmen came to see Lincoln about having Grant removed due to rumors of drinking]"If it [drink] makes fighting men like Grant, then find out what he drinks and have a case sent to each of my other commanders!" - President Abraham Lincoln


  • "My Dear General: [letter to Grant after the fall of Vicksburg] I write this now as a grateful acknowledgement for the almost inestimable service you have done the country. I wish to say a word further. When you first reached the vicinity of Vicksburg, I thought you should do, what you finally did--march the troops back across the neck, run the batteries with the transports, and thus go below; and I never had any faith, except a general hope that you knew better than I, that the Yazoo Pass expedition and the like, could succeed. When you got below, and took Port Gibson, Grant Gulf and vicinity, I thought you should go down the river and join Gen. Banks; and when you turned northward East of the Big Black, I feared it was a mistake. I now wish to make the personal acknowledgement that you were right, and I was wrong." -- President Abraham Lincoln


  • "He doesn't worry and bother me. He isn't shrieking for reinforcements all the time. He takes what troops we can safely give him .. and does the best he can with what he has got." -- President Abraham Lincoln in a conversation about Grant


  • "He had somehow, with all his modesty, the rare faculty of controlling his superiors as well as his subordinates. He outfaced Stanton, captivated the President, and even compelled acquiescence or silence from that dread source of paralyzing power, the Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War." -- Union General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlin, hero of Little Round Top at Gettysburg


  • "Grant is rather under middle height, of a spare, strong build; light-brown hair, and short, light-brown beard. His eyes are of clear blue; forehead high; nose aquiline; jaw squarely set. His face had three expressions: deep thought; extreme determination; and great simplicity and calmness." -- Theodore Lyman, colonel in the Union army, in a letter to his wife in 1864.


  • "Grant habitually wears an expression as if he had determined to drive his head through a brick wall, and was about to do it. I have much confidence in him." -- Theodore Lyman, colonel in the Union army, in a letter to his wife in 1864.


  • "Ulysses don't scare worth a damn!" -- a soldier in the Army of the Potomac who witnessed an unflinching Grant sitting on a stump and writing orders while shells exploded around him during the Battle of the Wilderness


  • "Grant was one of the most remarkable lads I never knew. His mother was one of the most interesting and charming women I ever knew. She was exceedingly kind, ladylike, and mild-mannered. I suspect that Grant inherited his kindly disposition from her, for I think his father was rather aggressive. As a boy, Grant was kindness itself. I never saw him have a show of resentment and I do not believe that he ever felt a tinge of it. He was never rude, oppressive, or disagreeable to other children. He had perfect respect for everybody's feelings and a forbearance that was almost beyond Christianity." -- Daniel Ammen, schoolmate of Grant's in Georgetown, Ohio


  • What His Enemies Had To Say

  • "Sir, if you ever again presume to speak disrespectfully of General Grant in my presence, either you or I will sever his connection with this University." -- Gen. Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, to a peer at Washington University who had denigrated Grant in front of him.


  • When hearing Grant referred to as a "Military Accident," with no distinguishing merit, one who had achieved success through a combination of fortunate circumstances, Lee responded by saying, "Sir, your opinion is a very poor compliment to me. We all thought Richmond protected, as it was, by our splendid fortifications and defended by our army of veterans, and could not be taken. Yet Grant turned his face to our capital and never turned it away until we had surrendered. Now, I have carefully searched the military records of both ancient and modern history, and have never found Grant's superior as a general. I doubt his superior can be found in all history." -- General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia


  • "Grant is not a retreating man. Gentlemen, the Army of the Potomac has a head." -- General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia


  • "That man Grant will fight us every day, and every hour, until the end of this War." -- Confedereate General James "Old Pete" Longstreet


  • "Do you know Grant? [Longstreet asked of those who were denigrating and mocking Grant's capabilities]. Well, I do. I was in the Corps of Cadets with him at West Point for three years, I was present at his wedding, I served in the same army with him in Mexico, I have observed his methods of warfare in the West, and I believe I know him through and through; and I tell you that we cannot afford to underrate him and the army he now commands." -- Confederate General James "Old Pete" Longstreet (who was the best man at Grant's wedding to Julia Dent)


  • "There is one West Pointer, I think in Missouri, little known, and whom I hope the northern people will not find out. I mean Sam Grant. I knew him well at the Academy and in Mexico. I should fear him more than any of their officers I have yet heard of. He is not a man of genius, but he is clear-headed, quick and daring." -- Genereal Richard S. Ewell - One of Lee's generals, in a conversation with Lee in 1861


  • "We all form our preconceived ideas of men of whom we have heard a great deal, and I had certain definite notions as to the appearance and character of General Grant, but I was never so completely surprised in all my life as when I met him and found him a different person, so entirely different from my idea of him. His spare figure, simple manners, lack of all ostentation, extreme politeness, and charm of conversation were a revelation to me, for I had pictured him as a man of a directly opposite type of character, and expected to find in him only the bluntness of a soldier. Notwithstanding the fact that he talks so well, it is plain he has more brains than tongue. He is one of the most remarkable men I have ever met. He does not seem to be aware of his powers." -- Former Vice-President of the Confederacy Alexander Stephens who met Grant towards the end of the war


  • "Dear General: I have watched your movements from the hour you gave me my horse and sword and told me to go home and assist in making a crop.' I have been proud to see the nation do you honor. And now, dear Genl. in this the hour of your tribulation I weep that so brave, so magananimous a soul must suffer as you do .. and be assured that I am not the only ex-Confederate who sends his prayers daily to the Throne of Grace for the Grandest, the noblest, the bravest soldier and the Purist Statesman who ever graced the annals of history ... I am Dear General, Yours Most Affectly, A. M. Arnold, Rockbridge Bath, Va." -- A.M. Arnold, Confederate Veteran in a letter to Grant during his illness


  • Some Anecdotes

  • At the end of the Battle of the Wilderness, the Army of the Potomac received orders to move. All of the soldiers arranged themselves to move north, since they expected a retreat as all the previous commanders of the Army had done before Grant. When Grant rode through the men of the 2nd Corps, and the soldiers realized they were instead heading south towards Richmond, a huge cheer went up for Grant.


  • At the Battle of the Wilderness, Grant had a teamster tied to a post for six hours for mistreating a horse.


  • Ordering the second charge, at Cold Harbor, is the only mistake Grant ever admitted to making, during the Civil War.


  • During his around the world journeys after leaving the Presidency, Grant was in Scotland and accepted a bet that no one could make him break his famous "Poker Face". Many things were tried to in the hopes of getting a reaction. Finally, a Grant clansman in the room shouted the Grant war cry of "Stand Fast, Craigellachie!". Grant broke out in a huge smile and he happily paid up the bet.


  • It is said that Grant carried a small piece of the Grant tartan with him throughout the Civil War.


  • The Grant's were obviously aware of their family's ties to the Scottish Clan Grant. A painting of the Grant family done about 1867 or 1868 shows their little boy, Jesse Grant, holding a croquet mallet and he is dressed in a kilt, complete with Argyll jackett with gauntlet cuffs, a fly plaid, and checked stockings.


  • While in Scotland during his around the world journey, Grant was offered a "demonstration" of a new game called "Golf", which he had never heard of. Unfortunately the person chosen to demonstrate the game for Grant was a terrible novice golfer.

    After placing the ball on the tee, the man proceeded to attempt to hit the ball numerous times, sending up huge divots in the process.

    After observing this for a while, Grant said,

    "The game appears to be great exercise. But tell me, what is the purpose of the little white ball?"



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