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