“Ulysses S. Grant’s Military Career” sample essay

Ulysses S. Grant (April 27, 1822 – July 23, 1885) was a leading Union general in the American Civil War and the eighteenth President of the United States of America (1869 – 1877). As an army commander, Grant was a remarkable strategist who acted with a characteristic cool determination. As an inexperienced politician, in many cases he turned out to be an indecisive and controversial president involved in several notorious scandals (“Ulysses S. Grant” ) Biography Ulysses S. Grant was born in Point Pleasant, Ohio, and grew up in the neighboring village of Georgetown in Brown County.

His father, Jesse Root Grant, was a tanner and his mother, Hannah Simpson Grant, was from Pennsylvania. With his wife Julia Boggs Dent who was the daughter of a slave owner and whom he married on August 22, 1848, they had four children (“Ulysses S. Grant” ). In 1843 he graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point with excellent grades in mathematics, enjoying success with horsemanship, showing interest in novels and art, but not in a military career. Grant gained his first military experience in the Mexican-American War (1846 – 1848).

After the war, he remained in the army but because of a poor salary he could not afford to take his wife and children with him to the West coast. Business ventures that Grant tried in order to better support his family all failed. Apparently, these family difficulties and the climate’s dreariness were the reason of his dependence on alcohol. In July 1854, Grant resigned from the military service (“Ulysses S. Grant” ). As a civilian, from 1854 to 1858 Grant labored on his wife’s farm in Missouri.

However, the farm did not prosper and he then started his real estate business which failed as well. Humiliated by all these failures, Grant asked his father to employ him in his leather shop in Galena, Illinois, where he worked as an assistant until the outbreak of the American Civil War. When the war broke in “Page # 2” 1861, Grant was appointed colonel of the 21st Illinois Infantry. When it ended, President Johnson appointed him General of the Army of The United States (“Ulysses S. Grant” ; “Ulysses S.

Grant” ). Grant was often opposed to President Johnson’s policies and had a bad working relationship with him, particularly in what concerned President’s moderate policies toward the Southern states. He was nominated by the Republican Party for the Presidency in 1868 and won the election against Horatio Seymour, former New York governor (“Ulysses S. Grant” ). Grant was inexperienced in political terms and governed his Cabinet in this same way as he had run the U.

S. Army. Although personally Grant was an honest man, his administration was involved in a series of corruption scandals (“Ulysses S. Grant” ). Further scandals followed when he was re-elected in 1872, most notably Credit Mobilier, the Belknap scandal, or the Whiskey Ring (“Ulysses S. Grant” ). When Grant retired from the Presidency in 1877, he visited major countries in Europe and Asia and was acknowledged as a great hero by their leaders.

Old Guard Republicans (Grant’s friends in the Republican Party) even tried, although unsuccessfully, to nominate him for a third term in the presidential election of 1880. A financial company in which Grant was a partner went bankrupt. Trying to better provide for his family, Grant began to write his Personal Memoirs which earned about $450, 000. Suffering from painful throat cancer, he died in 1885 shortly after he completed the last page of the memoirs (“Ulysses S. Grant” ). Grant’s military career Ulysses S.

Grant’s military career started when he was 17 years old. He was nominated cadet through Thomas L. Hamer’s efforts, his U. S. Congressman, and entered the United States “Page # 3” Military Academy at West Point, New York. Hamer knew that the cadet’s mother’s maiden name was Simpson and mistakenly nominated him as Ulysses Simpson Grant instead of Hiram Ulysses Grant which was his correct name. He unsuccessfully tried protesting this change and later had to adopt the new form of his name with middle initial (“Ulysses S. Grant” ).

In Grant’s opinion, the Military Academy was distasteful and he hoped that Congress would abolish it and that he would be freed (“Ulysses Simpson Grant”). Grant impressed few of his teachers and ranked 21st in a class of 39 students when he graduated from the Military Academy at West Point in 1843. At the Academy, Grant had a reputation for being a fearless and expert horseman (“Ulysses S. Grant” ). But instead of pursuing his career in cavalry, he was assigned as a regimental quartermaster and was in charge of supplies, accommodation, and equipment (“Ulysses S.

Grant” ). Mexican-American War Serving in the Mexican-American War which lasted from 1846 to 1848 under the command of Generals Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott, lieutenant Grant, in spite of his assignment as a quartermaster, was very close to the lines of military action and took part in the battles of Paolo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, Monterrey, and Veracruz. In the battle of Monterrey he offered voluntarily to carry important documents on horseback through a street in the line of enemy sniper fire.

In another battle Grant rushed into the open to rescue his friend Fred Dent who was lying on the battlefield with a wounded leg, and brought him to safety. He was brevetted for bravery at Chapultepec and Molino Del Rey (“Ulysses S. Grant” ). Besides bravery, Grant was extremely interested in the art of war and observed closely the decisions and actions of his colonels and generals learning to judge and trying to understand better their strategies and tactics. In his memoirs Grant later confessed that the Mexican-American war

“Page # 4” was unjust as it was waged by a stronger nation against its weaker neighbor (“Ulysses S. Grant” ). When the war between the United States and Mexico ended in 1848, Grant was assigned to several different positions in the U. S. army. He served for some time in Mexico, a country which he admired greatly, and then was assigned to the West coast (“Ulysses Simpson Grant”). In 1853, he was moved to Fort Vancouver in the Washington Territory to serve as a quartermaster in the 4th U. S. Infantry regiment.

In 1854, he was promoted to captain and commanded Company F, 4th Infantry, at Fort Humboldt in California (“Ulysses S. Grant” ). But on July 31, 1854, Grant suddenly decided to resign from the army offering no clear explanation for his decision. According to some rumors which were never confirmed, Grant was found drunk on duty and then offered the choice by his commanding officer, Robert C. Buchanan, between resignation and court-martial. Biographers suggest that Grant’s drinking and resignation can be explained by the fact that he was in a state of profound depression.

Whatever the reasons of his resignation, the War Department stated that nothing stood against Grant’s good name (“Ulysses S. Grant” ). American Civil War With the outbreak of the Civil War in America, when in 1861 President Abraham Lincoln made a call for 75,000 volunteers, Grant took part in the recruitment of a company of volunteers and went with it to Springfield, the capital of Illinois. In Springfield, Illinois Governor Richard Yates made him responsible for the recruitment and training of volunteers, a position which he accepted and accomplished with remarkable efficiency.

In June 1861, Grant was appointed by Yates colonel of the 21st Illinois Infantry which was considered undisciplined and rebellious (“Ulysses S. Grant” ). Grant and his troops were deployed to Missouri where they had to provide protection for the “Page # 5” Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad. On August 1, 1861, Grant’s forces took control of Missouri by forcibly removing its pro-Confederate Governor Claiborne Jackson. In August 1861, President Lincoln, being lobbied by Congressman Elihu Washburne, appointed Grant brigadier general.

And by the end of the same month, Western Theater commander Major General John C. Fremont selected Grant to be the commander of the critical District of Southeast Missouri (“Ulysses S. Grant” ). When the Confederates seized Columbus, Kentucky, violating thus the state’s neutrality, Grant took the initiative to occupy the Ohio River town of Paducah, Kentucky. In November 1861, he fought his first battle at Belmont, Missouri, against Confederate Brig. Gen. Gideon J. Pillow. But this battle turned out to be an indecisive action (“Ulysses S.

Grant” ). Three months later, with the aid of Andrew H. Foote’s Navy gunboats, Grant successfully captured Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River which were two major Confederate fortresses. At Donelson, Pillow launched a surprise attack on Grant’s army. Grant counter-attacked with the cool determination which characterized his leadership in all future battles and won the battle forcing the two senior Confederate commanders, General Floyd and Pillow, to flee. Brig. Gen. Simon B.

Buckner, the Confederate commander who was also an old friend of Grant’s and his classmate at West Point surrendered with more than 12,000 of his men under Grant’s conditions of “no terms except unconditional and immediate surrender”. The capture of the two enemy forts and so many war prisoners was the first major Union success in the war and gained Grant national recognition as well as the nickname “unconditional surrender” Grant. Lincoln, who needed talented generals in his army decided to promote Grant to major general of volunteers (“Ulysses S. Grant” ). It was perhaps because of Grant’s important victories that he found himself at odds with Major General Henry W. Halleck, his superior, who did not like him from the very beginning and believed Grant was an alcoholic. In March 1862, Halleck relieved Grant of field command after the “Page # 6” latter’s visit to Nashville, Tennessee, to meet with Don Carlos Buell, Halleck’s rival. However, two weeks later Halleck had to restore Grant after President Lincoln’s intervention in the dispute (“Ulysses S. Grant” ).

In early April 1862, Confederate Generals P. G. T. Beauregard and Albert Sidney launched a violent attack at Shiloh, which surprised Grant and shocked the Union forces. However, Grant was determined not to retreat, managed to stabilize his line, and on the second day he organized counterattacks and won the battle. This battle turned out to be the bloodiest one in the U. S. history up to that time as the victory at Shiloh cost over 23,000 casualties. Major General Halleck responded to the disorganized fighting by relegating Grant to the position of second-in-command for the battle at Corinth, Mississippi.

Halleck took command of the Union forces in the field himself. This reversal resulted in Grant’s decision to resign. But he remained in the army after William T. Sherman’s intervention who was his subordinate and a close friend. On June 10, 1862, Grant became again commander of the Army of West Tennessee after Halleck’s promotion to general-in-chief of the Union Army. He commanded the army in the victorious battles at Corinth and Iuka (“Ulysses S. Grant” ).

Preparing for the seizure of the Mississippi River fortress of Vicksburg, Mississippi, in the winter of 1862-1863 Grant organized and conducted several unsuccessful operations to access the city through the region’s bayous. Despite this failure, Grant’s strategy to capture Vicksburg in 1863 is considered one of the most remarkable strategies in world military history. Grant deployed his forces down the west bank of the Mississippi and by crossing the river he moved inland. His troops began to operate in the territory of the Confederates that were commanded by John C. Pemberton.

They moved swiftly and tried not to give the enemy an opportunity to concentrate their troops against the Union army. Grant moved his forces eastward and took the city of Jackson, Mississippi, and also captured the rail line to Vicksburg. In this way, Grant’s army prevented the Confederates from sending reinforcements to the city’s garrison. After Grant’s victory in the battle of Champion Hill, the Confederates had to retreat inside the city. Grant was aware that the fortifications at “Page # 7” Vicksburg were impregnable and that any assaults against them would be futile. So he surrounded the city and started a six-week siege.

On July 4, 1863, Pemberton decided to surrender to Grant. This defeat for the Southern cause was devastating and became the turning point of the Civil War as the Confederacy was split in two and the Union army also won the battle of Gettysburg the previous day. After this crucial victory, Grant was promoted by President Lincoln to major general in the regular army. The president also declared that he would support Grant in all his efforts until the end of the Civil War. Some historians go so far as to point out that Grant’s brilliant military results and strategies may be compared only with those of Napoleon (“Ulysses S.

Grant” ). After the battle of Chickamauga, Confederate Braxton Bragg’s troops surrounded the Federals under General William S. Rosecrans’ command on three sides at Chattanooga, Tennessee. Chattanooga was part of the Military Division of Mississippi in whose command Grant was placed on October 17, 1863. He immediately replaced Rosecrans with George H. Thomas and organized a new supply route to Chattanooga (the Cracker Line plan) which improved the supply of the Army of the Cumberland.

Reprovisioned and reinforced, Union troops went on the offensive in late November. The victory in the battle of Chattanooga enabled the Union army to invade Atlanta and Georgia (“Ulysses S. Grant” ). President Lincoln was impressed by Grant’s consecutive successes and his willingness and ability to win and appointed him lieutenant general in the regular army. And on March 12, 1864, Grant was awarded the highest rank in his military career – general-in-chief of all the armies of the United States (“Ulysses S. Grant” ). General-in-chief’s concepts of total war In March 1864, Grant appointed Major General William T. Sherman commander of all the Union forces in the West and moved to Virginia where he concentrated on devising a plan to destroy the army of Northern Virginia and take the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. “Page # 8” Grant was aware that if the first objective was accomplished, the successful outcome of the second objective would follow automatically. His strategy was based on a coordinated strike at the Confederacy’s positions from multiple directions.

According to his plan, some troops would go on the offensive against Lee near Richmond; other commanders would simultaneously invade Georgia and capture Atlanta, cut off enemy railroad supply lines in West Virginia, and capture Mobile, Alabama. Since then, Grant has been considered to be the first commander in military history to devise such a coordinated strategy. He was also the first general to understand that the destruction of the economic infrastructure which supplies an enemy’s armies is as important in the war as tactical victories on the battlefield (“Ulysses S. Grant” ). In the Overland Campaign Grant fought against Robert E. Lee, one of the greatest Confederate commanders. The campaign began on May 4, 1864, with the Army of the Potomac crossing the Rapidan River and marching into an area that was known as the Wilderness and whose difficult terrain the Confederates used to their advantage. The battle of the Wilderness lasted for two days, was very stubborn and bloody, and resulted in heavy losses on both sides bringing advantage to no one. It was followed by similar unsuccessful battles in Virginia but Grant, ignoring the setback, ordered an offensive to destroy Lee’s flanks.

His goal was to wear down Lee’s army and destroy it by fighting constant battles. However, after both Sigel’s and Butler’s campaigns at Shenandoah and James River failed, Lee was reinforced with troops that defended against these assaults (“Ulysses S. Grant” ). As the campaign continued, Lee beat Grant to Spotsylvania, Virginia. During the battle of Spotsylvania Court House that lasted fourteen days, Hancock’s 2nd Corps’ massive assault on May 12 somewhat broke Lee’s line and resulted in the capture of thirty artillery pieces and 4,000 prisoners.

Most of Lee’s previous victories owed their success to the offensive with surprise maneuvers and fierce assaults. In the Overland Campaign, despite growing Union casualties, Grant “Page # 9” forced Lee to constantly fight on the defensive. In this battle Grant’s forces were well supplied and considerably outnumbered the Confederates while Lee had no opportunity to regroup his troops (“Ulysses S. Grant” ). However, the battle of Cold Harbor turned out to be perhaps the most controversial one in Grant’s military career.

On June 3, 1864, he launched a massive assault without organizing adequate reconnaissance on the enemy’s defensive positions. The consequences were horrific: about 7,000 killed and wounded within the first hour and over 12,000 casualties for the day. The Confederate losses were much smaller. Later Grant would write in his memoirs that he regretted having ordered this assault which resulted in such heavy losses. But he continued to move on and keep up the pressure. Finally, his troops crossed the James River (“Ulysses S. Grant” ). When Grant arrived at Petersburg, Virginia, he failed to capture the rail junction city because of the indecisive actions of William Smith, his subordinate. All of Union assaults over the next three days to seize the city failed. When on June 18, 1864 Lee’s reinforcements arrived, Grant was left with no choice but to besiege the city (“Ulysses S. Grant” ). A small Confederate army commanded by Lieutenant General Jubal A. Early detached from Lee’s main forces with the purpose of disengaging Grant’s forces.

The Confederates invaded the Shenandoah Valley and came closely to the outskirts of Washington, D. C. , and, unable to capture the city, simply threatened its inhabitants. This situation was disadvantageous to Abraham Lincoln and his reelection prospects in the forthcoming presidential election in the fall (“Ulysses S. Grant” ). However, by September Grant’s coordinated strategy showed results. After Sherman seized Atlanta, Grant was able to send Sheridan to fight against Early’s small army.

In late November, both using Grant’s strategy of total war they destroyed the economic infrastructure of the “Page # 10” Shenandoah Valley, Georgia, and the Carolinas (“Ulysses S. Grant” ). In early April 1865, Lee evacuated Richmond under Grant’s firm pressure and on April 9 followed Lee’s army’s surrender at Appomattox Court House. As Grant was concerned about the issue of easing the tensions between the warring sides and kept in mind the need for the future reconciliation between all the states, he offered generous terms of surrender which did not hurt much Southern pride.

A few weeks later the American Civil War was over. Shortly after Lee’s surrender, Grant received the sad news of Abraham Lincoln’s death, his greatest champion (“Ulysses S. Grant” ). Some generals often called Grant’s fighting style “that of a bulldog”, a term which simplifies to a great extent his military strategy and tactics. He often ordered direct assaults when the enemy itself was on the offensive. On the one hand, these tactics wore down enemy forces and inflicted on them considerable losses.

But on the other hand, they caused heavy casualties for Grant’s troops as well. That is why the general-in-chief was often denounced by many in the North as a “butcher”. Grant persevered in continuing his sometimes controversial military strategies and Lincoln refused to replace him in spite of pressure and tensions within the government. All in all, Grant won all his campaigns despite failures in some battles in 1864. As an army commander, Grant never underestimated the significance of supply lines and understood the importance of continuous advances on the enemy positions despite failures and casualties.

His strategic genius consisted in the infliction of widespread losses on the enemy until the enemy breaks (“Ulysses S. Grant” ). Most military historians give Grant high marks as a skilled tactician, but as a strategist he receives slightly lesser marks (“Ulysses S. Grant” ). After the end of the Civil War, in July 1866, President Andrew Johnson promoted Grant to the rank of General of the Army of the United States which was just created and is equivalent of a “Page # 11”four-star general in the U. S. Army at present (“Ulysses S. Grant” ).


1. Ulysses S. Grant. 24 February 2008 2. Ulysses S. Grant. 24 Febraury 2008 3. Ulysses S. Grant. 24 Febraury 2008 4. Ulysses S. Grant. 24 Febraury 2008 5. Ulysses Simpson Grant. 24 Febraury 2008