The Emergence of Ulysses S. Grant

By Kingseed, Cole C. | Army, November 2011 | Go to article overview

The Emergence of Ulysses S. Grant


Kingseed, Cole C., Army


"It is men who wait to be selected, and not those who seek, from whom we may always expect the most efficient service."

-GEN Ulysses S. Grant

LTG Ulysses S. Grant emerged from the American Civil War in resplendent glory. As the victor at Fort Donelson, Vicksburg, Chattanooga and Appomattox, Grant has long since been enshrined in the pantheon of American military commanders. Though Grant's critics claimed his victories were achieved at the price of excessive casualties, few could argue with the results Grant achieved on the battlefield. More than any other Union commander, Grant justified President Abraham Lincoln's confidence when he appointed Grant the commanding general of all Union armies in March 1864.

Could the war have been shortened had Lincoln assigned Grant command of the Army of the Potomac and ordered him to bring Confederate GEN Robert E. Lee to battle in 1863? Why did Lincoln endure a series of mediocre commanders in the Eastern Theater when Grant had already demonstrated that he was willing to fight the enemy on the very terms that the President was urging his commanders to employ? If Lincoln was so politically and militarily astute, as leading historian james McPherson claims, why did it take the President three years to appoint Grant to senior command?

No one in the U.S. Army could possibly have imagined that Ulysses S. Grant would rise to such a prominent position during the war. Grant was appointed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1839, but he later confessed in his personal memoirs, "A military life had no charms for me, and I had not the faintest idea of staying in the army even if I should be graduated, which I did not expect." His academic record was undistinguished, in part because Cadet Grant discovered that he "did not take hold of [his] studies with avidity [and] rarely ever read over a lesson a second time during [his] entire cadetship."

In December 1839, Congress considered a bill abolishing the Military Academy- Grant viewed these discussions as an honorable way to obtain a discharge, and he "read the debates with much interest" and "growing impatience at the delay in taking action." The resolution failed, and somehow Grant managed to graduate, in the lower half of his class. His single achievement at West Point had been to set a high-jump record on a horse that no other cadet could ride.

Initially assigned to the Fourth Infantry Regiment at Jefferson Barracks, Mo., Grant performed weli enough in the Mexican War to earn several brevet promotions. He resigned from the Army in disgrace for drunkenness in 1854 and seemed unable to hold a job for any prolonged period. Thirty-nine years old and working in his father's leather goods store in Galena, III, when the Civil War began, Grant immediately volunteered for service. "J /eej myself competent to command a regiment, if the President, in his judgment, should see fit to intrust one to me," he informed the Army's adjutant general on May 24, 1861. Because of Grant's reputation in the Old Army, the adjutant general did not reply. Considering Grant's past record of service in the peacetime Army and his repeated failures in civilian life, few Regular Army officers would have agreed with Grant's own assessment of his martial potential. How, then, did he succeed when the war commenced? Grant owed his commission as colonel and subsequent promotion to brigadier general to the good services of Illinois Congressman Elihu B. Washburne and Governor Richard Yates, who were scraping the bottom of the barrel for officers capable of mustering the undisciplined mass of Illinois volunteers into state service. As Galena's sole West Point graduate. Grant got the job as mustering officer. Grant's own father suffered no illusion of his son's potential, telling Grant when he learned of the promotion to brigadier general, "Be careful, Ulyss, you're a general now; it's a good job, don't lose it." In the words of historian McPherson, Grant remained at best "a man of no reputation and little promise. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Emergence of Ulysses S. Grant
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.