Ulysses Simpson Grant was victorious war leader in the American civil war and later served for two terms as the President of the United States of America. He enjoyed much of popularity in the American public life on account of his bold performance in the battlefield and earning victory for the federal forces in the Civil War. During the course of the war, with the display of his extraordinary military knowledge and talent, he commanded the federal forces receiving frequent promotions later achieving the highest rank in the U.S. army as the supreme commander of the Union forces. He implemented strategies that mobilised the union army successfully concluding the Civil War in 1865.
However the two terms of his presidency were comparatively less successful and almost all his attempts directed towards reconstruction and establishing social and economic stability in the states failed. The attempts to harmonise the society ultimately failed leading to an increasing divide in between the whites and blacks.
The role in the civil war
During the earlier phase of the civil war Grant worked in the state of Illinois where he mustered in volunteers in the Galena regiment and later took it to the state capital, Springfield. s In the capital he continued mustering more individuals in the army and hence raising many regiments. Taking note of this acts of grant, and impressed with his performance, he was appointment as a colonel of the Illinois volunteer regiment. He inculcated military discipline in the newly recruited soldiers of the regiment. Grant, successfully as a leader, led these regiments against pro-Confederate guerrillas in Missouri and achieved initial success. Taking note of his exceptional performance, and on account of the leadership skills that he displayed, he was raised as brigadier general.
Grant was successful in winning some of the earlier victories for the Union forces with the capture of Fort Donelson, on the Cumberland River and Fort Henry on the Tennessee River. The unconditional surrender of confederate Brigadier General Simon B. Buckner, along with his 14,000 men made Grant a national figure almost overnight, and he was nicknamed “Unconditional Surrender”. With this victory, he gained the promotion to major general of volunteers. However, with the spiritless and inefficient display at the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee in April 1862, Grant earned the anger of the men in north. Later in 1862, Lincoln promoted Grant as the commander of all Union forces in western Tennessee and northern Mississippi. Besides leading his own Army of the Tennessee, Grant now had at its command, the Army of the Ohio.
Grant worked out strategies for attack on Vicksburg in Mississippi, in the autumn of 1862. That was one of the Confederate strongholds on the Mississippi River. Having failed in several attempts during the winter, Grant devised a new strategy of attack. In April 1863, marching his army towards south along the west side of the river, he took position on a point well below the heavily defended city. There, with the aid of the Union river fleet, he crossed the river and began a swift march eastward. On May 12, 1862 he captured Jackson, Mississippi, the capital of the state, directly east of Vicksburg. Then he turned west toward Vicksburg.
Later, in the mid of May at Champion\'s Hill and Big Black River, Grant defeated General John C. Pemberton, commander of the Confederate forces defending Vicksburg, and drove him to prepared positions within the city. Grant\'s assault on the main Confederate works at Vicksburg failed, however, and he resorted to a siege or isolation of the city from supplies or reinforcements to compel it to surrender. The siege lasted six weeks. On July 4, 1863, bottled up on land and prevented by Union forces from escaping across the river, Pemberton surrendered his 30,000 men to Grant. With effective war strategies and able administration, he was able to convert this was in to victory, one of his greatest military successes. With this victory, Grant was again promoted as a major general in the army.
During the crisis in Chattanooga, where the confederate army of General Braxton Bragg bottled up the federal army under William S. Rosecrans, Grant was assigned the task to handle the crisis and for the same purpose, he was given a promotion to the supreme commander in the west. The skilful manoeuvring of the army in the war of Chattanooga let to the retreat of the confederate forces and creating a stronghold of the federal army. Later, in March 1964 Lincoln nominated Grant as the supreme commander of all the union forces. During the rest of the war he constantly communicated with Lincoln, either by personal conference or by telegraph. He was the first of Lincoln\'s generals in chief to have the president\'s full confidence. On account of Grant\'s military knowledge, leadership, and strength of will, Lincoln held great respect for him and he gave him freedom for planning the future conduct of the war.
Grant successfully set up an efficient command organisation of 17 field commands that comprised of around 500,000 men under arms. Having appointed General Halleck as the chief of staff, he successfully directed the armed forces for effective action. He developed strategies to follow the southern armies to challenge them rather than directing the forces to capture cities or territories. With effective co ordination of the Union armies and the river fleet, he applied relentless pressure against the southern forces and wore them down. With reliance on the economic strength of the union, he managed to supply the federal armies with fresh equipments and troops while he kept the southern armies from receiving resources of their own.
He worked out effective war strategies to effectively defend the attacks performed by the confederates. To engage the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by General Robert E. Lee Grant ordered the Army of the Potomac to take positions against them. Planning for another attack, Grant ordered the western armies to take on the Confederate Army of the West and sweep eastward through the South in a wide circling movement. During this period, he himself accompanied the Army of the Potomac, commanded by General George Gordon Meade.
In the month of May, Grant led the Army of the Potomac across the Rapidan River in Virginia, where from May 5 to May 6 he engaged Lee\'s army in the swampy, wooded sector known as the Wilderness. He underwent appalling losses during the coming period. For the next month, Grant\'s men fought a series of battles against Lee\'s men, climaxing at Cold Harbor on June 3, where they suffered still more colossal casualties in comparison to the confederates army. On that day alone Grant lost 7000 men of his forces. His total losses for the month were nearly 60,000. Grant became infamous for his actions in that month and as a result he was called “Butcher” Grant by many people in the north. After Cold Harbour, the confederate army of Lee took up a strongly entrenched position at Richmond, the capital of Virginia and of the Confederacy. Altering his strategy in this condition, Grant now instead of making a direct attack on Lee\'s well-defended position, decided to proceed against Petersburg, the railroad and supply link between Richmond and the rest of the South. A great assault from June 15 to June 18 failed to take Petersburg, and Grant restrained to undertake siege operations of the city.
From the middle of June 1864 to early April 1865, Grant besieged Petersburg. At the same time he cut Lee\'s transportation lines and sent out flanking expeditions against the Southern forces. While Grant employed the strategy of starving out Lee’s men, month after month, he ordered his generals to carry out the other part of his strategy. General Thomas destroyed the Confederate Army of Tennessee at Nashville. General Philip H. Sheridan devastated the Shenandoah Valley, and General Sherman marched through Georgia and South Carolina, destroying everything in his path that could be of use to the Confederate Army ultimately diminishing all the available resources of the opposite side.
Sheridan joined Grant in Virginia By the end of March 1865, and on March 29, with an army of more than 100,000 under his immediate command; Grant began the final campaign against Lee. The end came on April 9, at the village of Appomattox Court House, Virginia. There, at Lee\'s request, Grant met with his defeated foe to discuss terms for the surrender. Because Lee was now commander in chief of all the Confederate armies, his surrender effectively ended the war and earning for Grant great respect at home. The surrender terms offered by Grant were generous. He allowed Lee\'s men to keep their horses and mules, and he shared his army\'s rations with the starving Confederates.
The entry in politics
With the end of the war, Grant became in charge of the U.S. Army and directly answerable to President Andrew Johnson and to Secretary of War Stanton. In 1866 he was awarded the grade of full general. He supervised the demobilization of the army after the war and administration of the Reconstruction acts, aimed at restoring the Southern states to full membership in the Union and restoring the balance between the free blacks and the dominant whites.
Because of Grant\'s great popularity as a war hero, both President Johnson and his rivals, the Radical faction of the Republican Party, courted his favour. With these interventions in politics, he launched his career in the American politics, with little ambition or taste for political life. Grant favoured a moderate Reconstruction program for the defeated South and to oppose the punitive policy of the Radical Republicans. He travelled with Johnson when he went around the country to stimulate public support for his program for the reconstruction. In 1867, when Johnson suspended Stanton as secretary of war, he gave the post to Grant. Grant resigned, however, later on and discontinued the position in the office.
With further deteriorating relations with the president Johnson, Grant marked the beginning of his association with the Radical Republicans. Until that time he had no fixed affiliation with any political party. In his further political success, he later assumed the office of the president of America with little efforts to win the elections. A great variety of complex internal problems confronted the nation when during this time. Paramount among these was the Reconstruction of the South and the reestablishment of relations between the seceded states and the federal government.
The role in reconstruction
At the end of the Civil War, most of the factories, farms, and cities in the South had been devastated. With the process of Reconstruction, taken from 1865 to 1877 the federal government began to rebuild the war-torn South. The government also sought to restore the previous emotional relationship of the South with the Union
Grant’s attempts for reconstruction were largely found to be incompetent. After a visit to the South in 1865 he had made a report to President Johnson supporting Johnson\'s moderation policy. In his first months as president, Grant listened to the counsel of moderation. He smoothed the road to congressional legislation that would speed the readmission of Virginia, Mississippi, and Texas to the Union. The other Southern states had been readmitted earlier.
By 1870, however, most of the moderate Republicans had shifted their views toward those held by the Radicals. Reconstruction was not working as intended and in spite of the fact that the new governments of the South elected by blacks and Unionist whites had ended restrictions against blacks and extended social services, most white Southerners refused to accept the changes. Incidences of violence against the blacks were recorded and attempts were made to keep the black voters away from the polls to ensure the election of white candidates.
In retaliation, Grant approved the punitive Force Acts of 1870 and 1871 to curb the violence. Under this act, it was made a federal crime to interfere with civil rights, and the president was authorized to declare martial law where there was severe disorder. Grant managed to control the crime against the blacks to some extent. There was little more he could do, however, because the army was very small, and the North was too exhausted by the Civil War to be willing to build it up again. However, by 1876 in spite of the attempts of Grant, most blacks had been driven from the polls, with little success of the federal administration, the divide between the blacks and whites would increasingly grow. The expected results for the program of reconstruction did not achieve the expected ends.
Grant was known for his discipline in the army, the courage to take bold steps, the determination to complete the desired tasks and the intelligence to effectively plan out and implement war strategies against the enemy. Although committing a couple of mistakes at the battle of Shiloh and the Cold Harbour which earned him great anger and opposition at home, Grant was known for his skilful tactics at war and the will with which he manoeuvred the actions of the forces. He was one of the most favourite generals of President Lincoln on account of his skilful military tactics and the will to complete monumental tasks.
Although Grant would later serve two terms as president of the United States during the phase of reconstruction, it was probably in the command of his country\'s army that his career found its true climax. He was a keen judge of military men and knew how to elicit their best efforts. If he was not a brilliant tactician, he did understand modern mass warfare. He could plan and carry out campaigns involving large armies and complex supporting operations.
However the period of his occupancy of the office of president proved to be less effective. The attempts towards reconstruction achieved little success and Grant found it increasingly difficult to establish balance in the war torn southern states. The equality of white and black which Lincoln dreamt of was achieved to a limited amount ultimately leading to a scenario in which the blacks were little better than being slaves but did not enjoy all the rights as full fledged citizens.
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6 McPherson, James. Struggle for a vast future: American civil war, Osprey publishing,1954.