"Damn the fellow, he is a mere pounder after all!" This is not Thomas about Grant, but rather Wellington's suprised assessment of Napoleone Buonaprte during the battle of Waterloo, 18 June 1815. If you want to study the antecedents of modern U.S. military doctrine, forget the campaigns of Buonaparte (and by extension Grant). Start with the man who first beat Ney, Soult, Masséna, Marmont, Victor and Jourdan, and finally the Corsican thug himself. Then study the campaigns of George H. Thomas, the rock and the hammer of a lot of places besides Chickamauga. Thomas, and not Grant, founded the modern U.S. army. Where would we be without it? Beware of the pounders who would sent (not lead) you to glory.
The Grant gang was a mutual promotion group which gradually formed around Halleck during the Civil War. It is not clear when Halleck began to scale down his own ambitions and decided to promote the fortunes of Grant, his most successful subordinate commander. In any case, by the battle of Shiloh at the latest, Halleck had become Grant's "mentor" and shielded him from the public outcry over the unprecedented battle casualties. At the same time he disciplined Grant for having mismanaged the battle of Shiloh. Among many other things, Grant had not used the materials for fortifications which Halleck had sent to Pittsburgh Landing. So Halleck caused Grant indescribable suffering by naming him only second-in-command with no responsibilities during the subsequent Corinth campaign, effectively sidelining him, and by apparently favoring Thomas who had taken over Grant's Army of the Tennessee. Grant grew sullen and protested, and Halleck had to remind Grant in veiled but sharp terms what was at stake for him.* Earlier Halleck had also protected Sherman when he was transferred in disgrace from Kentucky to Saint Louis where he continued his erratic behavior. Certainly Sherman's political connections (brother a US senator, father-in-law a former US senator) made him a useful ally to both Halleck and Grant. Halleck was struggling to achieve predominance over Buell in Kentucky who, at first, held equal rank with Halleck, and Grant was working assiduously to gain ascendence over any possible rival for advancement within his own department, as Rosecrans discovered. Equally clear is that Halleck was not acting independently, but was probably the go-between for politicians and financiers whose actual influence on the conduct of the Union war effort will perhaps never be documented. Running up to the battle of Vicksburg, Halleck continued to protect Grant by secretly shunting troops to Grant troops meant for McClernand. By the battle of Chattanooga Halleck had subordinated himself to Grant's designs as can be seen in his active participation in the fabrication of the record of a Grant-managed victory over Bragg. For confirmation of this see Halleck's gratuitous (he wasn't even there) report on the battle of Chattanooga. Sheridan had demonstrated that he was pliant enough to be promoted despite his mixed record until then which included an actual flight from the battlefield at Chickamauga. Last to be signed on was Schofield, an undistinguished battlefield commander who scrupulously avoided the front lines, and who was planted by Grant in Thomas's pick-up army at Nashville with the idea to have him replace Thomas at the earliest convenient occasion. McPherson and Ord could be considered junior members, although McPherson was killed in battle before he could become full partner, and Ord had kept a shred of decency which limited his influence. Note, however, that McPherson and Ord were among the 5 "sentinals" (busts of favorites) placed by Grant's design in his tomb.** As there is little honor among thieves, and because Grant had a long memory, Halleck was excluded from the group shortly before the end of the war. Halleck took a measure of revenge by revealing to Thomas the extent of Grant's and Schofield's conspiracy against him before the battle of Nashville. The other members of the gang - Sherman, Sheridan, and Schofield - succeeded Grant in that order in the largely ceremonial post of Commander-in-Chief of the Army and made sure that the Grant legend became official history. All four of them wrote mendacious memoirs. Halleck did not.
to Grant: "For the last three months
have done everything in my power to ward off the attacks which were
upon you. If you believe me your friend you will not require
if not, explanations on my part would be of little avail."
** The five sentinals were: Sherman, Sheridan, McPherson,
Ord, and Thomas! It must have
weighed on Grant's conscience that he had assassinated the character
and stunted the career of a man he knew to have been his better.
As a means of getting one's back into life, war can be a bad bargain...But it is a way of the leather store. And for some men it is much more than that - it is the fulfillment that the world will yield in no other manner. For these men, war appears as a refutation of...the evil of personal hollowness [emphasis added]. War, for a man like Grant, was the only situation in which he could truly connect to his country and countrymen and be at one with them and with himself. McFeely, p. 67-68.
Grant to Gen. Hurlbut on 9 Nov. 1862: "Refuse all permits to come south of Jackson for the present. The Isrealites especially should be kept out..."
"The enemy [at Chattanooga] fled, but Grant, as at Shiloh, did not move in pursuit. It was a great victory, but it had not been accomplished according to Grant's design. Sherman's Army of the Tennessee had not won the fierce battle, and Grant never forgave Thomas [emphasis added] for the fact that the men of his Army of the Cumberland, whom Grant held in some contempt, had carried the day. The Union had won - the engagement may even have been the turning point of the war - but the total destruction of Bragg's army was not accomplished and an immediate march southeast into Georgia did not follow. The splendid military victory was not, finally, a complete success. However, Grant's reputation soared." McFeely, p. 148
"Lincoln was far above letting his own political ambitions keep him from giving Grant the full military power and prestige needed to win the war and preserve the Union, but one Illinois politician could size up another. Lincoln wisely obtained from Grant a disclaimer of any hope of a hasty move to the White House. Grant, just as shrewdly, chose to wait his turn." McFeely, p. 1262.
"In May 1864 Ulysses Grant began a vast campaign that was a hideous disaster in every respect but one - it worked. He led his troops into the Wilderness and there produced a nightmare of inhumanity and inept military strategy that ranks with the worst such episodes in the history of warfare...A nation's adulation of the general deserves inspection in the light of this exercise in carnage." William S. McFeely, Grant - A Biography, 1981, p. 165
"The news [of the nomination] came to Grant in the same way that the nomination came to him: he had not sought it. But neither could he have endured not having it come to him." McFeely, p. 277
"As Grant sought to avoid the heat of the suffrage question, so too was he quietly conservative in the matter of fiscal policy. There was, in fact, no issue he cared about deeply; no cause in the furtherance of which he sought the presidency." McFeely, p. 279
"If Ulysses Grant had had all the wit and wisdom of the world, it might not have been enough to bring eleven rebel states into line on Reconstruction, but one word from him could have reconstructed West Point enough for James Smith [the first black to attend West Point] to emerge, relatively unscathed, as a second lieutenant." McFeely, p. 376
"Ulysses Grant knew that Orville Babcock was guilty and yet went so far as to perjure himself before the chief justice of the United States to keep his aide out of jail." McFeely, p. 415.
Sherman, an expert in matters of character, stated: "Grant's whole character was a mystery even to himself - a combination of strength and weakness not paralleled by any of whom I have read in Ancient or Modern History...."
Grant to Ord after the
of Corinth: "It is a great annoyance to gain rank and command
to attract attention. I have found it so and would really prefer some
command where public attention would not be attracted toward me."
Proof that Grant wrote at
least part of his Memoirs: "I always admired the South, as
bad as I thought their cause, for the boldness with which they silenced
opposition and all croaking, by press or by individuals, within their
Ulysses S. Grant was born Hiram Ulysses Grant on 22 April 1822 of Jesse Root Grant and Hannah Simpson in Point Pleasant, Ohio. He grew up in Georgetown, Ohio. Detesting the work in the family tannery, Ulysses instead did chores on his father's farm and developed much skill in handling horses. In 1839 Jesse secured for Ulysses through Congressman Thomas Hamer an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point and pressured him to attend. Although he had no interest in military life, Ulysses accepted the appointment, realizing that the alternative was no further education. However, his congressional appointment was erroneously made in the name Ulysses S. Grant, the name he eventually accepted, maintaining that the middle initial stood for nothing. He came to be known as U.S. Grant, and his classmates called him Sam. Only a little over five feet tall when he entered the academy, he grew more than six inches in the next four years. Bored by the military curriculum, he took great interest in the required drawing courses and read classic novels in his spare time. Grant ranked 21st in a class of 39 when he graduated from West Point in 1843, but he had distinguished himself in horsemanship and showed such considerable ability in mathematics that he considered teaching the subject at the academy. Upon graduation Grant was assigned as a brevet second lieutenant to the 4th U.S. Infantry and stationed near St. Louis, Missouri, where he met his future wife Julia Boggs Dent, the sister of his roommate at West Point. During the Mexican War (1846-48) he was quartermaster for his regiment. However, he did see some action, although how much is debated. At the battles of Molino del Rey under Zachary Taylor and Chapultepec under Winfield Scott, he earned brevet commissions as first lieutenant and captain, although his permanent rank was first lieutenant. Grant wrote years later: "I do not think there was ever a more wicked war....I thought so at the time...only I had not moral courage enough to resign." Showing moral courage never was Grant's strong suit. On 5 July 1852, when the 4th Infantry sailed from New York for the Pacific coast, Grant left his growing family (two sons had been born) behind. Assigned to Fort Vancouver, Oregon Territory (later Washington state), he attempted unsuccesfully to supplement his army pay with business ventures and was unable to reunite his family. A promotion to captain in August 1853 brought an assignment to a dreary post in Fort Humboldt, California. On 11 April 1854 Grant resigned from the army under threat of expulsion. Whether this situation had anything to do with Grant's fondness for alcohol, which he reportedly drank often during his lonely years on the Pacific coast, or with irregularities in the accounting of his office, remains open to conjecture. He returned home to his wife, settling at White Haven, the Dents' estate in Missouri, and began to farm the 80 acres given to Julia by her father. This farming venture was a failure, as was an attempt to sell firewood, and as was a real estate partnership in St. Louis in 1859. In 1860 Grant joined the leather goods business owned by his father and operated by his brothers in Galena, Illinois.
When Civil War broke out, Grant offered his services as a colonel to the state of Illinois but was first rebuffed. However, he helped recruit and drill troops in Galena, then accompanied them to the state capital, Springfield, where Governor Richard Yates made him an aide and assigned him to the state adjutant general's office. Yates appointed him colonel of an unruly regiment (later named the 21st Illinois Volunteers) in June 1861. Through the influence of Elihu B. Washburne, a U.S. congressman from Galena, Ill. who would promote Grant's fortunes throughout the war, Grant was appointed brigadier general before he had even engaged the enemy. On hearing the news and, in view of his son's previous failures, his father said, "Be careful, Ulyss, you are a general now--it's a good job, don't lose it!" Grant was soon appointed to command of the District of Southeast Missouri, headquartered at Cairo, Illinois. On 7 Nov. 1861 he led an improvised raid on the Confederate positions at Belmont, Missouri, opposite the strong Confederate force under Polk in Columbus, Ky. just across the river. The Union troops surprised the Confederates, but then began looting during Grant's absence from the field. After being reeinforced the Confederates rallied and drove Grant’s men back up the river, inflicting heavy casualties (25%). In January 1862 Grant received permission from General Henry Halleck to begin an offensive campaign, and he occupied Paducah at the juction of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers. This made possible another improvised move against the Forts Henry and Donelson in Feb. 1862 which had been rendered untenable anyway by the earlier victory of Thomas at Mill Springs on 19 Jan. 1862. In fact his men had no winter clothing, and did not eat for days, but Grant was in perhaps in hurry to get the battle finished before the arrival of Buell who outranked him and was also heading toward Ft. Donelson. After a comedy of split command, most of the Confederate garison was captured, although Forrest and Floyd took their troops out. On this occasion Grant received the nickname “Unconditional Surrender” Grant. When Buckner asked Grant what his terms were, he first consulted one of his division commanders, the older Charles F. Smith who told him to offer no terms, whereupon Grant send the message since become famous.
After Forts Henry and Donelson Grant was put in charge of the movement against A. S. Johnston's forces in Corinth, Miss. Grant repelled an unexpected Confederate attack on 6-7 April 1862 at Shiloh Church, near Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee. Grant was absent from the field the first morning, and his army was not prepared to defend itself. When Buell arrived with reincorcements that evening he encountered a disintegrating army with thousands of Union troops trying to flee the scene of the battle and get to the east side of the Tennessee river. The next day Buell's fresh troops drove the Confederates from the field, and Grant never forgave Buell for having been a witness of his embarassment. Coincidentally, Buell's difficulties with the War Department later increased to the point of his being hauled before a military court of inquiry for mistakes which weren't nearly as grave as those of many another commander, including Grant. Shiloh was the first really costly battle of the Civil War, and the public outcry over heavy Union losses in the battle and poor pre-battle planning damaged Grant's reputation. Halleck therefore arrived toward the end of April in order to take personal command of the army.
About his state of preparedness at Shiloh, Grant wrote in his Memoirs that "the troops with me, officers and men, needed discipline and drill than they did experience with the pick, shovel and axe." He perhaps also wanted to spare his men the dibilitating horrors of advanced picket duty, because he did not establish at Shiloh the standard system of two lines of vedettes and pickets. He simply could not immagine that the Confederates, safe in their fortifications in Corinth, would not simply await his attack, so he and Sherman discounted the reports of increasing enemy activity in front of them. During Halleck's subsequent slow campaign to take Corinth (6 weeks to cover 25 miles), Grant was second in command but had no actual authority. Grant complained bitterly about this, even to the point of having to be dissuaded from resigning by Sherman. However, Halleck was certainly doing Grant a favor by keeping him out of the limelight in the wake of the controversy about the butchery at Shiloh. In any case, when Halleck was called to Washington as general-in-chief in July, Grant regained command. In fact, Thomas, who had temporarily assumed command of Grant's units, requested that they be returned to Grant, a magnanimous gesture* which Grant apparently did not appreciate. See the article Slow Trot' and other Thomas nicknames to see how Grant, together with Sherman, repayed Thomas by attempting to destroy his reputation.
In the summer of 1862 Grant was occupied in trying to mop up Confederate resistance in northern Mississippi. Smaller forces under Price and Van Dorn were causing him a lot of annoyance. However, when his subordinate, William S. Rosecrans, brought them to bay and defeated them in Sept. and Oct. at the battles of Iuka and Corinth, Grant contributed very little to and perhaps even interfered with these victories. Again, Grant was absent, and again he subsequently attacked the reputation of a subordinate who was too successful or could possibly ever become a rival for promotion.
In the late fall of 1862 and winter of 1863, Grant conducted various fruitless operations against Vicksburg, including having his men try to build canals through a malarial Louisiana swamp, just to keep them busy. I quote from his Memoirs (p. 233):
"Then commenced a series of experiments to consume time, and to divert the attention of the enemy, of my troops, and of the public generally. I, myself, never felt great confidance that any of the experiments resorted to would prove successful. Nevertheless I was always prepared to take advantage of them in case they did."
Many of the men thus kept busy got sick and
died, but they had been diverted while they lived. Thomas Buell wrote
the following about this campaign:
"Thus the grand strategy for seizing
opening the Mississippi River was born of deceit. With deceit as its
the campaign was destined to be governed by audacity and expediency,
colossal wastage of time, matériel, and lives. The campaign
nine months of false starts and missed opportunities. It succeeded
the Yeoman [Grant] was able to arouse and direct, however
the enormous energy of the Federal forces on the Mississippi" ("Warrior Generals," pp. 242-43).
In May 1863 Grant crossed the Mississippi and marched south, recrossing back to the east side of the river and, in a series of battles at Jackson, Champion Hill, and Big Black River Bridge, defeated piecemeal the divided forces under the indecisive J. Johnston at Jackson, Miss. and the unimaginative Pemberton in Vicksburg itself. After three unsuccessful frontal attacks against the city, Grant laid siege. On the 4th of July 1863, just one day after the defeat of the Lee at Gettysburg, Pemberton surrendered Vicksburg and his army to Grant. The surrender of Vicksburg, along with the Confederate surrender at Port Hudson, brought the entire Mississippi River under Union control and cut the Trans-Mississippi off from the rest of the Confederacy. After the surrender, Grant was promoted to Major General. Vicksburg would have fallen by itself within weeks of the fall of Chattanooga. The main positive value of Grant's Vicksburg campaign lay in the fact that Bragg's forces at Murfreesboro and Tullahoma were weakened to reinforce Pemberton. He could have accomplished the same purpose with something less spectacular but much more salutary, say parking his command for the winter at Grenada, Miss., but then he wouldn't have become president.
While in Vicksburg Grant, with the help of a Colonel John Eaton, administered camps for slaves who were put back to work harvesting cotton on the very plantations from which they had escaped. As Grant writes in his Memoirs (p. 221):
"At once the freedmen became self-sustaining. The money was not paid to them directly, but was expended judiciously and for their benefit. They gave me no trouble afterwards."
As a matter of fact, the sale of cotton to the North never stopped during the war, and the competition from civilians trying to cash in on this lucrative trade may have had something to do with Grant's infamous General Order 11 of 17 Dec. 1862 mandating the expulsion of "the Jews, as a class" from northern Mississippi, Kentucky and western Tennessee. In various tortured "man of his times" explanations the Grant apologists try to soften the blatant anti-semitism of this order. My suggestion that it was mostly about business as usual is perhaps some, albeit small comfort to them because, after all, the pogroms in Russia, Poland, and Germany were also mostly about business.
After Vicksburg, Grant was present more or less as an observer at the battle of Chattanooga (23-25 Nov. 1863) where he unsuccessfully tried to hand the victory to Sherman who failed utterly in the task assigned to him. Fortunately for the Union, George H. Thomas was there to keep things on an even keel while making astute use of Hooker. Afterward, Grant, Sherman, Halleck, and Dana rewrote the history of the battle so that it conformed to Grant's plan, and Grant was promoted in March 1864 to the newly reinstated rank of Lieutenant General and brought east in order to command the Army of the Potomac and direct the operations of all of the Union forces.
Before Lincoln allowed this to happen, he first inquired about any political ambitions Grant may have been harboring, because opposition to Lincoln's renomination was rising, and Grant was being touted as the next president in major newspapers. Lincoln consulted Elihu Washburne, the Illinois congressman who had been one of Grant's earliest promoters, and a J. Russell Jones, at the time Grant's "investment advisor".1 Grant had apparently come into some money since the beginning of the war when he was bankrupt, but it is not clear how. Jones produced an artfully crafted letter from Grant2 , categorically stating he had no intention of running for president. However, after Lincoln was renominated, there was an attempt by some Republicans to organize a second nominating convention. When the rumors reached Lincoln that the conspirators were still considering Grant, Lincoln put the question to the above mentioned Col. John Eaton of the freedmen labor camps. Eaton visited Grant and then reported to Lincoln who, reassured, exclaimed: "I told you, they could not get him to run until he had closed out the rebellion."3
As commander of the Army of the Potomac, Grant pursued a policy of constant attacks against Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia, but not without costs. Due to poor planning and occasionally indecisive management, he suffered severe casualties at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and espcecially Cold Harbor (3 June 1864) where he launched an attack against state-of-the art fortifications without having conducted any reconnaissance. The result of this were 7000 Union casualties in less than a half hour, as opposed to 1,500 Confederate casualties. Grant then waited 4 whole days before requesting a truce in order to bury the dead and pick up any wounded who happened to survive that long after the battle. In his Memoirs Grant wrote: "I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made." Surely the families of the killed and maimed soldiers were greatly comforted by this admission, partial as it was. You see, Grant did not mention in this context that he had been egregiously negligent (again), which somewhat reduces the effect of the admission.
Grant then laid siege to Lee in Petersburg from June 1864 to April 1865, while Sherman laid waste to large areas in Georgia and South Carolina, and Thomas repelled Hood's invasion of Tennessee. Grant, who had not moved for months, did not willingly grant Thomas 2 weeks to prepare for the battle of Nashville (15-16 Dec. 1864), but tried with every means possible, including the subversive activities of the political general Schofield who had been inserted into Thomas's command, to force Thomas into action, any old action, regardless of consequences and extreme winter conditions. Only the news of Thomas's stunning victory kept him from being replaced by Logan whom Grant had already sent to Nashville for this purpose. When Lee left the Petersburg trenches in April 1865 in an attempt to unite with Confederate forces in North Carolina (which Thomas blocked by sending Stoneman into the area), Grant followed, eventually surrounding Lee and the remnants of his army at Appomattox Court House, forcing Lee to surrender. Grant had finally eliminated an army on the open field. True, his army outnumbered the remains of the Army of Northern Virginia by 20 to one.
In 1866 he was appointed to the newly established rank of 4-star general. In 1867 Johnson removed Secretary of War Stanton and thereby tested the constitutionality of the Tenure of Office Act, which dictated that removals from office be at the assent of Congress, and in August appointed Grant interim secretary of war. When Congress insisted upon Stanton's reinstatement, Grant resigned (January 1868), thus alienating Johnson, who believed that Grant had agreed to remain in office to provoke a court decision. Johnson's angry charges strengthened Grant's long-standing and covert ties to the Republican Party which nominated him for president in 1868. The last line of his letter of acceptance, "Let us have peace," became the Republican slogan. Grant's opponent was Horatio Seymour, former governor of New York. The race was close, and Grant's narrow margin of victory in the popular vote (300,000 ballots) may have been attributable to some manipulation of newly enfranchised black voters. The vote of the electoral college was more one-sided, with Grant getting 214 votes, compared to 80 for Seymour.
Grant entered the White House on 4 March 1869 with no civilian political experience, although with lots of military political experience. At age 46 he was the youngest man elected president until then. His appointments to office were uneven in quality. Grant did name the civil engineer Ely Parker, a Seneca Indian who had served with him as a staff officer, to the ceremonial post of commissioner of Indian affairs. More typical was the appointment of the noted financier Hamilton Fish as secretary of state. During the next 8 years the Ulysses and Julia made up for lost time, but Americans did not seem to mind that the Grants lived beyond their means. They redecorated the White House lavishly, entertained accordingly, and spent much more than he earned. On 18 March 1869 Grant signed his first law, pledging to redeem in gold the greenback currency issued during the Civil War, thus siding with the financial conservatives of the day. He appointed the first Civil Service Commission, but after initially backing its recommendations, he abandoned his support for the reforms when faced with congressional opposition. Grant was equally unsuccessful when the Senate rejected his treaty of annexation with the Dominican Republic. His negotiation of the Treaty of Washington provided for the settlement by international tribunal of American claims against Great Britain arising from the wartime activities of the British-built raider Alabama, whose sale to the Confederacy had violated Britain's declared neutrality. Grant won reelection in 1872, defeating Horace Greeley, the editor of the New York Tribune and the candidate for the coalition formed by Democrats and Liberal Republicans, by about 800,000 votes in the popular election and capturing 286 of 366 electoral votes. During the campaign, newspapers discovered that prominent Republican politicians were involved in the Crédit Mobilier of America, a paper entity designed to siphon profits from the Union Pacific Railroad which was partially funded by government bonds. More scandal followed in 1875 when Secretary of the Treasury Bristow exposed the operation of the "Whiskey Ring", a group of high-placed officials including Grant's private secretary, Orville E. Babcock, which defrauded the government of tax revenues. Although Grant had pronounced, "Let no guilty man escape," he accepted the resignation of Secretary of War William W. Belknap before he could be tried on charges of accepting bribes. Grant closed his second term by assuring Congress and a credulous posterity: "Failures have been errors of judgment, not of intent." Grant supported both amnesty for Confederate leaders and, in his pronouncements at least, civil rights for former slaves, although he was unable or unwilling to enforce the civil rights laws. His 1874 veto of a bill to increase the amount of legal tender led to a wave of bankruptcies, but perhaps diminished the currency crisis during the next quarter century, and he helped throw the disputed election of 1876 to the Republican Rutherford B. Hayes.
After leaving office, Ulysses and Julia Grant set forth on a round-the-world trip. Grant's legend as the man who had saved the Union having preceded him, he was greeted everywhere as a hero and received by heads state including Queen Victoria, Bismarck, and the Japanese emperor. In 1879 Grant found that some Republicans were determined to nominate him for a third term. Although he did little to openly encourage support, he received more than 300 votes in the early ballots at the 1880 convention which, however, finally nominated the dark horse James A. Garfield who, according to Grant, had "the backbone of an angleworm." I guess Grant meant that Garfield had lost or misplaced the backbone he displayed when, on 20 Sept. 1863, he joined Thomas on Snodgrass Hill at Chickamauga. In 1881 Grant and his son helped found the investment firm of Grant and Ward. Grant put his capital and those of his friends at the disposal of the firm and encouraged others to follow, including many soldiers of his former command. In 1884 the firm collapsed, and Ferdinand Ward disappeared with all of the money. This impoverished the Grant family and further tarnished Grant's reputation. In order to raise money Grant, with the considerable help of a partisan historian named Badeau, began to write reminiscences of his campaigns for the Century Magazine and found this work so profitable that he began his memoirs, despite throat pain later diagnosed as cancer. He signed a contract with Mark Twain to edit and publish the memoirs. In June 1885 the Grant family moved to a cottage in the Adirondack Mountains, and a month later Grant died there, shortly after completing the memoirs. They enjoy high rank among military autobiographies, in spite of inaccuracies and numerous distortions of the historical record. What happened to the hand-written manuscripts which would prove his authorship?
A funeral cortege seven miles long
accompanied his coffin to a temporary vault in New York City's
Riverside Park. In 1897 his remains were removed to a granite tomb in
Manhattan, designed by Grant
himself down to the last detail. The 150 feet high mausoleum with a
rotunda and allegorical relief figures representing episodes in Grant's
does not fit the image of modesty which Grant cultivated in his
and has been enshrined in the history books. There are 5 busts there of
i.e. generals who helped further Grant's career. They are Sherman,
McPherson, a 4th whom I can't identify, and Thomas. As an epitaph he
his disingenuous campaign slogan "Let us have peace." Grant could not
have regretted the war, for he would have remained an unknown failure
the nation had avoided civil war. Beware of megalomaniacs who will not
blink at your destruction if it helps them to escape their anonymity.
* Maybe not so magnanimous. Thomas prefered to build on
his own division and must have been glad to be rid of Grant's riotous
soldiers and undisciplined officers. Now that would really have gotten
under Grant's hide.
1David Herbert Donald writes on pp. 490-91 of "Lincoln": Still he was not yet ready to bring Grant in from the West. One reason was that the general was beginning to be talked about as a possible presidential candidate in 1864. He was a favorite of the influential New York Herald, and, since his political views were unknown, he was wooed by both Democrats and Republicans. With General McClellan conspicuously courting the Democrats, Lincoln was not about to appoint another general-in-chief who had political aspirations, and he asked E.B. Washburne, the representative from Grant's district, to report on the general's political ambitions. Washburne reffered him to J. Russel Jones, a close friend of Grant and his investment advisor, who brought to the White House Grant's letter [see below] pledging that nothing could persuade him to be a candidate for the presidency, particularly since there was the possibility of reelecting Lincoln. "You will never know how gratifying that is to me," the President said after reading the letter. "No man knows, when that presidential grub gets to gnawing away at him, just how deep it will get until he has tried it; and I didn't know but what there was one gnawing at Grant."
Donald's footnote no. 491 on p. 668: "gnawing at Grant": Ida M. Tarbell, The Life of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Doubelday, Page & Co., 1909, 2:187-189. For a thorough evaluation of Grant's position on the nomination, see John Y. Simon, ed., The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1982), 9:541-544.
letter which Grant wrote (only to a Democrat) to deny any presidential
aspirations, is as follows:
To Barnabas Burns:
December 17th 1863
B. Burns, Esq., Chairman Dem. Cen. Comm.
Your letter of the 7th inst. asking if you will be at liberty to use my name before the convention of the "War Democracy", as candidate for the office of the Presidency is just received. -- This question astonishes me. I do not know of anything I have ever done or said which would indicate that I could be a candidate for any office whatever within the gift of the people.
I shall continue to do my duty, to the best of my ability, so long as permitted to remain in the Army, supporting whatever Administration may be in power [italics mine - ed.], in their endeavor to suppress the rebellion and maintain National unity, and never desert it because of my vote, if I had one, might have been cast for different candidates. Nothing likely to happen [italics mine - ed. What does this mean?] would pain me so much as to see my name used in connection with a political office. I am not a candidate for any office nor for favors from any party. Let us succeed in crushing the rebellion, in the shortest possible time, and I will be content with whatever credit may then be given me, feeling assured that a just public will award all that is due. Your letter I take to be private. Mine is also private [actually not all that private - ed.]. I wish to avoid notoriety as far as possible, and above all things, desire to be spared the pain of seeing my name mixed with politics. Do not therefore publish this letter but wherever, and by whatever party, you hear my name mentioned in connection with the candidacy for any office, say that you know from me direct that I am not "in the field," and cannot allow my name to be used before any convention.
I am, with great respect, your obt. svt.
U. S. Grant
3 Herbert, Lincoln, pp. 525-26: "Inevitably reports of these plans reached Lincoln's ears. He was neither surprised nor worried by most of the schemes to replace him as the nominee of the Republican party, but he was alarmed when he heard that the dissidents were thinking of running Grant. He did not think the general had political aspirations but, concluding that he ought to sound him out again, he asked Colonel John Eaton, who had worked closely with Grant in caring for the freedmen in the Mississippi Valley, to go the Army of the Potomoac and ascertain his views. At City Pont, Eaton told Grant that many people thought he ought to run for president, not as a party man but as a citizens' candidate, in order to save the Union. Bringing his hand down on the arm of his chair, Grant replied: "They can't do it! They can't compel me to do it!" He went on to say that he considered it "as important for the cause that he [Lincoln] should be elected as that the army should be successful in the field." When Eaton reported the conversation to the President, his relief was obvious. "I told you," he said., "they could not get him to run until he had closed out the rebellion."
Donald's footnote no. 526 on p. 673: "Closed out the rebellion": John Eaton, Grant, Lincoln and the Freedman (New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1907), pp. 186-191.
In a certain sense, Sherman did today's Georgia school children a favor. He turned them into history students because you can ask even first graders who he was, and they will tell you about the man who burned everything. From the beginning of hostilities in the Atlanta Campaign on 6 May 1864 and the march to the sea ending two days before Christmas 1864 with him capturing Savannah, Sherman did his best to punish the civilian population of Georgia. Afterward, in his march through South Carolina, Sherman really let himself go. As a result of this campaign, the Confederacy was split in two and deprived of much needed supplies, although the war could have been ended more quickly had Sherman shown more initiative in the Atlanta campaign or afterward attended to purely military goals, such as breaking the defense of Peterburg and Richmond.
Born on 8 May 1820 in Lancaster, Ohio, his father died when he was young. Widowed and unable to care for the entire family, his mother sent brother Thomas to be raised by an aunt, and William became a foster child to Thomas Ewing, his father's friend. Cump, as he was known, later married Mr. Ewing's daughter, Ellen. Educated at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he graduated in 1840. During the Mexican War, Sherman was posted in San Francisco. He resigned his commission in 1853 to become a partner in a bank there. Prior to the outbreak of hostilities between the North and the South, Sherman was Superintendent of the Louisiana State Seminary and Military Academy at Alexandria, Louisiana. After the war, the school moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana and became Louisiana State University (LSU). Talk of the secession from the Union was rampant, and on 18 January 1861, Sherman resigned his position stating that he preferred to maintain his allegiance to the Constitution as long as a fragment of it survived. On the 25th of February, Sherman left Louisiana and returned to Ohio. He remained in Lancaster for a month and then moved his family to St. Louis, Missouri where he was elected President of the Fifth Street Railroad.
On 8 May 1861, Sherman wrote to the Secretary of War, offering his services for three years. On 20 June 1861 he was appointed Colonel in the Thirteenth Regular Infantry. He assumed command of a brigade in the First Division of McDowell's army. His brigade, stationed at a stone bridge during the battle of First Manassas (Bull Run), was routed by devastating Confederate cannon fire. In August 1861, Sherman and George H. Thomas were promoted to Brigadier General and were assigned to the Department of the Cumberland under the command of Brigadier-General Robert Anderson, the "hero of Ft. Sumter." Sherman had previously served under Anderson, and it was Anderson that requested that Sherman (along with Thomas and Buell) be transferred to his command. In October 1861, Sherman relieved Anderson and commanded the dept. of Kentucky for only one month. Filling quotas for Kentucky volunteers was extremely difficult, and the allegiance of the State was split. Later that month, Sherman told Secretary of War Cameron that if he had 60,000 men, he would drive the enemy out of Kentucky, and if he had 200,000 men, he would finish the war in that section. He also grossly exagerated the strength of the Confederate forces facing him and predicted an imminent invasion of Kentucky and even Ohio. When Cameron returned to Washington, he reported that Sherman required 200,000 men. The report was given to newspapers and a cry of indignation arose from the public. A writer of one of these newspapers even went as far as saying that Sherman must be "crazy" in demanding such a large force. Writers have since often declared that he was insane, which is not accurate. Certain is, that he was subject to wild swings between enthusiasm and depression. The clinical term for this is manic-depression. During his brief month of command in Kentucky, he ordered Thomas to occupy East Tennessse, and preparations were made by Unionists there to help this project. However, at the last moment Sherman, in a moment of panic, recalled Thomas, and many Unionist partisans in East Tennesse were rounded up and hung. On 8 Nov. 1861 Shermen, under public pressure, requested to be relieved from command in Kentucky. The request was granted, and he turned his department over to Buell, and he was sent to St. Louis to the Department of the West under Halleck who, in a letter to Sherman's foster father, stated, "I have seen newspaper squibs charging him with being 'crazy', etc. This is the grossest injustice. I do not however, consider such attacks worthy of notice." Strictly speaking, manic-depression is not insanity. On February 13, 1862, Sherman assumed the command of the post at Paducah, Kentucky, relieving U.S. Grant of that position and still required protection from his bouts of depression during which he continued to make panicked orders on the basis of exagerated estimates of Confederate strength. On March 11, 1862, Halleck was assigned to command the Department of the Mississippi and Major-General U.S. Grant to command the army in the field. The organization and the name given to this army was the Army of the Tennessee. Sherman was placed in command of the Fifth Division of this army.
The Army of the Tennessee saw its first battle at Shiloh. Due to poor preparation on the part of Grant, Sherman, and others, the North nearly lost the first day's battle, but with reenforcements from Buell and the Army of the Cumberland, the Confederate troops were driven from the field on the second day. In July 1862, Sherman was assigned to command the District of Memphis. Later that year Sherman, in a frontal assault at Chickasaw Bluffs, failed to seize the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg, but was with Grant in the campaign that finally ended in the capture of that city in July 1863. Sherman was given command of the Army of the Tennessee in the fall of 1863 and, in a remarkable display of military incompetence, fought in the Battle of Chattanooga with his troops unsuccessfully assaulting a much smaller force under Patrick Cleburne on Missionary Ridge. On that occasion, thanks to Thomas and Hooker, the Federals did capture the Ridge, and Bragg's troops retreated into Georgia. Afterward, Sherman was made overall commander of the armies in the West and was accorded the Thanks of Congress, perhaps as the result of the efforts of his U.S. senator brother, John Sherman. William T. was also in the habit of effusively praising the generalship of Grant and Halleck, which they surely didn't mind.
On 4 May 1864, with more than 100,000 troops, Sherman began the Atlanta Campaign. The entire staff work of the force was conducted by the Thomas and his Army of the Cumberland. The Confederate commander J. Johnston held off the troops of McPherson at Resaca, but then had to withdraw after the battle when federal troops were endangering his position by outflanking him. For a description of this kick-off, see the article Sherman and Grant vs. Thomas at Resaca. The strength of the Union army and the ability to supply themselves were too much for Johnston, and his army was gradually forced closer and closer to Atlanta. Johnston defeated Sherman's armies at the battle of Kennesaw Mountain on 27 June 1864, another of Shermans's failed frontal assaults, but once again had to move his troops back southward to Smyrna due to the threat of being turned. Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, lost faith in Johnston's ability to oppose Sherman and, on 17 July 1864, Davis relieved Johnston of his command and replaced him with the aggressive John B. Hood. Hood was just as unsuccessful in stopping the Union armies and fought four futile battles in the attempt. Finally on 2 September 1864, Sherman's troops entered the city of Atlanta. Sherman declared Atlanta to be a military encampment and ordered the civilians to leave the city. From September to November, Sherman pursued Hood, but to no avail. Hood then began marching northward, hoping to win back Tennessee and Kentucky. Sherman made the statement, "If he continues to march North, all the way to the Ohio, I will supply him with rations." Sherman began planning his March to the Sea. He kept most of the the seasoned veterans, 60,000 in all, and sent the sick and the about to be furloughed troops back to Nashville to be under the command of Major-General George Thomas who nevertheless crushed Hood in the battle of Nashville on 15-16 Dec. 1864.
In November 1864, Sherman began his infamous raid. He left the Union prisoners in Andersonville to their uncertain fates, but he did set fire to Atlanta's munitions factories, railroad yards, clothing mills, and other targets. Predictably, the fire got out of hand and spread throughout the city. With his four Corps in two columns, Sherman cut a swath 60 miles wide marching towards Savannah, destroying anything that could be useful to the enemy, and meeting no military opposition. Much of the violence to civilians was carried out by criminal camp followers. They were called "bummers" and consisted of stragglers from both Union and Confederate armies. Sherman issued orders that they be kept under control, but as they were helping to make Georgia howl, he probably didn't really object to their activities.
On 23 December 1864, Sherman sent a telegram to Lincoln stating that he was presenting him the city of Savannah as a Christmas gift. Following the occupation of Savannah, Sherman's troops cut an even wider path of destruction through South Carolina and fought an inconclusive battle at Bentonville, North Carolina, against a much smaller force under Johnston. Lee surrendered to Grant on 9 April 1865, and Johnston surrendered to Sherman on 17 April 1865 at Raleigh, North Carolina. After the war, Sherman was promoted to Lieutenant General in the regular army commanded by Grant until his election to the presidency in 1868. Grant put Sherman in charge of the entire West, and they were thus both responsible for Sheridan's genocidal operations against the Cheyenne, Sioux, and other tribes. In the fall of 1868 Sheridan - future Full General and Commander of the Armies (1884-88) - wrote to Sherman:
"In taking the offensive I have to select that season when I can catch the fiends; and if a village is attacked and women and children killed, the responsibility is not with the soldiers, but with the people whose crimes necessitated the attack."
Sherman heartily approved and wrote back the following encouraging words:
"Go ahead in your own way and I will back you with my whole authority...I will say nothing and do nothing to restrain our troops from doing what they deem proper on the spot, and will allow no mere vague general charges of cruelty and inhumanity to tie their hands, but will use all the powers confided to me to the end that these Indians, the enemies of our race and of our civilization, shall not again be able to begin and carry out their barbarous warfare on any kind of pretext they may choose to allege."
The "man of the times" argument doesn't wash, because there were people who tried to protect the Indians' interests. Nor can Sherman's attitudes be explained away as being a momentary aberration, because in in 1889 he wrote to his son and expressed his regret that his armies did not murder every last Indian in North America.
Grant must not have objected very strenuously to this aspect of Sherman's character because he received Sherman's glowing reports of the "successes" against the Indians. Upon becoming president, Grant had Sherman promoted to Full General on 4 March 1869. Four days later Sherman assumed command of the entire U. S Army. He retired in 1883 and died in New York City, 14 Feb. 1891.
It must be said of Sherman that he did perform one service to the North which proved essential to its war effort. Namely he, while briefly in charge of the Department of the Cumberland, hindered the consumation of a politically motivated order to have Thomas turn over his troops at Camp Dick Robinson to General O. M. Mitchell. Otherwise Thomas's career as commander might have ended in 1861. The letter Sherman wrote to Thomas in this regard follows:
October 13, 1861.
GENERAL GEO. H. THOMAS, Com'd'g Camp Dick Robinson.
You are authorized to go on and prepare your command for active service. General Mitchel is subject to my orders, and I will, if possible, give you the opportunity to complete what you have begun. Of course I would do all I can to carry out your wishes, but feel that the affairs of Kentucky call for the united action of all engaged.
W. T. SHERMAN, Brig.-Gen. Com'd'g Dep't of the Cumberland.
Letter of 17 Sept. 1863 from Sherman to
of the Armies Henry W. Halleck:
"The United States has the right, and ... the ... power, to penetrate to every part of the national domain…. We will remove and destroy every obstacle - if need be, take every life, every acre of land, every particle of property, everything that to us seems proper."
Letter of 21 June 1864 from Sherman to
of war Stanton:
"There is a class of people [in the South] … men, women, and children, who must be killed or banished before you can hope for peace and order."
Letter of 9 Oct. 1864 from Sherman to
of the Armies Ulysses S. Grant:
"Until we can repopulate Georgia, it is useless to occupy it, but the utter destruction of its roads, houses, and people will cripple their military
resources…. I can make the march, and make Georgia howl."
Orders issued on 9 Nov. 1864 by Sherman
his march to the Sea:
The army will forage liberally on the country during the march. To this end, each brigade commander will organize a good and sufficient foraging party, under the command of one or more discreet officers, who will gather, near the route traveled, corn or forage of any kind, meat of any kind, vegetables, corn-meal, or whatever is needed by the command, aiming at all times to keep in the wagons at least ten days' provisions for his command, aiming at all times to keep in the wagons at least ten days' provisions for his command, and three days' forage. Soldiers must not enter the dwellings they may be permitted to gather turnips, potatoes, and other vegetables, and to drive in stock in sight of their camp.
To corps commanders alone is entrusted the power to destroy mills, houses, cotton-gins, etc.; and for them the general principle is laid down: In districts and neighborhoods where the army is unmolested, no destruction of such property should be permitted; but should guerrillas or bush-whackers molest our march, or should the inhabitants burn bridges, obstruct roads, or otherwise manifest local hostility, then army commanders should order and enforce a devastation more or less relentless, according to the measure of such hostility. As for horses, mules, wagons, etc., belonging to the inhabitants, the cavalry and artillery may appropriate freely and without limit; discriminating, however, between the rich, who are usually hostile, and the poor and industrious, usually neutral or friendly.
William Sherman wrote about the March to
Sea in his 1875 Memoirs:
The skill and success of the men in collecting forage was one of the features of this march. Each brigade commander had authority to detail a company of foragers, usually about fifty men, with one or two commissioned officers selected for their boldness and enterprise. This party would be dispatched before daylight with a knowledge of the intended day's march and camp; would proceed on foot five or six miles from the route traveled by their brigade, and then visit every plantation and farm within range. They would usually procure a wagon or family carriage, load it with bacon, corn-meal, turkeys, chickens, ducks, and every thing that could be used as food or forage, and would then regain the main road, usually in advance of their train. No doubt, many acts of pillage, robbery, and violence, were committed by these parties of foragers, for I have since heard of jewelry taken from women, and the plunder of articles that never reached the commissary; but these acts were exceptional and incidental. I never heard of any cases of murder or rape; and no army could have carried along sufficient food and forage for a march of three hundred miles; so that foraging in some shape was necessary.
"Sheridan, the fiery little man in whom so many of Grant's private urges found expression...." Mcfeely, p. 221
He asserts that he was born on 6 March 1831 in Albany, N.Y. of John
Mary Minah Sheridan, Irish immigrants. However, his actual birthplace
a mystery. There are no records of his birth at Albany, New York,
Mass., nor at Somerset, Ohio where he grew up. Sheridan at various
claimed all three places and may even have been born on the boat
his parents from Ireland. If that were the case, then he would have
excluded from high political office, which may explain his obfuscation.
any case, he arrived with his parents in Somerset as an infant and
his childhood there. Sheridan attended school in Somerset until the age
of fourteen, at which time he went to work for various businessmen. In
Congressman Thomas Ritchie, a friend of the family, obtained an
to West Point for him. In 1851, in an incident which speaks volumes
his character, he objected to a harsh order given him by an
named Terrill and therefore threatened him with a bayonet. After
reported the incident, Sheridan attacked him with fists, and was
from the accademy for a year. Sheridan graduated 34th in a class of 52
July 1853 and was assigned to various posts in the West and far West
the years leading up to the Civil War. On 4 April 1861 Sheridan was
to Captain, and in September of 1861 was called east to St. Louis for
under Gen. Halleck, commander of the Union Armies of the West. Sheridan
first assigned to supply but convinced Halleck he would be of better
in the field and was reassigned to Curtis who was preparing to drive
Confederates out of southern Missouri. At this point Sheridan was
by Sherman to be given command of one of Ohio's volunteer regiments but
turned down, perhaps because Curtis had attempted to have him
because of irregularities in the distribution of vouchers for supples
requisitioned from Southern sympathizers. Sheridan appealed to Halleck
who transferred him
back to St. Louis, and the trial never took place. Then Gen. Gordon
Granger requested Sheridan be given command of the 2nd Michigan Cavalry
Granger's promotion. Halleck concurred, and Sheridan jumped from
Colonel overnight (25 May 1862). Two months later Sheridan was
a forward post near Booneville, Mississippi. The Confederates pressed
with more than 5000 troopers to wipe out Sheridan's contingent of only
men. Sheridan was equipped with repeating rifles which gave him some
but in repelling the enemy he also used trickery. By loading troops on
train and discharging them noisily at Booneville, silently marching
up track and reloading and discharging them time and again he perhaps
deceived Confederate General Chalmers into thinking he was being
reinforced. Because of this action Sheridan was commissioned Brig.
General at the age of only 31. After this engagement Sheridan was
ordered to the town of Rienzi, Mississippi, and it was here a friend
gave Sheridan a large Morgan horse which he named
Rienzi after the place. At the battle of Perryville
under Buell he disobeyed express orders to avoid bringing on a general
and pushed his brigade too far forward, thus inviting attack and
McCook to intervene. Under Rosecrans at Murfreesboro
on Stones River south of Nashville, Tenn. he played a part in holding
back the Confederates under Gen. Bragg, but then removed his troops
from the battle when they ran out of ammunition. Other units in the
center, who were also short of ammunition, fought on. He was promoted
to Major General in April 1863. In later years Grant had his reasons
for stating that in this battle Sheridan, rather than Thomas, had saved
Rosecran's army. At the battle
of Chickamauga on the 19th he was not involved in the fighting, but
arrived at dusk at the Viniard farm and requested that Crittenden's
(who had been fighting all day) participate in a night pursuit through
the woods. On the 20th he removed his entire division from the field
the Federal right collapsed, and he refused entreaties to return to the
field to support Thomas who had remained with only 25,000 men on
Hill to face the entire Confederate army. This was, for some strange
overlooked while other commanders such as Negley and McCook were
for the same behavior. In both his battle report and his Memoirs,
lied about this incident. His troops took part in the charge up
Ridge which won the decisive battle of
Chattanooga (23-24 Nov. 1863), but his units weren't first to break
through as he claimed.
On the evening of the 25th he ordered his division to pursue the
in the dark, through thick and unfamiliar woods down the other side of
ridge, and thus got some of his men killed unnecessarily, but Grant
his fighting ardor. On 12 March 1864 Grant was appointed
of the Union Armies, and he called Sheridan to join him in Washington.
Sheridan was appointed Chief of Cavalry, Army of the Potomac. He led
raid on Richmond which resulted in the death of Jeb Stuart at Yellow
(May 1864). As commander of the Army of the Shenandoah in 1864, he
Confederate forces under Early from the Shenandoah Valley and laid it
(August 1864 - February 1865), leaving the inhabitants, as he put it,
only their eyes to weep with over the war." Sheridan's fabled "ride"
on 19 October 1864, when he supposedly galloped 20 miles from
in order to rally his routed forces at Cedar Creek. Actually, the ride
was 14 miles, and his subordinates
had stabilized the situation before he returned. If he had stayed at
his post his ride wouldn't have been necessary. Commanding a
numerically overwhelming force of infantry and cavalry, the intense,
aggressive, and pathological Sheridan led the Union
pursuit to Appomattox, where he joined Grant in compelling Lee's
on 9 April 1865. After the war he proved to be especially severe as a
governor in the New Orleans (resulting in rioting in which hundreds of
were killed), so he was removed and sent west. There he organized
the Plains Indian tribes in which he was especially effective against
and children. He is often reported as having said, "The only good
I ever saw were dead," but this is not
documented. However, the following quote from him is. In the fall
of 1868 Sheridan wrote to Sherman: "In
offensive I have to select that season when I can catch the fiends; and
if a village is attacked and women and children killed, the
is not with the soldiers, but with the people whose crimes necessitated
(Geoffrey C. Ward, "The West," 1996, pg. 250). One of the more recent
biographers, Richard O'Connor, glosses over this phase of Sheridan's
with the excuse that he was a "man of his times" ("Sheridan The
1953, pg. 296). Many contempories of good sense, however, recognized
ciminality of Sheridan's policies. At the age of 52, in 1884, he
Sherman as commander-in-chief of the army. Congress revived the grade
full General and he was given his fourth star by President Grover
in 1888. In the last year of his life he wrote his unreliable Personal
He died on 5 August 1888 and is buried in Arlington Cemetery.
Those readers who still admire Sheridan are advised to not read my carefully documented essay Sheridan's Ride at Chickamauga.
For a more detailed analysis of the discrepencies between Sheridan's reported and actual performance after going East to join Grant read Eric J. Wittenberg's book "Little Phil - A Reassessment of the Civil War Leadership of Gen. Philip H. Sheridan," 2002, ISBN 1574883852.
The cleverest of the Grant gang was born on 29 Sept. 1831 in Gerry,
Son of a Baptist clergyman, he graduated from West Point in 1853 (7th
of 52), served in Florida, taught at West Point, and was on leave
absence to teach physics at Washington University (St. Louis) when the
War began. He was assigned to duty in Missouri and held a series of
posts during the first years of the war. Caught in the middle of the
struggles between the radical and less radical unionists of Missouri,
came under personal attack and was defended by Halleck who spirited him
to division command for 4 weeks under Thomas in Tennessee (17 April-10
63) until the heat was off.* Several times later
Halleck also intervened to help Schofield.
Schofield was sent to Knoxville in Jan. 1864, and he
later commanded the small Army of the Ohio (2 divisions) in the Atlanta
campaign under Sherman, an astounding promotion considering that he had
little previous field experience and none with large scale armies. This
circumstance resulted in his becoming second-in-command under Thomas
and during the battle of Nashville,
Stanley outranked him. He bore a
life-long grudge against Thomas because at West Point Thomas had ruled
against him in some unpleasant but trivial disciplinary matter. Before
the battle of
Franklin Schofield disobeyed an explicit order from Thomas to retire
Columbia, and as a result was nearly trapped by Hood. At the battle of
he resolutely avoided the front line, and at Nashville he repeatedly
disobeyed orders to attack. Worse, he actively intrigued with Grant
before the battle in an attempt to have Thomas either step down or be
removed. He was Secretary of War under President Johnson and actively
supported Sherman's and Sheridan's genocidal policies during the Indian
wars. He served as superintendent of West Point (1876-81). In 1888 he
was promoted to Lt. General and became
Commander-in-chief of the army. In 1892 Congress discovered that he had
led a charge at the battle of Wilson's Creek and awarded him the
Medal of Honor. He retired in 1895. His memoirs "Forty-Six Years
the Army" appeared in 1987. In it on page 242 he wrote the following
Thomas: "General Thomas did not possess in a high degree the activity
mind necessary to foresee and provide for all the exigencies of
operations, nor the mathematical talent required to estimate 'the
of time, space, motion, and force'". This absurd estimation is
by hundreds of contemporary and modern commentators, among them Thomas
who wrote: "Thomas had mastered the science of military transportation.
knew every road and river crossing in Tennessee, and he could calculate
distance, and capacity with unerring precision" ("Warrior
pg. 384). After a lifetime of some service and some disservice to his
country, Schofield died
4 March 1906 and is buried in Arlington Cemetery.
*SAINT LOUIS, MO., April 10, 1863.
Major-General HALLECK, General-in-Chief, Washington, D.C.:
MY DEAR GENERAL: I thank you for the order sending me to the Army of the Cumberland, and for your efforts to secure my promotion. There is a powerful combination of military and political aspirants in this department, whose success requires my removal from any important command here, and sufficiently unscrupulous to resort to any means that might be necessary to accomplish it. I was aware of my inability to withstand such attacks as might be expected from these men, and hence desired to be separated from them before it was too late. I am as willing as anybody to be sacrificed when any good is to be accomplished by it, but do not like to be slaughtered for nothing. Had General Sumner lived to take command here, I should have been glad to remain here; as it is, it would be deep humiliation to me, without any probable chance of good to the service.
I make these remarks because of a letter just received from Professor Bartlett, in which he mentions having received one from you containing a reference to a letter you had written me a few weeks before. I did not receive the letter you refer to.
Please accept my hearty thanks for the kindness you have always shown me.
Your sincere friend,
J. M. SCHOFIELD.
The Civil War career of the much-maligned
Union commander in chief
chief of staff, Henry W. Halleck, was summarized by Secretary of the
Gideon Welles as he "originates nothing, anticipates nothing..., takes
no responsibility, plans nothing, suggests nothing, is good for
This harsh assessment was shared by many, but is not entirely accurate
He was, in fact, the only member of the Grant Gang who had a solidly
successful pre-war career as a businessman, and as a writer of
on military topics and real estate law. His achievements in the Western
Theater, before he was called to Washington to assume command of all
of the armies were also noteworty. Once there he got involved in
furthering the careers of much less capable, but more charismtic
commanders, perhaps hoping he might build on their successes or
apparent successes so that he that he too might someday become
president. This pursuit led him down a slippery path of intrigue which
he surely later regretted.
He was born on 16 Jan. 1815 on the family
farm near Westernville,
the first of Joseph and Catherine Wager Halleck's thirteen children.
disliked farming so much that he ran away at the age of 16. Then his
Henry Waner, supported his studies at Fairfield Academy in Hudson, NY,
and Union College in Schenectady where he was one of five students to
the highest marks in all of his classes and was elected Phi Beta Kappa.
In 1835 he entered the United States Military Academy, again thanks to
the sponsorship of his grandfather. Why Halleck made this change, which
meant starting his college studies all over again is not clear, because
the reforms which would turn West Point into the nation's foremost
of engineering were to come later.
When he graduated in 1839 the only
prospects which he could expect were either Indian wars or design of
defenses. In 1844 he was sent to visit the principal military
of Europe. After his return to the United States, he delivered a course
of lectures on the science of war which were based largely on the works
of the Swiss general and writer Jomini and published in 1846 as
of Military Art and Science". Later it was widely used as a textbook by
officers during the Civil War and served to establish Halleck's
as a military theorist although it contained little original thinking.
to his scholarly pursuits he became known as "Old Brains," but this
became derogatory during the Civil War.When the Mexican War broke out
he served with the U.S. expedition to the Pacific Coast, participating
ably and with courage in some small battles, and then became
secretary of state under the military government. In this capacity he
frame the state's constitution and, according to Stephen Ambrose
Chief of Staff", p. 8), "succeeded in acquiring considerable land and
mineral rights", benefitting from the fact that he "had access to
of land titles, and in the confused state of transferring sovereignty
Mexico to the United States." He also spoke Spanish and was more
qualified than anyone else to understand the very hazy Mexican law
concerning land titles.
He then studied for the bar and, in the
of 1849-50, he helped form the law firm of Halleck, Peachy and
In 1854 he retired from the army as a captain, but maintained his
in military affairs through the militia. In 1855 he married Elizabeth
granddaughter of Alexander Hamilton. In 1861 he was on the board of
of a bank and two railroads, and owned part of a mercury mine. His
worth at the time was estimated at $500,000. When war erupted between
states, Halleck returned to the army and was recommended by Winfield
for a high post at the outset of the Civil War. He was immediately
the rank of major general and was charged with the command of the
theatre. Succeeding John C. Fremont at St. Louis, he straightened out
mess that Fremont had left behind. He was instrumental in the formation
large volunteer armies, and he ably laid the groundwork for the
successes of the spring of 1862 of his subordinate generals Grant,
His assignments included: major general,
USA (19 August
commanding Department of the Missouri (19 November 1861 - 11 March
commanding Department of the Mississippi (13 March - 19 September
commander in chief (11 July 1862 - 12 March 1864); chief of staff (12
1864 - 16 April 1865); commanding Military Division of the James (19
- 27 June 1865).
Taking immediate command of his three
armies after the battle of Shiloh, he proved
be an very cautious field commander in his only campaign. The
on Corinth, Mississippi, was so slow (6 weeks to cover 25 miles), and
subsequent pursuit so perfunctory, that the Confederates were able to
at their leisure. It is true that the occupation of the railroad center
Corinth was an important Union war objective. Is also true that Halleck
proved not to be a "butcher," as casualties were low. However, he was
in his persecution of Buell (his former rival for command in the West)
who was no slower and had also achieved important objectives (for
the definitive occupation of Kentucky). Halleck had the gall to convene
a court of inquiry against Buell, and when the jury of 5 officers
condemn Buell as it was supposed to, Halleck intervened personally. To
get a taste of Halleck's courtroom style see the findings
of the court of inquiry.
As commander of all the armies Halleck
held responsible for the frequent reverses of Union generals in
and was constantly at odds with his subordinates and with the secretary
of war, Edwin M. Stanton, who succeeded in having Grant replace him on
9 March 1864. According to Ambrose ("Halleck", p. 168) Halleck, who was
"so caked with intrigue that no amount of scrubbing could launder him,
could do Grant's dirty work just as he had done Lincoln's." To get an
of Halleck's work behind the scenes see the article "Slow
Trot" and his correspondance with Grant and Sherman concerning
Schofield's accelerated rise to army command during the
campaign (see my article Schofield vs. Stanley).
Halleck had begun the war as an advocate
of limited or "soft"
war, but as the political climate in Washington hardened, so did his
After Sherman's "winter excursion" (Sherman's own words) to the sea
Halleck wrote to Sherman: "Should
capture Charleston, I hope that by some accident the place may be
and if a little salt should be sown upon its site it may prevent the
of future crops of nullification and secession" (OR, Ser. I, XLIV,
On 20 April 1865 Stanton sidelined
Halleck by transferring him to
While there he did a genuine service to posterity by preventing the
of the Confederate archives which he had boxed and shipped to
writing to Stanton: "At any rate they will prove to be of great value
those who may hereafter write the history of this great rebellion" (OR
Ser. III, III, 1039). The shipments in 81 boxes weighed 10 tons and
made up the bulk of the the Confederate part of The War of the
the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.
After the war Halleck became commander of the Division of the Pacific with his headquarters in San Francisco. In 1869 he switched places with Thomas and became commander of the Division of the South with headquarters in Louisville, Ky. He died on 9 Jan. 1872 and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn.