Ulysses S. Grant: 10 Incredible Military Achievements

Ulysses S. Grant Military Accomplishments

Born Ulysses Hiram Grant into a not so affluent family in Ohio, Ulysses S. Grant’s meteoric rise to fame and prominence came during the closing years of the American Civil War (1861-1865). His bravery and tenacity in the four-year civil war was absolutely vital in helping Union forces emerge victorious over the Southern Confederacy.

A prolific horse rider during his early years in the military, General Grant cemented himself as one of America’s most courageous and greatest military minds, exhibiting astute leadership prowess at virtually all levels of the US Army, i.e. operational, tactical and strategic levels.

Quick Facts about Ulysses S. Grant

Born – Hiram Ulysses Grant

Date and Place of Birth – April, 27, 1822, Point Pleasant, Ohio, U.S.

Date and Place of Death – July 23, 1885, Wilton, New York, U.S.

Most Famous For – Commanding General of All Union Soldiers during the Civil War; 18th President of the United States

Parents – Jesse Root Grant and Hannah Simpson Grant

Wife – Julia Dent (married in 1843)

Children – Frederick, Ulysses Jr., Ellen, and Jesse

Education (military) –United States Military Academy (West Point, New York) (from 1839 to 1843)

Wars fought in – Mexican-American War (1846 – 1848), American Civil War (1961 – 1965)

Famous Battles Fought – Battle of Vicksburg, Chattanooga, Overland Campaign, Petersburg,

Military Offices – 6th Commanding General of the U.S. Army (1864-1869); Acting U.S. Secretary of War (1867 – 1868)

President of the United States – 18th U.S. President (1869 – 1877)

Nickname – “Sam”, “U.S. Grant”, and “Unconditional Surrender Grant”

Military Accomplishments of Ulysses S. Grant

On the back of saving the Union, General U.S. Grant etched his name into the annals of American history after he was elected to the White House on two occasions, serving as the 18th U.S. president from 1869 to 1877. Read on to get in-depth explanation of the ten incredible military achievements of Ulysses S. Grant, the man regarded by some historians as second only to Abraham Lincoln.

Fought bravely in the Mexican-American War (1846 -1848)

Brevet Second Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant, 1943

Beginning toward the end of President John Tyler’s presidency, the United States annexed Texas from Mexico. With this annexation came heated hostilities between Mexico and the United States. Tyler’s successor President James K. Polk, who was a fervent supporter of the Manifest Destiny, hoped to lure the Mexicans into an all-out war by sending American forces to the border regions of Mexico.

Did you know: The Battle of Palo Alto was Grant’s debut in active combat?

Ulysses S. Grant’s unit initially served as an assistant quartermaster under Major General Zachary Taylor (later 12th President of the United States) at the start of the two-year war with Mexico. His position in the somewhat logistics and administrative department of the military meant that he was not required to partake in active combat. However, Grant was not satisfied with his role; he desired nothing than to fight in the war. In the end, his superiors made his dream come through by placing him in the cavalry unit at the Battle of Resaca de la Palma. During the battle, Grant leveraged his skills in horsemanship and courageously led his unit.

At the Battle of Monterrey (September, 1846), Grant guided a dispatch through a barrage of enemy fire to safety. The battle also saw him strap himself to the side of his horse while flying past enemy line.

Toward the dying part of the war, Grant was reassigned to serve under Major General Winfield Scott. En route to Mexico City, he again served gallantly in the September 1847 battles of Molino del Rey and Chapultepec, helping the U.S. secure victory over Mexico.

By the time the Mexican-American War was over in 1848, Grant had climbed to the rank of captain in the U.S. Army. His service under two very astute military commanders – Generals Winfield Scott and Zachary Taylor – is what shaped him into the military leader that he became. The Mexican war also allowed him to come to appreciate a potential career in the military.

Did you know: Grant and his men at San Cosmé moved a broken down howitzer and, against all odds, reassembled it in order to fire upon Mexican troops stationed in the vicinity?

Grant was a selfless military leader

Military Accomplishments of General Ulysses S. Grant

Ordered to accompany soldiers and a number of civilians from New York City to Panama, Grant carried out his duty wholeheartedly even though he had to wrestle a cholera outbreak in his camp. He set up a small hospital in the city to cater for the seriously ill patients. While the orderlies were reluctant to care of the patients, Grant was not afraid to get his hands dirty and cater for them.

In 1854, Grant resigned from the U.S. Army after engaging in a behavior that was not fit for a soldier. To some, he was seen as belligerent drunk. It has been stated that Grant’s unruly drunken behavior was triggered by his homesickness. He sourly missed his wife Julia Dent Grant and desired nothing than to leave the army. Grant later made a comeback to the military and led Union forces to victory in the American Civil War.

About a month after the inauguration ceremony of Republican Abraham Lincoln as the 16th president of the nation, Southern forces attacked Union fort, Fort Sumter in South Carolina. This attack sparked a civil war that would ravage the country for well over 4 years.

As at the time of the attack on April 12, 1861, Grant was with his family in Galena, Illinois, decently earning a good living as a store clerk in his father’s leather business. With the Grant’s financial woes largely non-existent by this time, Grant joined the Union forces and went on to accomplish the following feats:

Helped recruit Volunteers into the Union Armies

After Lincoln’s April 15 passionate call for 75,000 volunteers, Grant decided to enlist and fight for the Union. He actively partook in recruitment exercises for volunteers in the Union forces. He abandoned his job at the leather store. With the help of Illinois Congressman Elihu B. Washburne, Grant was able to get re-commissioned in the U.S. Army. He served as a military aide to Richard Yates, governor of Illinois.

He made an unruly 21st Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment disciplined

Brig. Gen. U.S. Grant in 1861

Grant also commanded the 21st Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment, beating the forces into good shape and order.  By August, 1861, Grant had risen to the rank of Brigadier General of the volunteers. He followed this up by taking up the position of commander of the District of Southeastern Missouri.

His first significant attack on Confederate positions came in November 1861. Grant and his men charged at Confederate soldiers in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

At the Battle of Belmont on November 7, 1861, Grant fought side by side with Brigadier General John A. McClernand. They had a combined strength of about 2,500 men. Initially, Grant and the Union forces were on top; however, the tides turned in favor of the Confederates after the Confederates received more troops. Grant and his men were forced to retreat.

Grant led the Union to its first major wins in the Civil War

He commanded Union forces that resulted in the unconditional surrender of Fort Donelson by the Confederate army. This feat was one of Grant’s first and most significant victories of the Civil War. The Union forces forced the surrender of about 1200 Confederate soldiers, which were under the command of Confederate General John B. Floyd.

For his capturing of Fort Donelson in February 1862, President Abraham Lincoln promoted Grant to major general of volunteers. After Fort Donelson, Grant earned the name, “Unconditional Surrender Grant”.

Won the Battle of Shiloh (the Battle of Pittsburgh Landing)

Due to a bit of apprehension from Henry Helleck, then commander of the Department of Missouri, Grant and his men suffered from a surprise attack by Confederate forces on April 6, 1862. Thousands of Union soldiers perished that day in southwestern Tennessee. Come the following day, Grant received a reinforcement of 18,000 men under the command of Major Generals Don Carlos Buell and Lew Wallace. The general drove his men (the Army of the Tennessee) at dawn and attacked Confederate forces (the Army of Mississippi). The Confederates had to fall back to Corinth.

All in all, the Battle of Shiloh claimed the lives of about 24 thousand soldiers. As at that time, the battle was considered the deadliest battle to ever occur on American soil. Grant came under immense criticism due to the large number of deaths. However, the Battle of Shiloh was very significant because it allowed the Union forces to push on for control over the Mississippi valley.

Grant’s victory at Shiloh was followed by another win at the Battle of Iuka. Union forces defeated Confederates on September 19. With about 40,000 soldiers, Grant took control of western Tennessee.

U.S. Grant fought with distinction at Vicksburg

The goal of the Vicksburg Campaign (December 1862 – July 1863) was to take complete control of the Mississippi and thereby splitting the Confederate in two. President Abraham Lincoln and his generals, including Ulysses S. Grant, wanted to deny the Confederacy and their army access to vital supply lines.

Grant and Lincoln worked very hard to incorporate freed African American slaves into the Union Army and Navy. Owing to the tireless work of those African Americans, the Union was able to scale up the production of vital goods. For example, they supported the North’s war effort by picking cotton. They also helped to build a number of bypass canals.

After months and months of fighting, Ulysses S. Grant made sure that Vicksburg fell into the Union’s hands on July 4, 1863. Taking of Vicksburg was crucial in boosting the morale of Union troops.

For his gallant efforts, President Lincoln promoted Grant to the position of major general. Grant was also given command of the Division of the Mississippi in October 1863.

(Left to Right) General Sherman, General Grant, Abraham Lincoln, and Admiral Porter met on March 28, 1865 to discuss the terms of Confederacy surrender and reconstruction efforts (1863 – 1877)| Picture- The Peacemakers by Healy, 1868

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Led the Union to victory at Chattanooga

The Chattanooga Campaign saw General Grant command forces that took control of Tennessee, thereby opening up Georgia. On March 2, 1864, Lincoln promoted Grant to lieutenant general in the army. Grant was now the commander of all Union Armies. Prior to Ulysses S. Grant, only George Washington had held that rank in the army. He had under his control over 533,000 troops.

Between May and June 1864, Grant led the Union forces during the Overland Campaign. The campaign saw immense battles in Virginia. For example, the Battle of the Wilderness, which occurred on May 5, 1864, went down as one of the most brutal battles of the Civil War. In just three days of fighting, about 18000 Union soldiers perished. The Confederate lost about 11,000 men.

Grant derived the name “the Butcher” due to the thirteen-day battle that was waged against the Confederate. Towards the final three days of the battle, over 52,000 Union soldiers perished at Cold Harbor near Richmond, Virginia. As for the Confederate forces, over 39,000 of their men died.

Battle of the Wilderness, which occurred on May 5, 1864, went down as one of the most brutal battle of the Civil War.

Secured Confederate General Lee’s surrender on April 9, 1865

With wins at Mobile Bay, Atlanta, Savannah and Nashville, the war looked like it was almost nearing its completion. General Robert E. Lee and his Confederate troops were very demoralized, many deserted due to the immense conditions of the war. Union leaders and generals met on March 28, 1865 to discuss the terms of surrender and reconstruction efforts (1863 – 1877) that would take place in the South after the war.

In the beginning of April, 1865, Grant stepped up his attack on General Lee’s stronghold. Grant captured Petersburg and Richmond on April 2 and 3 respectively. Owing to depleted forces and demoralized men, General Lee agreed to meet up with Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia and surrender.

U.S. Grant quote

On April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Grant. Relieved that the bloodshed was over, Grant sought no vengeance. He took no prisoners of war. Grant also allowed Southern troops to return home with their horses.

Grant convinced Lincoln’s replacement, President Andrew Johnson, not to charge General Lee and other Confederate soldiers with treason.

The Appomattox Court House meeting that saw General Robert E. Lee surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant

General Grant maintained Order in the South during the Reconstruction Era

On July 25, 1866, Grant was promoted to the rank of General of the Army of the United States. The promotion was done by the U.S. Congress. Post the Civil War, General Grant turned his attention to managing the military component of the Reconstruction efforts in the South. He called on politicians on Capitol Hill to protect the rights of former slaves in the South. He also used the U.S. Army to maintain the peace and order in the South. He viewed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 as an important legislature that ought to be implemented in the South.

In spite of a fall out with President Johnson, Grant was still able to marshal the military to keep freed slaves from harm’s way in the South. Congress also supported Grant’s effort with a number of Reconstruction Acts (such as the Command of the Army Act) and the Tenure of Office Act (1867).

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