Sunday, April 27, 2014


Today is the anniversary of the birth of Hiram Ulysses Grant in 1822. Known more familiarly as US Grant, he was one America's greatest military commanders. 20th century historians typically rated him one of our worst Presidents. A deserved re-evaluation has been taking place. While looking for material about Grant Google led me to this from The Washington Post:
...[I]n March 1864, Lincoln elevated him to lieutenant general, the first officer to be promoted to that rank since George Washington. Grant would now be general in chief.

He was no majestic figure like Washington. Grant was 5 feet 8 inches tall, not quite 140 pounds, slouchy, rough-looking, and handsome only in the renderings of artists. People noticed his steely gaze and headlong way of walking.

One Union officer famously wrote that Grant “habitually wears an expression as if he had determined to drive his head through a brick wall, and was about to do it.”

In the Army of Northern Virginia, the rebel general James Longstreet, who knew Grant well from their military adventures long before the great rupture, knew what was coming: “That man will fight us every day and every hour ’til the end of the war.” ....

...[I]n the darkest days for Lincoln and the Union cause, Grant’s strategy finally paid off. On Sept. 2, (1864) Sherman marched into Atlanta, bearing his chilling message, “War is cruelty and you cannot refine it.” The news of Atlanta’s capture reversed public opinion in the North about the war.

Now came the endgame — Sherman’s march to the sea, Gen. Philip Sheridan’s campaign in the Shenandoah Valley and the tightening noose on Lee in Virginia. Lincoln would win reelection; the war’s duration would be measured in months.

It is not reckless to guess that without Grant’s bullheaded determination, the story of the Civil War would have played out differently, perhaps ending with the inauguration of President George B. McClellan and the perpetuation of slavery. ....

Grant got a fourth star, and as the embodiment of the Union he almost inexorably followed the path to the White House. He was not eager to be president nor particularly adept at the job. His presidency was troubled by scandals among his aides and appointees and sectional strife over Reconstruction. He won a second term, handily, and in his second inaugural address said, “I have been the subject of abuse and slander scarcely ever equaled in political history, which today I feel that I can afford to disregard in view of your verdict.” ....

Grant’s admirers note many accomplishments: He pushed for passage of the 15th Amendment giving male African Americans the vote, sent federal troops to fight the Ku Klux Klan and reformed the government’s Indian policy. In his farewell address, Grant said, “It was my fortune, or misfortune, to be called to the office of Chief Executive without previous political training. ...Mistakes have been made, as all can see, and I admit.”

He told a reporter, “I was never as happy in my life as the day I left the White House.”

Still just 55, he spent two years on a world tour amid adoring throngs. He visited Europe, the Pyramids, the Taj Mahal, China and Japan.

...Otto von Bismarck said to Grant that it was a shame that the United States had to endure so terrible a war. Grant answered, “But it had to be done.”

Bismarck: “Yes, you had to save the Union.”

Grant: “Not only save the Union, but destroy slavery.” ....

Frederick Douglass eulogized Grant as “a man too broad for prejudice, too humane to despise the humblest, too great to be small at any point. In him the Negro found a protector, the Indian a friend, a vanquished foe a brother, an imperiled nation a savior.” .... [more]

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