BATTLE OF COLD HARBOR
In his youth, Ulysses S. Grant became known for being heroic in times of need, but lackadaisical when it came to monotonous duties that didn’t involve life or death situations. Thankfully for him, Grant lived in a tumultuous time in America, and he came out of it as an American Hero and former President. He showed promise and prowess during the Mexican War and when the Civil War began 13 years later, Grant jumped at the opportunity to volunteer his services to the Union army. After quick ascension in the ranks, he was given the command of the District of Southeast Missouri in September of 1861.
1862 began as a successful year for Grant and his troops, with victories coming in Tennessee at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson. The victories earned him the nickname of “Unconditional Surrender” Grant, and all things seemed to go in the favor of the native Ohioan. It wasn’t until the Battle of Shiloh that Grant faced some adversity against the Confederate forces. Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston led a surprise attack against Grant’s forces at Shiloh on April 6, 1862, which devastated the Union forces, leaving an alarmingly large amount of casualties. Many began to call for Grant’s removal from command, but President Lincoln’s unwavering support of Grant was properly summarized by Grant himself saying “I can’t spare this man. He fights."
One of Grant’s more prolific victories came at Vicksburg in Mississippi in May of 1863. After a lengthy siege operated magnificently by Grant’s strategic approach, Confederate general John Pemberton was forced to surrender, leaving his 30,000-man army utterly useless. This was of course at the same time as Gettysburg, which turned out to be the major turning point in the Civil War. Less than a year later, President Lincoln elevated Grant to lieutenant general, and simultaneously names him general-in-chief of the United States Armies.
One of the more critical points in the Civil War was the heavyweight fight between General Grant and Southern Leader Robert E. Lee in the approach for the Confederate capital of Richmond. Grant was determined to defeat Lee, but the cost was expected to be high, and the number of casualties amounted on both sides certainly lived up to the billing. The battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor and the Siege of Petersburg was a bloodbath that one participant would claim to be “unspoken, unspeakable history”. Grant’s armies lost more than half of their soldiers during the last year of the war, but it was still a victorious March as Lee was forced to surrender, and Union forces were able to enter Richmond, essentially ending the war.
After the War, Grant was made Secretary of War before eventually being elected President in 1868. Ulysses S. Grant will always be better remembered as a war general than a president, as his presidency was littered with failures and corruption. He would eventually die of cancer at the age of 63, dying as an American Hero.