Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Generals in Blue Missouri - Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant graduated from the military academy at West Point, served in the Mexican War and various western posts before resigning from the army as a captain in 1854. He farmed on his brother-in-law’s property near St, Louis and sold firewood in the city. In 1856 he and his wife Julia moved onto his father-in-law’s farm which he dubbed ’Hardscrabble’. Failing as a farmer, they moved into St. Louis and he worked as a bill collector with no success. In 1860, the family moved to Galena, Illinois, where he worked in his father’s leather goods shop.

After the attack on Fort Sumter, Illinois Governor Richard Yates gave Grant a militia commission to recruit, organize and train state volunteer units. On July 10th 1861, Grant was given command of the 21st Illinois Infantry and assigned to west Quincy in northeast Missouri to protect the Hannibal & St. Joseph railroad. The 21st moved to Florida (birthplace of Samuel Clemens) and Mexico, protecting railroad repair crews. At Mexico he took command of 2 additional regiments and learned of his promotion to Brigadier General.

Grant’s command was rushed to Ironton on August 8th to counter a Confederate force moving up from Arkansas. Both his new commission and army politics found him there. Technically outranked by Gen. Benjamin Prentiss, Grant was relieved and sent to Jefferson City and a week later to St. Louis. Fremont, sorting out the rank issue, sent Grant to Cape Girardeau with Prentiss reporting to him. When the Confederates occupied Columbus, Kentucky, on the Mississippi, on September 3rd, Grant secured Paducah, Kentucky, on the Ohio, on the 6th, with the 9th and 12th Illinois regiments.

On November 7, 1861 Grant’s troops crossed the Mississippi River and attacked the Confederate camp at Belmont, Missouri across from Columbus. Initially taking the camp, the reinforced Confederates forced Grant’s men to retreat back to Cairo, wiser and experienced.

After Belmont, Grant was appointed to command the Army of the Tennessee, leading it to Shiloh and Vicksburg, then command of the western theater at Chattanooga, commander of all the armies to Appomattox and finally President in 1868.

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