War and Peace (2012)
*Bruce Catton. Never Call Retreat (The Centennial History of the
Civil War, Volume 3; 1965).
From the very beginning of his time as a general in the Civil War, Grant's philosophy was to engage and destroy an army of the Confederacy. Location(s) was important, but Grant thought that defeating / destroying a Confederate army led to the acquisition of key strategic locations, as opposed to capturing the strategic location(s), which would lead to the destruction of an army. In February of 1862, Grant decided to engage a Confederate army atForts Henry & Donelson, only eight miles away from each other on the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. Grant could have out-flanked or by-passed the Confederate forces (especially the larger one at Fort Donelson on the Cumberland), but he chose to engage. After a close-call in terms of a surprise Confederate attack, Grant forced the surrender of 12,000 troops, earning a promotion to major general in the process. Far more important to Grant, however, was the ability to proceed south on the Tennessee & Cumberland rivers to engage another Confederate army in the west at Corinth, Mississippi.
By destroying the Confederate army at Corinth (led by Gen. Albert Sydney Johnston), Grant would then be able to gain access to the lower-Mississippi River, and a "Jumping-Off" point to move towards Chattanooga, Tennessee, which would basically divide the Confederacy not just once, but two times over . . . all by destroying one Confederate army. Before Grant could engage Johnston's army at Corinth, Johnston attacked Grant's army in SW Tennessee at what would be known as the Battle of Shiloh (April, 1862). Like at Fort Donelson, Grant was surprised by a Confederate offensive, but at Shiloh, the scale of the Confederate offensive was much, much larger. That being said, Grant never lost his focus; he kept his emotions in check. Those that came to know him were astounded that his demeanor never changed, regardless of the circumstance. After a disastrous first day of battle, the second day was all in the Union's favor, and Grant forced Johnston's army to abandon the field of battle (Johnston suffered a fatal wound to his femoral artery during the first day at Shiloh). The casualties were astounding: in two days of battle, almost as many Americans died at Shiloh that had died in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Mexican War, combined. While victorious, Grant was essentially sidelined for a time, blamed for the excessive casualties despite gaining a crucial Union victory in the west. Grant's immediate superior, General Henry Halleck, an ambitious and vindictive sort, did the "sidelining", and actually traveled to the west to take over Grant's command.
However, General Halleck was re-assigned to Washington, D.C., to be the lead Union general in terms of administration, which suited his ambition. Halleck's promotion doesn't get very much historical attention, but without it, Grant probably would have left the army, and faded into obscurity. Back in command, Grant decided to take the last area of Confederate strength that remained on the Mississippi River - Vicksburg (Mississippi) and the surrounding forts. In order to do so, he needed to defeat General Pemberton's forces at Vicksburg, while at the same time, defeating General Joseph Johnston's army at Nashville. The general that Grant ordered to engage Johnston's army was General William Tecumseh Sherman (who not only became his most trusted general, but also a close friend), whose philosophy of battle was different than Grant's. Sherman believed that geography was more important than the destruction of an enemy army; whenever possible, he tried to by-pass the enemy, destroying anything that could supply them on his way to his destination. Sherman forced Johnston to retreat from Nashville by rarely engaging him in battle; he kept destroying rail lines and roads, and out-flanked Johnston's forces. Once Johnston was forced out of Nashville, Grant ordered Sherman to join him, so they could focus on Vicksburg. Vicksburg was one tough nut to crack - it took Grant months to finally get on the same side of the Mississippi River as Vicksburg. General Pemberton's fate was sealed at Vicksburg when General Sherman was able to take the last Confederate artillery position on high ground in the area, but still, he stayed, hoping for reinforcements. After months of maneuvering, and then a siege, Grant finally accepted the surrender of Vicksburg on 3 July, 1863, which was the same day the Battle of Gettysburgended. Gettysburg often overshadows Vicksburg, but Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States of America, saw that Vicksburg had the potential to turn the tide of the war in the Union's favor.
President Lincoln wanted to focus on a strategy which historians refer to as "Concentrations in Time"; attack the Confederacy on multiple fronts at the same time in order to end the war as soon as possible. After Grant secured another Union victory in Tennessee, further dividing the Confederacy, he was placed in charge of all the Union armies. Grant and Lincoln met for the first time during the Winter of 1863 - 1864, and Lincoln was satisfied that he finally had his "Concentrations in Time" general. Grant believed that to win the Civil War, he needed to destroy Lee's army, as well as the remaining Confederate armies (e.g. Joseph Johnston's army in Tennessee, and Jubal Early's cavalry outside of Washington, D.C.). Grant's orders were the following: a) Sherman was to destroy Johnston's army; b) General Phil Sheridan (cavalry) was to deal with Jubal Early in the Shenandoah Valley; c) General Benjamin Butler and the Army of the James would attack Lee from behind; d) General George Meade would advance on Lee's army. Basically, Grant dismissed the notion held by most northern politicians that to win the Civil War, the Union needed to capture Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy.
The strategy, of course, worked, but not as smoothly or as quickly as Grant or Lincoln envisioned. General Butler, a political appointee who was not a very good tactician, blundered badly, and never did threaten Lee from behind - ironically enough, his Army of the James became bogged down on the James River outside of Richmond. Sherman, under orders from Grant to destroy railroads and roads to his rear as he advanced towards Johnston, was going nowhere fast, and Grant, who was with Meade, was having extreme difficulty with Lee in the spring of 1864 (e.g. The Battle of the Wilderness, Sharpsburg, and Cold Harbor). The only positive, as Catton mentioned in Never Call Retreat, was that Lee wasn't able to take the offensive, which was his preference, but had to engage in defensive strategies against Grant. General Sherman provided the turning point for Grant's strategy: he asked Grant for permission to take the offensive in Tennessee, and then in Georgia, focusing on geography rather than Johnston's army. This strategy became known as "Sherman's March to the Sea",after he captured Atlanta in September, 1864. He used the census of 1860 to focus on which parts of Georgia to devastate, and he continued with that strategy to Savannah, and then through the Carolinas, until he joined up with Grant in Virginia. General Sheridan also received permission from Grant to do essentially the same thing in the Shenandoah Valley west of Washington, D.C., which meant that Lee was almost entirely isolated, and starving, his army down to 20,000 effectives.
On 2 April, 1865, Richmond was evacuated, and largely burned, and was occupied by Union forces. On 8 April, Lee gambled that he could take his army to the Danville railhead, and resupply his army. As long as Lee had hope to feed his army, he refused to surrender to Grant. At this point, Grant was using the strategy that historians call "Concentrations in Space", massing all of his forces in one location, in this case to force Lee to surrender. Sheridan beat Lee to the railhead, denying him any chance to feed his army, and he was then surrounded by Union armies commanded by Meade, Sherman, and Ord (who replaced Butler).Lee surrendered to Grant on 9 April, 1865, at Appomattox Court House. Grant, probably on his own, but was also counseled by Lincoln to do so, gave Lee's army honorable terms for surrender, plus he ordered his quartermaster to provide five days of rations to Lee's starving army . . . in effect, the Civil War was over (General Joseph Johnston didn't surrender to General Sherman until 26 April, 1865, which was also the day John Wilkes Booth was captured and killed).
In the late-1850s, Grant was toiling in a Missouri field, trying to make something of his life as a farmer. He was farming in Missouri since it was land that his wife's family owned (he had married Julia Dent during the Mexican War in the late-1840s), and he had a terrible go of it. Grant's social standing among his neighbors, in a slave state, was tremendously low. In a northern state, Grant's efforts in the field would be seen as admirable, but in Missouri, working with African slaves in the field diminished his social standing to the lowest in his life, and Grant was fully aware of his station. One wonders what his former neighbors thought of Grant during his ascendancy in the Union army during the Civil War, becoming not only the most famous Union general, but also, by 1900, the most famous person in American History, surpassing Washington, Jackson, and even Lincoln.