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Civil War

1861-1865

Elihu Washburne

Brigadier General U.S. Grant

Once the southern states fired on Fort Sumter in April 1861 Grant realized he was going to be involved in the coming conflict. He attended rallies in Galena and helped organize volunteers. Local Congressman Elihu Washburne encouraged Grant to seek a military appointment from Governor Richard Yates in Sprinfield, IL. Grant helped Governor Yates with recruitment and training efforts in and around Springfield until the end of May. He then sought a commission from the War Department but never received a response and could not get a meeting with Department commander George McClellan. Just as Grant was returning home he received a commission from Gov. Yates as Colonel of what would become the 21st Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Grant quickly disciplined and trained his regiment and they left for Missouri. With his capabilities evident, and the political help of Washburne, Grant was placed in command of a brigade by August.   

The Battle of Belmont

Grant's first combat of the war would occur in November. Tasked with demonstrating against the enemy he engaged them at Belmont, MO. Grant's forces initially had success and drove the Confederates back but were forced to retreat after the enemy reinforced. Grant was almost left behind in the retreat but was able to board the departing riverboat at the last moment. Grant gained some valuable field command experience as a result of the battle.  

Grant at the Battle of Fort Donelson

Grant's letter to Buckner requesting

"unconditional surrender".

Through the combined efforts of the navy and Grant's command Fort's Henry and Donelson were taken in February 1862. Grant forced the unconditional surrender of Fort Donelson with it's 12,000 man garrison from Simon Buckner earning him the nickname "Unconditional Surrender" Grant. The victory also earned Grant a promotion to Major General by President Lincoln and he became a celebrated household name in the north. 

Grant at the Battle of Shiloh, TN

General William T. Sherman

In April 1862 Grant narrowly avoided disaster at the Battle of Shiloh, TN. The battle was a surprise attack on the first day, but Grant refused to retreat and his army forced a Confederate retreat on the second day. It was the costliest battle of the war up to that point and the casualty lists stunned the north. Grant narrowly avoided being removed from his position due to controversy over the battle. His friend and confidant General William T. Sherman would convince a disillusioned Grant to remain in the service.  

The Hunt-Phelan Home

Grant's Headquarters in Memphis, TN

The summer of 1862 would see Grant as commander of the District of West Tennessee in a defensive position in hostile territory. Stationed at Memphis, TN and Corinth, MS, Grant had to contend with guerrillas, spies, illegal trading and Confederate attacks. The only comfort to this tense time was the ability for Julia and the children to make visits to headquarters. 

 Generals Grant and Pemberton at Vicksburg

In November Grant set his sights on the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg, MS. Over the next 6 months Grant utilized naval and army forces to stage a daring campaign to capture the city. His teenage son Fred joined him during the campaign. After laying siege to the city, Confederate commander John Pemberton finally surrendered July 4, 1863 with an almost 30,000 man army. This was a major victory for the north opening up the Mississippi River and essentially splitting the Confederacy in two. 

The Battle of Chattanooga

General Grant and staff at Lookout Mountain, TN.

After a horseback accident in September that had him bedridden for almost a month, Grant departed to handle a desperate situation in Chattanooga, TN. The Union army there was all but surrounded by the enemy and starving. In October the still injured Grant arrived in Chattanooga and arranged to open a supply line to feed the troops. At the end of November Grant fought the Battle of Chattanooga freeing the Union army and earning recognition from President Lincoln.

In March of 1864 Grant traveled to Washington DC to receive an appointment as Lieutenant General of all Union forces from President Lincoln. After placing William T. Sherman in command of the western armies, Grant made his new headquarters in the east and set his sights on defeating Robert E. Lees army of Northern Virginia.  

Grant & staff during the Overland Campaign

Brutal combat at the Battle of Spottsylvania

Grant's relentless Overland Campaign began in May 1864 with the battle of the Wilderness, VA. The battle, though mainly a costly stalemate did not deter Grant and he was determined to pursue Lee and end the war. Subsequent battles at Spottsylvania, North Anna and Cold Harbor resulted in heavy casualties on both sides, but crippled the struggling Confederate forces. 

Burlington, NJ Grant home

Grant and family at City Point, VA

By the summer of 1864 the armies remained stalemated near Petersburg and Richmond, so Grant settled in for operations against them. In September General Sherman had taken Atlanta, GA helping Lincoln get re-elected as President for a second term. During this time Grant was headquartered at the supply base of City Point, VA where his family was able to visit him. He had moved the family east and they were living in Burlington, NJ. The Siege of Petersburg would last over 9 months before the two cities fell to Union forces in early April 1865.

General Lee surrenders to General Grant

The Wilmer McClean House

After the fall of Petersburg and Richmond the Union army pursued Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia to Appomattox. At Wilmer McCleans house on April 9, 1865 Grant negotiated the surrender of General Lee signalling the end of the Civil War. Less than a week later an assassin took the life of President Lincoln, Grant also being a target escaped unharmed.

General Grant in the reviewing stand

In the end of May Grant attended a Grand Review of the Army in Washington DC. The war was over, but Grant was still in charge of coordinating reduction of the army and the military occupation of the southern states.

Home given to Grant by Galena residents

Grant's reception on his return to Galena

In July the Grant family took a much deserved rest tour through the northeast and midwest. When they arrived in Galena city residents presented a new home for the family as a gift.  

Grant home in Philadelphia, PA

Gen. Hallecks' Washington DC home used by the Grant's 

Grant home on I Street in Washington DC

Shortly after the war the Grant's were given a home in Philadelphia which they only used briefly. They occupied General Henry Hallecks' Washington residence for a short time as well. When Grant returned to Washington in October and bought a home for his family there. In November Grant left for a 16 day tour of the south. He was busy dealing with securing the rights of the recently freed slaves and maintaining order following the end of the war.

Individuals and places relating to

U.S. Grant's Civil War Service....

Elihu Washburne

(Illinois Congressman who was Grant's political sponsor.)

Ely Parker

(Seneca Native-American from Galena who served on Grant's staff)

John A. Rawlins

(Grant's Galena, IL friend and later officer on his staff .)

Henry Halleck

(Grant's commanding officer.)

John Eaton

(A military chaplain Grant appointed superintendant of freedmen.)

Battle of Belmont

(Grant's first battle of the Civil War.)

Fort's Henry & Donelson

(Grant's first major victory of the Civil War.)

Battle of Shiloh

(Grant narrowly avoided defeat in this costly battle.)

Vicksburg Campaign & Seige

(Grant's second major victory for the Union.)

Chattanooga Campaign

(Grant's third major victory for the Union.)

Overland Campaign

(Grant's first campaign in the eastern theater of the war.) 

City Point Headquarters

(Grant's headquarters during the Petersburg-Richmond Campaign.) 

Petersburg-Richmond Campaign & Seige

(A 9 month campaign to take the two cities.)

Appomattox Campaign

(Campaign leading to the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia.)

McClean House

(Site of the surrender of Robert E. Lee to U.S. Grant.)