One hundred and fifty years ago today, General Ulysses Grant was the toast of Washington. Only two days before he had been promoted by Congress to be the first active duty Lieutenant General since Washington, a honor he richly deserved. His battle record was beyond compare. He had never been defeated and he had gone to Chattanooga and relieved a tired, dispirited army; fed them, and then led them to triumph in one of the most tactical and strategic victories of the war. It was also the most miraculous, as my book, “The Boys of Chattanooga” tells.
I’ve always found it interesting that while meeting with President Lincoln, Grant said that he would capture Richmond. Quickly, the President corrected him. “Your goal is not to capture Richmond, but to destroy Lee’s army.” Sounder, better advice the President couldn’t have given his best and greatest general. The South was not fighting the North with Richmond, but with Lee’s army. There was still the Confederate Army of Tennessee, a sound fighting force, and of course, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in the field. Other than those two, the South had little left. Once Lee’s army was destroyed or captured, or surrendered, the war would end – not with the fall of Richmond. Our greatest President knew this and explained so to his greatest general.
As much as I admire Grant, President Lincoln is a man without compare. His incredible capacity to work is unbelievable. So many nights he stayed up, reading tactics and military histories, to better advice his generals, and by March of 1864 he might well have been the greatest military expert on the face of the earth. Of course, Grant could always counter that the President expressed a desire to invade on a Virginia peninsula, and Grant had to point out that his flanks would be uncovered, and his army vulnerable.
One might have been as good as the other. One thing was for sure. They would make a great fighting team. The death bell of the Confederacy was ringing.