From1861 to 1865 the United States was locked in a war to see if, as PresidentAbraham Lincoln said, a nation dedicated to the proposition that all men arecreated equal can long endure. The war pitted north against south and dividedfamilies.
Many were killed and everyone was affected but even after thesurrender had been signed the divided still existed. Reconstruction was aperiod of time just as important as the Civil War, as it was a time in whichall the pieces had to be picked up and the country brought back together.Throughout the midst of both of these times, strong leaders were needed to keeporder and discipline. Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E.
Lee were two of these men.Even though they had different backgrounds and differing opinions both men hada significant impact on the Civil War and the years to follow. UlyssesGrant, whose birth name was Hiram Ulysses Grant, was born on April 27, 1822 in PointPleasant Ohio. He was the son of JesseGrant, a tanner and merchant, and Hannah Grant. He was the oldest of 6 childrenin his family. While he did not grow up in a rich family, he was not pooreither. He began his formal schooling at the age of 5 where he did not excel.
He showed a fascination and skill for horses but other than that he was anaverage student. Incomparison to Grant, Lee was born into a more prominent family. Robert E. Leewas born on January 19, 1807 at Stratford Hall Plantation in Virginia. Lee wasborn to Major General Henry Lee III and Anne Hill Carter. Henry Lee was theGovernor of Virginia as well as an officer during the Revolutionary War. Lee’sfamily also drew its prominence from being one of the first immigrants toVirginia.
Little is known about Lee’s childhood other than the fact that heexcelled in school.Lookingat the early lives of these two men it is difficult to see any similarities. Leewas born into a prominent family in Virginia. Grant was born into a middleclass family in Ohio.
Lee excelled at school whereas Grant showed littleinterest in it. Had it not been for the push of family members for both Lee andGrant to attend the United States Military Academy their paths may have nevercrossed. UlyssesGrant attended West Point from 1839 to 1843 where he continued to show hisinterest in horses. Aside from this interest he showed little in the way ofdesire to stay in the military. He was a very independent student but madefriends with a few cadets most notably James Longstreet, who would go on to beone of Robert E Lee’s most trusted advisors.
He graduated number 21 out of 39students and went on to be assigned to the 4th Infantry Regiment outof St. Louis Missouri. Just as with their early childhoods Lee was a verydifferent cadet than Grant. Robert E. Lee attended West Point from 1825 to1829. At the school Lee exceled, not receiving a single demerit during his4-year stay.
He graduated second in his class and was commissioned as a 2ndlieutenant in the engineer corps. Leeand Grant first encountered each other during the Mexican American War whereboth men distinguished themselves in different ways. Grant distinguishedhimself in combat while leading a cavalry charge during the Battle of Resaca dela Palma. During the battle he showed courage and his ability with horses whileleading the charge. Lee on the other hand distinguished himself during the warthrough his tactical ability and strategy. He was able to find routes to attackthe Mexican forces that had not been defended because the Mexicans believed theroutes to be too difficult to pass with a full army. During the war both menshowed the traits that would help them excel during the Civil War, but it alsoshowed their differences in leadership styles.
Lee showed the preparation andstrategy that would make him one of the great Generals in American militaryhistory, while Grant would show the courage and ability to think on his feetthat would help him win the Civil War.Atthe outbreak of the Civil War both Robert E Lee and Ulysses Grant were still inthe military. Because of this both men needed to make a decision about whatside they would support. Grant, in a letter to his father wrote, “we have a government and laws and aflag, and they must all be sustained. There are but two parties now, Traitorsand Patriots.
” Grant was also quoted later on in his personal memoirs assaying “The right of revolution is aninherent one. When people areoppressed by their government, it is a natural right they enjoy to relieve themselvesof the oppression, if they are strong enough, either by withdrawal from it, orby overthrowing it and substituting a government more acceptable. But any people or part of apeople who resort to this remedy, stake their lives, their property, and everyclaim for protection given by citizenship — on the issue.
Victory, or theconditions imposed by the conqueror — must be the result.” In comparison, Robert E. Lee wrotein a letter before the war “But I can anticipate no greatercalamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union. It would be anaccumulation of all the evils we complain of, and I am willing to sacrificeeverything but honor for its preservation. I hope, therefore, that all constitutionalmeans will be exhausted before there is a resort to force. Secession is nothingbut revolution.
The framers of our Constitution never exhausted so much labor,wisdom, and forbearance in its formation, and surrounded it with so many guardsand securities, if it was intended to be broken by every member of theConfederacy at will. It was intended for “perpetual union,” soexpressed in the preamble, and for the establishment of a government, not acompact, which can only be dissolved by revolution, or the consent of all thepeople in convention assembled.” Both men agreed that the CivilWar was not the best option but if it came to it both men would risk theirlives in support of the country. This however was different for both men asGrant supported the Union whereas the honor Lee had for his home of Virginialed him to support the Confederacy. As the war started Ulysses Grant wasgiven the rank of Colonel and put in charge of the 21st IllinoisVolunteer Infantry Regiment. Despite his reputation for being a drunk Grantproved himself to be a very formidable leader and won his first major battle atFort Donelson. Despite his victory, he acted without the approval of hissuperiors.
Even though he had acted alone, President Lincoln liked the endresult and promoted him to Brigadier General. Grant continued to use hisunorthodox methods to succeed in the war gaining favor along the way. Duringthe Chattanooga campaign Grant was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Generaland given command of the entire Union army.
At this position Grant led theUnion army for the rest of the war, and was the Union officer who met withGeneral Lee at the Appomattox courthouse to accept the surrender of theConfederacy. In comparison to Grant, Lee wasgiven the rank of General and was appointed command of all of the Virginiaforces. It was at this position, in charge of his famous army of Northern Virginia,where Lee would spend most of his time during the war. He was involved in manyof the biggest battles of the war including Gettysburg, Antietam, Second Manassas,and the Appomattox Campaign. During the war Lee fared well, relying on histactics and preparation to fight the often times bigger and better equippedarmies of the north.
As Roy Blount Jr describes Lee in his biography of him, hewas the “paragon ofmanliness” and “one of the greatest military commanders in history.” Lee wasappointed