On This Date in History: There is a proposal being floated that President Reagan’s image replace that of US Grant on the Fifty dollar bill. Most people are aware of President Reagan’s accomplishment but his legacy is still being formed. Most people, however, know very little about US Grant and at least part of his history should be considered. On April 27, 1822 a new baby boy came into the world near Point Pleasant, Ohio. His parents gave him the name of Hiram Ulysses Grant. Fortunately for the child, he was known to everyone by his middle name, Ulysses. According to Grant biographer, William S. McFeely, when the young lad received an appointment to West Point, he “took advantage of his new start in life to tinker with his name.” When he registered at Roe’s Hotel, he switched his names and signed the register as Ulysses H. Grant. Now, his mother had been pushing for his appointment and Congressman Thomas Hamer had little time to make the appointment. He had known the boy as Ulysses but was uncertain regarding his middle name. Grant’s mother had been Jesse Simpson before she was married and Hamer knew of Jesse Grant’s maiden name. So, he made the appointment for Ulysses S. Grant. When Ulysses appeared for the initial registration, he found that there were two Grants listed. One was Elihu from New York and the other was for Ulysses S. Grant from Ohio. He chose the latter. If he considered making a correction, he never followed through so well before his graduation and commissioning, he was thereafter known as Ulysses S. Grant.
He didn’t do well academically at West Point but did graduate. He served with some distinction in the Mexican War but left the army before the outbreak of the Civil War. He did not find much success in civilian life and was working in the family business as a clerk in Galena, Illinois. To that point, he had been a failure. At the outset of the war, mainly due to his previous military experience, he became a colonel commanding the 21st Illinois Regiment. When he first expected hostilities, Grant admitted that he was nervous. But, when he found that the enemy had abandoned its position, it was then that he realized the enemy was as afraid of him as he was of them and from that point forth never had trepedation heading into battle. He rose rather rapidly to the rank of Brigadier General and later commanded successful attacks on Fort Henry and Fort Donelson. At that time, those were just about the only Union successes in the war. While his commanding officer, Henry Halleck, consistently attempted to throw up obstacles, Grant caught the eye of President Lincoln who was constantly looking for a general who could lead and who would fight. He went on to lead a bloody but decisive victory at Shiloh.
Grant conducted a masterful and daring campaign against Vicksburg, MS which he put under siege. It is an effort that is often overlooked by many history classes because the fall of Vicksburg happened coincidentally with the battle of Gettysburg. While Gettysburg was monumental and marked the end of the northern extent of Confederate incursions, it can be argued that Grant’s securing of Vicksburg was militarily more significant than Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg. By securing Vicksburg, the Union had gained control of the Mississippi River and effectively cut the Confederacy in two. From that point, Grant led more bold victories in Tennessee.
The rank of Lieutenant General had not been used in the military since General Washington held the rank. I suppose the Lieutenant moniker indicates that the rank is second only to the President, who is the Commander in Chief. President Lincoln urged Congress to reactivate the position and on this date in 1864, Ulysses S. Grant was advanced to the level of Lt. General…the highest ranking General Officer the nation had seen since General Washington. At the presentation, Lincoln said, “General Grant, the nation’s appreciation of what you have done, and its reliance upon you for what remains to be done in the existing great struggle, are now presented, with this commission constituting you you lieutenant-general in the Army of the United States. With his high honor, devolves upon you, also, a corresponding responsibility. As the country herein trusts you, so, under God, it will sustain you. I scarcely need to add, that, with what I here speak for the nation, goes my own hearty personal concurrence.”
Grant did go on to lead the Union to victory and became the 18th President of the United States. We are often told in history of how he was a drunk, his administration was corrupt and he is typically listed near the bottom of most presidential listings. Nevertheless, it was his delayed actions during Reconstruction that effictively destroyed the Ku Klux Klan in 1871 until it resurfaced in the early 20th century. Consider that he was one of the most beloved men of his time. He went on a two year world tour where he was greeted by thousands and welcome by the crowned heads of the world. In 1881, he was a serious contender for an unprecedented third term. I’ve always wondered why modern historians think he was so bad when the people who lived during his tenure in office would have even remotely considered him for another term. Yet, now someone wants to replace US Grant’s image on the $50 bill with that of President Reagan. That would be a mistake. Grant needs to be recognized and remembered.
Now, critics often point to Grant’s poor standing in his graduating class at West Point to illustrate his shortcomings. But, at West Point, the strategy and tactics of de Jomini (Napoleonic) were taught that called for the maintanance of supply lines and concentrating on key points of communication and supply. Grant claims in his memoirs that he never read all of his books at West Point and that was a help. He surveyed the situation and determined that his goal should be to use his overwhelming force to attack and annihaliate armies and supplies so that they are unable to continue to make war. In general, these “Grantonian Tactics” were used by Rommel, Montgomery and today by the US military. In my view, he was a 20th century man living in the 19th century and his legacy lives on in the 21st century. US Grant would recognize what the media came to call “shock and awe” because US Grant invented it. Read more about Grant and you will find he was a much much greater figure in American history than he is given credit.
Weather Bottom Line: I told you for several days that there would be severe weather and yesterday there was a major tornado in Oklahoma. The bulk of the severe threat will remain South of Louisville…the Arklatex looks like a good spot and also the Dixie states. The main system is getting hung up but that means that we will continue to have mild conditions and increasing moisture. So, rain on Tuesday night will give rise to some lingering showers on Wednesday morning followed by temperatures near 70 in the afternoon and then a threat for t’storms on Thursday. At this point, as this guy comes out on Thursday, the main severe threat will be South but, I would suggest that its still possible, not necessarily probable, that we get some action around here. There are several variables at play. After the main system moves through, we cool down for the weekend but nothing too far from seasonal norms. The excessive cold long wave pattern seems to have given way to a pattern that will be more supportive of an active spring-like pattern.