Grant & Lee
- “Ulysses S. Grant” and “Robert E. Lee”
- Examine the Primary Source Photographs for “Grant & Lee”
- Complete the Graphic Organizer on your Data Response Sheet to compare and contrast Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee.
- List at least five facts about Grant and five facts about Lee. In the center box identify their similarities.
Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee
Commanders of the Union and Confederate Armies
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was a not as well known at the start of the Civil War as Robert E. Lee but proved to be just as valuable during the war. Grant was a West Point graduate, and his record in the Mexican War was good. But when the Civil War broke out, Grant was a civilian. He was working in his brother’s leather-goods store in Illinois. He thought of himself as a failure, “stuck in the mud,” washed up at 40. When he tried to rejoin the army in 1861, he had to beg for a job. Finally he was made a colonel.
Northerner against retreat. As a soldier, Grant believed, “When in doubt, fight.” And he did fight. He won fame for demanding unconditional (complete) surrender from the Southern commanders he was fighting. In fact, people in the North began saying Grant’s initials, “U.S.,” stood for “Unconditional Surrender.” In battle, Grant was tough and hard. He was not “a retreating man.” As cannons roared, he sometimes carved wood or smoked big cigars. Sometimes he took a drink.
Soon Grant was made a general. He became a leading figure of the war in the West. In 1863 he captured the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi. He starved the city into surrender. Grant’s victory at Vicksburg came the same day as Lee’s retreat from Gettysburg. With Vicksburg in Union hands, the North had control of shipping on the Mississippi River.
Lincoln had searched for a winning commander for two years. Six top generals had come and gone. None of them had made great headway against the South. But now there was Ulysses. S. Grant. “Grant is my man,” Lincoln said. “He pounded Vicksburg - and won. He fights!”
Early in March 1864, Grant was called to the White House. There he met Lincoln for the first time. Grant didn’t look much like a general. He didn’t even look like a soldier. He was sloppy in his dress uniform. He didn’t stand straight, the way a general should. And he had a rough, untidy beard. But his blue eyes were bright and cold.
A few days later, Lincoln promoted Grant to the highest rank in the army. Other officers grumbled. Some said that Grant drank too much. But Lincoln didn’t care. He said that Grant was the man he needed. Grant was afraid of no one, not even Robert E. Lee. When Grant became commander of the Union armies, he attacked without letup. He lost 50,000 men, all told. Some people called him a “butcher.” This hurt him, but he knew only one way to win – attack. Such was the man who finally pounded the South into surrender.
Robert E. Lee
General Robert E. Lee was watching the Union lines through field glasses. He was in his middle 50s, and his beard was gray. He stood tall and straight. Suddenly a young soldier was at this side. “Yes, my son,” Lee said, “what can I do for you?” “Sir,” the boy answered, “I’m all out of tobacco. Could you let me have a chew?” General Lee did not smoke or chew tobacco. But he called over an officer and made sure the boy got some.
This was the strong, kind, religious man who led the Confederate armies. He came from an old Virginia family. His father, “Light Horse Harry” Lee, had been one of George Washington’s favorite officers. Robert E. Lee had been graduated second in his class at West Point. He had also won honors in the Mexican War of 1846-1848. Later he became head of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.
Southerner against slavery
In March 1861, Robert E. Lee was a colonel in the U.S. Army. He was against slavery and had set his own slaves free. He did not like the idea of the South seceding from the Union. He knew that a war which pitted brother against brother would be a terrible tragedy. But he also knew that he could not fight against his own state, Virginia. Like most Southerners, Lee believed that his state and its rights were more important than the Union.
On April 18, five days after the fall of Fort Sumter, President Lincoln offered Lee the job of commanding the Union army. A Union general had told Lincoln, “Lee is so valuable; his life should be insured for five million dollars.” Lincoln’s offer was a great honor, but Lee turned it down. The day before, Virginia had voted to secede from the Union. With a heavy heart, Lee then left the U.S. Army and joined the Confederacy. Lee said: “If I owned four million slaves, I would cheerfully give them up to save the Union. But to lift my hand against Virginia is impossible.”
Lee did indeed prove to be a valuable general. He led Confederate soldiers through four bloody years of combat. He had a great ability to measure an enemy’s strength and location. He knew how to move an army quickly over many miles. He had a superb sense of when to attack and when to withdraw. All in all, he has been judged one of the greatest military leaders in U.S. history.
General Ulysses S. Grant
• Union Commanding General for the last year of the war.
General Robert E. Lee
• Confederate Commanding General from the beginning of the war until the end of the war.
Robert E. Lee Images
Lee with Confederate Generals
Ulysses S. Grant Images
Grant as President
Grant with Union Generals