As we near the anniversary of the surrender of Gen. Lee’s Confederate army at Appomattox, I’ve been doing some thinking about the man who brought it all about–Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.
Before the war, Grant seemed like a failure. He tried his hand at all sorts of jobs, but none worked out. The only thing he seemed good at was soldiering–but the United States was at peace. When the Civil War broke out, Grant returned to the army and, it seemed, his element. While Union generals kept losing to Lee in Virginia, Grant steadily won in the western theater. On July 4, 1863, he accepted the surrender of Vicksburg, MS, effectively cutting the Confederacy in half. Taking Vicksburg launched him into the nation’s view. When Pres. Lincoln placed him in command of all the Union armies in 1864, Grant won the war in a year.
Gen. Grant was not a pretty fighter; he did what he had to, slugging it out at Petersburg, Cold Harbor, and the Wilderness. He was not a dandy; his photos show a simple soldier who has seen too much war. But a pretty dandy was not what the North needed. Lincoln needed a soldier to reunite the country. Gen. Grant showed that, as a soldier, he knew exactly how to end the war. It has been said that he and Gen. Sherman gave the world its first taste of ‘total war.’ But he knew it was necessary, in order to bring peace. And when all was said and done, he showed–through his kindness to the conquered Confederates of Lee’s army–that Southerners were not his enemies and his ‘total war’ tactics were not personal. He did what was necessary to win, and then he did what was in his power to bring healing to the torn nation.
All his life, Grant seemed like a fish out of water–but when all hell broke loose, he was exactly what this nation needed. Perhaps you are at a loss about your purpose in life. Be patient. It took U.S. Grant over 40 years to find his.