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The First Battles: April 1861 to February 1862

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One can ask the same question about Union leaders. Where was Ulysses S. Grant?

Poor Ulysses Grant (1822–1885)—his birth name was Hiram Simpson Ulysses Grant—had endured a miserable decade. After graduating West Point, in 1845, he served with distinction in the Mexican War. Subsequent assignments to lonely barracks on the West Coast had nearly been the death of him: Grant succumbed to depression and heavy drinking. He resigned from the U.S. Regular Army in 1854.

The start of the Civil War brought Grant back to life. Though he was working as a clerk in his father’s leather tannery in Galena, Illinois, Grant joined the local militia and was soon elected colonel of his regiment. His friend, neighbor, and confidante—to the extent that anyone filled that role—John Rawlins later declared that Grant took on a new look and attitude in a matter of weeks. Where previously he had slouched, he now stood erect. Grant had divided feelings on the subject of slavery—his wife Julia’s family had long been slaveholders—but on the question of union or secession, he had not the slightest doubt.



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