- Campaign against Richmond. -- Grant's vigor and his staff. -- strategy. -- Grant with the army of the Potomac. -- his tenacity. -- no such thing as defeat. -- his eye always towards the front. -- he didn't believe in disaster. -- practical application of science. -- use of a rebel shell. -- flank movement.--“on to Richmond.” -- at Spottsylvania. -- the famous despatch: “I propose to fight it out on this line.” -- a pause in the fight, and efficient work in the rear. -- Croakers' talk of strategy and Copperhead abuse. -- Grant's purpose. -- hard fighting and strategy equally valued. -- the purpose never abandoned. -- desperate resistance of the enemy. -- Grant's skilful manoeuvres. -- his hold on Lee. -- General Butler's movement. -- Grant disappointed. -- before Petersburg. -- the rebels kept busy. -- the Weldon railroad. -- laying plans and waiting the developments of other campaigns. -- a new clamor. -- Sherman's brilliant operations.--the final campaign. -- Grant the director. -- his strategy, Manceuvres, sagacity, and persistency. -- Flight of Jeff Davis and retreat of Lee's army. -- Grant chooses Lee's route. -- the pursuit. -- Lee in a Strait. -- correspondence. -- the interview at Appomattox. -- the surrender and Downfall of the rebel Confederacy. -- joy of the people. -- Grant's honors well won. -- what he had done.
As soon as the general plan of the campaign of 1864 had been determined upon by Grant, he went vigorously to work to carry it into effect. He had no taste for show, and gave no time to it. He did not believe in delay, and would not tolerate it. Ready to work himself, and capable of accomplishing a great deal of labor, he set a good example, and required it  to be followed. His headquarters were always distinguished by the quiet, business-like industry of his staff and clerks. And in the selection of his staff, he chose only men of capacity for their several duties, never simply for their good looks or social position, as some officers did, not for mere friendship. No intimation of his plans ever leaked out from his headquarters to reach alike the loyal press and the rebel commanders. The Lieutenant General kept his own counsel, except so far as it was necessary to intrust a knowledge of his purposes to his subordinates; and his staff learned reticence from his example, if not from his injunctions. The government heartily supported the man to whom it had intrusted the whole military power. Supplies and munitions were furnished without stint, and all that Grant deemed necessary at any point was furnished as promptly as possible. The country, too, sent forward troops with unfailing zeal, and the armies were filled up to a strength they had never before reached. Two years before, after great preparation and long delay, after many grand reviews and much unpractical discipline, a commander, of whom the country unwisely expected as much as they did now of Grant, had begun the first campaign against Richmond. From the outset, he had asked for reenforcements, and the burden of all his despatches was “more troops,” “more troops,” or something more and different from what the government had provided or proposed, not because he had proved the strength of the enemy, but because he feared it, and was ready to magnify it. And so the very delays resulting from his dissatisfaction with what he had, and his distrust of his troops, if not of his own  capacity, served to make the enemy as formidable as he had feared. It is true that there had now been a great improvement in military affairs. The army was better organized, better equipped, and better officered, and experience had made both men and officers more efficient. But Grant, on assuming command, had made no extravagant demands, and sought no extraordinary power. Never in all his campaigns had he clamored for reenforcements. He had always taken what the government could send, and made the best possible use of them. So, as the commander of all the armies, he evinced the same spirit, trusting to the patriotism of the government and the people to furnish all that they could to accomplish the work of crushing the rebellion, and resolved to do his part by a faithful and persistent use of the means thus placed in his hands. His letter to President Lincoln, quoted in the preceding chapter, shows how he acknowledged the efforts of the government, and with what a generous spirit he recognized his own responsibility. As Grant's strategy in his former campaigns had been simply to make the rebel armies his objective, so in his wider field he did not change it. The rebel army in Virginia was the objective of the eastern campaign, and the rebel army between Chattanooga and Atlanta was the objective of the western campaign. These two armies comprised the mass of the rebel forces, and covered the vital points of the rebel Confederacy, and they were to be the objects towards which the two great Union armies were to move; all other operations being in aid of these, to create diversions, or to hold  detached rebel forces from joining the main rebel armies. Neither Richmond nor Atlanta were considered strategic points which it was important to reach and hold, but Grant's purpose was to reach and defeat the rebel armies, whether in front of those places, or wherever they might be made to give battle. In them was the strength of the rebellion, and with their defeat it would be conquered. Grant's combined movements were made early in May, General Sherman succeeding him in the immediate command of the western army, Grant himself, as before stated, directing the campaign in Virginia, General Meade being in immediate command. Cooperating with the army of the Potomac was a force under General Butler, which moved up the James River towards Richmond, and upon the operations of which Grant relied for early success, and another under General Sigel, which moved up the Shenandoah Valley. Though General Meade remained in immediate command of the army of the Potomac, it was unmistakably a satisfaction to the country that General Grant was present to direct the campaign and to fight the battles. The army too was inspired by his presence; for his previous success, his acknowledged ability, and his well-known perseverance, were an assurance of ultimate victory. His unassuming, quiet, self-reliant manner, and his republican simplicity, also impressed the soldiers and won their respect. For the Union army was a democratic army, and essentially Anglo-Saxon, or certainly not French enough to be long carried away by Napoleonic displays of military grandeur,  high-sounding addresses, and lofty condescension, such as in its earlier days seemed to be the spirit of the headquarters of the army of the Potomac. The soldiers had learned to judge of officers by their success, and not by brave words or brilliant promises; by their energy and activity, and not by a showy staff or excess of etiquette. As the campaign progressed, he imparted to officers and men something of his own persistency and indomitable purpose, and thus carried them through terrible conflicts and trying emergencies, which, without his presence and direction, might have resulted in discouragement and defeat. The advance from the Rapidan to Richmond illustrated Grant's tenacity of purpose, and the battles illustrated his skill as a tactician. They were the most obstinate contests of the war; for here was the flower of the rebel army under their ablest officers, fighting for their capital, and knowing that with their defeat the rebel Confederacy must go down in ignominy. The campaign was vital to both the contestants; for, while defeat of the rebels was the death-blow to the rebellion, a defeat of the Union army would have involved a similar fate to the western army, and could be retrieved only by still greater sacrifices of blood and treasure. Nay, defeat now involved more than this, for a disloyal peace party at the North, and foreign intervention, would have profited by such a disaster, and the rebel Confederacy would have become a recognized nation. Fortunate for the country was it that it had such a man as Grant to lead its principal armies at such a crisis,--a soldier of tried  skill, of inexhaustible resources,. unfaltering persistency, and who, with the confidence of a fatalist, knew no such thing as defeat. Grant never supposed such a thing as defeat possible, though he never placed his army in a position from which his skill could not extricate it in case of necessity. His eye and his thoughts were always turned towards the front and on his own aggressive movements, and he found. no time to direct them to the rear. He took care that the quartermasters, with ample supplies, should always be there, and that was the only reason for keeping his communications open, for he never thought of return. It would have taken a terrible defeat to make Grant believe it, so strong was his faith in success. At the battle of the Wilderness, when the rebels, massing heavily against Hancock's corps, pressed it back, an aid brought word to Grant that the corps had suffiered serious disaster. “I don't believe it,” said the general, with something more of vehemence than usual; and he sent the aid back for further reports, which proved that the first accounts were greatly exaggerated. The nature of the country where the battle of the Wilderness was fought was such as to make it but little better than a fight in the dark. A thick, low growth of wood on a wide plain, with only moderate elevations, concealed the movements of both friend and foe, except where they were actually engaged, and it was impossible for the commanding general or his subordinates to direct the movements of the troops, width the precision which had been shown at Chattanooga. Though the rebels could see no better, the ground was more familiar to  them, and they had only to feel the position of an army just advancing into the Wilderness. An open country, where he could see the enemy's lines, and the advantages or disadvantages of his own position, might have enabled Grant, with his skilful manoeuvres and grand tactics and tenacity, to achieve a victory on the first field, which he was determined to achieve somewhere. The obscurity of the field, and Grant's practical mind, which in a campaign was full of resources for great occasions or small, are shown by an' incident at his headquarters. A rebel shell struck quite near to himself and Meade as they were conversing together, furrowing the ground and bursting at some distance. Though the shell came unpleasantly near, Grant neither started nor spoke, but he put it to some use. Drawing from his pocket a small compass, he calculated the course of the shell, and in a few minutes he had some artillery posted to silence the rebel battery which had thrown it. The guns thus posted and pointed soon silenced the unseen battery, and Grant, inquiring the elevation of the guns, calculated the position and distance of the enemy's line, and acted promptly on the result. Not content to fight, as it were, in the dark, where he could not strike a decisive blow, Grant had recourse to a flank movement, which, in his progress towards Richmond, soon became famous. Severing his communications at the Rapidan, he moved the army to Spottsylvania, for the purpose of placing it between Lee's army and the rebel capital, or forcing him to accept battle on a different field. Having determined  upon this movement, he sent to the President the following brief despatch:-- “I am on to Richmond. All goes well.” In allusion to this despatch, the President said, with characteristic point,-- “General Grant has gone ahead, and drawn his ladder after him.” But the rebels had the advantage of interior lines, and, perceiving Grant's movement, reached Spottsylvania first. There they already had fortifications, which they promptly strengthened, and occupied a strong position. The country was more favorable for grand tactics, and Grant made some brilliant manoeuvres and attacks, which forced the rebels within their strongest works. It was from this place that he sent to Washington his famous despatch, which thrilled the country with its determined spirit, and became familiar throughout the land. It simply recounted, in the briefest possible terms, what had been done, and his own determination, It contained no boast, and no extravagant promise; no call for reenforcements, and no complaint; but it showed the spirit of the great commander, and that with which he inspired the army.
 The army of the Potomac was likely to “fight its battles through” now, if it never had before. But the rebel position was one of great strength, and could be carried only by greatly superior numbers or at a heavy sacrifice of life; and the army, after its eight days of fighting and marching, needed rest. Grant therefore ceased to attack, and the rebels had suffered too much to assume the offensive. In this pause, all the vast work necessary for the support of a great army — the bringing up of supplies, removal of the wounded, and the arrival of reenforcements — went on with unusual celerity and success, and all the arrangements were perfected for establishing a new base when the army moved. Never before during the war had the quartermaster's department been so efficiently administered; and not a little of its promptness and efficiency were due to the direction and influence of Grant, who had already at the west proved himself the ablest of administrative officers. During this brief delay, Grant determined upon his next move, which was another flank movement to force the rebel army back, farther from Washington, nearer to Richmond. But Lee, also, had made preparations to move; and, having still interior lines, he retired to another and stronger position between the North Anna and South Anna Rivers. Some persons, who were continually talking about “strategy,” and who were, doubtless, admirers of the strategy of the first campaign against Richmond, imagined Grant was simply an obstinate fighter, and possessed no attribute of a good general. Copperhead admirers of McClellan, such as had before maligned the hero of Donelson and  Vicksburg, now called him a “butcher” who wantonly sacrificed his own men. But such malignant charges originated only with those whose sympathies were not with the Union sacrifices but with the rebel losses, and who hated Grant because he was hammering at the rebellion with the purpose of crushing it, and not parleying with it. Grant's purpose was to drive the rebel army back forever from its threatening position too near to Washington; to fight it at all times, and in all places, when necessary; to “hammer” at it, and deal it frequent and heavy blows, from which it could not recover. But whenever his purpose could be better gained by strategy and manoeuvring, he resorted to them with a skill not inferior to his persistency in fighting. So at the South Anna, without a battle, he again flanked the enemy, and forced him nearer to Richmond. Hard fighting followed, for the rebels grew more and more desperate as they were driven towards their capital, but they struggled in vain. It is true they were not beaten, though they suffered irreparable losses; but they achieved no victory,--for a victory to them was nothing less than the utter defeat of the Union army, and the abandonment of its purpose. In the previous campaigns of these opposing armies, after a great battle, one or the other had withdrawn,--at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, the Union army; at Antietam and Gettysburg, the rebels. But in this campaign the rebels found a change in the tactics of the Union army. Grant massed his troops, and launched heavy columns against them, after the manner of their own ablest generals; and when his forces  were checked, and the attacks failed, he did not withdraw, discouraged or disconcerted, but held on still, and, with ready resources, changed his plan, but never abandoned his purpose. The battles of the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, and Cold Harbor, were among the severest of the war, and the rebels fought with a desperation they had never before shown, and which they believed must triumph. But northern persistency, under the lead of Grant, was a match for southern fire and desperation. The army--of the Potomac was no longer to be shaken off or compelled to retire. It is not to be supposed that the campaign plans of even the greatest military genius can be fully carried out in their details if opposed by an enemy of even ordinary skill and bravery. Grant was contending with the most skilful generals of the rebel Confederacy, and with their strongest army of veteran soldiers, animated with the belief that they were fighting the desperate battles which must decide the fate of the rebellion. He was forced to modify or wholly change his plans, but he never changed his purpose, which was, sooner or later, on one field or another, to defeat and destroy Lee's army. In changing his plans, he proved his abundant and ready resources, and, trusting to his subordinates for the skilful execution of skilfully laid plans, he did not hesitate to adopt some bold manoeuvres and unexpected movements. The withdrawal of the army from the closest contact with the rebels at Cold Harbor, and the flank movement made before their eyes, was a daring trial of a dangerous piece of tactics; but its boldness and admirable execution made it a complete success. It showed, in Grant, a perfect appreciation  of the situation, courage, skill, resources, and tenacity of purpose. He had found Lee's army stronger than he had hoped, and he had not defeated it before it reached the defences of Richmond; but he had driven it from its fortified lines on the Rapidan back to the very streets of Richmond; had hammered it, wasted it, and dealt it heavy blows; and now, with an inflexible purpose and an unwavering confidence, he skilfully and successfully changed his base, and transferred his army to the south side of the James. But he still had his hold on Lee, and he kept it to the end. A part of Grant's plan for the campaign was the movement of an army, under General Butler, up James River, to secure possession of the south bank, occupy Petersburg, and hold the rebel railroad communications with the South. He had expected important results from this expeditionary army, which was supposed to be amply sufficient to accomplish the purpose, so long as the army of the Potomac acted the vigorous part assigned it. General Butler's prompt and decisive manner of dealing with the rebels at New Orleans led Grant to hope for similar energy and success in the conduct of this movement. But, whether the failure was due to the want of military ability in Butler or his subordinates, or to the inadequacy of the forces, the movement on Petersburg failed, and Butler's army, after a short time, was besieged in its intrenchments at Bermuda Hundred, and suffered some reverses. This result, which disappointed his hopes and expectations, and doubtless led to a change of plans and a prolonged contest, confirmed Grant's prejudices against  military appointments for political considerations. His experience with McClernand's inefficiency, insubordination, and conceit, led him, upon Butler's failure, to regard the latter in a similar light. Subsequent events did not increase his confidence in Butler's military capacity, and with straightforward and soldierly frankness he expressed it. Butler's irrepressible nature did not accept this kindly, and, in a war of words, noticeable only because of his prominent political position, he gave vent to his feelings. But if Butler will rest his reputation on his earlier services, and on his expedition to New Orleans, and his able and effective administration of affairs in that rebellious city, no one more than Grant will award him the fullest credit. Finding, upon trial, that it was too late to take the strong fortifications of Petersburg by assault, Grant determined to invest them, extending his lines to the north side of the James, and gradually on the south side of Petersburg. But while he undertook the siege of the rebel stronghold, he was so constantly active that he kept Lee's army on the defensive, and prevented him from sending any very large force to create a diversion. Lee, indeed, undertook one such diversion by sending Ewell down the valley of the Shenandoah, but Grant transferred a sufficient force to meet him, and, under the gallant lead of Sheridan, Ewell and his army were utterly defeated. The ease and rapidity with which he transferred his troops — a whole corps at once — from one point to another, across the James, and from one flank to the other, illustrated not only the increased mobility of the army, but Grant's skilful direction and vigorous activity.  By persistent movements to the left, Grant seized the Weldon Railroad, an important line of communication between Richmond and the South, and held it against all the efforts of the rebels to regain it. The tenacity with which he held what he gained was illustrated at that time, as the reader may recollect, by a popular cartoon in one of the pictorial papers, in which Grant was represented as a mastiff sitting composedly before the bone of contention, and asking the canine rebels, “Why don't you come and take it?” Other advantages were gained, and cavalry raids interrupted the rebel communications, and subjected them to loss and a dearth of supplies which discouraged both army and people. But Grant was now waiting for the developments of other campaigns, laying his plans and making preparations for the final and successful operations which were to commence as soon as the proper time arrived. During this period of comparative inactivity and absence of palpable results, the country, ignorant of what was in store, became again a little impatient. There were some who clamored for more active operations; and though the general faith in Grant was not lost, there were occasional demands that he should give place to Sherman, who appeared more active. But Grant, undisturbed by such clamors, quietly pursued his way, conscious that he was faithfully serving his, country, and confident that his plans, embracing the movements of all the armies, would result in that great and final success which the country desired. In the mean time Sherman had made his brilliant and successful campaign to Atlanta, and by strategy and  hard fighting had driven Johnston into that place to be deprived of his command. By strategy he had forced Hood, Johnston's successor, out of Atlanta, and captured the town. Then sending Thomas with sufficient force back to Nashville to punish the rashness of Hood, he had cut loose from his base, and made his great march from Atlanta to the sea; and, under orders from Grant, was on his more difficult but no less successful march through the Carolinas, where Johnston, restored to command by the despair of the rebel leaders, was vainly preparing to resist him. Spring opened, and the auspicious moment for which Grant had anxiously waited was at hand. It was not suffered to pass. The army was in excellent condition and spirits, and with characteristic promptness and energy the Lieutenant General commenced his final and most brilliant campaign. It is not necessary to go at all into the details of that memorable campaign, the splendid achievements and glorious results of which are fresh in the reader's mind. In conception, plan, and execution, it was Grant's — the result of no council of war, of no important suggestions from other officers or the government. His strategy had brought Sherman's grand army from Savannah into North Carolina almost within reach, and had moved another large force under Hancock up the Valley of the Shenandoah and towards Lynchburg, while the army of the James threatened Richmond on the south-east, and the army of the Potomac, south of Petersburg, and between Lee and Johnston, only waited for his orders to commence the battle, or series of battles, which should overthrow the hard-pressed  rebel Confederacy. His manoeuvres secured the chief battle-field of his own selection. His orders: massed the troops where he wanted to strike the heaviest blows. His sagacity selected the gallant Sheridan to lead the boldest movements and the hardest fighting. His keen vision saw the key to the rebel position at Five Forks, and his persistency pressed his heavy columns upon it till it was carried, and Lee sent his message of dismay to the trembling traitors at Richmond. His strategy had. practically surrounded the rebel armies, and his tactics forced Lee to retreat by a line north of the Appomattox, on a route chosen by himself. Jeff Davis and his confederate traitors of the rebel government fled precipitately from Richmond, and Lee's army evacuated that city and Petersburg, utterly defeated and demoralized. Retreating by the route which Grant had forced them to take, the rebels were promptly and vigorously pursued by a shorter road, harassed and hurried by the Union cavalry. Every skirmish resulted in their defeat, and the roads were strown with the evidences of their demoralization. Numerous guns and prisoners were captured, and the army which had so long resisted the national authority was rapidly diminishing by the desertion of the disheartened men. Not only was it pursued by the victorious army of the Potomac, but by Grant's strategy at Lynchburg, whither it was retreating, it was confronted by Hancock's forces from the Shenandoah Valley, and Stoneman's strong cavalry force was approaching from the west. While the pursuit was still in progress, Grant,  anxious to avoid the further effusion of blood, sent to Lee the following communication:--
To this Lee replied that he did not entertain Grant's opinion of the hopelessness of further resistance, but asked what terms would be offered. Grant promptly and generously responded:--
 But Lee was disposed to quibble, and desired to make terms for the whole Confederacy. He said he did not propose to surrender, but wished to know whether Grant's proposals would lead to peace, and to that end he proposed a meeting. Grant, however, true to his soldierly instincts, would assume no responsibility which did not belong to him as a military commander fighting the armed forces of the rebellion. He knew that with the government and not with him rested the authority and the duty of settling the final terms of peace and reconstruction, and he had already, on a former occasion, when requested by Lee, refused to assume any such authority to enter into a convention with the rebel government for the suspension of hostilities. He would only consent to the surrender of Lee's army upon terms which were liberal enough for the bravest foe, and which he wisely believed would terminate the great struggle. He therefore declined to meet Lee to discuss the terms of peace. Lee soon found that his case was more hopeless than he had been disposed to admit, and was forced to ask an interview to arrange the terms of surrender offered by Grant. The request was at once acceded to, and the interview took place near Appomattox Court-house, under a tree which has since been “cut into toothpicks” as memorials of that important occasion. Lee came crestfallen and humiliated, but with the bearing of a great commander, and the formal courtesy of an aristocrat; Grant came quiet and unassuming, and with a republican simplicity of manner. They had met before, but probably had never formed an acquaintance or exchanged words. When Grant, an unknown subaltern,  led a gallant charge at Chepultepec, Lee was a favorite on the staff of General Scott, and he had remained there till after secession had called for the preparations of war, and then, turning traitor to the government which had educated and honored him, carried the secrets of that government to its enemies, and joined them in their infamous rebellion. The subaltern who had once received only his contemptuous notice, was now his conqueror and the greatest general of America. The one had received the just rewards of patriotism, loyalty, and faithful service; the other the humiliation, but not the punishment, of treason. The interview was not a protracted one. While the officers who accompanied their respective chiefs mingled in conversation as pleasant as the circumstances would allow, the latter conversed apart. Lee's endeavor to secure terms which should include the rebel government, and settle the conditions of peace, was firmly resisted by Grant, and the rebel officer was compelled to accept the simple but liberal terms of surrender which were offered, or see his wasting army utterly destroyed. With a sore heart he chose to surrender, and with formal courtesies the officers parted. The terms were dictated and accepted in writing, and the surrender of that rebel army which had so long resisted the power of the nation was speedily carried into effect. With the defeat and surrender of that army, the rebel Confederacy crumbled into dust. Thus Grant struck the final blow which crushed the rebellion. With what joy and exultation and thanksgiving that victory was received throughout the loyal states! Bells rang and cannon thundered the glorious  news. Business, public and private, pleasure, and sorrow even, gave way to the universal jubilee. Millions shouted praises to Grant and his victorious legions, his name blazed in illuminations in honor of the Union triumph, and he was enthusiastically hailed as the second savior of his country. And he was fully entitled to the honors and praises awarded to him, by the grateful people. Not only had he achieved this decisive and crowning victory, but through the war he had struck more heavy and damaging blows than any other general in the army, and had done more than any other to weaken and subdue the rebel armies. At Donelson, at Shiloh, at Vicksburg, and at Chattanooga, he had won great victories, which thrilled the loyal people with joy, and endeared him to their hearts. At Belmont, in the Wilderness, at Spottsylvania, and at Cold Harbor, he had struck so heavily and effectively as to stagger, if not defeat, the enemy, while never, in all his conflicts, had he been driver from the field or forced to retreat. Moreover, under his direction, as commander of all the national armies, Sherman had won his victories in Georgia, made his “grand march to the sea,” and moved through the Carolinas with unvaried success, to join in a final and irresistible campaign against the exhausted Confederacy; Thomas had won his glorious victory at Nashville; Canby had captured Mobile; Terry had taken Fort Fisher and Wilmington; and Sheridan had vanquished Early in the Valley of the Shenandoah. In the campaigns under his immediate command, he had captured more than a hundred thousand prisoners, and hundreds of cannon, while  his subordinates, in the campaigns under his general direction, had taken as many more. Wherever he commanded, wherever his orders were received, wherever his influence was felt, he had organized victory, and moved on steadily to the final triumph.