the original thirteen states that composed the American Union had grown in the course of eighty years to thirty-four; the territory, which had at first been limited to a narrow strip along the Atlantic coast
, had spread to the Pacific ocean
, and embraced a region as wide as the mightiest empires of the Old World; from the chain of great lakes on the north, to the Gulf of Mexico
on the south, the republic stretched out a thousand miles across.
This land abounded in untold agricultural and mineral wealth; commerce enriched the portions bordering on the sea, manufactures thrived; the taxes were inconsiderable, and a national debt almost unknown, and a degree of material prosperity was attained entirely without precedent.
Education was more widely diffused than in any country since the invention of letters, the influence of religion was universally acknowledged, the rich and the poor were equal before the law, and every male citizen had a share in the government.
The nation was powerful abroad as well as prosperous at home; the title of American citizen was a passport that secured protection in every foreign land; peace
had smiled on the territory of the Union
for more than half a century, and a generation had grown up unused to war. The future of this people was even more brilliant in promise than the present in fruition.
Made up, indeed, of different populations, with various characters, and of separate origin, yet with so much unity of interest and homogeneity of feeling; allied by so many memories of the past, and so many aspirations for the future; with the numerous peculiarities of passion, and condition, and race, apparently so harmoniously adjusted, it seemed as if no serious disaster could ever occur to mar its greatness or interfere with its prosperity.
But questions of a subtle political character arose, about which the Northern
and Southern states differed widely and antagonistically.
The institution of African
slavery existed at the South
, but had been abolished at the North
; and the destiny of four millions of slaves, as well as the extension of slavery itself, was violently discussed.
The independent rights of the states, and the supremacy of the general government, were asserted and denied by turns; politicians, for personal or party reasons, promoted the discord and exaggerated the antagonisms; and, after years of controversy, the quarrel was referred to the decision of the polls.
A presidential election ensued, which resulted in the elevation of a Northerner to power, who had received no electoral vote from any Southern state, and who was pledged to resist, by all lawful means, the extension of slavery.
He was also pledged to allow no interference with the institution, where it already existed; but his success was looked upon by the South
as the inauguration of a direct attack upon slavery, and became the signal for an
attempt to destroy that Union which the South
had done as much to establish and defend as the North
Eleven Southern states claimed the right to secede from what they called the federal alliance; but the Northern
states maintained that the bond of union was indissoluble, and that secession was rebellion; and each party was ready to fight for the maintenance of its views.
The Southerners began the war, without waiting for any overt act from the North
: they not only assumed to secede, and set up a government for themselves, which they called a Confederacy, but they seized the national forts and arsenals within their territory; and at Fort Sumter, in South Carolina
, before resistance was offered, they fired on the national flag and compelled the surrender of the fort.
This circumstance united the North
Hitherto, there had been many Northerners who thought that the South
had grievances, and who were anxious to redress them; many, who were willing to compromise all the questions at issue, save only that of union; and some, who were even willing to allow the Southern
states to depart in peace.
But the gun fired at Sumter
put an end to all such sentiments; the government at once determined to maintain its authority, and the people unanimously seconded the government; or, rather, the people determined, and the government executed their will.
The standing army of the United States, at this time, numbered fifteen thousand, four hundred and thirty-three men; or ten regiments of infantry, four of artillery, and five of cavalry.
It was officered by Southerners as well as Northerners; men educated by the national government, at the national schools,
and sworn to support the national authority; out of one thousand and seventy-four officers, two hundred and seventy were of Southern birth, embracing a fair share of the talent and distinction of the army.
Two hundred and two of these espoused the Southern
When it became apparent that war was inevitable, they resigned their commissions, and offered their swords to their own section, holding the authority of a state paramount to that of the Union
They were followed into secession by fifty others from Northern or border states, most of whom had married Southern wives or acquired Southern property.
This defection of course greatly disorganized the small force at the disposal of the government.
But even had these officers remained firm in their allegiance, the military power of the United States
at this time was insignificant.
The President therefore at once issued a proclamation, declaring the existence of an armed rebellion, and calling for seventy-five thousand volunteer troops to suppress it. They came instantly, from every quarter of the North
, more than he called for. But the proclamation had an equally remarkable effect upon the people of the South
Many of these had been bitterly opposed to disunion, although all concurred in deprecating any interference by the North
or by the general government, with the peculiar institution of the South
; but when President Lincoln
announced his intention of coercing the states which attempted to secede, the unanimity of the South
in resistance became a parallel to that of the North
Advantage of this was taken at once by the Southern
of whom had long been preparing for the very emergency which now occurred; armies were organized with extraordinary diligence and energy by the self-styled Confederate government, and the American
civil war began.
From the intestine nature of the struggle and the geographical formation of the continent, the principal theatre of the war, it was evident, must lie in the states bordering on both sections.
The belt of territory reaching from the Atlantic
westward, and comprising Maryland
east of the Alleghanies
, and Kentucky
, and Missouri
west of those mountains, constitutes this border region, and was the stage on which the first acts of the drama were performed.
and the James
, at the east; the Ohio
, the Tennessee
, the Cumberland
, and the Mississippi
, at the west, are the great streams, the control of which, and of the populations and regions that lie in their valleys, is indispensable to a mastery of the continent.
flows westward from Pennsylvania
, a thousand miles; the prolific States of Ohio
, and Illinois
lie along its northern bank, while Virginia
form the southern shore; it was the natural line of demarcation at the west between the slave states and the free, the boundary between disaffection and loyalty.
, rising in the recesses of the Alleghany mountains
, flow southward into the state of Tennessee
, and then run west for hundreds of miles, the larger river making a wide detour into Alabama
; when, turning to the north again, they traverse Kentucky
side by side, and empty into the Ohio
, near the point where that still greater stream becomes itself a tributary, and pours
the waters of its hundred affluents into the Mississippi
The Mississippi, recipient and greatest of them all, divides the continent for four thousand miles; bounds ten different states, and enriches all the region between the Rocky
and the Alleghany mountains
In these regions, and for the mastery of these rivers and states, the earliest battles of Ulysses S. Grant
were fought; from this field, he was taken to command the national armies.
It will be my endeavor to show—first, why he was selected to command those armies, and afterwards how he performed the task.