When President Lincoln presented Ulysses S. Grant with his commission as Lt. General, the warrior was effectively made "General in Chief of the Army." Only two men before Grant had ever achieved the rank of Lt. General - George Washington and Winfield Scott - although Scott's promotion was by brevet.
Grant went on to become President of the United States in 1868. He was a better general than president. Who were some of the other famous (or infamous) Union military leaders?
- Ambrose E. Burnside repeatedly turned down Lincoln's request that he assume command of the Army of the Potomac. When the President finally appointed Burnside to the job, he turned in a disastrous performance at the battle of Fredericksburg. (In an interesting historical footnote, men began to copy the unusual way Burnside wore his beard and moustache. His name, turned around, described the new look: "sideburns.")
- George Armstrong Custer is known more for his infamous battles with Native American Sioux (especially with Sitting Bull) than he is known for his efforts on behalf of the Union in the Civil War. Married to Elizabeth Custer, he is one of a few generals whose family picture is available at the National Archives. His last stand at the Battle of Little Big Horn - depending on one's perspective - was either heroic or frightful.
- Initially a favorite of the President's wife, George B. McClellan fell out of favor when he appeared too tentative in battle. It was McClellan who, in September of 1862, commanded Union troops in the bloody battle of Antietam. The Commander-in-Chief met with McClellan soon after the battle.
- On November 2, 1862, Mary Todd Lincoln wrote to her husband advising him to "put a fighting general in the place of McClellan." Also troubled by McClellan's apparent reluctance to fight, Lincoln gave command of the Army of the Potomac to Ambrose Burnside.
- William Tecumseh Sherman was neither tentative nor afraid to fight. In fact, he was so ferocious that he employed a scorched earth policy in his "March From Atlanta to the Sea." His objective was to destroy the South's ability to continue fighting the war.