Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant, general-in-chief of the Federal forces
"I can't spare this man. He fights!" That's how Abraham Lincoln once characterized his general in chief, U.S. Grant, who oversaw the operations of all Union forces in the Appomattox Campaign and whose dogged pursuit of Lee's troops after the fall of Richmond and Petersburg led to the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia.
Hiram Ulysses Grant was the first child born to Jesse and Hannah Simpson Grant, on April 27, 1822. He grew up in rural Ohio and acquired a passion for horses and a talent for breaking and training them. It was an asset that served him well throughout his military career.
In 1839 Grant was nominated to the military academy at West Point as "Ulysses Simpson Grant"--Simpson being the maiden name of Grant's mother. The name was to follow him for this rest of his life.
Grant was noted for his distinguished service during the Mexican War in the armies of Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott. Following this war he successfully (and sometimes unsuccessfully) worked as a farmer, real estate salesman, county engineer candidate, customhouse clerk, and finally, clerk in a leather store business conducted by his two brothers in Galena, Illinois.
However, with the advent of the Civil War, Grant achieved rapid advancement from relative obscurity, and within three years commanded the armies of the United States. Victories at Forts Henry and Donelson in 1862 won him the acclaim of the nation and the moniker of "Unconditional Surrender" Grant. Following the Battle of Shiloh, he focused his attentions on taking the Confederate stronghold at Vicksburg, Mississippi where the Union success essentially split the Confederacy in two, and gave the Union control of the Mississippi River.
Rewarded for his success in the western theater with an appointment to Major General in the Regular Army, Grant continued to move his forces east through Chattanooga, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, and Cold Harbor, until stopped at Petersburg, Virginia, with his failure to take the city by assault. Forced to lay siege to Petersburg in June 1864 (much as he had done in Vicksburg), Grant finally forced the capitulation of city in April 1865, and advanced on the Confederate capitol at Richmond, Virginia.
In early April 1865, Grant's troops succeeded cutting off Lee's hopes for much needed supplies and in bringing the retreating armies of General Lee to bay throughout the area surrounding the small village of Appomattox Court House. A resigned Lee agreed to meet with Grant on April 9 at the home of local resident Wilmer McLean where treaty terms were reached. Proving to be as generous in victory as he had been relentless in battle, Grant issued more than 23,000 paroles allowing Confederate troops to return to their homes and farms with the horses they had brought into battle.
After the end of the Civil War Grant's reputation as a national hero propelled him into politics during the reconstruction period and in 1868 he was elected the eighteenth President of the United States and served two terms.