Hiram Ulysses Grant was born on April 27, 1822, in Point Pleasant, Ohio. The following year, he moved with his parents, Jesse Grant (1794-1873) and Hannah Simpson Grant (1798-1883), to Georgetown, Ohio, where his father ran a tannery.
Did You Know?
Thousands of people worldwide donated at total of $600,000 for the construction of Grant's tomb in New York City. Known officially as the General Grant National Memorial, it is America's largest mausoleum and was dedicated on April 27, 1897, the 75th anniversary of Grant's birth.
In 1839, Jesse Grant arranged for his son’s admission to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The congressman who appointed Grant mistakenly believed his first name was Ulysses and his middle name was Simpson (his mother’s maiden name). Grant never amended the error and went on to accept Ulysses S. Grant as his real name, although he maintained that the “S” did not stand for anything.
In 1843, Grant graduated from West Point, where he was known as a skilled horseman but an otherwise undistinguished student. He was commissioned a brevet second lieutenant in the 4th U.S. Infantry, which was stationed at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, near St. Louis. The following year, he met Julia Dent (1826-1902), the sister of one of his West Point classmates and the daughter of a merchant and planter.
After seeing action in the Mexican-American War, Grant returned to Missouri and married Julia in August 1848. The couple eventually had four children. In the early years of his marriage, Grant was assigned to a series of remote army posts, some of them on the West Coast, which kept him separated from his family. In 1854, he resigned from the military.
This article is about the 18th president of the United States. For others with the same name, see Ulysses S. Grant (disambiguation).
"General Grant" redirects here. For other uses, see General Grant (disambiguation).
|Ulysses S. Grant|
|18th President of the United States|
March 4, 1869 – March 4, 1877
|Preceded by||Andrew Johnson|
|Succeeded by||Rutherford B. Hayes|
|6th Commanding General of the United States Army|
March 9, 1864 – March 4, 1869
|Preceded by||Henry W. Halleck|
|Succeeded by||William Tecumseh Sherman|
|United States Secretary of WarAd interim|
August 12, 1867 – January 14, 1868
|Born||Hiram Ulysses Grant|
(1822-04-27)April 27, 1822
Point Pleasant, Ohio, U.S.
|Died||July 23, 1885(1885-07-23) (aged 63)|
Wilton, New York, U.S.
|Resting place||General Grant National Memorial|
Manhattan, New York
|Spouse(s)||Julia Grant (m. 1848)|
|Children||Frederick, Ulysses Jr., Nellie, and Jesse|
|Parents||Jesse Root Grant|
|Alma mater||United States Military Academy|
United States Army
|Years of service||1839–1854|
|Rank||General of the Army|
American Civil War
Ulysses S. Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant;[a] April 27, 1822 – July 23, 1885) was a prominent United States Army general during the American Civil War and Commanding General at the conclusion of that war. He was elected as the 18th president of the United States in 1868, serving from 1869 to 1877. Supervised by Abraham Lincoln, Grant led the Union Army to victory over the Confederacy. Twice elected president, Grant led the Republicans in their effort to remove the vestiges of Confederate nationalism and slavery.
Grant was born and raised in Ohio by Methodist parents whose lineage in the new world went back several generations. As a youth, he often worked in his father's tannery and showed an early talent for riding and managing horses. After graduating from West Point in 1843 Grant served with distinction in the Mexican–American War. Upon his return he married Julia Dent, and together they had four children. Grant retired from the Army in 1854 and struggled financially in civilian life. When the Civil War began in 1861, he rejoined the U.S. Army and quickly rose through the ranks. As a general, Grant took control of Kentucky, most of Tennessee, and won major battles at Shiloh and seized Vicksburg, gaining control of the Mississippi River and dividing the Confederacy. These victories, combined with those in the Chattanooga Campaign, persuaded Abraham Lincoln that Grant was the General best suited to lead the combined Union armies. Grant was promoted to Lieutenant General, a rank previously reserved for George Washington, in March 1864. Grant confronted Robert E. Lee, trapping his army in their defense of Richmond, while coordinating a series of campaigns in other theaters. In April 1865, Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox, effectively ending the war. Historians have hailed Grant's military genius, and his strategies are featured in military history textbooks.
After Lincoln's assassination, Grant became increasingly disillusioned by President Andrew Johnson's approach to Reconstruction, and drifted toward the “Radical” Republicans. Elected president in 1868, he stabilized the post-war nation, creating the Department of Justice, used the military to enforce laws in the former Confederacy, and prosecuted the Ku Klux Klan. Grant strengthened the Republican Party in the South and signed three civil rights acts into law. Grant appointed African Americans and Jewish Americans to prominent federal offices. In 1871, he created the first Civil Service Commission. The Democrats and Liberal Republicans united behind Grant's opponent in the presidential election of 1872, but Grant was reelected by a large margin. Generally regarded as personally honest, Grant nonetheless faced accusations of corruption within his administration more than any other nineteenth-century president. Grant's Peace Policy with Native Americans was a bold departure with limited successes, however, harsh scortched earth policies, that included bison slaughter, were adopted to force Indians on reservations. He allowed settlers to mine for gold in the Black Hills, that culminated in the famous Battle of Little Bighorn, in 1876.
In foreign policy, Grant sought to increase trade and influence while remaining at peace with the world. With Secretary of State Hamilton Fish, he successfully resolved the Alabama claims through the Treaty of Washington with Great Britain. Grant and Fish negotiated a peaceful resolution with Spain over the Virginius Affair. Congress rejected Grant's initiative to annex the Dominican Republic, creating a rift among Republicans. In national affairs, Grant's administration implemented a gold standard and sought to strengthen the dollar. Grant's immediate response to the Panic of 1873 failed to halt a severe industrial depression that produced high unemployment, deflation, and bankruptcies. When he left office in 1877, he embarked on a two-and-a-half-year world tour that captured favorable global attention for him and the United States.
In 1880, Grant was unsuccessful in obtaining the Republican presidential nomination for a third term. Facing severe investment reversals and dying of throat cancer, he wrote his memoirs, which proved to be a major critical and financial success. His death in 1885 prompted an outpouring in support of national unity. Historical assessments of Grant's legacy have varied considerably over the years. Grant's presidency has often been criticized for its scandals and for his failure to alleviate the economic depression following the Panic of 1873, but modern scholarship regards him as a president who performed a difficult job during the early post Civil War era. Early historical evaluations were mostly negative about Grant's presidency. Scholars have ranked his presidency below the average, but modern appreciation for Grant's support of civil rights has helped improve his historical reputation.
Early life and education
Further information: Early life and career of Ulysses S. Grant
Hiram Ulysses Grant was born in Point Pleasant, Ohio, on April 27, 1822, to Jesse Root Grant, a tanner and merchant, and Hannah Grant (née Simpson). His ancestors Matthew and Priscilla Grant arrived aboard the Mary and John at Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. Grant's great-grandfather fought in the French and Indian War, and his grandfather, Noah, served in the American Revolution at Bunker Hill. Afterward, Noah settled in Pennsylvania and married Rachel Kelley, the daughter of an Irish pioneer. Their son Jesse (Ulysses's father) was a Whig Party supporter and a fervent abolitionist.
Jesse Grant moved to Point Pleasant in 1820 and found work as a foreman in a tannery. He soon met his future wife, Hannah, and the two were married on June 24, 1821. Ten months later Hannah gave birth to their first child, a son. At a family gathering several weeks later the boy's name, Ulysses, was drawn from ballots placed in a hat. Wanting to honor his father-in-law, Jesse declared the boy to be Hiram Ulysses, though he would always refer to him as Ulysses.[b]
In 1823, the family moved to Georgetown, Ohio, where five more siblings were born: Simpson, Clara, Orvil, Jennie, and Mary. At the age of five, Ulysses began his formal education, starting at a subscription school and later in two private schools. In the winter of 1836–1837, Grant was a student at Maysville Seminary, and in the autumn of 1838 he attended John Rankin's academy. In his youth, Grant developed an unusual ability to ride and manage horses. Expressing a strong dislike for the tannery, Grant's father instead put this ability to use giving Ulysses work driving wagon loads of supplies and transporting people. Unlike his siblings, Grant was not forced to attend church by his Methodist parents.[c] For the rest of his life, he prayed privately and never officially joined any denomination. To others, including late in life, his own son, Grant appeared to be an agnostic. He inherited some of Hannah's Methodist piety and quiet nature while adopting his father's Whig political inclinations.
Early military career and personal life
West Point and first assignment
Grant's father wrote to Representative Thomas L. Hamer requesting that he nominate Ulysses to the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, New York. When a spot opened in March 1839, Hamer nominated the 16-year-old Grant. He mistakenly wrote down "Ulysses S. Grant", which became Grant's adopted name.[d] Initially reluctant because of concerns about his academic ability, Grant entered the academy on July 1, 1839, as a cadet and trained there for four years. His nickname became "Sam" among army colleagues since the initials "U.S." also stood for "Uncle Sam".
Initially, Grant was indifferent to military life, but within a year he reexamined his desire to leave the academy and later wrote, "on the whole I like this place very much". While at the Academy, Grant developed a reputation as the "most proficient" horseman. During the graduation ceremony, while riding York, a large and powerful horse that only Grant could manage well, he set a high-jump record that stood for 25 years.[e] His greatest interest was horses. Seeking relief from military routine, he also studied under Romantic artist Robert Walter Weir and produced nine surviving artworks. He spent more time reading books from the library than his academic texts, frequently reading works by James Fenimore Cooper and others. On Sundays, cadets were required to march to and attend services at the academy's church, a requirement that Grant disliked. Quiet by nature, Grant established a few intimate friends among fellow cadets, including Frederick Tracy Dent and James Longstreet. He was inspired both by the Commandant, Captain Charles F. Smith and by General Winfield Scott, who visited the academy to review the cadets. Grant later wrote of the military life, "there is much to dislike, but more to like."
Grant graduated on June 30, 1843, ranked 21st out of 39 alumni, and was promoted on July 1 to the rank brevet second lieutenant. Small for his age at 17, he had entered the academy weighing only 117 pounds at five feet two inches tall; upon graduation four years later he had grown to a height of five feet seven inches. Glad to leave the academy, he planned to resign his commission after his four-year term of duty. Grant would later write to a friend that among the happiest days of his life was the day he left the presidency and the day he left the academy. Despite his excellent horsemanship, he was not assigned to the cavalry, but to the 4th Infantry Regiment. He served as regimental quartermaster, managing supplies and equipment. Grant's first assignment took him to the Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri. Commanded by Colonel Stephen W. Kearny, the barracks was the nation's largest military base in the west. Grant was happy with his new commander, but looked forward to the end of his military service and a possible teaching career.
In Missouri, Grant visited Dent's family and became engaged to his sister, Julia, in 1844. Four years later on August 22, 1848, they were married at Julia's home in St. Louis. Grant's abolitionist father Jesse, who disapproved of the Dents owning slaves, refused to attend their wedding, which took place without either of Grant's parents. Grant was flanked by three fellow West Point graduates, all dressed in their blue uniforms, including Longstreet, Julia's cousin.[f] At the end of the month, Julia was nevertheless warmly received by Grant's family in Bethel, Ohio. They had four children: Frederick, Ulysses Jr. ("Buck"), Ellen ("Nellie"), and Jesse. After the wedding, Grant obtained a two-month extension to his leave and returned to St. Louis when he decided, with a wife to support, that he would remain in the army.
Mexican American War
Main articles: Mexican–American War and Mexican Cession
After rising tensions with Mexico following the United States' annexation of Texas, war broke out in 1846. During the conflict, Grant distinguished himself as a daring and competent soldier. Before the war, President John Tyler had ordered Grant's unit to Louisiana as part of the Army of Observation under Major General Zachary Taylor. In September 1846, Tyler's successor, James K. Polk, unable to provoke Mexico into war at Corpus Christi, Texas, ordered Taylor to march 150 miles south to the Rio Grande. Marching south to Fort Texas, to prevent a Mexican siege, Grant experienced combat for the first time on May 8, 1846, at the Battle of Palo Alto.
While serving as regimental quartermaster, Grant yearned for a combat role; when finally allowed, he led a cavalry charge at the Battle of Resaca de la Palma, demonstrating his equestrian ability at Monterrey by carrying a dispatch past snipers while hanging off the side of his horse, keeping the animal between him and the enemy. Before leaving the city he stopped at a house occupied by wounded Americans, giving them assurance he would send for help. Polk, wary of Taylor's growing popularity, divided his forces, sending some troops (including Grant's unit) to form a new army under Major General Winfield Scott. Traveling by sea, Scott's army landed at Veracruz and advanced toward Mexico City. The army met the Mexican forces at the battles of Molino del Rey and Chapultepec outside Mexico City. For his bravery at Molino del Rey, Grant was brevetted first lieutenant on September 30. At San Cosmé, men under Grant's direction dragged a disassembled howitzer into a church steeple, reassembled it, and bombarded nearby Mexican troops. His bravery and initiative earned him his second brevet promotion to captain. On September 14, 1847, Scott's army marched into the city; Mexico ceded the vast territory, including California, to the U.S. on February 2, 1848.
During the war, Grant established a commendable record, studied the tactics and strategies of Scott and Taylor and emerged as a seasoned officer, writing in his memoirs that this is how he learned much about military leadership. In retrospect, he identified his leadership style with Taylor's. However, Grant also wrote that the Mexican War was wrong and the territorial gains were designed to expand slavery, stating, "I was bitterly opposed to the measure...and to this day, regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation." He opined that the Civil War was punishment on the nation for its aggression in Mexico. During the war, Grant discovered his "moral courage" and began to consider a career in the army.
Post war assignments
Grant's first post-war assignments took him and Julia to Detroit on November 17, 1848, only to find that after his four-month leave of absence he was replaced as quartermaster and was sent to Madison Barracks, a desolate outpost at Sackets Harbor in upstate New York, in bad need of supplies and repair. Concerned for Julia, Grant filed an official complaint requesting a transfer. When Ulysses had spare cash he would travel to nearby Watertown and buy supplies for himself and gifts for Julia in a dry goods store.[g] After a four-month stay, Grant's request for transfer was approved and he was sent back to Detroit where he resumed his job as regimental quartermaster.
With the discovery of gold in California, and droves of prospectors and settlers arriving there, Grant and the 4th infantry was ordered to California in 1852, sailing from New York City to Panama, overland to the Pacific and then north to California to reinforce the small garrison there. Julia, eight months pregnant with Ulysses Jr., did not accompany him. While in Panama a cholera epidemic broke out and claimed the lives of many soldiers. In Panama City, Grant established and organized a field hospital and moved the worst cases to a hospital barge one mile offshore. When orderlies protested to tending the sick, Grant did much of the nursing himself. In August, Grant arrived in San Francisco, a busy Gold Rushboomtown. Grant's next assignment sent him north to Vancouver Barracks in the then Oregon Territory.[h]
To supplement a military salary which was inadequate to support his family, Grant speculated and failed at several business ventures, confirming his father's belief that he had no head for business. Grant assured Julia in a letter that local Native Americans were harmless, while he developed an empathy for the plight of Indians from the "unjust treatment" by white men. Promoted to captain on August 5, 1853, Grant was assigned to command Company F, 4th Infantry, at the newly constructed Fort Humboldt in California. He arrived at the fort on January 5, 1854, and reported to its commander Lieutenant Colonel Robert C. Buchanan. Grant was bored and depressed about being separated from his wife, and he began to drink. An officer who roomed with Grant reported the affair to Colonel Buchanan, who reprimanded Grant for one drinking episode. Grant told Buchanan if he did not reform he would resign. One Sunday, Grant was again rumored to have been found at his company's paytable influenced by drink. Keeping his pledge to Buchanan, Grant resigned, effective July 31, 1854, without explanation. Buchanan endorsed Grant's letter of resignation but did not submit any report that verified the incident.[i] Grant was neither arrested nor faced court-martial, while the War Department stated, "Nothing stands against his good name." Grant said years later, "the vice of intemperance (drunkenness) had not a little to do with my decision to resign." With no means of support, Grant returned to St. Louis and reunited with his family, uncertain about his future.
Civilian struggles and politics
At age 32, with no civilian vocation, Grant needed work to support his growing family. It was the beginning of seven financially lean years. His father offered him a place in the Galena, Illinois, branch of the family's leather business on condition that Julia and the children stay with her parents in Missouri or with the Grants in Kentucky. Ulysses and Julia opposed another separation and declined the offer. In 1855, Grant farmed on his brother-in-law's property near St. Louis, using slaves owned by Julia's father. The farm was not successful and to earn money he sold firewood on St. Louis street corners. Earning only $50 a month, wearing his faded army jacket, an unkempt Grant desperately looked for work. The next year, the Grants moved to land on Julia's father's farm, and built a home Grant called "Hardscrabble". Julia disliked the rustic house, which she described as an "unattractive cabin". The Panic of 1857 devastated farmers, including Grant, who reaching a low ebb financially, pawned his gold watch to pay for Christmas. In 1858, Grant rented out Hardscrabble and moved his family to Julia's father's 850-acre estate, a plantation that employed slave labor. That fall, after a bout of malaria, Grant retired from farming.
The same year, Grant acquired a slave from his father-in-law, a thirty-five-year-old man named William Jones. In March 1859, Grant freed William, worth about $1,500, instead of selling him at a time when he needed money. Grant moved to St. Louis, taking on a partnership with Julia's cousin Harry Boggs working in real estate business as a bill collector, again without success, and at Julia's recommendation dissolved his partnership. In August, Grant applied for a position as county engineer, believing his education qualified him for the job. His application came with thirty-five notable recommendations, but Grant correctly assumed the position would be given on the basis of political affiliation and was passed over as he was believed to share his father-in-law's Democratic sentiments. In April 1860, Grant and his family moved north to Galena, accepting a position in his father's leather goods business run by his younger brothers Simpson and Orvil.[j] In a few months, Ulysses paid off the debts he acquired in Missouri. Ulysses and family attended the local Methodist church and he soon established himself as a reputable citizen of Galena.
In the 1856 presidential election, Grant cast his first presidential vote for Democrat James Buchanan, later saying he was really voting against Republican John C. Frémont over concern that his anti-slavery position would lead to southern secession and war. Although Grant was not an abolitionist, neither was he considered a "slavery man", and could not bring himself to force his slave to do work. For the 1860 election, he favored Democrat Stephen A. Douglas over the eventual winner, Abraham Lincoln, and Lincoln over the Southern Democrat, John C. Breckinridge. Lacking the residency requirements in Illinois at the time, he could not vote.
Main article: Ulysses S. Grant and the American Civil War
On April 12, 1861, the American Civil War began when Confederate troops attacked Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. The news came as a shock in Galena, and Grant shared his neighbors' concern about the war. On April 15, Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers. On April 16, Grant attended a mass meeting held in Galena to assess the crisis and encourage recruitment, and a speech by his father's attorney, John Aaron Rawlins, stirred Grant's patriotism.[k] Ready to fight, Grant recalled with satisfaction, "I never went into our leather store again."[l] On April 18, Grant chaired a second recruitment meeting. Grant turned down a captain position, to obtain a senior military rank, and drilled volunteers in Galena and Camp Yates, near Springfield. On April 29, supported by Congressman Elihu B. Washburne of Illinois, Grant was promoted military aid to Governor Richard Yates, and mustered ten regiments into the Illinois service.
Further information: Kentucky in the American Civil War
Grant's early efforts to be recommissioned failed, rejected by Major General George B. McClellan and Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon. On June 14, aided by Washburne, Grant was promoted to Colonel, in charge of the unruly 21st Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment, whereupon he restored order. Colonel Grant and his 21st regiment were transferred to Missouri, to dislodge reported Confederate forces.
On August 5, with Washburne's aid, Grant was appointed Brigadier General of volunteers. Major General John C. Frémont, Union commander of the West, passed over senior generals and appointed Grant commander of the District of Southeastern Missouri.[m] Grant set up his headquarters at Cairo, Illinois, a bustling Union military and naval base, that was to be used to launch a joint campaign down the Mississippi, Tennessee, and Cumberland Rivers. After the Confederates moved into western Kentucky, with designs on Southern Illinois, Grant, who notified Frémont, advanced on Paducah, Kentucky, taking it without a fight on September 6, and set up a supply station. Having understood the importance to Lincoln about Kentucky's neutrality, Grant assured its citizens, "I have come among you not as your enemy, but as your friend." On November 1, Frémont ordered Grant to "make demonstrations" against the Confederates on both sides of the Mississippi, but prohibited him from attacking the enemy.
Belmont, Forts Henry and Donelson
Main articles: Battle of Belmont, Battle of Fort Henry, and Battle of Fort Donelson
On November 2, 1861, Lincoln sacked Frémont from command, a move that freed up Grant to make a planned attack from Cairo on Confederate soldiers encamped in Belmont, Missouri.[n] On November 7, Grant, along with Brigadier General John A. McClernand, landed 2,500 men at Hunter's Point, two miles north of the Confederate base outside Belmont. The Union army took the camp, but the reinforced Confederates under Brigadier Generals Frank Cheatham and Gideon J. Pillow forced a chaotic Union retreat. Grant had wanted to destroy Confederate strongholds at both Belmont, Missouri and Columbus, Kentucky, but was not given enough troops and was only able to disrupt their positions. Grant's troops had to fight their way back to their Union boats and escaped back to Cairo under fire from the heavily fortified stronghold at Columbus. A tactical defeat, the battle gave Grant's volunteers confidence and experience. Confederate morale was shaken, while Grant as a general willing to fight was noticed by President Lincoln.
Confederate-held Columbus blocked Union access to the lower Mississippi. Grant, and General James B. McPherson, came up with a plan to bypass Columbus and with a force of 25,000 troops, move against Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and then ten miles east to Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River, with the aid of gunboats, opening both rivers and allowing the Union access further south. Grant presented his plan to Henry Halleck, his new commander under the newly created Department of Missouri. Halleck was considering the same strategy, but rebuffed Grant, believing he needed twice the number of troops. However, after Halleck telegraphed and consulted McClellan about the plan, he finally agreed on condition that the attack be conducted in close cooperation with navy Flag Officer, Andrew H. Foote. After Foote's gunboats had silenced most of the guns at the fort, Grant's troops moved in and easily captured Fort Henry on February 6, 1862.
Grant then ordered an immediate assault on nearby Fort Donelson, under the command of John B. Floyd, which dominated the Cumberland River. Unlike Fort Henry, Grant was now going up against a force equal to his. Unaware of the garrison's strength, Grant's forces were over-confident. Grant, McClernand, and Smith positioned their divisions around the fort. The next day McClernand and Smith launched probing attacks on apparent weak spots in the Confederate line, only to retreat with heavy losses. On February 14, Foote's gunboats began bombarding the fort, only to be repulsed by its heavy guns. Foote himself was wounded. Thus far the Confederates were winning, but soon Union reinforcements arrived, giving Grant a total force of over 40,000 men. When Foote regained control of the river, Grant resumed his attack resulting in a standoff. That evening Confederate commander Floyd called a council of war, unsure of his next action. Grant received a dispatch from Foote, requesting that they meet. Grant mounted a horse and rode seven miles over freezing roads and trenches, reaching Smith's division, instructing him to prepare for the next assault, and rode on and met up with McClernand and Wallace. After exchanging reports, he met up with Foote. Foote resumed his bombardment, which signaled a general attack. After a day of battle, Fort Donelson submitted to Grant's demand for "unconditional and immediate surrender", and Floyd struck his flag. Grant telegraphed Halleck, informing him that Fort Donelson had fallen.
Grant had won the first major victory for the Union, capturing Floyd's entire rebel army of more than 12,000. Halleck was nevertheless angry that Grant had acted without his authorization and complained to McClellan, accusing Grant of "neglect and inefficiency". On March 3, Halleck sent a telegram to Washington complaining that he had no communication with Grant for a week. Three days later, Halleck followed up with a postscript claiming "word has just reached me that ... Grant has resumed his bad habits (of drinking)". Lincoln, regardless, promoted Grant to major general of volunteers while the Northern press treated Grant as a hero. Playing off his initials, they took to calling him "Unconditional Surrender Grant".
Shiloh and aftermath
Further information: Battle of Shiloh
As the great numbers of troops from both armies gathered, it was widely assumed in the North that this would be the battle to end the war. Grant, reinstated by Halleck at Lincoln's and Stanton's urging, left Fort Henry and traveled by boat up the Tennessee River to rejoin his army with orders to advance with the Army of the Tennessee into Tennessee. Grant's main Union army was located at Pittsburg Landing, while 40,000 Confederate troops converged at Corinth. Brigadier General William Tecumseh Sherman assured Grant that his green troops were ready for an attack. Grant agreed and wired Halleck with their assessment. Grant, whose forces numbered 45,000, wanted to attack the Confederates at Corinth, but Halleck ordered him not to attack until Major General Don Carlos Buell arrived with his division of 25,000. Meanwhile, Grant prepared for an attack on the Confederate army of roughly equal strength. Instead of preparing defensive fortifications between the Tennessee River and Owl Creek,[o] and clearing fields of fire, they spent most of their time drilling the largely inexperienced troops while Sherman dismissed reports of nearby Confederates.
Union inaction created the opportunity for the Confederates to attack first before Buell arrived. On the morning of April 6, 1862, Grant's troops were taken by surprise when the Confederates, led by Generals Albert Sidney Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard, struck first "like an Alpine avalanche" near Shiloh church, attacking five divisions of Grant's army and forcing a confused retreat toward the Tennessee River. Johnston was wounded and died during the engagement and command fell upon Beauregard. One Union line held the Confederate attack off for several hours at a place later called the "Hornet's Nest", giving Grant time to assemble artillery and 20,000 troops near Pittsburg Landing. The Confederates finally broke through the Hornet's Nest to capture a Union division, but "Grant's Last Line" held Pittsburg Landing, while the exhausted Confederates, lacking reinforcements, halted their advance. That evening, heavy rain set in while Grant and his staff took cover and huddled around a fire. When asked by McPherson if he was going to retreat, Grant replied, "Retreat? No. I propose to attack them at daylight and whip them."
Bolstered by 18,000 fresh troops from the divisions of Major Generals Buell and Lew Wallace, Grant counterattacked at dawn the next day and regained the field, forcing the disorganized and demoralized rebels to retreat back to Corinth while thousands deserted.