General U. S. Grant Timeline

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General US Grant Timeline
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President Ulysses S. Grant Timeline



January: Dissatisfied with the use of his force solely for defensive and diversionary purposes, Grant asks Major General Halleck, now in command in the West, for permission to begin a campaign on the Tennessee River. On February 1, he receives.

February 2: Grant's forces advance from Cairo.

February 6: Naval forces under Flag-Officer Andrew H. Foote capture Fort Henry in Tennessee. Grant's forces are on their way in the combined operation. The victory is one of maneuver rather than battle, because most of the Confederates have been withdrawn to Fort Donelson (about eleven miles away on the Cumberland River). The following day, Grant makes a reconnaissance to within one mile of Donelson. "I intend to keep the ball moving as lively as possible," he writes his sister.

February 12: Although Halleck prefers to have Grant consolidate his position, Grant begins to move his troops towards Fort Donelson. They arrive the following day, and General John A. McClernand leads his division in a reckless premature assault on the Donelson lines. The next day (February 14), Grant watches an assault on Donelson by the gunboats of Foote's flotilla which is equally unsuccessful. The Confederates are now emboldened to make an assault of their own (February 15) aiming to break out of the siege, which has temporary success, but then the Confederates are forced back to their lines. "I heard some of the men say that the enemy had come out with knapsacks, and haversacks filled with rations. They seemed to think this indicated a determination on his part to stay out and fight just as long as the provisions held out. I turned to Colonel J. D. Webster, of my staff, who was with me, and said: 'Some of our men are pretty badly demoralized, but the enemy must be more so, for he has attempted to force his way out, but has fallen back: the one who attacks first now will be victorious and the enemy will have to be in a hurry if he gets ahead of me." Grant's men advance immediately.

February 16: During the night, Confederate Generals John Floyd and Gideon Pillow flee from Fort Donelson. Nathan Bedford Forrest saves his cavalry. General Simon B. Buckner, now in command, requests an armistice to arrange terms of surrender. To this, Grant responds: "Yours of this date proposing Armistice, and appointment of Commissioners, to settle terms of Capitulation is just received. No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works." The surrender of Donelson destroys the entire Confederate line in the middle theatre of war. It confirms the loss of Kentucky and the imminent threat to Tennessee. As the first major Union victory of the war, it touches off great celebrations in the North, in the course of which Grant's words provoke as much enthusiasm as the victory itself. The happy coincidence of the phrase with his initials earns him the nickname, "Unconditional Surrender Grant."

February 17: Lincoln signs the papers for Grant's promotion to major general of volunteers.

March 4: Halleck orders Grant to turn his forces over to General C. F. Smith. Due to telegraph failures, Halleck believes that Grant is failing to obey orders to report to his superior. On March 13, Grant is restored to command. On March 17, he resumes his Tennessee River campaign, beginning to mass his troops at Pittsburg Landing for a thrust against the vital rail center at Corinth, Mississippi, some twenty miles away.

April 6: Confederate forces under Albert Sidney Johnston and P. G. T. Beauregard attack the Union position at Shiloh Church, near Pittsburg Landing. Grant is breakfasting some miles away at Savannah, preparing to meet additional troops scheduled to arrive with General Don Carlos Buell, when he hears the firing and hurries to the front. A stubborn defense of an area known as the Hornets' Nest by General Benjamin M. Prentiss wins valuable time for Grant, but by the end of the day, his army has been pushed back to the river. "During the night rain fell in torrents and our troops were exposed to the storm without shelter. I made my headquarters under a tree a few hundred yards back from the river bank. My ankle was so much swollen from the fall of my horse the Friday night preceding, and the bruise was so painful, that I could get no rest. The drenching rain would have precluded the possibility of sleep without this additional cause. Some time after midnight, growing restive under the storm and the continuous pain, I moved back to the log-house under the bank. This had been taken as a hospital, and all night wounded men were being brought in, their wounds dressed, a leg or an arm amputated as the case might require, and everything being done to save life or alleviate suffering. The sight was more unendurable than encountering the enemy's fire, and I returned to my tree in the rain."

April 7: Aided by reinforcements brought by Buell, Grant is able to drive the Confederates from the field. It has been a costly victory for the North, and there are angry public reactions in the North to the great loss of life and the lack of preparation for a Confederate attack. "Shiloh was the severest battle fought at the West during the war, and but few in the East equalled it for hard, determined fighting. I saw an open field, in our possession on the second day, over which the Confederates had made repeated charges the day before, so covered with dead that it would have been possible to walk across the clearing, in any direction, stepping on dead bodies, without a foot touching the ground."

April 11: General Halleck takes personal command of the army, and very slowly moves against Corinth. Grant serves unhappily as second in command. Corinth is occupied on May 30; the Confederates have decided to evacuate. Disgusted by Halleck's unwillingness to engage the enemy, Grant considers resigning. General William T. Sherman persuades him to remain.

June 21: Grant leaves Halleck at Corinth to establish separate headquarters as district commander at Memphis.

July 11: Halleck is ordered to Washington to serve as general-in-chief. Grant is ordered to Corinth to take command of the army, and arrives on July 15.

September 19: Confederate General Braxton Bragg orders General Sterling Price to prevent Grant from sending reinforcements to General Don Carlos Buell. Grant sends troops under William S. Rosecrans and E. O. C. Ord to drive Price from Iuka, Mississippi, before he can be reinforced by General Earl Van Dorn or go east to join Bragg. Rosecrans encounters the enemy, and although the battle is inconclusive, the Confederates retreat.

October 3-4: While Grant is at Jackson, Tennessee, Van Dorn attacks Rosecrans at Corinth. Grant sends reinforcements as soon as he learns of the attack, but Rosecrans repels the assault before they arrive, and Van Dorn withdraws with his army largely intact.

October 25: Grant is assigned the Department of Tennessee and reinforced. On November 2, he begins a campaign with Vicksburg, Mississippi as its objective.

November 13: Union forces occupy Holly Springs in northern Mississippi, where Grant establishes a supply base for the advancing army.

December 17: In an effort to crush the sordid and unpatriotic trade between Northern merchants and rebels, Grant issues General Orders No. 11 expelling all Jews from the Department of Tennessee. Grant's motivation for issuing this order remains a subject of controversy. Vigorous protests in Washington result in official revocation.

December 20: While Grant is at Oxford, Mississippi, Van Dorn captures Holly Springs and destroys the supplies. By December 23, Grant is back at Holly Springs, and decides to move headquarters to Memphis. He now gives up his overland drive on Vicksburg.

December 28-29: In the meantime, General Sherman has left Memphis without knowledge of the destruction at Holly Springs. Moving down the Mississippi and picking up reinforcements at Helena, Arkansas, he makes an unsuccessful assault on Vicksburg along Chickasaw Bayou.


January 2: General John A. McClernand arrives at the mouth of the Yazoo River and takes over command of the forces near Vicksburg from Sherman. McClernand has been intriguing for command of the Mississippi River expedition and can not be prevented from exercising command unless Grant takes personal control.

January 17: Grant assesses McClernand. "I visited McClernand and his command at Napoleon. It was here made evident to me that both the army and navy were so distrustful of McClernand's fitness to command that, while they would do all they could to insure success, this distrust was an element of weakness. It would have been criminal to send troops under these circumstances into such danger."

January 30: Grant takes personal command of the Vicksburg expedition, over McClernand's protests, at Young's Point on the Mississippi, north of Vicksburg.

March: Sherman had discovered that Vicksburg was inaccessible from the north. Grant now tries to bring land and naval forces south of Vicksburg without passing the town's formidable gun batteries. Beginning in January, Sherman's men had worked on a canal on the peninsula opposite Vicksburg; in March, it is abandoned because of low water. A more ambitious canal at Duckport is also abandoned because of low water. General James B. McPherson's corps work on a circuitous route through Lake Providence, Louisiana, but it is finally abandoned because of its impracticability. An attempt is made to move through the Yazoo Pass, 325 miles north of Vicksburg, to use the Tallahatchie and Yazoo Rivers, but Confederates halt the Union gunboats at Fort Pemberton. While trying to use a route through Steele's Bayou, Acting Rear Admiral Porter's fleet barely escape capture. Grant now realizes he will have to abandon all of these routes around Vicksburg.

April 16: Porter runs his fleet successfully south past the Vicksburg batteries. Six supply transports follow on April 22. Troops march overland west of the river to below Vicksburg.

April 29: After a naval bombardment of Grand Gulf, south of Vicksburg, Grant decides against an attempt to land his men there. Instead, McClernand's command is landed some miles below at Bruinsburg (April 30). "When this was effected I felt a degree of relief scarcely ever equalled since. Vicksburg was not yet taken it is true, nor were its defenders demoralized by any of our previous moves. I was now in the enemy's country, with a vast river and the stronghold of Vicksburg between me and my base of supplies. But I was on dry ground on the same side of the river with the enemy. All the campaigns, labors, hardships and exposures from the month of December previous to this time that had been made and endured, were for the accomplishment of this one object."

May 1: Grant's victory at the battle of Port Gibson gives the Union forces a firm footing in Mississippi and compels the abandonment of the fortifications at Grand Gulf (May 3). Grant now begins moving inland, brings up more troops, and prepares to attack Pemberton's army in the Vicksburg area.

May 12: McPherson's corps wins a victory at Raymond. Now Grant decides to strike for the interior and the state capital at Jackson. If he had moved immediately against Vicksburg from the south, he might have won the position without capturing Pemberton's army. He prefers to surround Vicksburg and win both. He also wants to avoid the danger of being trapped between two rebel armies: one at Vicksburg, and another coming from the east under Joseph E. Johnston.

May 14: Union forces capture Jackson, Mississippi, after some fighting. Now Grant turns back towards Vicksburg, winning the battle of Champion's Hill on May 16. The Confederates cross the Big Black River after another fight on the following day, and on May 18, Grant completes the encirclement of Vicksburg.

May 19: An assault on the lines at Vicksburg moves the Union lines slightly forward. Another assault on May 22 does less good and costs many lives. Grant now decides upon a siege.

June 18: Grant relieves McClernand of command for improperly issuing a congratulatory order to his troops without obtaining headquarters approval. The bombastic document has extolled McClernand's troops at the expense of other troops and other commanders.

June 22: Grant learns that the Confederate army under J. E. Johnston has crossed the Big Black River and is possibly preparing an attack to save the Vicksburg garrison. But before the attack comes, Vicksburg will fall.

June 25: Union forces explode a mine under the Confederate line, but are unsuccessful in breaking through. Another mine, exploded July 1, is similarly unproductive. The major pressure on the Confederates comes through the exhaustion of supplies.

July 3: Pemberton sends a message to Grant requesting terms of surrender. Grant answers, as he had at Fort Donelson, that his only terms are unconditional surrender.

July 4: Vicksburg surrenders. The garrison marches out and stacks arms. Grant immediately provides food for the starving soldiers and civilians. After the fall of Port Hudson on July 9, the entire Mississippi River is in Union hands. The loss of Vicksburg coupled with the battle at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania marks a turning point in the war. Grant is now promoted to major general in the regular army. "If the Vicksburg campaign meant anything, in a military point of view, it was that there are no fixed laws of war which are not subject to the conditions of the country, the climate, and the habits of the people. The laws of successful war in one generation would insure defeat in another."

August: Grant travels to New Orleans to confer with General Nathaniel Banks. While there, he receives painful injuries when his horse falls.

September 13: Halleck tells Grant to send all available troops to the aid of Rosecrans near Chattanooga. Grant's own preference is for an expedition to Mobile. On September 19-20, a defeat at Chickamauga forces Rosecrans back into Chattanooga, where he is virtually besieged by Bragg.

October 17: As Grant travels by train from Cairo to Louisville, Secretary of War Stanton boards the train at Indianapolis with orders giving Grant command of the Military Division of the Mississippi, embracing the Departments of the Ohio, Cumberland, and Tennessee. In addition, Grant is given permission to replace Rosecrans with George H. Thomas.

October 23: Grant enters Chattanooga. By October 28, Union forces have opened a precarious supply route, called the cracker line, to prevent starvation.

November 23-25: Battle of Chattanooga. On the first day, Grant puts his men in position and drives the Confederates from Orchard Knob. On the second, Hooker leads his men up Lookout Mountain. Then, on November 25, Union forces assault the main Confederate position on Missionary Ridge. "The Confederates were strongly intrenched on the crest of the ridge in front of us, and had a second line half-way down and another at the base. Our men drove the troops in front of the lower line of rifle-pits so rapidly, and followed them so closely, that rebel and Union troops went over the first line of works almost at the same time. Many rebels were captured and sent to the rear under the fire of their own friends higher up the hill. Those that were not captured retreated, and were pursued. The retreating hordes being between friends and pursuers caused the enemy to fire high to avoid killing their own men. In fact, on that occasion the Union soldier nearest the enemy was in the safest position." Years later, Grant was asked if the Confederates had failed because they believed their position impregnable. With a twinkle in his eye, Grant replied, "Well, it was impregnable."

With Chattanooga now safe, Grant sends troops to Knoxville, where General Ambrose Burnside is besieged by Confederate General James Longstreet. The Confederates withdraw on December 3-4 before Grant's force arrives.


February 29: The bill to restore the rank of lieutenant general becomes a law. It has been passed with the understanding that Grant will receive the promotion. On March 1, Lincoln submits Grant's nomination, which is confirmed the following day. On March 3, Grant is ordered to Washington to receive his commission. By this time, there is speculation about a political career for Grant. In a letter to his father on February 20, Grant had written: "All I want is to be left alone to fight this war out; fight all rebel opposition and restore a happy Union in the shortest possible time."

March 8: Lincoln and Grant meet for the first time. In the evening, Grant is guest of honor at a White House reception. When word spreads through the large crowd that the general has arrived, there is so much confusion that Grant has to stand on a sofa so that all can see him. On the following day, Lincoln presents the commission with a short speech of four sentences. As usual, Grant can be even more concise. "Mr. President, I accept the commission, with gratitude for the high honor conferred. With the aid of the noble armies that have fought in so many fields for our common country, it will be my earnest endeavor not to disappoint your expectations. I feel the full weight of the responsibilities now devolving on me; and I know that if they are met, it will be due to those armies, and, above all, to the favor of that Providence which leads both nations and men."

March 12: Grant is assigned to command all armies of the United States. He decides to make his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac. First, however, he makes a quick trip to Nashville to confer with Sherman, who is given Grant's former command on March 18. By March 23, Grant is back in Washington.

April 27: Grant gives orders for the movement of the Army of the Potomac. On May 4, the army crosses the Rapidan River in Virginia.

May 5-7: The Army of the Potomac meets Confederate commander Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia while crossing an area known as the Wilderness. The Confederates have an excellent position, and Union advances are purchased with great loss of life.

May 8-20: The Wilderness campaign is succeeded by bloody battles at Spotsylvania, Virginia. During the fighting at Spotsylvania, Grant informs Halleck of his intention "to fight it out on this line if it takes all Summer."

May 21: Grant begins to move to his left again. On May 23, Winfield Scott Hancock's corps capture a bridge over the North Anna River. Lee, however, has placed his force so effectively on the south bank of the river that Grant chooses not to bring on a general engagement. He slips to his left again, and crosses the Pamunkey River on May 27. The road to the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia now leads past Cold Harbor, Virginia.

June 1-3: Union assaults are made upon a strong Confederate position at Cold Harbor. The loss to the North is severe, and, unlike earlier battles, does nothing to improve the Union position. "I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made."

June 14: Grant's army crosses the James River on pontoon bridges, heading towards Petersburg. Unable to break the Confederate line in frontal attack, Grant has steadily slipped to his left and now has his lines southeast of Richmond. On the following day, Union forces make the first assault on Petersburg, Virginia. The battle of Petersburg gradually settles into a siege.

July 30: In an effort to crack the Confederate line a huge mine is exploded, but the Federal assault after the blast fails, in the Battle of the Crater. There will be no more major battles in 1864. Instead, Grant exerts relentless pressure on the overextended Confederate lines near Petersburg. By August, Grant can see the end. "The rebels have now in their ranks their last man. The little boys and old men are guarding prisoners, guarding rail-road bridges and forming a good part of their garrisons for intrenched positions. A man lost by them can not be replaced."

August 7: Grant replaces General David Hunter in the Shenandoah Valley with General Philip Sheridan, who is given orders to harass the enemy constantly and destroy supplies.

August 18: Grant seizes the Weldon Railroad, a vital supply line for Lee's army.

October 27: A similar attempt upon the South Side Railroad is unsuccessful. The siege of Petersburg continues, but neither side can do much more than hold its position through the winter.

General US Grant Timeline
General Grant Timeline.jpg
General Grant Timeline

Credits: PBS online; This is an abridged version of Professor John Y. Simon's Ulysses S. Grant Chronology, available in its entirety at the Ulysses S. Grant Association Web site (

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