To mark the bicentennial of the birth of Ulysses S. Grant in 2022, last week two Missouri legislators submitted a bill in Congress to posthumously appoint Grant General of the Armies of the United States. The promotion would rank Grant with George Washington, who also received the honor posthumously to mark the US Bicentennial in 1976.
Senator Roy Blunt and Congresswoman Ann Wagner announced their bicameral Ulysses S. Grant Bicentennial Recognition Act on September 17. Grant already received a nearly identical rank during his lifetime, when Congress established the new designation of “General of the Army of the United States” just for him in 1866. But there was one small yet key difference: the 1866 rank omitted the letter “S” from the word “Army” indicating a plural of “Armies.”
On such tiny matters of spelling stand great honors, apparently.
Actually, government is full of attention to this kind of detail. And rightly so.
Ever since Washington received the “General of the Armies” rank in 1976, the similarity of the two titles has created confusion. The new legislation hopes to clarify that Grant belongs at the very top of America’s military heroes along with Washington.
Grant was not only America’s greatest general, but one of the top military geniuses in the world. In The Mask of Command British military historian John Keegan ranks Grant with only Alexander the Great and the Duke of Wellington. No Confederate generals made Keegan’s very short list.
If you need proof that Grant was the top American general ever, just examine his record during the Civil War.
Grant was the only general in U.S. history to capture three enemy armies in the field.
- First at Fort Donelson in Tennessee when he gained the moniker “Unconditional Surrender” Grant after taking the garrison force of more than 10,000, then commanded by General Simon B. Buckner.
- Second at Vicksburg with the surrender of General John Pemberton’s army of 29,495.
- And finally at Appomattox Court House when the vaunted Robert E. Lee surrendered his army of 28,000.
The second most successful general at capturing opposing forces in US history was Dwight Eisenhower, who took two enemy armies. I believe that George Washington took only one enemy army, under Cornwallis at Yorktown, though he was fighting a different kind of war than Grant or Ike and was brilliantly successful defeating a much stronger foe through a war of attrition.
The Grant Monument Association and the Ulysses S. Grant Association issued a joint statement calling on Congress to pass the bill before the 200th anniversary of Grant’s birth on April 27, 2022.
“General Ulysses S. Grant was the principal author of Union victory during the Civil War,” said the groups.
His achievements on the battlefield ensured the very survival of our nation amid the greatest threat it had ever faced. Many historians rightfully regard him as not only the most capable and accomplished general in American history, but also one of the great military commanders in world history. So it is only fitting that, as was done for George Washington during the nation’s bicentennial in 1976, General Grant posthumously be accorded the army’s highest rank—and there is no better time to do so than during the Grant bicentennial in 2022.
If you support the bill, then you can help get it passed by contacting the two Senators for your state and the one Representative for your Congressional district. Right on the Grant 200 website, you can locate your legislators using your address and link to contact forms on their websites. Tell them about the Grant Bicentennial next year and ask them to support awarding the posthumous promotion by April 2022.