Posts Tagged With: Grant

New map may explain Lee’s decisions at Gettysburg…..


On the second day of fighting at Gettysburg, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee listened to scouting reports, scanned the battlefield and ordered his second-in-command, James Longstreet, to attack the Union Army’s left flank.

It was a fateful decision, one that led to one of the most desperate clashes of the entire Civil War — the fight for a piece of ground called Little Round Top. The Union’s defense of the boulder-strewn promontory helped send Lee to defeat at Gettysburg, and he never again ventured into Northern territory.

Why did the shrewd and canny Lee choose to attack, especially in the face of the Union’s superior numbers?

While historians have long wrestled with that question, geographers and cartographers have come up with an explanation, by way of sophisticated mapping software that shows the rolling terrain exactly as it would have appeared to Lee: From his vantage point, he simply couldn’t see throngs of Union soldiers amid the hills and valleys.
“Our analysis shows that he had a very poor understanding of how many forces he was up against, which made him bolder,” said Middlebury College professor Anne Knowles, whose team produced the most faithful re-creation of the Gettysburg battlefield to date, using software called GIS, or geographic information systems.

Developed for the Smithsonian Institution to mark Gettysburg’s 150th anniversary, the panoramic map went live on the Smithsonian website Friday, giving history buffs a new way to look at the Civil War’s pivotal battle, which took place July 1-3, 1863.

“Our goal is to help people understand how and why commanders made their decisions at key moments of the battle, and a key element that’s been excluded, or just not considered in historical studies before, is sight,” Knowles said.

Long before the advent of reconnaissance aircraft and spy satellites, a general’s own sense of sight — his ability to read the terrain and assess the enemy’s position and numbers — was one of his most important tools. Especially at Gettysburg, where Lee was hampered by faulty intelligence.

“We know that Lee had really poor information going into the battle and must have relied to some extent on what he could actually see,” Knowles said.

The geographer applied GIS to find out what Lee could see and what he couldn’t.

To reconstruct the battlefield as it existed in 1863, researchers used historical maps, texts and photos to note the location of wooden fences, stone walls, orchards, forests, fields, barns and houses, as well as the movement of army units. High-resolution aerial photos of the landscape yielded an accurate elevation model. All of it was fed into a computer program that can map data.
But a GIS-generated map, with illuminated areas showing what Lee could see and shaded areas denoting what was hidden from his view, indicates the terrain concealed large numbers of Union soldiers.

“What really came through as a new discovery for us in this project was seeing how few federal forces Lee could see, particularly on Day 2, when he decides to send Longstreet,” Knowles said.

Historian Allen Guelzo, who wasn’t involved in the project, agreed that Lee’s view probably misled him. Guelzo, director of Civil War-era studies at Gettysburg College, took a visitor up to the school’s cupola and motioned toward the peak of Little Round Top, just visible in the distance.

“You can see a lot from up here, and Robert E. Lee might have thought on July 2 that he had seen everything,” said Guelzo, who has written a new book on the Battle of Gettysburg. “But, in fact, the dips and folds of the ground, the foliage as it was on the ground in various groves and woods, all of that concealed what turned out to be the deadly truth.”

Conversely, the Union Army occupied higher ground, and used it to great advantage.
Union Gen. Gouverneur Warren spied Longstreet’s troops just as they were about to launch their attack on an undefended Little Round Top. Frantic, Warren dispatched an officer to round up reinforcements. They got there just in time, and withstood the Confederates.

In Warren’s case, GIS confirmed what historians have long known.

For Knowles, the mapping project and the mysteries it revealed helped Gettysburg come alive.

“Commanders always had to make decisions with really limited information … committing men’s lives to scraps of information or intuition, or what you can see at a certain day or a certain time,” she said. “This analysis, for me, is making the battle more human.”
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/A-Cutting-Edge-Second-Look-at-the-Battle-of-Gettysburg.html

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10 fascinating facts about President Ulysses Grant…….


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Ulysses Grant has a unique role in American history, as a military leader who later become president in one of the nation’s most troubled decades. Here are 10 things you might not know about him—including who is really buried in his tomb.

1. Ulysses wasn’t his real first name. Hiram Ulysses Grant was stuck with the name Ulysses S. Grant due to a mistake on his application form to West Point. And as with President Harry S. Truman, the middle initial “S” doesn’t stand for anything. But having the name “U.S.” Grant gained Hiram the nickname “Sam”–as in Uncle Sam–among soldiers.
2. Grant was an average student at West Point. Grant wasn’t great at academics and avoided church services, but he was a skilled horseman. His future battlefield foe, Robert E. Lee, was one of West Point’s greatest students and later its commandant.
3. Grant and Lee served in the army during the Mexican War. Lee was the chief of staff for General Winfield Scott, while Grant served under General Zachary Scott. Both men received high marks from their superiors.
4. Grant and Lee actually met twice at the end of the Civil War. After their famous meeting at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865, Grant rode out to the Confederate Army the next day, accompanied by a few men, to seek out Lee. The men discussed military matters, and Grant asked Lee to ask all the Confederate armies to lay down their arms. Lee deferred, saying that was a matter for President Lincoln to address.
5. Grant wasn’t a fan of President Andrew Johnson. As a general, Grant was close to President Lincoln. But when Johnson, a former Democrat, became president after Lincoln’s death, the two men eventually became opponents. While Grant was a former Democrat himself, he became aligned with the Radical Republicans.
6. Grant was the youngest president elected at the time. The former general was 46 years old and never held elected office when he took office in 1869. His inexperience would be a factor in a tumultuous eight-year term in the midst of Reconstruction.
7. Grant tried to annex the Dominican Republic to the U.S. The president wanted the Dominican Republic in the Union for several reasons: as a military base, as a sanctuary for freed slaves, and as a market for U.S. goods. The treaty was approved by the Dominicans, but stalled in the Senate. Grant’s fight with Senator Charles Sumner divided the Republican party.
8. Grant’s two terms in office had lots of drama. As president, Grant’s terms in office were a roller coaster. In addition to the fight over the Dominican Republic, Grant had to grapple with corruption, numerous scandals within his own administration, an economic disaster (the Panic of 1873), the 15th Amendment, Reconstruction, the Ku Klux Klan, and the threat of war with Great Britain and Spain.
9. Grant was a gifted writer. After leaving the presidency, Grant became ill and was financially destitute. His memoirs, written as he was dying from throat cancer, show a clear, concise style, and his autobiography is considered among the best, if not the best, written by a president.
10. OK, so who is really buried in Grant’s tomb? That’s a trick question. Grant and his wife, Julia, are interred inside the tomb, but their crypt is above ground. It is the largest mausoleum in North America.

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The forgotten man who almost became president after Lincoln…..


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On April 15, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln died from his assassin’s wounds. But if John Wilkes Booth’s plot were entirely successful, a little-known senator may have been thrust into the White House.
Booth’s full plot included killing Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of State William Seward. General Ulysses Grant was another possible target. But only two attacks took place on April 14, 1865, with Seward surviving an assassination attempt and Lincoln suffering from Booth’s single gunshot.
According to the rules of presidential succession in 1865, only Vice President Johnson, and not Seward or Grant, was in line to replace Lincoln if he died. If Johnson had died, an acting president would be appointed until a special election could be held to elect a new president (and not a vice president).
The acting president would have been the president pro tempore of the Senate, Lafayette Sabine Foster of Connecticut.
The Presidential Succession Act of 1792 controlled how the president was replaced if he died in office, quit, or was unable to perform his duties.
The act was changed in 1886 and 1947 to deal with different scenarios. The 20th Amendment addressed what happens if a president-elect can’t take office, and the 25th Amendment cleared up the succession of a new vice president and what happens when a president is temporarily unable to perform his or her duties.
Back in 1865, Booth had convinced George Atzerodt, an acquaintance, to kill Johnson by setting a trap at the Kirkwood House hotel where the vice president lived. However, Atzerodt lost his nerve and didn’t attempt to kill the vice president, even though he had a rented room above Johnson’s and a loaded gun was found in the room.
If Atzerodt or another assailant had succeeded, Senator Foster would have been acting president until March 4, 1866. And if Foster wasn’t available, Speaker of the House Schuyler Colfax would have been next, and last, in line to succeed Lincoln and Johnson.
A special election would have taken place in November 1865, with the Electoral College convening in December 1865, and the presidential inauguration being held on March 4, 1866, with the new president serving out Lincoln’s term.
The person charged with the official notification of the states to start the special election process was the secretary of state. Luckily, William Seward survived an attack by assassin Lewis Powell.
If Seward had died, that power may have devolved on the assistant secretary of state, who could perform the duties as an acting secretary of state until a new president named a replacement who was confirmed by the Senate.
The assistant secretary of state on April 15, 1865, was Frederick W. Seward, the son of William Seward. Frederick Seward was also seriously injured defending his father during Powell’s assassination attempt. (He would recover after Powell pistol-whipped him.)
From what we know about Lafayette Sabine Foster, he was a conservative Republican who was named as the president pro tempore of the Senate about a month before Lincoln’s death. Foster only remained in the Senate for another two years, failing in a re-election attempt. He was later a judge in his home state until his death in 1880.
According to his obituary, Foster was “a prominent figure in congressional life, as a clear and forcible debater upon great public questions, and as an unsurpassed presiding officer in the Senate, that he was most widely known and will be best remembered.”
Foster also was cited for being above the politics that led to his Senate defeat in 1866.
“He was no seeker after popularity, certainly he never descended to any truckling arts to secure it, and probably to some extent he lost favor by the high tone of both his character and bearing, and by the selectness of his friendships,” the obituary said.
A New York Times article from 1875 sheds some more light on Foster’s loss of his Senate seat. The Republicans picked another nominee at a caucus in 1866, and Foster signaled his agreement to run as a rival candidate supported by Connecticut’s Democrats. Foster dropped out at the last moment to accept a judge’s position in the state.
The Times article said Foster remained bitter about losing his Senate seat.
“He does not appear to be have ever recovered from the disappointment of his defeat in 1866,” the article stated.
And what would have happened in the special presidential election of November 1865? The Republican Party was already split between its Radical and Moderate wings.
General Grant may have run for president as a compromise candidate, but other prominent Republicans included Seward, Colfax, Thaddeus Stevens, and Benjamin Wade.
The Democrats were also divided and had been badly beaten in the 1864 presidential campaign. Former New York Governor Horatio Seymour, the eventual 1868 nominee, was a key player in the party, as was George H. Pendleton, the 1864 vice presidential nominee. General Winfield Scott Hancock had presidential ambitions in later years, and he had personally supervised the executions in the Lincoln assassination case.
The former Confederate states wouldn’t have been involved, since they weren’t readmitted to the union.
Benjamin Wade replaced Foster as Senate president pro tempore in 1867 and nearly became acting president in 1868, when President Johnson avoided removal from office by one vote in a Senate trial.

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