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Grant, 1863

Grant at City Point, Virginia, 1864

Grant, circa 1864

Grant, 1865

General Grant and His Family, 1868




U. S. Grant (1822–1885)

The Civil War changed few men’s lives as much as it did that of Ulysses S. Grant. Grant was a West Point graduate, a veteran of the Mexican War, and a member of the class of officers who found life in the regular army—away from family and friends—to be lonely and tedious. In 1854 he resigned his commission only to offer his services again at the start of the war. Grant was made a brigadier general and given a command in Cairo, Illinois. Nothing much was expected of him until he began winning victories, first at Fort Donelson, Tennessee, where his terms were “unconditional surrender,” and later at Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Chattanooga, Tennessee. Although some said he drank and was not fit for high command, President Lincoln had enough faith in him to promote him to lieutenant general and to give him command of all the Union armies.

This portrait of Grant, by the Norwegian-born Ole Peter Hansen Balling, shows the Union’s most celebrated general at Vicksburg, the site of his great triumph of 1863. In truth, Balling had his first sittings with Grant more than a year later in Washington, D.C. From the turn of the century until it came to the National Portrait Gallery, Balling’s likeness, and its massive frame recalling Grant’s Civil War triumphs, hung in the lobby of a hotel in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Ole Peter Hansen Balling (1823–1906)
Oil on canvas, 1864
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution


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