After the Civil War: Post War Lives of Some Union Figures

In my last post, I took a look at the post war lives of some of the Confederate participants on the Civil War. Here’s a look at the post war lives of some of the Union participants.

President U.S. Grant and Family in 1870

President U.S. Grant and Family in 1870

At the end of the war, Ulysses S. Grant was a hero to many in the north, and arguably the most admired and popular figure following the death of Abraham Lincoln. Grant remained in the army in the immediate aftermath of the war, and Congress created the new rank of four star general for him in 1866. Grant was elected the 18th President of the United States as a Republican in 1868 and was reelected in 1872. Although personally honest, his administration was plagued by corrupt individuals and scandals. After leaving office in 1877, Grant went on a two year world tour before locating in New York City and engaging in business ventures, which failed and left him essentially broke. Grant turned to writing magazine articles about his wartime experiences to earn money. They were well received , and he was urged to write his memoirs in book form. Grant was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1884, and raced to complete his memoirs in spite of his failing health. Author Mark Twain offered to publish the book with Grant receiving a 75% royalty on sales, which the general accepted. On July 19th, 1885, Grant completed his memoirs, and on July 23rd, he died. The book was a success both critically and financially; his widow Julia received between $450,000 and $500,000 in royalties. The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant is still considered to be one of the finest first hand accounts of the Civil War ever written.

William T. Sherman remained in the army after the Civil War ended. In 1866, after Grant was promoted to the new rank of four star general,

William T. Sherman in 1883

William T. Sherman in 1883

Sherman was promoted to Grant’s former rank of Lieutenant General. After Grant was inaugurated President in 1869, Sherman was promoted to Commanding General of the United States Army and a fourth star. He continued to command the army until he stepped down from that position on November 1st 1883. He retired from the army on February 8th, 1884. During his tenure, the army campaigned extensively against the plains and western Indian tribes; he also established the forerunner of today’s United States Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in 1881. Like Grant, Sherman published a well received memoir. After retiring from the army, Sherman was a popular speaker, who declined requests that he run for public office. William T, Sherman died in New York City on February 14th, 1891.

Philip Sheridan also remained in the army after the war ended. During Reconstruction In 1867, he was commander of the Fifth Military District which included Texas and Louisiana. His rule was so harsh that President Andrew Johnson removed him after just six months. After Sherman was promoted to full general, Sheridan was promoted to Lieutenant General and led often brutal campaigns in the Indian Wars of the 1870s and early 80s. He also worked hard to establish and protect Yellowstone National Park. After Sherman stepped down as General in Chief of the Army in November 1883, Sheridan was promoted to that position. In June of 1888 he was promoted to four star general. Philip Sheridan died August 5th, 1888.

Though he was one of the finest field commanders in the U.S. Army in the Civil War, George H. Thomas was not a self promoter and did not have a colorful personality or write his memoirs. As a result, he is sometimes overlooked and underrated. Thomas remained in the army after the war, serving as commander of the Department of the Cumberland in Kentucky and Tennessee until 1869, when he requested and received command of the Department of the Pacific with headquarters at the Presidio in San Francisco. George Thomas died in San Francisco on March 28th, 1870. A native Virginian who was permanently disowned by his family for staying loyal to Union, Thomas was buried in his wife’s hometown of Troy, New York.

George McClellan was very popular with the soldiers in the Army of the Potomac, but not so much with the Lincoln Administration, with whom there was mutual animosity. McClellan was relieved of command of the Army of the Potomac on November 7th, 1862 by President Lincoln, who sent him home to New Jersey to “await orders”. Those orders never came. In 1864, McClellan accepted the nomination of the Democratic Party as its nominee for president, but Lincoln easily won reelection over him. After the war, McClellan spent three years in Europe, before returning and settling in New York. After another three year stint in Europe, McClellan returned and was elected Governor of New Jersey, serving from 1878-1881. George McClellan died October 29th, 1885.

Ambrose Burnside Post War Image

Ambrose Burnside Post War Image

McClellan’s successor as commander of the Army of the Potomac was Ambrose Burnside. Burnside was relieved of that position in early 1863, but continued in various commands until he was sent home after the disastrous Battle of the Crater at Petersburg in 1864. Like McClellan, he was not given another post, and he resigned from the army in April 1865. Burnside then went into private business. He was elected governor of Rhode Island, serving from1866-1869, and was also elected a U.S. Senator from Rhode Island, serving from 1875 until his death in 1881. Besides his Civil War service, Burnside is remembered for his style of whiskers, hence the term “sideburns”.

Nathaniel P. Banks had been a Massachusetts politician before the war, serving in the U.S. House of Representatives–he was Speaker of the House from 1856-57– and as Governor of his home state. He was one of the first volunteer generals appointed by Lincoln. His military career did not go well. He was beaten soundly by Stonewall Jackson in the 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign, backed into victory at Port Hudson after Vicksburg surrendered and the Louisiana garrison’s position became untenable, and was defeated during the Red River Campaign, ending any thoughts he had of running for the presidency. But he still had plenty of politics left in him, and he served six terms in Congress and one term as a Massachusetts state senator; he also served nine years as a U.S. Marshall. Nathaniel Banks died on September 1st, 1894.

Admiral David D. Porter had success in the war commanding fleets both on the Western rivers as well as the Atlantic Ocean. After the war, Porter was named Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, serving in that position from 1865-1869. He was an advisor to the Secretary of the Navy from 1869-70, commanded a fleet based in Key West, Florida in the mid 1870s and served as head of the Naval Board of Inspection and Survey, an agency that assesses the condition and readiness of naval vessels (and still exists today) from 1877 to 1891. Porter was still on active duty as head of the Board when he died on February 13th, 1891.

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