rom Bull Run to Chattanooga, the Union armies had fought
their battles without benefit of either a grand strategy or a su-
preme field commander. Even after the great victories of 1863,
the situation in 1864 reﬂected this lack of unity of command. During
the final year of the war the people of the North grew restless; and as
the election of 1864 approached, many of them advocated a policy of
making peace with the Confederacy. President Abraham Lincoln never
wavered. Committed to the policy of destroying the armed power of
the Confederacy, he sought a general who could pull together all the
threads of an emerging strategy and then concentrate the Union armies
and their supporting naval power against the secessionists. After Vicks-
burg in July 1863, Lincoln leaned more and more toward Maj. Gen.
Ulysses S. Grant as the man whose strategic thinking and resolution
could lead the Union armies to final victory.
Unity of Command
Acting largely as his own General in Chief, although Maj. Gen.
Henry W. Halleck had been given that title after George B. McClellan’s
removal in early 1862, Mr. Lincoln had watched the Confederates fight
from one victory to another inside their cockpit of northern Virginia.
In the Western Theater, Union armies, often operating independently
of one another, had scored great victories at key terrain points. But their
hold on the communications base at Nashville was always in jeopardy
as long as the elusive armies of the Confederacy could escape to fight
another day at another key point. The twin, uncoordinated victories
at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, 900 miles apart, only pointed out the
North’s need for an overall strategic plan and a general who could carry
Having cleared the Mississippi River, Grant wrote to Halleck and
the President in the late summer of 1863 about the opportunities now
open to his army. Grant first called for the consolidation of the auton-
omous western departments and the coordination of their individual