“South kicking our ass.
Send in poor, washed-out drunk.”
Thus Union is saved.
The 47-day Siege of Vicksburg ended 155 years ago today with Pemberton’s surrender to Grant. This put the cherry on the shit sundae that was the Confederate Army’s week. (You know what else went down then? The Battle of Gettysburg.)
Grant was an unlikely savior of the North. A veteran of the Mexican-American War, he’d been drummed out of the Army in 1854 while stationed out in California. Yes, it was over alcohol. Depression, boredom, separation from his wife and son, and an inability to make enough money to support them due to poor pay and failed business ventures will do that to a man. Afterwards, he continued to have a poor head for business and many times had to rely on the assistance of his father-in-law (a staunch Democrat and slave owner he did not get on with) and the occasional friend who felt sorry for him.
Then… WAR! Sensing an opportunity, he signed up as a colonel, and through sheer competence, rapidly rose through the ranks. He did this despite political machinations, dickish rivals, the circumstances of him leaving the Army in the first place, and let’s be frank, the occasional retreat into the bottle. (Usually when there was no fighting to do and he hadn’t seen his wife for a while.)
His success at Vicksburg paved the way to his eventual promotion to lieutenant general. It also gave him an opportunity to treat his small daughter to birthday fireworks. They were actually for Independence Day, but he wasn’t about to tell her that.