March 10, 1864: Ulysses S. Grant Commissioned Lieutenant General


Today, One Hundred and fifty-six years ago, President Abraham Lincoln signed the commission naming Ulysses S. Grant Lieutenant General.  Grant was the second Lieutenant General in US military history, the only other one being George Washington.  Winfield Scott, the general who took Mexico City, was made a brevet Lieutenant General in 1847.    The Confederates used the rank freely, and it was not the top rank for their generals.  Being given the same rank as Washington had a huge significance at the time in the North as the fate of the nation was riding upon Grant, as it once had depended upon Washington.  Ironically, Washington actually received the rank of Lieutenant General after the Revolution and was appointed to that rank by President John Adams during the Quasi War with France.   Washington never saw action during that War, the conflict involving some scattered naval fights.   During the Revolution, Washington was a Major General and Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army.  Likewise Grant was made commander of all the Union armies, answerable only to President Lincoln.


On July 4, 1976 General Washington was posthumously commissioned General of the Armies of the United States with the intention that no American general would ever again outrank him.

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  1. Grant’s promotion had a significance that rang much louder than today.

    That the Army did not have ranks higher than Major General (with the onetime exception G Washington) was symbol of the countries republican and democratic ideals. By 1864 the Army had expanded so much that there were four levels of command all held by major generals. This appointment was a very clear sign of Lincolns endorsement of Grant.

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