Unconditional Surrender

June 4, 2008
By Steven Pytel, Palm Desert, CA

According to the National Park Service the Union won 204 battles out of the 334 battles that took place during the Civil war. That’s almost two-thirds of the battles. How did they get so many wins you say? General in Chief Ulysses S. Grant’s hard terms of “no terms except unconditional surrender”(National Park Service website) helped win the war. Grants “unconditional surrender” strategy was a significant role in winning the war.

When the Civil war was at a crucial period. Grant went out to win control of the Mississippi Valley. According to Who was Who in the Civil War by Steward Sifakis, in February 1862, Grant took Fort Donelson in Tennessee, which was the first victory of strategic importance. As the Confederate officer of that battle asked for terms, Grant said, “No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted.” The Confederates surrendered and because of this, President Lincoln promoted Grant to Major general of volunteers in 1863. After continuing his conquest with his strategy, he captured Vicksburg, the main city on the Mississippi cutting the Confederacy in two. Lincoln was happy with what Grant did and promoted him to General-in-Chief “a post last held by George Washington.”

Grants main strategy for victory according to Wikipedia was to apply his strategy and William T. Sherman’s strategy together to take out the Army of Northern Virginia. Once that is done, capture the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. Sherman’s “Total war” strategy was to drain all the resources from the South so they could not do anything. This strategy that Grant developed was the first attempt to strategically implement this and that led to the end of the Civil War.

Now how did “unconditional surrender” help the war? If Grant never used that strategy he might of never became General-in-Chief and we wouldn’t have had the strategy to win the war and it would of taken longer and who knows, the South could of won. The United States must have thought it was useful because based on answers.com during World War Two, we reused the “unconditional surrender” statement when we told Germany, Italy, and Japan to end the war. Grant also got compliments about using it. In the book he wrote Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant he said how Lincoln said to “Give everyone the same whisky he’s drinking, because it’s working.”

Grants “unconditional surrender” was a significant role in the war. It helped Grant become General-in-Chief, helped him develop great war strategies and win a lot of battles. It also got a lot of praises and has been used in other wars. I have an unanswered question to you the reader. What do you think would of happened if the South did not go with the unconditional surrender? Would the war have gone on longer or would it have been shorter or would the South have won? We may never know because this is the way it happened and everything happens for a reason.

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