What are the main similarities between Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant?
The similarities were few between the two great commanding generals of the American Civil War. Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) was the son of a poor tanner from Pennsylvania who had moved to Ohio. Robert E. Lee (1807-1870) was a Southern aristocrat and a member of one of Virginia's most famous families. His father, Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee, was a Revolutionary War hero and Governor of Virginia. Robert E. Lee's wife was the step-daughter of George Washington. Grant was a Methodist who rarely attended church and who "prayed in private." Lee was a pious member of the Episcopal Church who believed that God would favor his Confederate armies.
As for their similarities:
- Both were experienced veterans of the Mexican War: Lee as a captain (breveted to colonel) of engineers and a close aide to commanding General Winfield Scott. Grant was a lieutenant and a quartermaster.
- Both attended West Point: Lee graduated 2nd in his class; Grant was 21st out of 39 students.
- Both Lee and Grant owned slaves. Oddly, however, Lee generally opposed slavery, freeing his slaves at the beginning of the war. Meanwhile, Grant "had no animosity toward slavery."
- Prior to the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln promoted Lee to colonel in the U. S. Army; Lincoln later promoted Grant several times.
- Both men became president: Grant was elected President of the United States in 1868 and 1872; Lee became President of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia.
- Both men were beloved figures post-war. Lee was revered throughout the South (as he was during the war) and by students at Washington College. Grant was a highly-popular President, elected twice by landslide votes.
- Both men died when they were 63 years old.