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The Post-Bellum Careers of Civil War Generals
For some men, such as Winfield Scott, the Civil War marked the twilight of their military careers. For others, like Sherman and Sheridan, it was only a beginning. Some, such as Robert E. Lee, emerged from the carnage of the War as nothing less than living gods, while others, like McClellan and Beauregard, would spend the rest of their days agonizing over 'what-ifs'.
All the generals who survived the War Between the States entered into a new, sadder and wiser America. Their post-War experiences varied widely, and in this thread I will examine what fate held in store for some of the better-known commanders who survived the War.
Winfield Scott (1786-1866)
Scott, a hero of the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, had been serving as the General in Chief of the United States Army for twenty years when the War broke out. He spent 1861 laying out the so-called 'Andaconda Plan' before relinquishing his command to McClellan in November. He spent the War in retirement, writing a two-volume memoirs before embarking on a European tour. He died shortly after his return to America, the year after the War ended.
Ulysses S Grant (1822-1885)
Grant's postwar career hardly needs mentioning. He served as president twice and spent his final years globetrotting and writing his memoirs. He was killed in 1885 by cancer of the throat, only a few weeks after completing his memoirs.
George B. McClellan (1826-1885)
McClellan, removed from command in the Army of the Potomac in 1862, ran for president during the 1864 election only to suffer a second embarrassment from Abraham Lincoln. The early 1870s were a busy time in McClellan's life - he served as a chief engineer in the New York City Department of docks as well as the president of the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad, but also found time to tour Europe. McClellan continued to dabble in politics; his term as the governor of New Jersey in 1878-1881 was quiet and efficient. He died of a heart-attack in 1885.
William T. Sherman (1820-1891)
The Union's most notoriously efficient general was a haunted man by the time the War ended. He rose further through the ranks after the War, serving as Commander in Chief of the US Army 1869-1883, during which time his primary concern was the ongoing violence on the Plains. After his retirement from the military in 1884, Sherman settled in New York City where he became something of a Renaissance man - his hobbies included literature, painting, and public speaking. His famous statement that 'war is hell' was probably delievered in a speech in 1879 or 1880.
Robert E. Lee (1807-1870)
Lee served as president of Washington College from October of 1865 to his death. He was a vocal supporter of Southern reconstruction, reconciliation, and education for blacks, though he also spoke in favor of black deportation-repariation. He received an offer to become the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, but declined it. Lee suffered a stroke in September of 1870 and died several weeks later; his citizenship was only formally restored in 1975, by President Ford.
John Bell Hood (1831-1878)
Hood pursued a career as a commission merchant in New Orleans after the War, and married in 1868. This prolific union produced no less than eleven children. A yellow-fever epidemic in 1878 ruined the prosperity of his business, and then tragically sent Hood, his wife, and his eldest daughter to premature graves.
Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard (1818-1893)
After the Civil War, the conceited General Beauregard served as the president of a railroad - a common post, it seems, for Civil War generals. He also received invitations to hold military commands in Romania, Brazil, and Egypt, but turned them all down. His post-war career was colorful and sometimes controversial, much like the man himself - he presided over the Louisiana Lottery before commanding the state's militia 1879-1888. He also kept in contact with many former Confederate generals; it was his political influence that inabled the publication of John Bell Hood's memoirs and thus provided for his ten orphaned children. Beauregard and Jefferson Davis, already known for their mutual hatred during the War, continued to pursue their grudge for the rest of their lives, often through writing. Beauregard wrote extensively on military matters, including apologetic works about his own Civil War campaigns. He died in 1893 of heart disease and/or failure.
Nathan Bedford Forrest (1821-1877)
Arguably the most impressive cavalry commander of the War, the rutheless and dashing Forrest became a controversial figure after its closure. Life was hard for Forrest - he served as president of the Marion & Memphis Railroad, but he drove it to bankruptcy in the early 1870s and spent his final, sickly days overseeing a prison work-camp on an island in the Mississippi. He had some manner of involvement in the Ku Klux Klan though it is unclear as to whether he was in fact its Grand Wizard at some point. Despite his apparent Klan involvement and the possibility of his racist brutality at Fort Pillow during the War, Forrest spent the last few years of his life speaking of reconciliation and peace between blacks. At his last speech, an African-American woman presented him with a bouquet of flowers. He died in 1877, as a result of 'complications' arising from his diabetes. His remains were moved in 1904, to a park in Memphis bearing his name.