1938 18¢ Ulysses S. Grant
Issue Date: November 3, 1938
First City: Washington, DC
Quantity Issued: 170,350,800
Printing Method: Rotary press
Perforations: 11 x 10 ½
Color: Brown carmine
Known affectionately as the “Prexies,” the 1938 Presidential series is a favorite among stamp collectors.
The series was issued in response to public clamoring for a new Regular Issue series. The series that was current at the time had been in use for more than a decade. President Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed, and a contest was staged. The public was asked to submit original designs for a new series picturing all deceased U.S. Presidents. Over 1,100 sketches were submitted, many from veteran stamp collectors. Elaine Rawlinson, who had little knowledge of stamps, won the contest and collected the $500 prize. Rawlinson was the first stamp designer since the Bureau of Engraving and Printing began producing U.S. stamps who was not a government employee.
Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885)
Ulysses S. Grant was born Hiram Ulysses Grant, on April 27, 1822, in Point Pleasant, Ohio. In 1839, after just one year at an academy in Ripley, Ohio, Grant’s father heard of a vacancy at West Point. He asked his congressman to appoint his son to fill the vacancy. The congressman agreed, but when he was filling out the appointment, he mistakenly put Ulysses as the boy’s first name and Simpson (Ulysses’ mother’s maiden name) as the boy’s middle name. Grant decided to keep the new name, because he liked his new initials better than the former “H.U.G.”
Upon graduating from West Point in 1843, Grant was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Fourth Infantry Regiment. During the Mexican War, he distinguished himself as a brave and skillful soldier. By the end of the war, he had achieved the rank of first lieutenant. Afterwards, Grant remained in the Army and was ordered to Fort Vancouver, in the Oregon Territory, and eventually Fort Humboldt, in California. The cost of living in the West was too high to move his wife and young son to his new post, so loneliness soon set in. Just one year later, Grant retired from the Army and joined his family in St. Louis.
For six years Grant drifted from job to job, never gaining the success he had enjoyed in the military. Then in 1861, the Civil War broke out, and it was obvious to Grant that it was his duty to defend the Union he loved. He began by drilling a company formed in Galena, Illinois, and went on to Springfield and worked for the Illinois Adjutant General. After having been ignored on his first request, Grant was finally given a commission as colonel of the 21st Illinois Volunteers. After a two-month campaign against Confederate troops in Missouri, Grant was advanced to the rank of brigadier general. In March 1864, Grant was called to Washington by President Abraham Lincoln. Grant was promoted to lieutenant general – the highest rank in the Union Army, and assumed command of all Union armies
Throughout the course of the war, Grant established himself as a very capable leader. His quick decision making and willingness to commit troops in order to win an engagement distinguished him from his peers. However, after suffering heavy casualties at the Battle of Shiloh, critics called for Grant to be replaced. President Lincoln responded, “I can’t spare this man – he fights.” The Civil War ended when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Grant.
Start Of The Battle Of Cold Harbor
On May 31, 1864, forces assembled in Virginia for the bloody Battle of Cold Harbor.
By May 1864, the Union Army of the Potomac was within a few miles of the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. Commander Ulysses S. Grant not only wanted to capture the city, but to destroy the opposing Army of Northern Virginia as well.
Philip Sheridan’s cavalry was the first to arrive at the crossroads of Old Cold Harbor on May 31. His men secured the area until reinforcements arrived. Meanwhile, Confederate forces under General Robert E. Lee were amassing nearby. By the time all divisions had gathered, the Union Army consisted of 108,000 men and the Confederates were 62,000 strong. Both commanders planned to attack at first light the next day.
The Southern Army was the first to strike. A brigade under an inexperienced colonel led the assault, but it was quickly repelled by the Union cavalry entrenched near the crossroads. The attackers, who lacked experience as well, fled back to the safety of their camp.
On the Union side, action was delayed by the late arrival of a number of units, and the attack finally began at 6:30 p.m. The Federal troops faced withering gunfire all along the Confederate line. Only one brigade found a gap and broke through. Southern soldiers swung around and surrounded the enemy, forcing them to retreat, but the Northern brigade was able to take hundreds of prisoners with them. The fighting ended when darkness fell.
Grant’s second in command, Major General George Meade, believed an attack against the South would be successful if the Union employed greater numbers against Lee’s right flank, which had been involved in the previous day’s fighting and did not have time to fortify its position. It took most of the day for enough divisions to arrive, and they needed to rest after their march. Grant delayed the plan until the following morning.
Lee’s army took advantage of the relative quiet to build up their fortifications. They also set up obstacles along roadways and sighted in their artillery. Grant’s delay would prove very costly.
As morning dawned on June 3, the Union met with stiff Confederate opposition all along the seven-mile front. Only one Northern corps broke through that day, and they drove the defenders out of their trenches in hand-to-hand combat. Several hundred prisoners and four guns were captured. Eventually the Union forces were driven off, and the division commanders refused to subject their men to more futile fighting, in spite of Grant’s orders.
Over the course of the next nine days, there were no more attacks. Both sides sought refuge in their trenches, often just yards away from one another. Sharpshooters and occasional artillery fire raised the casualty rate, but gave neither side an advantage.
Wounded Federal soldiers remained between the lines. Grant refused to ask for a formal truce to recover the men, reasoning it would be admitting the Union lost the battle.
On the night of June 12, Grant pulled his army away from Cold Harbor. After marching to the James River, the Army of the Potomac crossed by ferry and pontoon bridge and headed south.
The loss at Cold Harbor increased anti-war sentiments in the North, and Grant became known as the “fumbling butcher.” While the victory boosted the morale of the South’s Army of Northern Virginia, it had the opposite effect on the Army of the Potomac. Grant no longer attempted to reach the Confederate capital of Richmond, instead setting his sights on Petersburg, a vital supply link for the South.
The Battle of Cold Harbor was the last victory for General Lee. The nine-month siege of Petersburg that followed led to the Confederacy’s surrender on April 9, 1865.