Lincoln’s Leap Day Nomination of Grant

160 years ago on leap day, President Abraham Lincoln nominated Ulysses S. Grant to be Lieutenant General of the Army.

Three years into the U.S. Civil War, with no end in sight, President Abraham Lincoln needed to find a commander who could lead the U.S. to victory.

On February 29, 1864, Lincoln signed legislation reviving the rank of lieutenant general—the highest rank in the Army of the United States at that time. Previously, only George Washington and Winfield Scott had held that rank, and Scott’s was by brevet.

The legislation authorized Lincoln “to appoint, by and with the advice and consent of the senate, a lieutenant-general, to be selected among those officers in the military service of the United States, not below the grade of major general, most distinguished for courage, skill, and ability . . . to command the armies of the United States.”

That same day he sent the Senate his nomination of Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant to be Lieutenant General of the Army. Grant had won a series of military victories in 1863, and by that time he had become the obvious choice to lead the troops to victory. The Senate confirmed Grant’s appointment on March 2, 1864. 

Grant went on to defeat the Confederate Army led by Robert E. Lee in a series of battles culminating with Lee’s final surrender at Appomattox. After the war, Grant was given an additional promotion in 1866 to the grade of general and left the Army in 1869 to become President of the United States. 

Happy Leap Day!

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