A career United States Army officer, Major General Gordon Granger held numerous commands and participated in many engagements in the Western Theater of the American Civil War.
Gordon Granger was born in Joy, in Wayne County, New York, on November 6, 1822. He was the only son and eldest of three children of Gaius and Catherine (Taylor) Granger. Granger's father was a farmer and sawmill owner. Granger's mother died when he was three years old, and he spent much of his youth with his paternal grandparents. Granger attended the local one-room school and taught school for two years, before receiving an appointment to the United States Military Academy.
Granger entered the U.S. Military Academy on July 1, 1841 and graduated on July 1, 1845, ranked thirty-fifth in his class of forty-one cadets. Among his classmates were future Union generals William F. "Baldy" Smith, Thomas J. Wood, and Fitz-John Porter, and future Confederate General Kirby Smith.
Following his graduation, Granger was brevetted a second lieutenant with the 2nd U.S. Infantry. During the next two years, he served in garrison at Detroit Barracks and at Jefferson Barracks. Shortly before the outbreak of the Mexican-American War, Granger was transferred to the U.S. Mounted Rifles on July 17, 1846.
During the Mexican-American War, Granger fought in Winfield Scott's army. He participated in the Siege of Vera Cruz (March 9-29, 1847), the Battle of Cerro Gordo (April 17-18, 1847), the Battle of Contreras (August 19-20, 1847), the Battle of Churubusco, (August 20, 1847) the Battle of Chapultepec (September 12-13, 1847), and the occupation of Mexico City on September 14. During the course of the war, Granger was promoted to second lieutenant on May 29, 1847, brevetted to first lieutenant on August. 20, 1847 (for Gallant and Meritorious Conduct in the Battles of Contreras and Churubusco), and brevetted to captain on September 13, 1847 (for Gallant and Meritorious Conduct in the Battle of Chapultepec).
Following the Mexican-American War, Granger served for roughly thirteen years in the American West, mostly in Texas and New Mexico, with the exception of a trip to Europe during 1851 and 1852. On May 24, 1852, Granger was promoted to first lieutenant.
When the Civil War erupted, Granger was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel in the volunteer army and was assigned to mustering duty in Ohio, serving on the staff of Major General George B. McClellan from April 23 to May 31, 1861. On May 5, he was promoted to the rank of captain in the regular army.
In June 1861, Granger was transferred to the staff of Major Samuel D. Sturgis in Missouri. While there, he participated in the Battle of Wilson's Creek on August 10, 1861, for which he was brevetted to major, "for Gallant and Meritorious Conduct." During a brief term as commander of the St. Louis Arsenal, from September 1 to December 31, 1861, Granger was promoted to the rank of colonel with the 2nd Michigan Volunteer Cavalry on September 2, 1861.
During the next spring, Granger was placed in command of the Cavalry Division of Major General John Pope's newly created Army of the Mississippi. On March 14, 1862, the Army of the Mississippi forced the withdrawal of Confederate troops from New Madrid, Missouri to Island No. 10 on the Mississippi River. Then, with the assistance of Flag Officer Andrew Hull Foote's naval forces, the Yankees subdued the Confederate garrison on the island on April 7, 1862, taking nearly seven thousand prisoners, while suffering fewer than one hundred casualties. Pope's victory gave the Union control of the river as far south as Memphis, Tennessee. During the course of the operation, Granger was promoted to brigadier-general of volunteers on March 26, 1862.
On April 17, 1862, Pope's command sailed to Hamburg Landing on the Tennessee River and joined the Union advance upon Corinth, Mississippi. The Army of the Mississippi, including Granger's cavalry division, participated in the Siege of Corinth from April 29 to May 30, 1862, serving on the extreme left of the Union lines. Later that summer, Granger briefly commanded the 5th Division and Cavalry of the Army of the Mississippi from August 1 to September 5, 1862.
On September 17, 1862, Granger was promoted to major general of volunteers. A few weeks later, on October 7, 1862, Major General Horatio G. Wright, commanding the Department of the Ohio, issued Special Order No. 51. Wright's order appointed Granger to command the newly created Army of Kentucky, which included, "all of the forces now operating in Kentucky on the line of the Licking River, extending from the Ohio River southward in the direction of Lexington." Wright went on to specify that, "As new regiments, detachments, batteries, &c, arrive from the several states of this department they will be incorporated into and organized with the forces of his command already assembled." By the end of the month, Granger reported that he had 19,751 enlisted men and 939 officers present for duty. On November 17, 1862, Granger's duties were expanded to include command of the District of Central Kentucky.
On January 20, 1863, Wright sent Granger and most of the Army of Kentucky, "to the Department of the Cumberland, to operate with the forces within that department." Granger's men fought at the Battle of Thompson's Station in Williamson County, Tennessee on March 5, 1863. One month later, the Army of Kentucky defeated Confederate General Earl Van Dorn's forces at the First Battle of Franklin (also known as the Battle of Harpeth River) on April 10, 1863.
On June 8, 1863, Major General William S. Rosecrans, commanding the Department of the Cumberland, issued Special Field Order No. 156, reorganizing most of the units comprising the Army of the Kentucky. Many of the soldiers remained under Granger's command as the Reserve Corps of the Army of the Cumberland. Later that summer, Granger's division participated in the Tullahoma Campaign (June 24-July 3, 1863), driving Confederate General Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee out of Middle Tennessee. During the campaign, Granger was also placed in command of the District of the Cumberland, serving in this position from June 24 to October 10, 1863.
After the Tullahoma Campaign, Rosecrans continued to pursue Bragg, forcing him to move to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Rosecrans's constant pressure eventually forced Bragg out of Chattanooga and into northern Georgia. Determined to recapture the city, Bragg reversed his retreat and surprised Rosecrans's forces near Chickamauga Creek on September 18. On the next day, a major battle erupted, forcing the Federals to fall back. On September 20, the left end of the Union line broke, driving Rosecrans and one-third of his army from the field. When Major General George H. Thomas took command of the remaining soldiers and began restoring order, Granger, without orders, reinforced Thomas. Granger's assistance enabled the Union forces to retreat in good order, helping stave off a complete rout. For his gallant actions during the Battle of Chickamauga, Granger was brevetted to lieutenant colonel in the regular army.
Bragg's victory at Chickamauga forced Rosecrans back to Chattanooga, where his forces occupied the defensive works previously constructed by the Rebels. Bragg seized the high ground overlooking Chattanooga (Lookout Mountain, Seminary Ridge, and Raccoon Mountain) and laid siege to the city. During the investment, Rosecrans issued Special Field Order No. 269, reorganizing the troops under his command on October 9, 1863. Granger was placed in command of the newly created 4th Army Corps.
In late November 1863, Major General Ulysses S. Grant, who had replaced Rosecrans as commander of the Union forces at Chattanooga, ordered an assault on Bragg's army to end the siege. Late in the afternoon of November 24, Grant ordered the Army of the Cumberland, commanded by Major General George H. Thomas, to advance against the center of the Confederate line entrenched on Missionary Ridge. Grant's orders were for Thomas's men, which included Granger's corps, to seize the Southern rifle pits at the bottom of Missionary Ridge. Thomas's men, however, proved to be unstoppable. After capturing the Rebel rifle pits, they proceeded, against their original orders, to drive the Confederates off of Missionary Ridge, forcing Bragg's army to retreat, finishing the Battle of Chattanooga. Granger was later brevetted to colonel in the regular army, "for Gallant and Meritorious Conduct in the Battle of Chattanooga."
Following the breakout from Chattanooga, Grant sent Granger and his corps north towards Knoxville as part of a twenty-five thousand-man Union force commanded by Major General William T. Sherman. Sherman's orders were to relieve two Federal corps commanded by Major General Ambrose Burnside that were being besieged at Knoxville by Confederate General James Longstreet. With Sherman's forces at his rear and after suffering defeats at the Battle of Campbell's Station (November 16, 1863) and at the Battle of Fort Sanders (November 29, 1863), Longstreet ended his siege on December 4, 1864 and headed for western Virginia. When Sherman returned to Chattanooga, he left Granger in Knoxville, where he remained until April 11, 1864.
Some historians, as well as some of Granger's contemporaries, believed his abrasive nature hindered the advancement of his military career. That seemed to be especially true in his relations with Grant and Sherman. There is some conjecture that Grant and Granger may have developed a mutual dislike during their days at West Point. In any case, Sherman was disinclined to include Granger in the plans for his Atlanta Campaign. Even further, despite Granger's stellar military record, Sherman wrote to Grant, on April 2, 1864, requesting that Grant relieve Granger of his command of the 4th Corps, for reasons not specified. Grant acted quickly and replied to his friend two days later that President Lincoln had approved Sherman's request. On April 4, 1864, the U.S. War Department issued General Order No. 144, announcing that "Maj. Gen. G. Granger is relieved from command of the Fourth Army Corps, and Maj. Gen. O. O. Howard is assigned in his stead."
Granger went without an assignment for the next few months. By June 30, 1864, Granger was in danger of being mustered out of volunteer service because he did not have a command. The intercession of friends in Congress (James A. Garfield in particular) prompted the War Department to give Granger a relatively obscure assignment as a division commander under Major General Edward R. Canby in the Military Division of the Mississippi.
Serving under Canby, Granger participated in operations against Fort Gaines (August 4‑8, 1864), and the siege and bombardment of Fort Morgan (August 10‑22, 1864). Following those victories, Granger's stock had risen to the point that he was placed in command of the District of West Florida and Southern Alabama (Department of the Gulf), from September 12, 1864 through February 26, 1865.
Despite his successes, Granger remained on Grant's blacklist. On January 18, 1865, Grant wrote to General-in-Chief Henry Halleck that, "It will not do for Canby to rely on either Granger or Hurlbut as first in command of any important campaign." Halleck, in turn, informed Canby, on January 19, that, "The lieutenant-general directs me to say that he does not regard General Granger or General Hurlbut as proper for the chief command of the expedition." Despite Grant's reservations, on February 18, Canby issued General Order No. 20 (Military District of West Mississippi), placing Granger in command of the reorganized 13th Army Corps. Granger went on to lead his corps during the siege and capture of Fort Spanish (March 27-April 8, 1865) and of Fort Blakely (April 2-9, 1865), which eventually led to the occupation of Mobile, Alabama. The storming of Fort Blakely is often cited as the last major infantry action of the Civil War east of the Mississippi River. For his leadership in those engagements, Granger was later brevetted to brigadier-general in the regular army, effective March 13, 1865.
When the war ended, Granger was placed in command of the Department of Texas on June 10, 1865. Upon arriving at Galveston on June 19, Granger issued General Order No. 3 (Department of Texas) that declared:
The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.
Granger's declaration of freedom in Texas set off jubilant celebrations among former slaves and served as the progenitor of modern-day Juneteenth celebrations across America. While Granger's message and subsequent leadership provoked exuberance among blacks, he was unpopular among white Texans. After six months in command of the Department of Texas, Granger was relieved of his command on August 6, 1865.
Granger was placed in command of the Department of Kentucky on August 12, 1865. He served in that capacity until January 15, 1866, when he mustered out of the volunteer army. After leaving volunteer service, Granger remained in the regular army. On July 28, 1866, he was promoted to colonel of the Twenty-fifth Infantry. During that period, Granger's health began to deteriorate. Following an extended leave of absence, he was placed in command of the District of Memphis from September 1, 1867 to February 18, 1868. After another long leave of absence, Granger resumed his command in Memphis from October 6, 1868 to March 1869.
On July14, 1869, Granger married Maria Letcher, who was twenty years his junior. Their marriage produced one son and one daughter, both of whom died in infancy.
On December 15, 1870, Granger was assigned to the 15th Infantry and ordered to the New Mexico Territory. On October 31, 1865, he was placed in command of the District of New Mexico. Granger served in that capacity until January 10, 1876, when he died after suffering a stroke in Santa Fe.
Granger is buried at Lexington Cemetery in Lexington, Kentucky.
Cite this Entry
"Gordon Granger," Ohio Civil War Central, 2020, Ohio Civil War Central. 29 Oct 2020 <http://www.www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=1361>
"Gordon Granger." (2020) In Ohio Civil War Central, Retrieved October 29, 2020, from Ohio Civil War Central: http://www.www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=1361
- Army of Kentucky (USA)
- Army of the Cumberland
- Army of the Mississippi (USA) (1862)
- Atlanta Campaign
- Battle of Campbell's Station
- Battle of Chattanooga
- Battle of Chickamauga
- Battle of Fort Sanders
- Battle of Franklin
- Battle of Wilson's Creek
- Braxton Bragg
- Earl Van Dorn
- Edward Canby
- General Orders, No. 144 (U.S. War Department)
- General Orders, No. 181 (U.S. War Department)
- George B. McClellan
- George H. Thomas
- Henry W. Halleck
- Horatio G. Wright
- James A. Garfield
- James Longstreet
- John Pope
- Kirby Smith
- Mexican-American War
- Operations at New Madrid and Island No. 10
- Siege of Corinth
- Thomas J. Wood
- Tullahoma Campaign
- Ulysses S. Grant
- William F. "Baldy" Smith
- William S. Rosecrans
- William T. Sherman
- Winfield Scott
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