From the beginning of the American Civil War in 1861 until its end in 1865, the Union Army was under the leadership of four different commanding generals. These generals were in charge of the entire army, and the position is sometimes referred to as “general-in-chief” to denote this title ranks higher than other general ranks.
Civil War Union Generals in Order: 1. Winfield Scott
The first leader of the Union Army was Winfield Scott. He commanded Union soldiers from the beginning of the war on April 12, 1861, until he retired on November 1, 1861. He was born in Virginia in 1786, and his military career began in 1808 when he joined the Light Cavalry.
His tenure as Commanding General of the United States Army started in 1841. He held the position of Commanding General of the United States Army longer than any other commanding general has in the history of the United States. He also served as military governor of Mexico City after the Mexican-American War.
Civil War Union Generals in Order: 2. George McClellan
The second commander of the Union Army was George McClellan. He was born in 1826 in Philadelphia and spent his early military career fighting in the Mexican-American War. After that, he worked as vice president and chief engineer of the Illinois Railroad Company. He became president of the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad after that.
President Lincoln believed that the planning skills McClellan learned in the railroad business would translate well to commanding the Union soldiers. But McClellan proved less successful than predicted. He served as leader of the Union Army from November 1861 until March 1862. Later in life, he would become the governor of New Jersey.
Civil War Union Generals in Order: 3. Henry Halleck
The third leader of the Union Army was Henry Halleck. Before rising in the ranks, Halleck commanded Union soldiers in the west in 1861 and 1862. In response to McClellan’s disastrous Peninsula Campaign, Lincoln promoted Halleck to replace McClellan as commander of the Union Army. During his time at this rank, he was criticized for his lack of skill in battle leadership. Then in March of 1864, Lincoln replaced him with Grant and demoted Halleck to chief-of-staff.
Civil War Union Generals in Order: 4. Ulysses S. Grant
The fourth commander of the Union Army was Ulysses S. Grant. Grant was born in 1822 in Ohio, and he spent his early life at his family’s tannery raising horses. Grant fought both in the Mexican-American War and in the Civil War, rising to the rank of Lieutenant General and leader of the Union Army in March of 1864. The Confederacy’s General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Grant in April 1865, ending the Civil War. Grant would later become the 18th President of the United States in 1869.
Rebecca Renner is a teacher and freelance writer from Daytona Beach, Florida. Her byline has appeared in the Washington Post, New York Magazine, Glamour and elsewhere.