Ulysses S. Grant, the author of resounding victories at Vicksburg and Chattanooga, was a national hero when he arrived in Washington, D.C., on March 8 to assume supreme command of the Union armies. Grant was to be promoted by an act of Congress to lieutenant general, a newly revived rank that was second in authority only to the commander in chief. By this time newspapers across the North were suggesting that even lieutenant general was too low a rank for Grant.
The general quieted presidential rumors by ignoring them; indeed, once in Washington he seemed to want nothing so much as to leave. He quietly accepted his orders and broke with custom by deciding to move his Union command headquarters out of Washington, to the front with the Army of the Potomac. He revealed his impression of the city when he declined Lincoln’s invitation to dine at the White House. “Really, Mr. President,” Grant said, “I have had enough of this show business.”