Roger Broxton / Andalusia

January 19 is Alabama’s legal holiday to honor General Robert E. Lee.

This month, 150 years ago, Abraham Lincoln was still desperately trying to break through Lee’s defenses at Richmond to collect his 40 percent Federal sales tax from Southerners, which subsidized the giant Wall Street industries who elected him.

In May 1864, Lincoln selected his seventh and final General, Ulysses S. Grant, who still owned four slaves. Although Grant outnumbered Lee by 2 to 1 and used repeating rifles and long range cannon, he wasted his men in the Wilderness Campaign (May-June), losing 60,000 Federals to Lee’s 30,000 Confederates.

At the Battle of Cold Harbor, Grant lost 7,000 men in 1 hour, the fastest killing rate of the War, earning him the title “Butcher Grant” from Northerners. Grant could easily replace his killed and wounded but Lee could not.

Unable to win on the battlefield, Grant bombed, starved and stretched Lee’s “Thin Grey Line” for 10 more months (June 1864–March, 1865). Grant lost 45,000 more and Lee 25,000.

Lincoln had now caused the death of over 600,000 Americans (more deaths than in all other U.S. wars combined), yet Grant was at the very same place that Lincoln’s first General was, three years earlier.

By April 1865, Grant outnumbered Lee 5 to 1 and finally broke through the Confederate line. Lee surrendered, telling his soldiers: “After four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, we have been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.”