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Ulysses S. Grant
— 18th President of the United States —
 

 

 

ELECTED FROM: Illinois
POLITICAL PARTY: Republican
TERM: March 4, 1869 to March 3, 1877

BORN: April 27, 1822
BIRTHPLACE: Point Pleasant, Ohio
DIED: July 23, 1885, Mt. McGregor, N.Y.
Buried in New York City
OCCUPATION: Soldier
MARRIED: Julia B. Dent, 1848
CHILDREN: Fred, Buck, Jesse, Nellie


Ulysses Simpson Grant (1822-1885), having led the Northern armies to victory in the Civil War, was elected eighteenth president of the United States.

As a general in the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant possessed the right qualities for prosecuting offensive warfare against the brilliant tactics of his Southern adversary Robert E. Lee. Bold and indefatigable, Grant believed in destroying enemy armies rather than merely occupying enemy territory. His strategic genius and tenacity overcame the Confederates' advantage of fighting a defensive war on their own territory. However, Grant lacked the political experience and subtlety to cope with the nation's postwar problems, and his presidency was marred by scandals and an economic depression.

Ulysses S. Grant was born on April 27, 1822, in a cabin at Point Pleasant, Ohio. He attended district schools and worked at his father's tannery and farm. In 1839 Grant's father secured an appointment to West Point for his unenthusiastic son. Grant excelled as a horseman but was an indifferent student. When he graduated in 1843, he accepted an infantry commission. Although not in sympathy with American objectives in the war with Mexico in 1846, he fought courageously under Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott, emerging from the conflict as a captain.

In subsequent years Capt. "Sam" Grant served at a variety of bleak army posts. Lonely for his wife and son (he had married Julia Dent in 1848), the taciturn, unhappy captain began drinking. Warned by his commanding officer, Grant resigned from the Army in July 1854. He borrowed money for transportation to St. Louis, Mo., where he joined his family and tried a series of occupations without much success: farmer, realtor, candidate for county engineer, and customshouse clerk. He was working as a store clerk at the beginning of the Civil War in 1861.


Rise to Fame

This was a war Grant did believe in, and he offered his services. The governor of Illinois appointed him colonel of the 21st Illinois Volunteers in June 1861. Grant took his regiment to Missouri, where, to his surprise, he was promoted to brigadier general.

Grant persuaded his superiors to authorize an attack on Ft. Henry on the Tennessee River and Ft. Donelson on the Cumberland in order to gain Union control of these two important rivers. Preceded by gunboats, Grant's 17,000 troops marched out of Cairo, Ill., on Feb. 2, 1862. After Ft. Henry surrendered, the soldiers took Ft. Donelson. Here Confederate general Simon B. Buckner, one of Grant's West Point classmates (and the man who, much earlier, had loaned the impecunious captain the money to rejoin his family), requested an armistice. Grant's reply became famous: "No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works." Buckner surrendered. One of the first important Northern victories of the war, the capture of Ft. Donelson won Grant promotion to major general.

Grant next concentrated 38,000 men at Pittsburgh Landing (Shiloh) on the Tennessee River, preparing for an offensive. He unwisely neglected to prepare for a possible Confederate counteroffensive. At dawn on April 6, 1862, the Confederate attack surprised the sleeping Union soldiers. Grant did his best to prevent a rout, and at the end of the day Union lines still held, but the Confederates were in command of most of the field. The next day the Union Army counterattacked with 25,000 fresh troops, who had arrived during the night, and drove the Southerners into full retreat. The North had triumphed in one of the bloodiest battles of the war, but Grant was criticized for his carelessness. Urged to replace Grant, President Abraham Lincoln refused, saying, "I can't spare this man - he fights."

Grant set out to recoup his reputation and secure Union control of the Mississippi River by taking the rebel stronghold at Vicksburg, Miss. Several attempts were frustrated; in the North criticism of Grant was growing and there were reports that he had begun drinking heavily. But in April 1863 Grant embarked on a bold scheme to take Vicksburg. While he marched his 20,000 men past the fortress on the opposite (west) bank, an ironclad fleet sailed by the batteries. The flotilla rendezvoused with Grant below the fort and transported the troops across the river. In one of the most brilliant gambles of the war, Grant cut himself off from his base in the midst of enemy territory with numerically inferior forces. The gamble paid off. Grant drove one Confederate Army from the city of Jackson, then turned and defeated a second force at Champion's Hill, forcing the rebels to withdraw to Vicksburg on May 20. Union troops laid siege to Vicksburg, and on July 4 the garrison surrendered. Ten days later the last Confederate outpost on the Mississippi fell. Thus, the Confederacy was cut in two. Coming at the same time as the Northern victory at Gettysburg, this was the turning point of the war.

Grant was given command of the Western Department, and in the fall of 1863 he took command of the Union Army pinned down at Chattanooga after its defeat in the Battle of Chickamauga. In a series of battles on November 23, 24, and 25, the rejuvenated Northern troops dislodged the besieging Confederates, the most spirited infantry charge of the war climaxing the encounter. It was a great victory; Congress created the rank of lieutenant general for Grant, who was placed in command of all the armies of the Union.


Architect of Victory

Grant was at the summit of his career. A reticent man, unimpressive in physical appearance, he gave few clues to the reasons for his success. He rarely communicated his thinking; he was the epitome of the strong, silent type. But Grant had deep resources of character, a quietly forceful personality that won the respect and confidence of subordinates, and a decisiveness and bulldog tenacity that served him well in planning and carrying out military operations.

In the spring of 1864 the Union armies launched a coordinated offensive designed to bring the war to an end. However, Lee brilliantly staved off Grant's stronger Army of the Potomac in a series of battles in Virginia. Union forces suffered fearful losses, especially at Cold Harbor, while war weariness and criticism of Grant as a "butcher" mounted in the North.

Lee moved into entrenchments at Petersburg, Va., and Grant settled down there for a long siege. Meanwhile, Gen. William T. Sherman captured Atlanta and began his march through Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, cutting what remained of the Confederacy into pieces. In the spring of 1865 Lee fell back to Appomattox, where on April 9 he met Grant in the courthouse to receive the generous terms of surrender.


Postwar Political Career

After Lincoln's death Grant was the North's foremost war hero. Both sides in the Reconstruction controversy, between President Andrew Johnson and congressional Republicans, jockeyed for his support. A tour of the South in 1865 convinced Grant that the "mass of thinking men" there accepted defeat and were willing to return to the Union without rancor. But the increasing defiance of former Confederates in 1866, their persecution of those who were freed (200,000 African Americans had fought for the Union, and Grant believed they had contributed heavily to Northern victory), and harassment of Unionist officials and occupation troops gradually pushed Grant toward support of the punitive Reconstruction policy of the Republicans. He accepted the Republican presidential nomination in 1868, won the election, and took office on March 4, 1869.

Grant was, to put it mildly, an undistinguished president. His personal loyalty to subordinates, especially old army comrades, prevented him from taking action against associates implicated in dishonest dealings. Government departments were riddled with corruption, and Grant did little to correct this. Turmoil and violence in the South created the necessity for constant Federal intervention, which inevitably alienated large segments of opinion, North and South. In 1872 a sizable number of Republicans bolted the party, formed the Liberal Republican party, and combined with the Democrats to nominate Horace Greeley for the presidency on a platform of civil service reform and home rule in the South. Grant won reelection, but as more scandals came to light during his second term and his Southern policy proved increasingly unpopular, his reputation plunged. The economic panic of 1873 ushered in a major depression; in 1874 the Democrats won control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 16 years.

Yet Grant's two terms were not devoid of positive achievements. In foreign policy the steady hand of Secretary of State Hamilton Fish kept the United States out of a potential war with Spain. The greenback dollar moved toward stabilization, and the war debt was funded on a sound basis. Still, on balance, Grant's presidency was an unhappy aftermath to his military success. Nevertheless, in 1877 he was still a hero, and on a trip abroad after his presidency he was feted in European capitals.

In 1880 Grant again allowed himself to be a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination but fell barely short of success in the convention. Retiring to private life, he made ill-advised investments that led to bankruptcy in 1884. While slowly dying of cancer of the throat, he set to work on his military memoirs to provide an income for his wife and relatives after his death. Through months of terrible pain his courage and determination sustained him as he wrote in longhand the story of his army career. The reticent, uncommunicative general revealed a genius for this kind of writing, and his two-volume Personal Memoirs is one of the great classics of military literature. The memoirs earned $450,000 for his heirs, but the hero of Appomattox died on July 23, 1885, at Mount McGregor before he knew of his literary triumph.
 


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Commander in chief of the Union army in the Civil War and 18th President (1869–77) of the United States, b. Point Pleasant, Ohio. He was originally named Hiram Ulysses Grant.


Military Career

Grant spent his youth in Georgetown, Ohio, was graduated from West Point in 1843, and served creditably in the Mexican War. He was forced to resign from the army in 1854 because of excessive drinking. Grant failed in attempts at farming and business, and was working as a clerk in the family leather store in Galena, Ill., when the Civil War broke out. He was commissioned colonel of the 21st Illinois Volunteers, and in Aug., 1861, became a brigadier general of volunteers.

Grant assumed command of the district of Cairo, Ill., in Sept. and fought his first battle, an indecisive affair at Belmont, Mo., on Nov. 9. In Feb., 1862, aided by Union gunboats, he captured Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland. This was the first major Union victory, and Lincoln at once made Grant a major general of volunteers. In April at Shiloh (see Shiloh, battle of), however, only the arrival of the army of Gen. Don Carlos Buell may have saved him from defeat.

The Vicksburg campaign (1862–63) was one of Grant's greatest successes. After repeated failures to get at the town, he advanced in cooperation with a fleet and finally took Vicksburg by siege. The victory of Braxton Bragg, the Confederate general, at Chickamauga (see Chattanooga campaign), led to Grant's accession to the supreme command in the West, Oct., 1863. At Chattanooga in November his forces thoroughly defeated Bragg. The President, in Mar., 1864, made Grant commander in chief with the rank of lieutenant general, a grade especially revived by Congress for him.

Grant himself directed George G. Meade's Army of the Potomac against Gen. Robert E. Lee in the Wilderness campaign. His policy of attrition against Lee's forces was effective, though it resulted in slaughter at Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor. Failing to carry Petersburg by assault in June, 1864, Grant had that city under partial siege until Apr., 1865. Philip H. Sheridan's victory at Five Forks made Petersburg and Richmond no longer tenable. Lee retreated, but was cut off at Appomattox Courthouse (see under Appomattox, where he surrendered, receiving generous terms from Grant, on Apr. 9, 1865.

Grant went about the distasteful business of war realistically and grimly. He was a skilled tactician and at times a brilliant strategist (as at Vicksburg, regarded by many as one of the great battles of history). His courage as a commander of forces and his powers of organization and administration made him the outstanding Northern general. Grant also was notably wise in supporting good commanders, especially Sheridan, William T. Sherman, and George H. Thomas. Made a full general in 1866, he was the first U.S. citizen to hold that rank.


Presidency

Grant at first seemed to favour the Reconstruction policy of President Andrew Johnson. In Apr., 1867, Johnson appointed him interim Secretary of War, replacing Edwin Stanton. Johnson expected him to hold the office against Stanton and thus bring about a test of the constitutionality of the Tenure of Office Act, but Grant turned the office back to Stanton when the Senate refused to sanction Stanton's removal. It was apparent then that the general had thrown his lot in with the radical Republicans. The inevitable choice of the Republicans for President, Grant was victorious over the Democratic candidate, Horatio Seymour, in 1868.

Characterized chiefly by bitter partisan politics and shameless corruption, his administrations remain notorious. The punitive Reconstruction program was pushed with new vigour, and legislation favourable to commercial and industrial interests was passed (see greenback). The President associated with disreputable politicians and financiers; James Fisk and Jay Gould deceived him when they tried to corner the gold market in 1869 (see Black Friday). In foreign affairs, however, much was accomplished by the able Secretary of State, Hamilton Fish.

The party unanimously renominated Grant in 1872, and he was reelected easily over Horace Greeley, the candidate of the Liberal Republican party and the Democrats. Toward the end of his second term his Secretary of War, William W. Belknap, and his private secretary, Orville E. Babcock, were implicated in graft scandals. Through the loyalty of the deceived Grant, both escaped punishment.


Later Years

The two years following his retirement from the White House were spent in making a triumphal tour of the world. In 1880 the Republican “Old Guard,” led by Roscoe Conkling, tried to secure another nomination for Grant but failed. He took up residence in New York City, where he invested money in a fraudulent private banking business. It collapsed in 1884, leaving him bankrupt.

Dying of cancer of the throat, he set about writing his Personal Memoirs (2 vol., 1885–86) in order to provide for his family. He died a few days after the manuscript was completed. These memoirs are ranked among the great narratives of military history. The remains of the general and his wife lie in New York City in Grant's Tomb.
 


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Civil War general and eighteenth president of the United States. Born in Point Pleasant, Ohio, Grant was a plain, unassuming product of the Midwest. His life was one of pathetically ordinary failure in everything save the waging or writing of war. The son of a tanner, he had no taste for his father's trade. He graduated from West Point in 1843 and compiled a solid record of service in the Mexican War, but his army career collapsed in the peacetime boredom of a long isolated tour of duty in northern California and Oregon. A drinking problem hastened his resignation from the army in 1854. Next he tried farming and real estate ventures without success. When the Civil War broke out in the spring of 1861, he was working as a clerk for his father in Galena, Illinois.

Grant found his calling in the Civil War. The conflict energized him and restored his confidence. First commissioned as a colonel of the Twenty-first Illinois Volunteer Infantry, he was promoted in August 1861 to brigadier general of volunteers. He commanded the land forces that captured Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River in February 1862. This was his first important battle and the first major Union victory of the war. Confederate armies counterattacked at the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862. Aided by timely reinforcements, a surprised and initially outgeneraled Grant was able to hold his position and force a Confederate retreat into Mississippi.

Grant's most stunning victory in the West came out of the Vicksburg campaign in the spring of 1863. In a brilliant display of strategic audacity, he outflanked the Confederate defenders of Vicksburg by using the Union navy to run his army downriver from the city. He then defeated surprised and scattered Confederate armies and successfully besieged Vicksburg from the east. The city, the last major Confederate position on the Mississippi River, surrendered on July 4, 1863. Having been given the top Union command in the West in October, Grant lifted the Confederate siege of Chattanooga the next month and routed Braxton Bragg's Confederate Army of Tennessee. The way was now open for the Union campaign against Atlanta.

Congress revived the rank of lieutenant general specifically for Grant, and President Abraham Lincoln appointed him supreme commander of the Union armies in March 1864. In a series of bloody, grinding encounters Grant finally wore down Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia between May 1864 and April 1865. Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.

Grant's postwar career was decidedly anticlimactic. To be sure, he was elected as a Republican to two terms as president (1869-1877), but his administrations were marred by indecisive leadership, an inconsistent policy on southern Reconstruction, and massive corruption. Coupled with a severe economic depression that began in 1873, administration scandals cost Grant much of his popularity. Nonetheless, his presidency did have some solid accomplishments. The Treaty of Washington in 1872 resolved a major dispute with Great Britain over damages inflicted on American shipping by Confederate raiders built in British shipyards during the Civil War. The Enforcement Acts of 1870-1871 broke the power of the Ku Klux Klan in the Reconstruction South, and the Civil Rights Act of 1875 marked an unprecedented attempt to extend federal protection of black civil rights to areas of public accommodations.

After returning to the United States from a world tour in the late 1870s, Grant went bankrupt as a result of foolish investments in the fraudulent banking firm of Grant & Ward. Though once again a failure in civilian life, Grant did much to redeem his place in history by writing his Personal Memoirs. Finished just before his death from throat cancer in 1885, his memoirs stand as one of the clearest and most powerful military narratives ever written.
 


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From the time he was two, Ulysses Grant loved horses. As a young boy, he loved to play among the horses in father's stable. By age five, he could stand up on a trotting horse's back and balance himself with the reins. By age 11, he was strong enough to hold a plow. From then until he was 17, he did all kinds of work with horses such as breaking up the soil, furrowing, plowing, and bringing in the crops at harvest time.

He began school when he was five. He was a quiet, shy child who was well-behaved and very good at math. When he was 17, he went off to the military academy at West Point. In 1843, he graduated and was assigned to a U.S. Army post in St. Louis.

Grant served under Generals Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott in the Mexican War. He resigned from the Army in 1854, and he worked in St. Louis until 1860. When the Civil War began, he was commissioned a Brigadier General with the 21st Illinois Volunteers. Grant fought at Shiloh, and his army took Vicksburg, Mississippi. It was under Grant's leadership that a floundering Yankee army became aggressive and swept to victory. He accepted Robert E. Lee's surrender of the Confederate forces at Appomattox in April 1865 that ended the Civil War.

Grant was nominated for president by the Republicans at their convention in 1868. Riding his popularity as a war hero and a proponent of peace, Grant buried Horatio Seymour in the electoral vote, 214 to 80. In 1872, Grant again won the popular vote, but his opponent, Horace Greeley, died before the electoral votes could be cast, thereby giving Grant a 286-0 win. Notable achievements during his administration were extensive civil service reform, the Amnesty Act, and the 15th Amendment to the Constitution.

When he left office, Grant went into business. Eventually, the business failed, and he was left penniless. He wrote his memoirs to raise money, and they were published just four days before he died of cancer on July 23, 1885 in Mt. McGregor, New York.

 

 

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