Ulysses S. Grant: 18th President: Celebrated General

Updated on April 7, 2018
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Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past or else be destined to repeat it.

General-in-Chief of the Union Army, Ulysses S. Grant in 1865

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Ulysses Simpson Grant was born on April 27, 1822 in Point Pleasant, Ohio as Hiram Ulysses Grant. At the beginning of the Civil War, he worked as a store clerk, but by the end of the war, he became one of the most celebrated generals of American history. It was this noteworthy accomplishment that earned him his position as the 18th President of the United States, where he served two terms from 1869-1877.

Although he grew up in a family of farmers and tanners, he disliked both careers and knew he did not want the same for himself. His only true joy was riding horses. He did not have consistent schooling, although his parents did send him to West Point, the United States Military Academy. He graduated in the middle of his class, possibly because he did not desire to be there.

Official White House Portrait

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A War Hero

During the Mexican War, Grant fought under General Zachary Taylor. Because of his bravery during battle, he was promoted to captain. Unfortunately, he did not make enough money to support his wife and family; therefore, he resigned from the Army.

He tried farming, although soon attempted to sell real estate. When neither worked out, he went to work for a family member in a leather shop in Galena, Illinois.

Once the Civil War broke out, he rejoined the Army as a commanding general, where he led Union Armies against the Confederacy. For the first part of the war, he was in charge of a rowdy volunteer regiment fighting in the West, where he had great success. This was well noted, and in September 1861, he became a brigadier general of volunteers. Unfortunately, the Union was losing many battles in the eastern states.

In February 1862, Grant pursued gaining control over the Mississippi Valley, in which he won Fort Henry, then attacked Fort Donelson. While there, the Confederate commander asked for terms. His reply was "No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted." This did eventually lead to the Confederates surrendering, which caused President Abraham Lincoln to promote him again, this time to major general of volunteers.

In April of the same year, Grant fought one of the bloodiest battles in the West at Shiloh. It was not a major success, and some requested him to be removed as general. Lincoln defended him saying, "I can't spare this man--he fights."

He continued to prove the loyalty of the president, as he won the key city, Vicksburg on the Mississippi. This cut the Confederacy into two, which was a huge success for the Union. His next big victory was soon after, when he gained Chattanooga, which the Confederates had previously held.

In March of 1864, his great success as a general was well noted, and he was put in charge of all Union troops as General-in-Chief. Lincoln appointing Grant to this new position was a turning point for the Union.

Grant's immediate action was to direct General Sherman towards the South, while he and the Army of the Potomac pursued General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. On April 9, 1865, Lee surrendered at the Appomattox Court House.

Grant wanted to prevent treason trials and keep peace within the country; therefore, he wrote out very generous terms of surrender. He took mercy on the now ex-Confederates. Since it was springtime when the Southern soldiers surrendered, Grant allowed them to keep their horses, so that way they could plow their fields.

Late into President Andrew Johnson's administration, his success as a war hero was recognized and he was nominated by the Radical Republicans to run for President. This was in part due to the fact that Grant had disagreed openly with Johnson's politics.

He won.

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His Presidency and Misaligned Trust

`As President, he employed some of his Army staff within the White House. He oversaw the Government just as he had the Army.

He sought to implement Congressional Reconstruction as well as remove any traces of slavery. The American people had high hopes for his administration and felt he was the answer to end the tumultuous times.

Unfortunately, Grant did not provide the reform people were looking for. Partially due to his errors in judgement when placing his friends in high political positions. These men, cheated, stole, and took bribes. Unfortunately, Grant got blamed for their corrupt behavior. He himself was very honest, but having been associated with such men, tarnished his reputation. He was even criticized for accepting generous presents from his admirers,

His association with Jay Gould and James Fisk was the most detrimental relationship he had during his presidency. He didn't realize this until it was too late. They had schemed to gain through the market in gold. Once he realized their plan, he authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to ruin their scheme by selling enough gold. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done towards businesses.

Despite his tarnished reputation, he did become re-elected in 1872. His greatest cynics were the Liberal Republican reformers. He had little respect for these men and was even quoted calling them "narrow-headed men," stating that their eyes were so close together that "they can look out of the same gimlet hole without winking."

After retiring from the presidency, Grant used his life savings and became a partner in a financial firm. His partner was crooked, the firm went bankrupt and Grant lost his entire life savings.

Soon after the firm went bankrupt, Grant learned he had throat cancer. He wanted to make sure his wife had money after he had passed away, which was a hard feat since he was broke and just learned he was going to die. He decided to write his memoirs, in hopes that the proceeds from it would take care of his wife after he was gone. In 1885, four days after finishing the last word, he died. The book ended up making his family $450,000, more than fulfilling his hopes of taking care of his wife after he was gone.

Excerpt from the History Channel

Fun Facts

  • Received a $20.00 speeding ticket for riding his horse and buggy too fast in Washington D.C.
  • Ulysses S. Grant's true name was Hiram Ulysses Grant. When he was a general, the Ohio Congressman Thomas Hamer, accidentally wrote his name as Ulysses S. Grant. Though he did try to correct the error, he eventually accepted the moniker and it stuck. Although some rumors state that he changed it, because he did not want the initials H.U.G., when he attended West Point.
  • He struggled with alcoholism, and was forced to resign from the army in the 1850's. Though he did swear it off for almost a decade, during the Civil War it was rumored he would sometimes go into battle drunk. Though Abraham Lincoln, the president at the time, was not concerned as he hoped others of his generals were as good at their jobs as he was.
  • He was invited to go to the theater with Abraham Lincoln, the night Lincoln was assassinated. His wife and him declined the offer to spend time with their children in New Jersey.

Lost Painting

This is a copy of the lost White House 1868 painting. From left to right: Sherman, Grant, Lincoln, and Porter aboard the River Queen on March 27th and 28th, 1865.
This is a copy of the lost White House 1868 painting. From left to right: Sherman, Grant, Lincoln, and Porter aboard the River Queen on March 27th and 28th, 1865. | Source

Basic Facts

Question
Answer
Born
April 27, 1822 - Ohio
President Number
18th
Party
Democratic; National Union; Republican
Military Service
United States Army Union Army
Wars Served
Mexican–American War and American Civil War
Age at Beginning of Presidency
47 years old
Term of Office
March 4, 1869 - March 3, 1877
How Long President
8 years
Vice-President
Schuyler Colfax (1869–1873) Henry Wilson (1873–1875) None (1875–1877)
Age and Year of Death
July 23, 1885 (aged 63)
Cause of Death
throat cancer

Presidents of the United States

1. George Washington
16. Abraham Lincoln
31. Herbert Hoover
2. John Adams
17. Andrew Johnson
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt
3. Thomas Jefferson
18. Ulysses S. Grant
33. Harry S. Truman
4. James Madison
19. Rutherford B. Hayes
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower
5. James Monroe
20. James Garfield
35. John F. Kennedy
6. John Quincy Adams
21. Chester A. Arthur
36. Lyndon B. Johnson
7. Andrew Jackson
22. Grover Cleveland
37. Richard M. Nixon
8. Martin Van Buren
23. Benjamin Harrison
38. Gerald R. Ford
9. William Henry Harrison
24. Grover Cleveland
39. James Carter
10. John Tyler
25. William McKinley
40. Ronald Reagan
11. James K. Polk
26. Theodore Roosevelt
41. George H. W. Bush
12. Zachary Taylor
27. William Howard Taft
42. William J. Clinton
13. Millard Fillmore
28. Woodrow Wilson
43. George W. Bush
14. Franklin Pierce
29. Warren G. Harding
44. Barack Obama

Sources

  • Andrews, Evan. "10 Things You May Not Know About Ulysses S. Grant." History.com. July 23, 2015. Accessed December 22, 2016. http://www.history.com/news/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-ulysses-s-grant.
  • Freidel, F., & Sidey, H. (2009). Ulysses S. Grant. Retrieved April 22, 2016, from https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/ulyssessgrant
  • Sullivan, George. Mr. President: A Book of U.S. Presidents. New York: Scholastic, 2001. Print.
  • U.S. Presidential Fun Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved April 22, 2016, from http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/history/presidential-fun-facts/#geo-washington.jpg

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Angela Michelle Schultz

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