Ulysses Simpson Grant
18th President of the United States of America
18th President of the United States of America
Ulysses S. Grant, born Hiram Ulysses Grant, was an American general and the 18th President of the United States (1869–1877). He achieved international fame as the leading Union general in the American Civil War.
Grant first reached national prominence by taking Forts Henry and Donelson in 1862 in the first Union victories of the war. The following year, his celebrated campaign ending in the surrender of Vicksburg secured Union control of the Mississippi and—with the simultaneous Union victory at Gettysburg—turned the tide of the war in the North's favor. Named commanding general of the Federal armies in 1864, he implemented a coordinated strategy of simultaneous attacks aimed at destroying the South's ability to carry on the war. In 1865, after conducting a costly war of attrition in the East, he accepted the surrender of his Confederate opponent Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House. Grant has been described by J.F.C. Fuller as "the greatest general of his age and one of the greatest strategists of any age." His Vicksburg Campaign in particular has been scrutinized by military specialists around the world.
In 1868, Grant was elected president as a Republican. Grant was the first president to serve for two full terms since Andrew Jackson forty years before. He led Radical Reconstruction and built a powerful patronage-based Republican party in the South, with the adroit use of the army. He took a hard line that reduced violence by groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
Presidential experts typically rank Grant in the lowest quartile of U.S. presidents, primarily for his tolerance of corruption. In recent years, however, his reputation as president has improved somewhat among scholars impressed by his support for civil rights for African Americans. Unsuccessful in winning the nomination for a third term in 1880, bankrupted by bad investments, and terminally ill with throat cancer, Grant wrote his Memoirs, which were enormously successful among veterans, the public, and the critics.
Born: April 27, 1822
Birthplace: Point Pleasant, Ohio
Father: Jesse Root Grant 1794 – 1873
(Buried: Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Ohio)
Mother: Hannah Simpson 1798 – 1883
(Buried: Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Ohio)
Wife: Julia Boggs Dent 1826 – 1902
(Buried: General Grant National Memorial, Manhattan, New York)
Married: August 22, 1848 in Saint Louis, Missouri
Brig. General Frederick Dent Grant 1850 – 1912
(Buried: United States Military Academy Post Cemetery, West Point, New York)
Ulysses Simpson “Buck” Grant Jr. 1852 – 1928
(Buried: Greenwood Memorial Cemetery, San Diego, California)
Ellen Wrenshall “Nellie” Grant Jones 1855 – 1922
(Buried: Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois)
Jesse Root Grant 1858 – 1934
(Buried: San Francisco National Cemetery, San Francisco, California)
1843: Graduated from West Point Military Academy – (21st in class)
Occupation before War:
1843 – 1845: Brevet 2nd Lt. United States Army 4th Infantry
1845 – 1847: 2nd Lt. United States Army 4th Infantry
1847: Brevetted 1st Lt for Gallantry at Battle of Molino Del Rey
1847: Brevetted Captain for Gallantry Battle of Chapultepec
1847 – 1853: 1st Lt. United States Army 4th Infantry
1853 – 1854: Captain United States Army 4th Infantry
1854: Resigned from United States Army on July 31, 1854
1854 – 1859: Farmer near Saint Louis, Missouri
1856: Cast his first vote for President for John C. Fremont
Wood Seller in Saint Louis, Missouri
1859 – 1860: Real Estate Agent for Saint Louis, Missouri
Unsuccessful Candidate for County Surveyor in Saint Louis
Worked for United States Customhouse
1860 – 1861: Worked for his father’s leather goods Store in Illinois
Civil War Career:
1861: Colonel of 21st Illinois Infantry Regiment
1861 – 1862: Brig. General Union Army Volunteers
1861: Union Army Commander Battle of Belmont, Missouri
1862: Union Army Commander Battle of Fort Henry, Tennessee
1862: Union Army Commander Battle of Fort Donelson, Tennessee
1862 – 1863: Major General Union Army Volunteers
1862: Union Army Commander Battle of Shiloh, Tennessee
1862: Union Commander District of West Tennessee
1862: Served in the Siege of Corinth, Mississippi
1862: Removed from field command by Major General Halleck
1862: Served at the Battle of Iuka, Mississippi
1862 – 1863: Commander Department of the Tennessee
1862 – 1863: Union Army Commander Vicksburg Campaign
1863 – 1864: Major General United States Army
1863: Union Army Commander Chattanooga Campaign
1864 – 1866: Lt. General United States Army
1864 – 1869: Commanding General of United States Army
1864: United States Army Commander Overland Campaign
1864 – 1865: United States Army Commander Siege of Petersburg
1865: Received Lee’s Surrender at Appomattox, Virginia on April 9th
Occupation after War:
1864 – 1866: Lt. General United States Army
1864 – 1869: Commanding General of United States Army
1865: Declined invitation to attend Ford’s theater
1865: Supporter of President Andrew Johnson’s Reconstruction
1866 – 1869: General of United States Army
1867 – 1868: Acting United States Secretary of War Department
1868: Supported by Radical Republicans for Pres. Nomination
1869 – 1877: President of United States of America
1879: Traveled in Europe, Asia and Africa
1880: Traveled in Cuba, West Indies and Mexico
1880: Unsuccessful Candidate for Republican Nomination
1881 – 1884: Investor of Brokerage of Grant and Ward
1884: Declined Offer from P.T. Barnum of $100,00.00
1884 – 1885: Wrote his memoirs who offered $25,000.00
Died: July 23, 1885
Time of Death: 8:00 AM
Place of Death: Mount McGregor, New York
Cause of Death: Throat Cancer
Last Words: “Water” – a sponge was touched to his lips
Burial Place: General Grant National Memorial (a.k.a Grant's Tomb), Manhattan, New York
FOR FURTHER READING
- Grant, by Ron Chernow, 2017.
- Campaigning with Grant, by Horace Porter, 1897.
- The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, by U.S. Grant, 1885.
On April 27, 1822, Grant was born in a log cabin in Point Pleasant, Clermont County, Ohio, 25 miles (40 km) east of Cincinnati on the Ohio River. He was the eldest of the six children of Jesse Root Grant and Hannah Simpson Grant. His father, a tanner from Pennsylvania, was descended from an English immigrant to Massachusetts, Matthew Grant (1601-1681). His mother was born in Horsham Township, Pennsylvania. At birth, Grant was named Hiram Ulysses. In the fall of 1823, the family moved to the village of Georgetown in Brown County, Ohio.
On August 22, 1848, Grant married Julia Boggs Dent, the daughter of a slave owner and cousin of Confederate General James Longstreet. It was incidentally Longstreet who introduced Grant to his wife while serving in the Fourth Infantry at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. They had four children: Frederick Dent Grant, Ulysses S. Grant, Jr. (Buck), Ellen Wrenshall Grant (Nellie), and Jesse Root Grant.
At the age of 17, Grant entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, after securing a nomination through his U.S. Congressman, Thomas L. Hamer. Hamer erroneously nominated him as "Ulysses S. Grant of Ohio," knowing Grant's mother's maiden name was Simpson and forgetting that Grant was referred to in his youth as "H. Ulysses Grant" or "Lyss." Grant wrote his name in the entrance register as "Ulysses Hiram Grant" (concerned that he would otherwise become known by his initials, H.U.G.), but the school administration refused to accept any name other than the nominated form.
Grant adopted the form of his new name with middle initial only. Because "U.S." also stands for "Uncle Sam," Grant's nickname became "Sam" among his army colleagues. He graduated from West Point in 1843, ranking 21st in a class of 39. At the academy, he established a reputation as a fearless and expert horseman. Although this made him seem a natural for cavalry, he was assigned to duty as a regimental quartermaster, managing supplies and equipment.
Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant (left) and Alexander Hays
At Camp Salubrity, Louisiana, 1845.
Lieutenant Grant served in the Mexican–American War under Generals Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott, where, despite his assignment as a quartermaster, he got close enough to the front lines to see action, taking part in the battles of Resaca de la Palma, Palo Alto, Monterrey (where he volunteered to carry a dispatch on horseback through a sniper-lined street), and Veracruz.
Once Grant saw Fred Dent, his friend and later his brother-in-law, lying in the middle of the battlefield; he had been shot in the leg. Grant ran furiously into the open to rescue Dent; as they were making their way to safety, a Mexican was sneaking up behind Grant, but the Mexican was shot by a fellow U.S soldier. Grant was twice brevetted for bravery: at Molino del Rey and Chapultepec. He was a remarkably close observer of the war, learning to judge the actions of colonels and generals.
In the 1880s he wrote that the war was unjust, accepting the theory that it was designed to gain land open to slavery. He wrote in his memoirs about the war against Mexico: "I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day, regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation".
Time Between Wars
After the Mexican-American war ended in 1848, Grant remained in the army and was moved to several different posts. He was sent to Fort Vancouver in the Washington Territory in 1853, where he served as quartermaster of the 4th Infantry Regiment. His wife, eight months pregnant with their second child, could not accompany him because his salary could not support a family on the frontier. In 1854, Grant was promoted to captain, one of only 50 still on active duty, and assigned to command Company F, 4th Infantry, at Fort Humboldt, California. However, he still could not afford to bring his family out West. He tried some business ventures, but they failed.
Grant resigned from the Army with little advance notice on July 31, 1854, offering no explanation for his abrupt decision. Rumors persisted in the Army for years that his commanding officer, Bvt. Lt. Col. Robert C. Buchanan, found him drunk on duty as a pay officer and offered him the choice between resignation or court-martial. Some biographers discount the rumors and suggest Grant's resignation, and his drinking, were both prompted by profound depression. According to this view, Buchanan hated Grant and concocted the drunkenness story years later to protect Buchanan's action in removing the man who became one of the most famous generals in history. The War Department stated, "Nothing stands against his good name."
A civilian at age 32, Grant struggled through seven lean years. From 1854 to 1858 he labored on a family farm near St. Louis, Missouri, using slaves owned by his father-in-law, but it did not prosper. Grant owned one slave (whom he set free in 1859); his wife owned four slaves (two women servants and their two small boys). In 1858-59 he was a bill collector in St. Louis. Failing at everything, in humiliation he asked his father for a job, and in 1860 was made an assistant in the leather shop owned by his father and run by his younger brother in Galena, Illinois. Grant & Perkins sold harnesses, saddles, and other leather goods and purchased hides from farmers in the prosperous Galena area.
Although Grant was essentially apolitical, his father-in-law was a prominent Democrat in St. Louis (a fact that lost Grant the good job of county engineer in 1859). In 1856 he voted for Democrat James Buchanan for president to avert secession and because "I knew Frémont" (the Republican candidate). In 1860, he favored Democrat Stephen A. Douglas but did not vote. In 1864, he allowed his political sponsor, Congressman Elihu B. Washburne, to use his private letters as campaign literature for Abraham Lincoln and the Union Party, which combined both Republicans and War Democrats. He refused to announce his political affiliation until 1868, when he finally declared himself a Republican..
Western Theater: 1861–63
Shortly after Confederate forces fired upon Fort Sumter, President Abraham Lincoln put out a call for 75,000 militia volunteers. Grant helped recruit a company of volunteers and accompanied it to Springfield, the capital of Illinois. Grant accepted a position offered by Illinois Governor Richard Yates to recruit and train volunteers, which he accomplished with efficiency. Grant pressed for a field command; Yates appointed him a colonel in the Illinois militia and gave him command of undisciplined and rebellious 21st Illinois Infantry in June 1861.
Grant was deployed to Missouri to protect the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad. Under pro-Confederate Governor Claiborne Jackson, Missouri had declared it was an armed neutral in the conflict and would attack troops from either side entering the state. By the first of August the Union army had forcibly removed Jackson and Missouri was controlled by Union forces, who had to deal with numerous southern sympathizers.
In August, Grant was appointed brigadier general of the militia volunteers by Lincoln, who had been lobbied by Congressman Elihu Washburne. At the end of August, Grant was selected by Western Theater commander Major General John C. Frémont to command the critical District of Southeast Missouri.
Battles of Belmont, Henry, and Donelson
Grant's first important strategic act of the war was to take the initiative to seize the Ohio River town of Paducah, Kentucky, immediately after the Confederates violated the state's neutrality by occupying Columbus, Kentucky. He fought his first battle, an indecisive action against Confederate Brig. Gen. Gideon J. Pillow, at Belmont, Missouri, in November 1861. Three months later, aided by Andrew H. Foote's Navy gunboats, he captured two major Confederate fortresses, Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River. At Donelson, his army was hit by a surprise Confederate attack (once again by Pillow) while he was temporarily absent. Displaying the cool determination that would characterize his leadership in future battles, he organized counterattacks that carried the day. Both General Floyd and Pillow, the two senior Confederate commanders fled. The Confederate commander, Brig. Gen. Simon B. Buckner, an old friend of Grant's and a West Point classmate, and senior commander with Floyd and Pillow fleeing, yielded to Grant's hard conditions of "no terms except unconditional and immediate surrender."
Buckner's surrender of over 12,000 men made Grant a national figure almost overnight, and he was nicknamed "Unconditional Surrender" Grant. The captures of the two forts with over 12,000 prisoners were the first major Union victories of the war, gaining him national recognition. Desperate for generals who could fight and win, Lincoln promoted him to major general of volunteers. Although Grant's new-found fame did not seem to affect his temperament, it did have an impact on his personal life. At one point during the Civil War, a picture of Grant with a cigar in his mouth was published. He was then inundated with cigars from well wishers. Before that he had smoked only sporadically, but he could not give them all away, so he took up smoking them, a habit which may have contributed to the development of throat cancer later in his life; one story after the war claimed that he smoked over 10,000 in five years.
Despite his significant victories (or perhaps because of them), Grant fell out of favor with his superior, Major General Henry W. Halleck. Halleck had a particular distaste for drunks and, believing Grant was an alcoholic, was biased against him from the beginning. After Grant visited Nashville, Tennessee, where he met with Halleck's rival, Don Carlos Buell, Halleck used the visit as an excuse to relieve Grant on March 2 of field command of a newly launched expedition up the Tennessee River.
Personal intervention from President Lincoln caused Halleck to restore Grant to field command of the expedition, and on March 17 he joined his army at Savannah, Tennessee. At this juncture, Grant's command was known as the Army of West Tennessee; soon, however, it would acquire its more famous name as the Army of the Tennessee.
In early April 1862, Grant was surprised by Generals Albert Sidney Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard at the Battle of Shiloh. The sheer violence of the Confederate attack sent the Union forces reeling. Nevertheless, Grant refused to retreat. With grim determination, he stabilized his line. Then, on the second day, with the help of timely reinforcements, Grant counterattacked and turned a serious reverse into a victory.
The victory at Shiloh came at a high price; with over 23,000 casualties, it was the bloodiest battle in the history of the United States up to that time. Halleck responded to the surprise and the disorganized nature of the fighting by taking command of the army in the field himself, on April 30 relegating Grant to the powerless position of second-in-command for the campaign against Corinth, Mississippi.
Despondent over his awkward position, Grant explored the possibility of obtaining an assignment elsewhere and might have left the army altogether after the Union forces occupied Corinth on May 30. However, the intervention of his subordinate and good friend, William T. Sherman, caused him to remain. He was thus in position to play an increasingly important role in the West when, in July 1862, Halleck was promoted to general-in-chief of the Union Army and called to Washington. Grant commanded the Army of the Tennessee for the battles of Corinth and Iuka that fall.
In an attempt to capture the Mississippi River fortress of Vicksburg, Mississippi, Grant spent the winter of 1862–1863 conducting a series of operations to gain access to the city through the region's bayous. These attempts failed. One newspaper complained that "[t]he army was being ruined in mud-turtle expeditions, under the leadership of a drunkard, whose confidential adviser [Sherman] was a lunatic."
However, his strategy to take Vicksburg in 1863 is considered one of the most masterful in military history. Grant marched his troops down the west bank of the Mississippi and crossed the river by using United States Navy ships that had run the guns at Vicksburg. There, he moved inland and—in a daring move that defied conventional military principles—cut loose from most of his supply lines. Operating in enemy territory, Grant moved swiftly, never giving the Confederates, under the command of John C. Pemberton, an opportunity to concentrate their forces against him. Grant's army went eastward, captured the city of Jackson, Mississippi, and severed the rail line to Vicksburg.
Knowing that the Confederates could no longer send reinforcements to the Vicksburg garrison, Grant turned west and won the Battle of Champion Hill. The Confederates retreated inside their fortifications at Vicksburg, and Grant promptly surrounded the city. Finding that assaults against the impregnable breastworks were futile, he settled in for a six-week siege.
Cut off and with no possibility of relief, Pemberton surrendered to Grant on July 4, 1863. It was a devastating defeat for the Southern cause, effectively splitting the Confederacy in two, and, in conjunction with the Union victory at Gettysburg the previous day, is widely considered the turning point of the war. For this victory, President Lincoln promoted Grant to the rank of major general in the regular army, effective July 4.
A distinguished British historian has written that "we must go back to the campaigns of Napoleon to find equally brilliant results accomplished in the same space of time with such a small loss." Lincoln said after the capture of Vicksburg and after the lost opportunity after Gettysburg, "Grant is my man and I am his the rest of the War."
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