Ulysses S. Grant

From New World Encyclopedia
Revision as of 03:32, 17 November 2023 by David Burgess (talk | contribs) (first 100)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)

Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
18th President of the United States
Term of office March 4, 1869 – 
March 3, 1877
Preceded by Andrew Johnson
Succeeded by Rutherford B. Hayes
Date of birth April 27, 1822
Place of birth Point Pleasant, Ohio
Date of death July 23, 1885
Place of death Mount McGregor, New York
Spouse Julia Grant
Political party Republican

Ulysses S. Grant (April 27, 1822 – July 23, 1885) was the commanding general of the combined Union armies during the American Civil War and the eighteenth President of the United States. Grant has been described by military historian J. F. C. Fuller as "the greatest general of his age and one of the greatest strategists of any age." He won many important battles in the western theater, including Vicksburg and Shiloh, and is credited with defeating the Confederacy through a campaign of attrition. His strategy of remorseless engagement with the enemy led to staggering losses, which gave the advantage to the superior war-making capacity of the North, yet Grant was severely criticized for the human cost of the war.

Grant's tenacity in war was matched by his discretion and magnanimity in victory. Called to Washington to assume command of the Union armies after his spectacular campaign at Vicksburg in 1863, Grant was hailed as a hero and urged to run for president in the 1864 election. But Grant turned aside these appeals and affirmed his commitment to President Abraham Lincoln's leadership and military objectives.

Trusted by Lincoln, who suffered through a series of inept and insubordinate generals, Grant shared the president's hatred of slavery, his determination to preserve the Union, and, importantly, his commitment to reconcile North and South without punitive measures after the fratricidal war. Forever contrasted with aristocratic Confederate General Robert E. Lee, the slovenly dressed, cigar-chomping Grant offered generous terms to his nemesis at the surrender of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox, Virginia, in April 1865—allowing Confederate soldiers to return home after swearing allegiance to the United States.

As president, many historians consider him less successful: he led an Administration plagued by scandal, although Grant was not personally tainted by charges of corruption. Yet Grant governed during the contentious period of Reconstruction of the South, struggling to preserve the Reconstruction and taking an unpopular stand in favor of the legal and voting rights of former slaves.

Grant was respected during his lifetime both in the North and South and he achieved a worldwide reputation. Historians agree that Grant's leadership as president, although flawed, led the Federal government on a path that might otherwise have provoked an insurgency. Grant's memoirs, composed during terminal illness and under financial necessity, are regarded as among the most eloquent and illuminating writings of a military leader[1].

Early years and family life

Grant was born Hiram Ulysses Grant in Point Pleasant, Clermont County, Ohio to Jesse Root Grant and Hannah Simpson. In the fall of 1823 they moved to the village of Georgetown in Brown County, Ohio, where Grant spent most of his time until he was 17 years old.

Military Academy at West Point

When he was 17, and having barely passed West Point's height requirement for entrance, Grant received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, through his Congressman, Thomas L. Hamer. Hamer erroneously nominated him as Ulysses Simpson Grant, and although Grant protested the change, he bent to the bureaucracy. Upon graduation, Grant adopted the form of his new name using the middle initial only, never acknowledging that the "S" stood for Simpson. 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.

Grant served in the Mexican-American War (1846–1848) under Generals Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott, taking part in the battles of Resaca de la Palma, Palo Alto, Monterrey, and Veracruz. He was twice brevetted for bravery: at Molino del Rey and Chapultepec. Although distinguishing himself in battle, Grant chafed at assignments behind the lines. Further, like Abraham Lincoln, he saw the campaign as unnecessary aggression against Mexico.

When the Mexican War ended in 1848, Grant remained in the army and was assigned in turn to several different posts. In 1848, Grant married Julia Dent, daughter of a Missouri slaveholder, and in 1850 they had a son, the first of four children. Grant was an uncommonly devoted father and husband. Their marriage was often tested by military life and, later, war, yet they were unconditionally loyal, with "dearest Julia" accompanying her husband to military garrisons until he was ordered to the Pacific Coast.

Grant was sent to Fort Vancouver in the Washington Territory in 1853, where he served as regimental quartermaster of the 4th U.S. Infantry. His wife could not accompany him because his lieutenant's salary did not support a family on the frontier. Also Julia Grant was then eight months pregnant with their second child. The next year, 1854, he was promoted to captain and assigned to command Company F, 4th Infantry, at Fort Humboldt, California. Despite the increase in pay, he still could not afford to bring his family West.

He tried some business ventures while in California to supplement his income, but they all failed. He started drinking heavily because of money woes and because he desperately missed his family. Because his drinking was having an effect on his military duties, he was given a choice by his superiors: resign his commission or face trial.

Resign of Face Trial

According to his friend from the West Point days, Rufus Ingalls, who accompanied Grant to the Pacific, "Captain Grant, finding himself in dreary surroundings, without his family, and with but little to occupy his attention, fell into dissipated habits, and was found, one day, too much under the influence of liquor to properly perform his duties. For this offense Colonel Buchanan demanded that he should resign, or stand trial. Grant's friends at the time urged him to stand trial, and were confident of his acquittal; but, actuated by a noble spirit, he said he would not for all the world have his wife know that he had been tried on such a charge. He therefore resigned his commission, and returned to civilian life."[2] Grant also began smoking great numbers of cigars (one report is he went through more than ten thousand cigars over the course of five years) which well may have contributed to his developing throat cancer.

Seven years of civilian life followed, and Grant proved unsuited at various employments, unsuccessful in turn as a farmer, as a real estate agent in St. Louis, and finally an assistant in the leather shop owned by his father and brother in Galena, Illinois. He went deeply into debt during this time, but remained a devoted father and husband. He once sold his gold pocket watch to get Christmas presents for his family.

Grant's reputation for drink

During the Civil War, the "well known stories" of Grant's drinking haunted him, even as many friends and acquaintances strongly disputed the reports. An unnamed officer on Grant's staff, for example, wrote, "I think I know as much about the real character of the great soldier as any man living today, for I saw him under many circumstances, and at the closest personal range-in the privacy of his own camp life, when "off duty," as well as in the storm of battle … I have again and again gone into the general's quarters at the dead of night to deliver a message and found him smoking and thinking about his own vast plans of military operations…. In his habits I never saw one sign of dissipation, and if Grant ever tasted liquor of any kind during the war, it was not in my presence, and I had the best position possible for observing his habits."[3]

John Rawlins, Grant's Chief of Staff, also confirmed, "When I came to Cairo, General Grant was as he is today, a strictly total abstinence man, and I have been informed by those who knew him well, that such has been his habit for the last five or six years. [He drank a little with guests], but no man can say that at any time since I have been with him has he drunk liquor enough to in the slightest unfit him for business, or make it manifest in his words or actions."[4] General David Hunter, sent out by Secretary Stanton to inspect and report prior to the battle of Chattanooga, also included a report Grant's habits: "I was received by General Grant with the greatest kindness. He gave me his bed, shared with me his room, gave me to ride his favorite horse, read to me his dispatches received and sent, accompanied on my reviews, and I accompanied him on all his excursions. In fact I saw him almost every moment of the three weeks I spent in Chattanooga. He is a hard worker, writes his own dispatches and orders, and does his own thinking. He is modest, quiet, never swears and seldom drinks, as he only took two drinks while I was with him."[5]

Numerous other eyewitness accounts dispel the myth that Grant was a drunkard. Lincoln, for his part, reportedly deferred to Grant with characteristic humor when challenged about Grant's drinking habits: "I wish some of you would tell me the brand of whiskey that Grant drinks. I would like to send a barrel of it to my other generals."[6]

Grant himself was deeply wounded by the slander against him, but strictly forbade anyone to defend him. Writing to a supporter, Representative E. B. Washburn, on May 14, 1862, Grant said, "To say that I have not been distressed at these attacks upon me would be false, for I have a father, mother, wife and children who read them and are distressed by them; and I necessarily share with them in it. Then, too, all subject to my orders read these charges and it is calculated to weaken my ability to render efficient service in our present cause. One thing I will assure you of, however-I cannot be driven from rendering the best service within my ability to suppress the present rebellion, and, when it is over, retiring to the same quiet, it, the rebellion, found me enjoying."[7]

American Civil War

Western theater

Shortly after hostilities broke out on April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces fired upon Fort Sumter, President Abraham Lincoln put out a call for seventy-five thousand volunteers. When word of his plea reached Galena, Grant made up his mind to get into the war. He helped recruit a company of volunteers, and despite declining the unit's captaincy, he accompanied it to Springfield, Illinois the state capital.

General Grant at Cold Harbor, photographed by Mathew Brady in 1864

There, Grant met the governor, who offered him a position recruiting volunteers, which Grant accepted. What he really wanted though was a field officer's commission. After numerous failures on his own to attain one, the governor, recognizing that Grant was a West Point graduate, appointed him Colonel of the 21st Illinois Infantry, as of June 17, 1861.

With sentiments in Missouri divided, opposing forces began gathering in the state. Shortly after assuming command, Grant's regiment was ordered there, and upon arriving, he concentrated on drilling his men and establishing discipline. Before ever engaging with the enemy, on August 7, he was appointed brigadier general of volunteers. After first serving in a couple of lesser commands, at the end of the month, Grant was assigned command of the critical district of south-east Missouri.

In February 1862, Grant gave the Union cause its first major victory of the war by capturing Forts Henry and Donleson[8] in Tennessee. Grant not only captured the forts' garrisons, but electrified the Northern states with his famous demand at Donelson,

"No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works."

In early April 1862, he 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. Grant steadfastly refused to retreat. With grim determination, he stabilized his line. Then, on the second day, with the help of timely reinforcements, Grant counterattacked, turning a serious reverse into a victory.

Despite Shiloh being a Union victory, it came at a high price; it was the bloodiest battle in United States history up until then, with more than 23,000 casualties. Henry W. Halleck, Grant's theater commander, was unhappy by Grant being taken by surprise and by the disorganized nature of the fighting. In response, Halleck took command of the Army in the field himself. Removed from planning strategy, Grant decided to resign. Only by the intervention of his subordinate and good friend, William T. Sherman, did he remain. When Halleck was promoted to general-in-chief of the Union Army, Grant resumed his position as commander of the Army of West Tennessee.

In the campaign to capture the Mississippi River fortress at Vicksburg, Mississippi, Grant spent the winter of 1862–63 conducting a series of operations, attempting to gain access to the city, through the region's bayous. These attempts failed. Grant launched a new plan in the Spring of 1863 and the subsequent operation is considered one of the most masterful in military history.

Battle of Vicksburg

Grant marched his troops down the west bank of the Mississippi River and crossed the river by using United States Navy ships that had run past the guns at Vicksburg. This resulted in the largest amphibious operation in American military history since the Battle of Vera Cruz in the Mexican American War and would hold that record until the Battle of Normandy in World War II.) There, Grant moved his army inland and, in a daring move defying conventional military principles, cut loose from most of his supply lines[7]. 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 at Battle of Champion Hill. The defeated 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 which became the Battle of Vicksburg. 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 Battle of Gettysburg the previous day, is widely considered the turning point of the American Civil War.

In September 1863, the Confederates won the Battle of Chickamauga. Afterwards, the defeated Union forces under William S. Rosecrans retreated to the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The victorious Confederate forces, led by Braxton Bragg, followed closely behind. They took up positions on the hillsides, overlooking the city and surrounding the Federals.

On October 17, Grant was placed in overall charge of the besieged forces. He immediately relieved Rosecrans and replaced him with George H. Thomas. Devising a plan known as the "Cracker Line," Grant's chief engineer, William F. "Baldy" Smith, launched the Battle of Wauhatchie (October 28–October 29, 1863) to open the Tennessee River, allowing supplies and reinforcements to flow into Chattanooga, greatly increasing the chances for Grant's forces.

Upon re-provisioning and reinforcing, the morale of Union troops lifted. In late November, 1863 Grant went on the offensive. The Battle of Chattanooga started out with Sherman's failed attack on the Confederate right. Sherman committed tactical errors. He not only attacked the wrong mountain, but committed his troops piecemeal, allowing them to be defeated by a solitary Confederate division. In response, Grant ordered Thomas to launch a demonstration on the center, which could draw defenders away from Sherman. Thomas waited until he was certain that Hooker, with reinforcements from the Army of the Potomac, was engaged on the Confederate left before he launched the Army of the Cumberland at the center of the Confederate line. Despite the delay, Hooker's men broke the Confederate left, while Thomas's division made an unexpected, but spectacular, charge straight up Missionary Ridge and broke the fortified center of the Confederate line. Lt. Arthur MacArthur, father to General Douglas MacArthur, won the Congressional Medal of Honor for taking up and charging forward with his unit's colors. Grant was initially angry at Thomas that his orders for a demonstration were at first delayed and then exceeded, but the assaulting wave sent the Confederates into a head-long retreat, opening the way for the Union to invade Atlanta, Georgia, and the heart of the Confederacy.

General-in-chief and strategy for victory

Statue of Grant at Vicksburg, Mississippi

Grant's willingness to fight and ability to win impressed President Abraham Lincoln. Prior to Grant's victory at Vicksburg, Lincoln heard a litany of complaints about Grant's inept command and drinking problems. "I think Grant has hardly a friend left, except myself," the president reportedly said. But "what I want is generals [sic] generals who will fight battles and win victories and I propose to stand by him."

With Grant's stunning victory at Vicksburg, almost simultaneous with the calamitous battle at Gettysburg that drove Lee out of Maryland, Lincoln's estimation of Grant was vindicated, and he appointed Grant lieutenant general—a rank newly authorized by the United States Congress with Grant in mind—on March 2, 1864. On March 12, Grant became general-in-chief of all the armies of the United States.

On March 8, 1864 the president hosted a reception at the White House and at last came face to face with the now-celebrated general. Horace Porter, an officer in the Ordinance Bureau provided an illuminating account of the first meeting of the two men, forever linked in history:

Standing face to face for the first time were the two illustrious men whose names will always be inseparably associated in connection with the war of the rebellion. Grant’s right hand grasped the lapel of his coat; his head was bent slightly forward, and his eyes upturned toward Lincoln’s face. The President, who was eight inches taller, looked down with beaming countenance upon his guest. Although their appearance, their training, and their characteristics were in striking contrast, yet the two men had many traits in common, and there were numerous points of resemblance in their remarkable careers. Each was of humble origin, and had been compelled to learn the first lessons of life in the severe school of adversity. Each had risen from the people, possessed an abiding confidence in them, and always retained a deep hold upon their affections. . . . In a great crisis of their country’s history both had entered the public service from the State [Illinois]. Both were conspicuous for the possession of that most uncommon of all virtues, common sense. Both despised the arts of the demagogue, and shrank from posing for effect, or indulging in mock heroics. Even when their characteristics differed, they only served to supplement each other, and to add a still greater strength to the cause for which they strove. With hearts too great for rivalry, with souls untouched by jealousy, they lived to teach the world that it is time to abandon the path of ambition when it becomes so narrow that two cannot walk it abreast.

Grant's fighting style was what one fellow general called "that of a bulldog." Although a master of combat by out-maneuvering his opponent (such as at Vicksburg and in the Overland Campaign against Robert E. Lee), Grant was not afraid to order direct assaults or tight sieges against Confederate forces, often when the Confederates were themselves launching offensives against him. Once an offensive or a siege began, Grant refused to stop the attack until the enemy surrendered or was driven from the field. Such tactics often resulted in heavy casualties for Grant's men, but they wore down the Confederate forces proportionately even more and inflicted irreplaceable losses. Grant has been described as a "butcher" for his strategy, particularly in 1864, but he was able to achieve objectives that his predecessor generals had not, even though they suffered similar casualties over time.

In March 1864, Grant put Major General William T. Sherman in immediate command of all forces in the West and moved his headquarters to Virginia where he turned his attention to the long-frustrated Union effort to destroy the army of Lee; his secondary objective was to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, but Grant knew that the latter would happen automatically once the former was accomplished. He devised a coordinated strategy that would strike at the heart of the Confederacy from multiple directions: Grant, George G. Meade, and Benjamin Franklin Butler against Lee near Richmond; Franz Sigel in the Shenandoah Valley; Sherman to invade Georgia, defeat Joseph E. Johnston, and capture Atlanta; George Crook and William W. Averell to operate against railroad supply lines in West Virginia; Nathaniel Banks to capture Mobile, Alabama. Grant was the first general to attempt such a coordinated strategy in the war and the first to understand the concepts of total war, in which the destruction of an enemy's economic infrastructure that supplied its armies was as important as tactical victories on the battlefield.

Overland Campaign, Petersburg, and Strategy of "Total War"

Lieut. General Ulysses S. Grant, portrait by photographer Mathew Brady

The Overland Campaign was the military thrust needed by the Union to defeat the Confederacy. It pitted Grant against the great commander Robert E. Lee in an epic contest. It began on May 4, 1864, when the Army of the Potomac crossed the Rapidan River, marching into an area of scrubby undergrowth and second growth trees known as the Wilderness. It was a terrible place to fight, but Lee sent in his Army of Northern Virginia anyway because he recognized the close confines would prevent Grant from fully exploiting his numerical advantage.

The Battle of the Wilderness was a stubborn, bloody two-day fight. It was an inauspicious start for the Union. Grant was leading a campaign that, in order to win the war, had to destroy the Confederacy's main battle armies. On May 7, with a pause in the fighting, there came one of those rare moments when the course of history fell upon the decision of a single man. Lee backed off, permitting Grant to do what all of his predecessors—as commanders of the Army of the Potomac—had done in this situation, and that was retreat.

"The army had known dramatic moments of inspiration in the past," wrote historian Bruce Catton, particularly in reference to Gen. George B. McClellan's ostentatious leadership. "Now there was nothing more than a bent shadow in the night, a sloop-shouldered man who was saying nothing to anyone, methodically making his way to the head of the column…. This pitiless little man was leading them into nothing except more fighting, … but at least he was not leading them back into sullen acceptance of defeat, and somewhere, many miles ahead, there would be victory for those who would live to see it."[9] A turning point in the war, the soldiers began cheering their indomitable commander until Grant told his staff to have the men stop cheering as it would alert the rebel army about their movement.

The campaign continued, but Lee, anticipating Grant's move, beat him to Spotsylvania, Virginia, where, on May 8, the fighting resumed. The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House lasted 14 days. On May 11, Grant wrote a famous dispatch containing the line:

"I propose to fight it out along this line if it takes all summer."

These words summed up his attitude about the fighting, and the very next day, May 12, he ordered a massive assault that nearly broke Lee's lines.

In spite of mounting Union casualties, the contest's dynamics changed in Grant's favor. Most of Lee's great victories had been won on the offensive, employing surprise movements and fierce assaults. Now, he was forced to continually fight on the defensive. Even after suffering horrific casualties at the Battle of Cold Harbor, Grant kept up the pressure. He stole a march on Lee, slipping his troops across the James River.

Arriving at Petersburg, Virginia, first, Grant should have captured the rail junction city, but he failed because of the overly cautious actions of his subordinate, William F. "Baldy" Smith. Over the next three days, a number of Union assaults were launched, attempting to take the city. But all failed, and finally on June 18, Lee's veterans arrived. Faced with fully manned trenches in his front, Grant was left with no alternative but to settle down to a siege.

Grant approved an innovative plan by Ambrose Burnside's corps to break the stalemate. Before dawn on July 30, they exploded a mine under the Confederate works. But due to last-minute changes in the plan, involving the reluctance of Meade and Grant to allow a division of African-American troops to lead the attack, the ensuing assault was poorly coordinated and lacked vigor. Given an opportunity to regroup, the Confederates took advantage of the situation and counterattacked, winning the Battle of the Crater, and the Federals lost another opportunity to hasten the end of the war.

As the summer drew on and with Grant's and Sherman's armies stalled, respectively in Virginia and Georgia, politics took center stage. There was a presidential election in the fall, and the citizens of the North had difficulty seeing any progress in the war effort. To make matters worse for Abraham Lincoln, Lee detached a small army under the command of Major General Jubal A. Early, hoping it would force Grant to disengage forces to pursue him. Early invaded north through the Shenandoah Valley and reached the outskirts of Washington, D.C.. Although unable to take the city, by simply threatening its inhabitants, Early embarrassed the Administration, making Lincoln's reelection prospects even bleaker.

In early September the efforts of Grant's coordinated strategy finally bore fruit. First, Sherman took Atlanta. Then, Grant dispatched Philip Sheridan to the Shenandoah Valley to deal with Early. It became clear to the people of the North that the war was being won, and Lincoln was reelected by a wide margin. Later in November, Sherman began his March to the Sea. Sheridan and Sherman both followed Grant's strategy of total war by destroying the economic infrastructures of the Valley and a large swath of Georgia and the Carolinas.

Surrender at Appomattox Court House

At the beginning of April 1865, Grant's relentless pressure finally forced Lee to evacuate Richmond, Virginia and after a nine-day retreat, Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. There, Grant offered generous terms that did much to ease the tensions between the armies and preserve some semblance of Southern pride, which would be needed to reconcile the warring sides. In his terms of surrender Grant wrote to General Robert E. Lee:

April 9, 1865

GENERAL: In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of the 8th instant, I propose to receive the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia on the following terms, to wit: Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate, one copy to be given to an officer to be designated by me, the other to be retained by such officer or officers as you may designate. The officers to give their individual paroles not to take up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged; and each company or regimental commander sign a like parole for the men of their commands. The arms, artillery, and public property to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officers appointed by me to receive them. This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers, nor their private horses or baggage. This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to his home, not to be disturbed by U. S. authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside. U.S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.

Within a few weeks, the American Civil War was effectively over, although minor actions would continue until Kirby Smith surrendered his forces in the Trans-Mississippi Department on June 2, 1865. The final surrender of Confederate forces happened on June 23 in Indian Territory, when General Stand Watie surrendered his Cherokee troopers to Union Lt. Col. A.C. Matthews. The last Confederate raider, the CSS Shenandoah, did not lower its flag until November in Liverpool, England.

Immediately after Lee's surrender, Grant had the sad honor of serving as a pallbearer at the funeral of his greatest champion, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln had been quoted after the massive losses at Shiloh, "I can't spare this general. He fights." It was a two-sentence description that completely caught the essence of Ulysses S. Grant.

After the war, the U.S. Congress authorized Grant the newly created rank of General of the Army (the equivalent of a four-star, "full" general rank in the modern Army). He was appointed as such by President Andrew Johnson on July 25, 1866.


Grant became the 18th President of the United States and served two terms from March 4, 1869 to March 3, 1877. He was chosen as the Republican presidential candidate at the Republican National Convention in Chicago, Illinois on May 20, 1868, with no serious opposition. In the general election that year, he won with a majority of 3,012,833 out of a total of 5,716,082 votes cast or nearly 53 percent of the popular vote.

Grant's presidency was plagued with scandals, such as the Sanborn Incident at the Treasury and problems with U.S. Attorney Cyrus I. Scofield. The most famous scandal was the Whiskey Ring fraud in which more than $3 million in taxes were taken from the federal government. Orville E. Babcock, the private secretary to the President, was indicted as a member of the ring and escaped prison only because of Grant's presidential pardon. After the Whiskey Ring, another federal investigation revealed that Grant's Secretary of War, William W. Belknap, was involved with taking bribes in exchange for the outright sale of Native American trading posts.

Although there is no evidence that Grant himself profited from corruption among his subordinates, he did not take a firm stance against malefactors and failed to react strongly even after their guilt was established. His weakness lay in his selection of subordinates. He alienated party leaders, giving many posts to friends and political contributors, rather than listen to their recommendations. His failure to establish adequate political allies was a large factor behind the scandals getting out of control and becoming newspaper fodder.

Despite all the scandals, Grant's administration presided over significant events in United States history. The most tumultuous was the continuing process of Reconstruction. Grant staunchly favored a limited number of troops stationed in the South. He allowed sufficient numbers to protect rights of southern blacks and suppress the violent tactics of the Ku Klux Klan, but not so many that would harbor resentment in the general population. In 1869 and 1871, Grant signed bills promoting voting rights and prosecuting Klan leaders. The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, establishing voting rights, was ratified during his first term in 1870.

Government affairs

A number of government agencies that remain to the present were instituted during the Grant administration:

  • Department of Justice (1870)
  • Post Office Department (1872)
  • Office of the Solicitor General (1870)
  • "Advisory Board on Civil Service" (1871); after it expired in 1873, it became the role model for the Civil Service Commission instituted in 1883 by President Chester A. Arthur, a Grant faithful. Today it is known as the Office of Personnel Management.
  • Office of the Surgeon General (1871)

In foreign affairs the greatest achievement of the Grant administration was the Treaty of Washington negotiated by Grant's Secretary of State, Hamilton Fish, in 1871. The treaty was between the United Kingdom and the United States for settling various differences between the two governments, but chiefly those with regard to the Alabama claims. On the domestic side, Grant is remembered for being president when Colorado, the 38th state, was admitted into the Union on August 1, 1876. In November 1876, Grant helped to calm the nation over controversial presidential election dispute between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel J. Tilden. Grant helped quiet the dissent by appointing a federal commission that helped to settle the election in favor of Hayes.

Grant often visited the Willard Hotel, two blocks from the White House to escape the stresses of high office. He referred to the people who approached him in the lobby of the Willard as "those damn lobbyists," possibly giving rise to the modern term lobbyist.

Supreme Court appointments

Grant appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:

  • William Strong – 1870
  • Joseph P. Bradley – 1870
  • Ward Hunt – 1873
  • Morrison Remick Waite (Chief Justice) – 1874

States admitted to the Union

Later life

Following his second term, Grant and his wife Julia spent two years traveling around the world. He was the first former United States President to ever visit Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Grant’s celebrity brought personal invitations from Queen Victoria and English Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli; Otto Van Bismarck, the founder and first chancellor of the German Empire, with whom he had an instant rapport; Belgian King Leopold; and Czar Alexander II of Russia. Grant was warmly received by the Emperor of Japan in July 1879 and shook hands with the emperor, which was strictly forbidden and never known in the history of Japanese royalty.

In the Shibakoen section of Tokyo, a tree Grant planted during his stay grows there still. In 1879, the Meiji government of Japan announced the annexation of the Ryukyu Islands. China protested, and Grant was invited to arbitrate the matter. He decided that Japan held the stronger claim to the islands and ruled in Japan's favor.

In 1880 Grant contemplated a return to politics] and sought the Republican nomination once more. However he failed to gain sufficient support at the Republican party convention that year, which instead went to James Garfield as the nominee.

Grant placed almost all of his financial assets into an investment banking partnership with Ferdinand Ward during 1881, as suggested by Grant's son Buck (Ulysses, Jr.), who was enjoying great success on Wall Street. Ward was known as the "Young Napoleon of corporate finance." Grant might have taken the use of that appellation more seriously as he had with the other "Young Napoleon," Gen. George B. McClellan. Failure awaited. In this case, Ward swindled Grant in 1884, bankrupted the company known as Grant and Ward, and fled. Grant also learned at the same time he had developed throat cancer. Grant and his family were left nearly destitute (this was before the era in which retired U.S. Presidents were given pensions).

In one of the most ironic twists in all history, Ward's treachery led directly to a great gift to posterity. Grant's Memoirs are considered a masterpiece, both for their writing style and their historical content, and until Grant bankrupted, he steadfastly refused to write them. Only upon his family's future financial independence becoming in doubt, did he agree to write anything at all.

He first wrote two articles for The Century magazine[10] , which were well received. Afterward, the publishers of The Century made Grant an offer to write his memoirs. It was a standard contract, one which they commonly issued to new writers. Independently from the magazine publishers, the famous author, Mark Twain, approached Grant. Twain, who harbored well-noted suspicions of publishers in general, expressed disdain at the magazine's offer. Twain astutely realized Grant was, at that time, the most significant American alive. He offered Grant a generous contract, including 75 percent of the book's sales as royalties. Grant accepted Twain's offer.

Now terminally ill and in his greatest personal struggle, Grant fought to finish his memoirs. Although wracked with pain and unable to speak at the end, he triumphed, finishing them just a few days before his death. The memoirs succeeded, selling more than 300,000 copies and earning Grant's family more than $450,000 ($9,500,000 in 2005 dollars). Twain heralded the memoirs, terming them "the most remarkable work of its kind since the Commentaries of Julius Caesar." They are widely regarded as among the finest memoirs ever written.

Ulysses S. Grant died at 8:06 A.M. on Thursday July 23, 1885, at Mount McGregor, in Saratoga County, New York. His body lies in New York City, beside that of his wife, in Grant's Tomb, the largest mausoleum in North America.


Ulysses S. Grant emerged from obscurity to play a central role in history for which he was uniquely suited. As a Civil War general, Grant possessed the rare combination of dogged will, strategic vision, and humility to command the Union armies in an exhausting campaign against fellow Americans.

Grant shared the military objectives of the commander in chief, President Abraham Lincoln, but more importantly, shared Lincoln's moral vision of a nation freed from the stain of slavery and united as one people based on the nation's founding ideals. The relationship of trust and respect between Lincoln and Grant, one of the most consequential in American history, enabled the war to be prosecuted relentlessly, yet ever with the objective of a people reconciled and at peace. Grant's generous peace terms at Appomattox and Lincoln's eloquent reminders of the "mystic chords of memory" that bound all American together, that northerners and southerners were "not enemies, but friends," were the foundation of the period of southern Reconstruction.

In a eulogy to Grant at his death, the noted orator and reformer Henry Ward Beecher observed, "In all this career he never lost courage or equanimity. With a million men, for whose movements he was responsible, he yet carried a tranquil mind, neither depressed by disasters nor elated by success. Gentle of heart, familiar with all, never boasting, always modest, Grant came of the old, self-contained stock, men of a sublime force of being, which allied his genius to the great elemental forces of nature,—silent, invisible, irresistible. When his work was done, and the defeat of Confederate armies was final, this dreadful man of blood was tender toward his late adversaries as a woman toward her son. He imposed no humiliating conditions, spared the feelings of his antagonists, sent home the disbanded Southern men with food and with horses for working their crops."[11]

A grateful nation twice elected Grant to the presidency, but his military skills were poorly suited to civilian leadership. Grant's reputation suffered as a result of scandals in his administration. although he was not personally implicated.

Hailed as an American hero, Grant remained taciturn, cigar-smoking, and without pretense when received by world leaders. Grant's international stature following the war was summed up by the words of the Scottish Lord Provost on Sep. 13, 1877 in front of fifty thousand people:

"Grant had proved himself the Wellington of America…. The great and good Lincoln struck down the poisonous tree of slavery; but Grant tore it up by the roots, so that it should never live in his country to suck nutriment from its soil."

Preceded by:
Commander of the Army of the Tennessee
Succeeded by:
William T. Sherman
Preceded by:
Commander of Union Armies in the West
Succeeded by:
William T. Sherman
Preceded by:
Henry W. Halleck
Commanding General of the United States Army
Succeeded by:
William T. Sherman
Preceded by:
Abraham Lincoln
Republican Party presidential candidate
1868 (won), 1872 (won)
Succeeded by:
Rutherford B. Hayes
Preceded by:
Andrew Johnson
President of the United States
March 4, 1869 – March 3, 1877
Succeeded by:
Rutherford B. Hayes


  1. Ulysses S. Grant. Personal Memoirs: Ulysses S. Grant, with Geoffrey Perret, Introduction. (Modern Library War) (New York: Modern Library, 1999. ISBN 0375752285)
  2. Hamlin Garland. Ulysses S. Grant, His Life and Character (Doubleday, 1898), 127. [1] Retrieve July 8, 2008
  3. An Officer of His Staff, "Personal Recollections of General Grant's Life in the Field." National Magazine, an Illustrated Monthly 18 (1903): 318-319, [2] Retrieved July 8, 2008
  4. John Rawlins, in Anna Maclay Green, "Civil War Opinion of General Grant," Journal of the Illinois Historical Society 22 (April 1929): 53.[3] Retrieve July 8, 2008
  5. Walter B. Stevens, "Grant in Saint Louis." (Franklin Club of Saint Louis, 1916), 88 [4] Retrieved July 8, 2008
  6. Statement attributed to Abraham Lincoln in response to complaints about Grant's drinking habits (November 1863); as quoted in Joslyn T. Pine. Wit and Wisdom of the American Presidents: A Book of Quotations. (2000), 26 "Ulysses S. Grant": [5] Wikiquotes.org.
  7. Marie Kelsey, The Myth of His Drinking Retrieved July 8, 2008
  8. Battle of Fort Donelson.National Park Service. Retrieved November 16, 2008.
  9. Bruce Catton. A Stillness at Appomadox in Bruce Catton's Civil War in 3 volumes. (New York: Fairfax Press, 1984. ISBN 0517447711), 514
  10. The Century magazine The Battle of Shiloh by Ulysses S. Grant.The Making of America, Cornell University. Retrieved November 16, 2008.
  11. Henry Ward Beecher, in "Eulogy on Grant" in Patriotic Addresses in America and England. (1887) Ulysses S. Grant: [6] Wikiquote.org.Retrieved November 16, 2008.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Catton, Bruce. 1990. Grant Takes Command. Boston, MA: Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316132404.
  • Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher. 2001. Civil War High Commands. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 9780804736411.
  • Fuller, J.F.C. 1957. Grant and Lee, A Study in Personality and Generalship. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0253134005.
  • Garland, Hamlin. Ulysses S. Grant, His Life and Character. Doubleday, 1898.
  • McFeely, William S. Grant, a Biography. New York: Norton, (1981) 2002. ISBN 0393323943
  • Smith, Jean Edward. 2001. Grant. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9780684849263.

External links

All links retrieved May 2, 2023.


New World Encyclopedia writers and editors rewrote and completed the Wikipedia article in accordance with New World Encyclopedia standards. This article abides by terms of the Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License (CC-by-sa), which may be used and disseminated with proper attribution. Credit is due under the terms of this license that can reference both the New World Encyclopedia contributors and the selfless volunteer contributors of the Wikimedia Foundation. To cite this article click here for a list of acceptable citing formats.The history of earlier contributions by wikipedians is accessible to researchers here:

The history of this article since it was imported to New World Encyclopedia:

Note: Some restrictions may apply to use of individual images which are separately licensed.