Ulysses S. Grant (1822 -- 1885)
Late in the administration of Andrew Johnson, Gen. Ulysses S.
Grant quarreled with the President and aligned himself with the
Radical Republicans. He was, as the symbol of Union victory during
the Civil War, their logical candidate for President in 1868.
When he was elected, the American people hoped for an end
to turmoil. Grant provided neither vigor nor reform. Looking
to Congress for direction, he seemed bewildered. One visitor
to the White House noted "a puzzled pathos, as of a man
with a problem before him of which he does not understand the
Born in 1822, Grant was the son of an Ohio tanner. He went
to West Point rather against his will and graduated in the middle
of his class. In the Mexican War he fought under Gen. Zachary
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Grant was working in his father's
leather store in Galena, Illinois. He was appointed by the Governor
to command an unruly volunteer regiment. Grant whipped it into
shape and by September 1861 he had risen to the rank of brigadier
general of volunteers.
He sought to win control of the Mississippi Valley. In February
1862 he took Fort Henry and attacked Fort Donelson. When the
Confederate commander asked for terms, Grant replied, "No
terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be
accepted." The Confederates surrendered, and President Lincoln
promoted Grant to major general of volunteers.
At Shiloh in April, Grant fought one of the bloodiest battles
in the West and came out less well. President Lincoln fended
off demands for his removal by saying, "I can't spare this
For his next major objective, Grant maneuvered and fought
skillfully to win Vicksburg, the key city on the Mississippi,
and thus cut the Confederacy in two. Then he broke the Confederate
hold on Chattanooga.
Lincoln appointed him General-in-Chief in March 1864. Grant
directed Sherman to drive through the South while he himself,
with the Army of the Potomac, pinned down Gen. Robert E. Lee's
Army of Northern Virginia.
Finally, on April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House, Lee
surrendered. Grant wrote out magnanimous terms of surrender that
would prevent treason trials.
As President, Grant presided over the Government much as he
had run the Army. Indeed he brought part of his Army staff to
the White House.
Although a man of scrupulous honesty, Grant as President accepted
handsome presents from admirers. Worse, he allowed himself to
be seen with two speculators, Jay Gould and James Fisk. When
Grant realized their scheme to corner the market in gold, he
authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to sell enough gold
to wreck their plans, but the speculation had already wrought
havoc with business.
During his campaign for re-election in 1872, Grant was attacked
by Liberal Republican reformers. He called them "narrow-headed
men," their eyes so close together that "they can look
out of the same gimlet hole without winking." The General's
friends in the Republican Party came to be known proudly as "the
Grant allowed Radical Reconstruction to run its course in
the South, bolstering it at times with military force.
After retiring from the Presidency, Grant became a partner
in a financial firm, which went bankrupt. About that time he
learned that he had cancer of the throat. He started writing
his recollections to pay off his debts and provide for his family,
racing against death to produce a memoir that ultimately earned
nearly $450,000. Soon after completing the last page, in 1885,
Born: April 27, 1822 in Point Pleasant, Ohio
Died: July 23, 1885 in Mount McGregor, New York