ULYSSES S. GRANT Biography - Writers


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Ulysses Simpson Grant (April 27, 1822 - July 23, 1885) was an American Civil War General and the 18th (1869-1877) President of the United States.


Though a successful general, he is considered by many historians to be one of America’s worst Presidents and led an administration that was plagued by severe scandal and corruption. However, historians also agree that Grant was not personally corrupt; it was his subordinates in the executive branch who were at fault. Grant is criticized for not taking a strong stance against the corruption, and not acting to stop it.




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Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant) was born in Point Pleasant, Clermont County, Ohio, 25 miles (40 km) above Cincinnati on the Ohio River, to Jesse R. Grant and Hannah Simpson. His father and his mother’s father were born in Pennsylvania. His father was a tanner. 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.


At the age of 17, he received a cadetship to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York through his Congressman. The Congressman erroneously registered him as Ulysses Simpson Grant, but Grant took such a liking to his new name that he kept it. He graduated from West Point in 1843, No. 21 in a class of 39.


He married Julia Boggs Dent (1826-1902) on August 22, 1848 and they had four children: Frederick Dent, Ulysses Simpson, Jr., Ellen Wrenshall, and Jesse Root (son).


Military career


He served in the Mexican-American War 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 breveted for bravery: at Molino del Rey and Chapultepec. The following summer, on July 31, 1854, he resigned from the army. Seven years of civilian life following, in which he was a farmer, a real estate agent in St. Louis, and finally an assistant at his father and brother’s leather business.


On April 24, 1861, ten days after the fall of Fort Sumter, Captain Grant arrived in Springfield, Illinois with a company of men he had raised. The Governor felt that a West Point man could be put to better use and appointed him Colonel of the Twenty-first Illinois Infantry (effective June 17, 1861). On August 7th he was appointed a Brigadier-General of volunteers.


Grant gave the Union Army its first major victory of the American Civil War by capturing Fort Henry, Tennessee on February 6, 1862. He doggedly pursued the Confederate Army and won impressive but costly victories at the Battle of Shiloh, the Battle of Vicksburg, and the Battle of Chattanooga. His willingness to fight and ability to win impressed President Lincoln, who appointed him Lieutenant-General on March 2, 1864, and on the 17th he assumed command of all of the armies of the United States.


Grant’s fighting style was what one fellow general called ‘that of a bulldog.’ During many battles he frequently ordered direct offensives 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 undoubtedly wore down the Confederate forces by inflicting irreplaceable losses, but often resulted in heavy casualties amongst Grant’s men as well.


In April 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 take Richmond, Virginia. Despite heavy losses and difficult terrain, the Army of the Potomac kept up a relentless pursuit of General Robert E. Lee’s troops and lost a bloody contest in the Battle of the Wilderness, had no more than a draw at the Spotsylvania, and horribly lost at Cold Harbor.


Despite the heavy losses, Grant did not retreat back to Washington. Finally, he slipped his troops across the James River, fooling Lee, and it was the start of the Siege of Petersburg. His relentless pressure finally forced Lee to evacuate Richmond, which shortly burned, forcing him to surrender at Appomattox Courthouse on 9 April 1865. Within a few weeks, the American Civil War was effectively over, though the last land battle at Palmito Ranch took place in May 12 - 13, 1865, and Confederate general Kirby Smith surrendered his forces in the Trans-Mississippi Department on June 2nd.


After the war the United States Congress appointed him to the newly-created rank of General of the Army on July 25, 1866.


Key events in Grant’s military career:


Mexican-American War
  American Civil War
  Fort Henry and Fort Donelson (Unconditional Surrender)
  Battle of Shiloh
  Vicksburg, Mississippi
  Chattanooga, Tennessee and the Battle of Chattanooga
  Battle of the Wilderness
  Battle of Spotsylvania Court House
  Battle of Cold Harbor
  Siege of Petersburg
  Battle of Five Forks
  Appomattox Court House




Grant was chosen as the Republican presidential candidate at the Republican National Convention in Chicago on May 20 1868 with no real 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.


He was the 18th (1869-1877) President of the United States and served two terms from March 4, 1869 to March 3, 1877.


Grant’s presidency was plagued with the suspicion of scandal, especially the Whiskey Ring fraud in which over $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 conviction only because of a presidential pardon. After the Whiskey ring, Grant’s Secretary of War William W. Belknap was involved in an investigation which revealed that he had taken bribes in exchange for the 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.


Grant was peripherally involved in the matter of Edgardo Mortara, sending a plea to Pope Pius IX to allow the boy to return to his parents.


Grant was known to visit the Willard Hotel to escape the stress of the White House. He referred to the people who approached him in the lobby 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


Later life


After the end of his second term Grant spent two years travelling around the world. On this tour he visited Sunderland where he opened the first free municipal public library in England.


Grant was elected the eighth president of the National Rifle Association in 1883.


Grant wrote his memoirs shortly before his death, while terminally ill from throat cancer and in financial difficulties after the collapse of the firm Grant and Ward . He heroically fought to finish his memoirs in the hope they would provide financially for his family after his death. Assisted by Samuel Clemens, he finished them just a few days before his death, and they succeeded in providing a comfortable income for his wife and children. He died on July 23, 1885 at Mount McGregor , Saratoga County, New York. His body lies in New York City, with that of his wife, in Grant’s Tomb, the largest mausoleum in North America.


Grant’s portrait appears on the U.S. $50 bill.


His professed religion was Methodist.


Grant’s nicknames included: The Hero of Appomattox, “Unconditional Surrender” Grant, Sam Grant, and, in his youth, Ulys and Useless.