Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant books and biography


Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant

18th President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1869 – March 4, 1877
Vice President(s)   Schuyler Colfax (1869-1873),
Henry Wilson (1873-1875),
None (1875-1877)
Preceded by Andrew Johnson
Succeeded by Rutherford B. Hayes

Born April 27, 1822
Point Pleasant, Ohio
Died July 23, 1885
Mount McGregor, New York
Political party Republican
Spouse Julia Dent Grant
Religion Methodist

Ulysses S. Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant, April 27, 1822 – July 23, 1885) was an American general and politician who was elected as the 18th President of the United States (1869–1877). He achieved international fame as the leading Union general in the American Civil War.

After service in the Mexican-American War, an undistinguished peacetime military career, and a series of unsuccessful civilian jobs, Grant proved highly successful in training new recruits in 1861. His capture of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson in February 1862 marked the first major Union victories of the Civil War and opened up prime avenues of invasion to the South. Surprised and nearly defeated at Shiloh (April 1862), he fought back and took control of most of western Kentucky and Tennessee. His great achievement in 1862-63 was to seize control of the Mississippi River by defeating a series of uncoordinated Confederate armies and by capturing Vicksburg in July 1863. After a victory at Chattanooga in late 1863, Abraham Lincoln made him general-in-chief of all Union armies.

Grant was the first Union general to initiate coordinated offensives across multiple theaters in the war. While his subordinates Sherman and Sheridan marched through Georgia and the Shenandoah Valley, Grant personally supervised the 1864 Overland Campaign against General Robert E. Lee's Army in Virginia. He employed a war of attrition against his opponent, conducting a series of large-scale battles with very high casualties that alarmed public opinion, while maneuvering ever closer to the Confederate capital, Richmond. Grant announced he would "fight it out on this line if it takes all summer." Lincoln supported his general and replaced his losses, but Lee's dwindling army was forced into defending trenches around Richmond and Petersburg. In April 1865 Grant's vastly larger army broke through, captured Richmond, and forced Lee to surrender at Appomattox. He 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 is scrutinized by military specialists around the world.

Grant announced generous terms for his defeated foes, and pursued a policy of peace. He broke with President Andrew Johnson in 1867, and was elected President as a Republican in 1868. 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. Grant was personally honest, but he not only tolerated financial and political corruption among top aides, he protected them once exposed. He blocked civil service reforms and defeated the reform movement in the Republican party in 1872, driving out many of its founders. The Panic of 1873 pushed the nation into a depression that Grant was helpless to reverse. 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[1]. Unsuccessful in winning 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.


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Birth and early years

Ulysses S. Grant Boyhood Home, Georgetown, Ohio
Ulysses S. Grant Boyhood Home, Georgetown, Ohio

Born Hiram Ulysses Grant 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 (1794–1873) and Hannah Simpson (1798–1883). His father, a tanner, and his mother were born in Pennsylvania. 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, and having barely passed the United States Military Academy's height requirement for entrance, Grant received a nomination to the Academy at West Point, New York, through his U.S. Congressman, Thomas L. Hamer. Hamer erroneously nominated him as Ulysses Simpson Grant, knowing Grant's mother's maiden name 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.[2] Upon graduation, Grant adopted the form of his new name with middle initial only, never acknowledging that the "S" stood for Simpson.[3] 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 drank whiskey and, during the Civil War, began smoking huge numbers of cigars (one story had it that he smoked over 10,000 in five years) which may well have contributed to the development of throat cancer later in his life.

On August 22, 1848 Grant married Julia Boggs Dent (1826–1902), the daughter of a slave owner. They had four children: Frederick Dent Grant, Ulysses S. (Buck) Grant, Jr., Ellen (Nellie) Wrenshall Grant, and Jesse Root Grant.

Military career

Grant at the capture of the city of Mexico, painting by Emanuel Leutze.
Grant at the capture of the city of Mexico, painting by Emanuel Leutze.

Mexican War

Grant served in the Mexican 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.

Between wars

After the Mexican 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 regimental quartermaster of the 4th U.S. Infantry regiment. His wife could not accompany him because his salary could not support a family (she was eight months pregnant with their second child) on the frontier. In 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 out West. He tried some business ventures while in California to supplement his income, but they failed. He started drinking heavily because of money woes and missing his wife. 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.[4] He resigned on July 31, 1854. Seven years of civilian life followed, in which he was a farmer and a real estate agent in St. Louis, Missouri, where he owned one slave (whom he let go free), a bill collector and finally an assistant in the leather shop owned by his father and brother in Galena, Illinois. The land and cabin where Grant lived in St. Louis is now an animal conservation reserve, Grant's Farm, owned and operated by the Anheuser-Busch Company.

Grant was nonpolitical, but 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 the Union Party, which combined both Republicans and War Democrats. He refused to announce his politics until 1868, when he finally declared himself a Republican.[5]

Civil War

Western Theater: 1861–63

The home of President Grant while he lived in Galena, Illinois.
The home of President Grant while he lived in Galena, Illinois.

Shortly after Confederate forces fired upon Fort Sumter, President Abraham Lincoln put out a call for 75,000 volunteers. Grant helped recruit a company of volunteers, and despite declining the unit's captaincy, he accompanied it to Springfield, the capital of Illinois. Grant accepted a position offered by Illinois Governor Richard Yates to recruit volunteers, but he pressed for a field command on multiple occasions. The governor, recognizing that Grant was a West Point graduate, eventually appointed him Colonel of the undisciplined and rebellious 21st Illinois Infantry, effective June 17, 1861.

Although part of the Illinois militia, Grant was deployed to Missouri to protect the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad from attacks that would interrupt the Pony Express mail service. At the time Missouri under Governor Claiborne Jackson 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 formally a Union state -- although a state with many southern sympathizers.

On August 7, Grant was appointed brigadier general of volunteers, a decision by President Lincoln that was strongly influenced by Elihu Washburne's political clout. After first serving in a couple of lesser commands, at the end of the month, 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 General Gideon J. Pillow at Belmont, Missouri, in November 1861. Three months later, aided by Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote's gunboats, he captured 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. The captures of the two forts were the first major Union victories of the war. The Confederate commander, Brigadier General Simon B. Buckner, an old friend of Grant's, yielded to Grant's hard conditions of "no terms except unconditional and immediate surrender." Buckner's surrender of 14,000 men made Grant a national figure almost overnight, and he was nicknamed "Unconditional Surrender" Grant. This victory also won him promotion to major general of volunteers.

Despite his significant victories, or perhaps because of them, Grant fell out of favor with his superior, Major General Henry W. Halleck. Halleck objected to Grant's visit to Nashville, Tennessee, where he met with Halleck's rival, Don Carlos Buell, and used that as an excuse to relieve Grant of field command on March 2. Personal intervention from President Lincoln caused Halleck to restore Grant, who rejoined his army on March 17.

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

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; it was the bloodiest battle in the history of the United States up to that time with over 23,000 casualties. 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 in Corinth, Mississippi. Despondent over this reversal, Grant decided to resign. The intervention of his subordinate and good friend, William T. Sherman, caused him to 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 (later more famously named the Army of the Tennessee) on June 10. He commanded the army for the battles of Corinth and Iuka that fall.


In the campaign 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. His strategy in the campaign to capture 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 the U.S. 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.[6]. 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 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. 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.


After the Battle of Chickamauga Union general William S. Rosecrans retreated to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Confederate Braxton Bragg followed to Lookout Mountain, surrounding the Federals on three sides. On October 17, Grant was placed in command of the city. 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 opened a new supply route to Chattanooga, greatly increasing the chances for Grant's forces.

Upon reprovisioning and reinforcing, the morale of Union troops lifted. In late November, they went on the offensive. The Battle of Chattanooga started out with Sherman's failed attack on the Confederate right. He not only attacked the wrong mountain but committed his troops piecemeal, allowing them to be defeated by one 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. Hooker's men broke the Confederate left, while Thomas's men made an unexpected but spectacular charge straight up Missionary Ridge and broke the fortified center of the Confederate line. Grant was initially angry at Thomas that his orders for a demonstration were 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.

Grant's willingness to fight and ability to win impressed President Lincoln, who appointed him lieutenant general in the regular army—a new rank recently authorized by the U.S. 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.

General-in-Chief and strategy for victory

Statue of Grant astride his favorite mount,
Statue of Grant astride his favorite mount, "Cincinnati", at Vicksburg, Mississippi

In March 1864, Grant put Major General William Tecumseh 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 Northern Virginia; 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; and 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 Appomattox

Poster of
Poster of "Grant from West Point to Appomattox."

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 such difficult terrain that the Army of Northern Virginia was able to use it to prevent Grant from fully exploiting his numerical advantage.

The Battle of the Wilderness was a stubborn, bloody two-day fight, resulting in advantage to neither side, but with heavy casualties on both. After similar battles in Virginia against Lee, all of Grant's predecessors had retreated from the field. Grant ignored the setback and ordered an advance around Lee's flank to the southeast, which lifted the morale of his army. Grant's strategy was not to win individual battles, it was to wear down and destroy Lee's army.

Sigel's Shenandoah campaign and Butler's James River campaign both failed. Lee was able to reinforce with troops used to defend against these assaults.

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 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 in earlier years had been won on the offensive, employing surprise movements and fierce assaults. Now, he was forced to continually fight on the defensive. The next major battle, however, demonstrated the power of a well-prepared defense. Cold Harbor was one of Grant's most controversial battles, in which he launched on June 3 a massive three-corps assault without adequate reconnaissance on a well-fortified defensive line, resulting in horrific casualties (3,000–7,000 killed, wounded, and missing in the first 40 minutes, although modern estimates have determined that the total was likely less than half of the famous figure of 7,000 that has been used in books for decades; as many as 12,000 for the day, far outnumbering the Confederate losses). Grant said of the battle in his memoirs "I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made. I might say the same thing of the assault of the 22nd of May, 1863, at Vicksburg. At Cold Harbor no advantage whatever was gained to compensate for the heavy loss we sustained." But Grant moved on and 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 Smith. Over the next three days, a number of Union assaults to take the city were launched. 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.

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, Early embarrassed the Administration simply by threatening its inhabitants, making Abraham Lincoln's re-election prospects even bleaker.

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

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 re-elected 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.

At the beginning of April 1865, Grant's relentless pressure finally forced Lee to evacuate Richmond, 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. Within a few weeks, the American Civil War was effectively over; minor actions would continue until Kirby Smith surrendered his forces in the Trans-Mississippi Department on June 2, 1865.

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.

Grant's fighting style was what one fellow general called "that of a bulldog". The term accurately captures his tenacity, but it oversimplifies his considerable strategic and tactical capabilities. Although a master of combat by out-maneuvering his opponent (such as at Vicksburg and in the Overland Campaign against Lee), Grant was not afraid to order direct assaults, often when the Confederates were themselves launching offensives against him. Such tactics often resulted in heavy casualties for Grant's men, but they wore down the Confederate forces proportionately more and inflicted irreplaceable losses.Copperheads denounced Grant as a "butcher" in 1864, but they wanted the Confederacy to win. Although Grant lost battles in 1864, he won all his campaigns.

One historian explains his strategic genius:[7]

"Grant understood topography, the importance of supply lines, the instant judgment of the balance between his own strengths and the enemy's weaknesses, and above all the need to keep his armies moving forward, despite casualties, even when things have gone wrong--that and the simple importance of inflicting greater losses on the enemy than he can sustain, day after day, until he breaks. Grant the boy never retraced his steps. Grant the man did not retreat--he advanced. Generals who do that win wars."

After the war, on July 25, 1866, Congress authorized the newly created rank of General of the Army of the United States, the equivalent of a full (four-star) general in the modern U.S. Army.[8] Grant was appointed as such by President Andrew Johnson on the same day.

Grant and Johnson

As commanding general of the army, Grant had a difficult relationship with President Johnson. He accompanied Johnson on a national stumping tour during the 1866 elections but did not appear to be a supporter of Johnson's moderate policies toward the South. Johnson tried to use Grant to defeat the Radical Republicans by making Grant the Secretary of War in place of Edwin M. Stanton, whom he could not remove without the approval of Congress under the Tenure of Office Act. Grant refused but kept his military command. That made him a hero to the Radicals, who gave him the Republican nomination for president in 1868. He was chosen as the Republican presidential candidate at the Republican National Convention in Chicago in May 1868, with no real opposition. In his letter of acceptance to the party, Grant concluded with "Let us have peace," which became the Republican campaign slogan. In the general election that year, he won against former New York governor Horatio Seymour with a lead of 300,000 out of a total of 5,716,082 votes cast but by a commanding 214 Electoral College votes to 80. He ran about 100,000 votes ahead of the Republican ticket, suggesting an unusually powerful appeal to veterans. When he entered the White House, he was politically inexperienced and, at age 46, the youngest man yet elected president.

Presidency 1869–1877

Grant was the 18th President of the United States and served two terms from March 4, 1869, to March 4, 1877. In the 1872 election he won by a landslide against the breakaway Liberal Republican party that nominated Horace Greeley.

Critical cartoonist ridicules imperial inauguration of Grant in 1869, compared to Jeffersonian simplicity (upper left).
Critical cartoonist ridicules imperial inauguration of Grant in 1869, compared to Jeffersonian simplicity (upper left).


Grant presided over the last half of Reconstruction, watching as the Democrats (called Redeemers), took the control of every state away from his Republican coalition. When urgent telegrams from state leaders begged for help, Grant and his attorney general replied that "the whole public is tired of these annual autumnal outbreaks in the South," saying that state militias should handle the problems, not the Army. He supported amnesty for Confederate leaders and protection for the civil rights of African-Americans. He favored a limited number of troops to be stationed in the South—sufficient numbers to protect rights of southern blacks, suppress the violent tactics of the Ku Klux Klan, and prop up Republican governors, but not so many as to create 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 in 1870. Recent scholarly work has begun to argue for the significance of Ulysses S. Grant on the development of Reconstruction. Not only have these scholars provided evidence for Grant's commitment to protecting Unionists and freedmen in the South immediately after the Civil War, but have also argued for Grant's support of intervention in the South right up until the election of 1876. Grant's commitment to black civil rights can be easily seen by his address to Congress in 1875 and by his attempt to use the annexation of Santo Domingo as leverage to force white supremacists to accept blacks as part of the southern political polity.

Grant confronted an apathetic Northern public, violent terrorist organizations in the South, and a factional Republican party. Grant was charged with bringing order and equality to the South without being armed with the emergency powers that Lincoln and Johnson employed. Given the formidable task it can be argued that Grant did as much as could be done.

Grant signed a bill into law that created Yellowstone National Park (America's first National Park) on March 1, 1872.[9]

The Panic of 1873 hit the country hard during his presidency, and he never attempted decisive action, one way or the other, to alleviate distress. The first law that he signed, in March 1869, established the value of the greenback currency issued during the Civil War, pledging to redeem the bills in gold. In 1874, he vetoed a bill to increase the amount of a legal tender currency, which defused the currency crisis on Wall Street but did little to help the economy as a whole. The depression led to Democratic victories in the 1874 off-year elections, as that party took control of the House for the first time since 1856.

In foreign affairs, a notable achievement of the Grant administration was the 1871 Treaty of Washington, negotiated by Secretary of State Hamilton Fish. It settled American claims against Britain concerning the wartime activities of the British-built Confederate raider CSS Alabama. He proposed to annex of the independent, largely black nation of Santo Domingo. Not only did he believe that the island would be of use to the navy tactically, but he sought to use it as a bargaining chip. By providing a safe haven for the freedmen, Grant believed that the exodus of black labor would force Southern whites to realize the necessity of such a significant workforce and accept their civil rights. At the same time he hoped that U.S. ownership of the island would urge nearby Cuba to abandon slavery. The Senate refused to ratify it because of (Foreign Relations Committee Chairman) Senator Charles Sumner's strong opposition. Grant helped depose Sumner from the chairmanship, and Sumner supported Horace Greeley and the Liberal Republicans in 1872.

In 1876, Grant helped to calm the nation over the Hayes-Tilden election controversy; he made clear he would not tolerate any march on Washington, such as that proposed by Tilden supporter Henry Watterson.


The first scandal to taint the Grant administration was Black Friday, a gold-speculation financial crisis in September 1869, set up by Wall Street manipulators Jay Gould and James Fisk. They tried to corner the gold market and tricked Grant into preventing his treasury secretary from stopping the fraud.

The most famous scandal was the Whiskey Ring of 1875, exposed by Secretary of the Treasury Benjamin H. Bristow, in which over 3 million dollars in taxes was stolen from the federal government with the aid of high government officials. Orville E. Babcock, the private secretary to the President, was indicted as a member of the ring but escaped conviction because of a presidential pardon. Grant's earlier statement, "Let no guilty man escape" rang hollow. Secretary of War William W. Belknap was discovered to have taken bribes in exchange for the sale of Native American trading posts. Grant's acceptance of the resignation of Belknap allowed Belknap, after he was impeached by Congress for his actions, to escape conviction, since he was no longer a government official.

Other scandals included the Sanborn Incident at the Treasury, and problems with U.S. Attorney Cyrus I. Scofield.

Although Grant himself did not profit 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. When critics complained, he vigorously attacked them. He was weak in his selection of subordinates, favoring colleagues from the war over those with more practical political experience. He alienated party leaders by giving many posts to his friends and political contributors rather than supporting the party's needs. His failure to establish working political alliances in Congress allowed the scandals to spin out of control. At the conclusion of his second term, Grant wrote to Congress that "Failures have been errors of judgment, not of intent."


Grant's legacy has been marred by anti-Semitism. The most frequently cited example is the infamous General Order No. 11, issued by Grant's headquarters in Oxford, Mississippi, on December 17, 1862, during the early Vicksburg Campaign. The order stated in part:

The Jews, as a class, violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department, and also Department orders, are hereby expelled from the Department (comprising areas of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky).

The order was almost immediately rescinded by President Lincoln. Grant maintained that he was unaware that a staff officer issued it in his name. Grant's father Jesse Grant was involved; General James H. Wilson later explained, "There was a mean nasty streak in old Jesse Grant. He was close and greedy. He came down into Tennessee with a Jew trader that he wanted his son to help, and with whom he was going to share the profits. Grant refused to issue a permit and sent the Jew flying, prohibiting Jews from entering the line." Grant, Wilson felt, could not strike back directly at the "lot of relatives who were always trying to use him" and perhaps struck instead at what he maliciously saw as their counterpart—opportunistic traders who were Jewish. [McFeeley p 124] Although it was portrayed as being outside the normal inclinations and character of Grant, it has been suggested by Bertram Korn that the order was part of a consistent pattern. "This was not the first discriminatory order [Grant] had signed... he was firmly convinced of the Jews' guilt and was eager to use any means of ridding himself of them." [10]

The issue of anti-Semitism was raised during the 1868 presidential campaign, and Grant consulted with several Jewish community leaders, all of whom said they were convinced that Order 11 was an anomaly, and he was not an anti-Semite. He maintained good relations with the community throughout his administration, on both political and social levels.

Administration and Cabinet

Grant Memorial Statue in Grant Park, Galena, Illinois. Julia Grant remarked that it was the best likeness of her husband, as his hands were thrust into his pockets.
Grant Memorial Statue in Grant Park, Galena, Illinois. Julia Grant remarked that it was the best likeness of her husband, as his hands were thrust into his pockets.
President Ulysses S. Grant 1869–1877
Vice President Schuyler Colfax 1869–1873
  Henry Wilson 1873–1875
Secretary of State Elihu B. Washburne 1869
  Hamilton Fish 1869–1877
Secretary of the Treasury George S. Boutwell 1869–1873
  William Adams Richardson 1873–1874
  Benjamin Bristow 1874–1876
  Lot M. Morrill 1876–1877
Secretary of War John A. Rawlins 1869
  William T. Sherman 1869
  William W. Belknap 1869–1876
  Alphonso Taft 1876
  James D. Cameron 1876–1877
Attorney General Ebenezer R. Hoar 1869–1870
  Amos T. Akerman 1870–1871
  George Henry Williams 1871–1875
  Edwards Pierrepont 1875–1876
  Alphonso Taft 1876–1877
Postmaster General John A. J. Creswell 1869–1874
  James W. Marshall 1874
  Marshall Jewell 1874–1876
  James N. Tyner 1876–1877
Secretary of the Navy Adolph E. Borie 1869
  George M. Robeson 1869–1877
Secretary of the Interior Jacob D. Cox 1869–1870
  Columbus Delano 1870–1875
  Zachariah Chandler 1875–1877

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

  • Colorado – August 1, 1876

Government agencies instituted

  • Department of Justice (1870)
  • Office of the Solicitor General (1870)
  • Post Office Department (1872)
  • "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)
  • Army Weather Bureau (currently known as the National Weather Service) (1870)

Post Presidency

World Tour

After the end of his second term in the White House, Grant spent two years (from May 17, 3PM, 1877 to 1879) traveling around the world with his wife. He visited Ireland, Scotland, and England; the crowds were huge. The Grants dined with Queen Victoria and Prince Bismarck in Germany. They also visited Russia, Egypt, the Holy Land, Siam, and Burma. In Japan, they were cordially received by Emperor Meiji and Empress Dowager Shoken at the Imperial Palace. Today in the Shibakoen section of Tokyo, a tree still stands that Grant planted during his stay.

In 1879, the Meiji government of Japan announced the annexation of the Ryūkyū Islands. China objected, and Grant was asked to arbitrate the matter. He decided that Japan's claim to the islands was stronger and ruled in Japan's favor.

Third Term attempt in 1880

In 1879, the "Stalwart" faction of the Republican Party led by Senator Roscoe Conkling sought to nominate Grant for a third term as president. He counted on strong support from the business men, the old soldiers, and the Methodist church. Publicly Grant said nothing, but privately he wanted the job and encouraged his men. His popularity was fading however, and while he received more than 300 votes in each of the 36 ballots of the 1880 convention, the nomination went to James A. Garfield. Grant campaigned for Garfield for a month, but he supported Conkling in the terrific battle over patronage in spring 1881 that culminated in Garfield's assassination.


In 1881, Grant purchased a house in New York City and placed almost all of his financial assets into an investment banking partnership with Ferdinand Ward, as suggested by Grant's son Buck (Ulysses, Jr.), who was having success on Wall Street. Ward swindled Grant (and other investors who had been encouraged by Grant) in 1884, bankrupted the company, Grant and Ward, and fled.


Grant learned at the same time that he was suffering from throat cancer. Grant and his family were left destitute; at the time retired U.S. Presidents were not given pensions, and Grant had forfeited his military pension when he assumed the office of President. Grant first wrote several articles on his Civil War campaigns for The Century Magazine, which were warmly received. Mark Twain offered Grant a generous contract, including 75% of the book's sales as royalties.

Terminally ill, Grant finished the book just a few days before his death. The memoirs sold over 300,000 copies, earning the Grant family over $450,000. Twain promoted the book as "the most remarkable work of its kind since the Commentaries of Julius Caesar," and 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 the age of 63 in Mount McGregor, Saratoga County, New York. His body lies in New York City's Riverside Park, beside that of his wife, in Grant's Tomb, the largest mausoleum in North America.

In memoriam

Grant as he appears on the 2004 series U.S. $50 note
Grant as he appears on the 2004 series U.S. $50 note
  • In World War II, the British Army produced an armored vehicle known as the Grant tank (a version of the American M3 model, which was ironically nicknamed the "Lee").
  • Grant's portrait appears on the U.S. fifty-dollar bill.
  • The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial, located on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., honors Grant.
  • Grant Park in Chicago honors Grant.
  • There is a U.S. Grant Bridge over the Ohio River at Portsmouth, Ohio.
  • There is a U.S. Grant Memorial Highway (US 52) in Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • Counties in ten U.S. states are named after Grant: Arkansas, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin and Grant Parish, Louisiana.


  • Grant was a descendant of Mayflower passenger Richard Warren
  • 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.
  • Grant's nicknames included: The Hero of Appomattox, "Unconditional Surrender" Grant ("U.S. Grant"), Sam Grant, and, in his youth, Ulys, Lyss and Useless.
  • While in California, Grant tried selling ice to South America but failed when it melted in the warm weather aboard the ship.
  • The question "Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?" was used by Groucho Marx in his radio and TV quiz show, the correct answer to which resulted in a consolation prize to contestants who had won no money. Some contestants thought it was a trick question. Grant's grandson, Ulysses S. Grant IV (a university professor) appeared on the program in 1953.
  • In 1883, Grant was elected the eighth president of the National Rifle Association.
  • Grant was depicted in the 1999 film Wild Wild West, with actor Kevin Kline portraying the president in a minor supporting role.
  • When Lincoln was told by his General Staff that Grant took too many casualties in his victories and urged that he be relieved, Lincoln responded, "I can't spare him. He fights."
  • An apocryphal story about Grant's drinking has the general's critics going to President Lincoln, charging the military man with being a drunk. Lincoln is supposed to have replied, "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."

See also

  • U.S. presidential election, 1868
  • U.S. presidential election, 1872
  • History of the United States (1865–1918)
  • Western Theater of the American Civil War
  • Ulysses S. Grant Memorial
  • U.S. Grant Home, Galena, Illinois


  • Catton, Bruce, Grant Takes Command, Little, Brown and Company, 1968, Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 69-12632.
  • Eicher, John H., & Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Fuller, Maj. Gen. J. F. C., Grant and Lee, A Study in Personality and Generalship, Indiana University Press, 1957, ISBN 0-253-13400-5.
  • Grant, Ulysses S., Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant, Charles L. Webster & Company, 1885–86, ISBN 0-914427-67-9.
  • Hesseltine; William B., Ulysses S. Grant: Politician 1935.
  • Smith, Jean Edward, Grant, Simon and Shuster, 2001, ISBN 0-684-84927-5.
  • Woodworth, Steven E., Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861 – 1865, Alfred A. Knopf, 2005, ISBN 0-375-41218-2.
  • Official Ulysses Simpson Grant biograpy from the US Army Center for Military History


  1. ^ See Skidmore (2005); Bunting (2004), Scaturro (1998), Smith (2001) and Simpson (1998)
  2. ^ Grant, Memoirs, 1952 ed., footnote by E.B. Long, sourced from the Dictionary of American Biography.
  3. ^ Smith, Grant, p. 83. In a letter to his wife Julia dated March 31, 1853, Grant wrote, "Why did you not tell me more about our dear little boys ? ... What does Fred. call Ulys. ? What does the S stand for in Ulys.'s name? in mine you know it does not stand for anything!"
  4. ^ Smith, Grant, p. 87. Although Grant did not include the details of his resignation in his memoirs, Lieutenant Henry Hodges, a colleague of Grant's at Fort Vancouver, corroborates this story, which was also a widespread rumor in the Army. His commander, Colonel Robert C. Buchanan, allegedly smelled alcohol on Grant's breath during duty as a paymaster and, since he knew Grant's service during the Mexican War, offered him a choice to avoid court martial.
  5. ^ Hesseltine, chapter 6.
  6. ^ One of the enduring stories about Grant is that he cut loose from all of his supply lines and lived entirely off the land. This story was first propagated by former journalist Charles A. Dana and years later, Grant wrote the same in his memoirs. However, supply requisitions at the time demonstrate that while the men and animals of the Army of the Tennessee foraged for much of their food, staples such as coffee, salt, hardtack, ammunition, and medical supplies kept a large fleet of wagons moving inland from Grand Gulf throughout the campaign. This supply train was a target of Pemberton until Champion Hill.
  7. ^ Korda, (2004)
  8. ^ Eicher, Civil War High Commands, p. 264.
  9. ^ General Grant National Memorial by the National Park Service. Retrieved March 29, 2006.
  10. ^ Bertram Korn, American Jewry and the Civil War, p. 143). Korn cites Grant's order of November 9 and 10, 1862, "Refuse all permits to come south of Jackson for the present. The Israelites especially should be kept out," and "no Jews are to be permitted to travel on the railroad southward from any point. They may go north and be encouraged in it; but they are such an intolerable nuisance that the department must be purged of them."

Further reading

Biographical, Political

  • Bunting III, Josiah. Ulysses S. Grant (2004) ISBN: 0-8050-6949-6
  • Mantell, Martin E., Johnson, Grant, and the Politics of Reconstruction (1973)
  • McFeeley, William S., Grant: A Biography (1981). Pulitzer Prize
  • Nevins, Allan, Hamilton Fish: The Inner History of the Grant Administration (1936) Pulitzer Prize
  • Rhodes, James Ford., History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850 to the McKinley-Bryan Campaign of 1896. Volume: 7 (1920) Pulitzer Prize
  • Scaturro, Frank J., President Grant Reconsidered (1998).
  • Schouler, James., History of the United States of America: Under the Constitution vol. 7. 1865-1877. The Reconstruction Period (1917) online edition
  • Simpson, Brooks D., Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph Over Adversity, 1822-1865 (2000), full scale biography
  • Simpson, Brooks D., Let Us Have Peace: Ulysses S. Grant and the Politics of War and Reconstruction, 1861-1868 (1991).
  • Simpson, Brooks D., The Reconstruction Presidents (1998)
  • Skidmore, Max J. "The Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant: a Reconsideration." White House Studies (2005) online
  • Smith, Jean Edward. Grant (2001)

Military studies

  • Badeau, Adam. Military History of Ulysses S. Grant, from April, 1861, to April, 1865. 3 vols. 1882.
  • Ballard, Michael B., Vicksburg, The Campaign that Opened the Mississippi, University of North Carolina Press, 2004, ISBN 0-8078-2893-9.
  • Bearss, Edwin C., The Vicksburg Campaign, 3 volumes, Morningside Press, 1991, ISBN 0-89029-308-2.
  • Carter, Samuel III, The Final Fortress: The Campaign for Vicksburg, 1862-1863 (1980)
  • Catton, Bruce, Grant Moves South, 1960, ISBN 0-316-13207-1; Grant Takes Command, 1968, ISBN 0-316-13210-1; U. S. Grant and the American Military Tradition (1954)
  • Cavanaugh, Michael A., and William Marvel, The Petersburg Campaign: The Battle of the Crater: "The Horrid Pit," June 25-August 6, 1864 (1989)
  • Conger, A. L. The Rise of U.S. Grant (1931)
  • Davis, William C. Death in the Trenches: Grant at Petersburg (1986).
  • Fuller, Maj. Gen. J. F. C., Grant and Lee, A Study in Personality and Generalship, Indiana University Press, 1957, ISBN 0-253-13400-5.
  • Gott, Kendall D., Where the South Lost the War: An Analysis of the Fort Henry-Fort Donelson Campaign, February 1862, Stackpole Books, 2003, ISBN 0-8117-0049-6.
  • Korda, Michael. Ulysses S. Grant: The Unlikely Hero (2004) 161 pp
  • Lewis, Lloyd. Captain Sam Grant (1950), pre-Civil War
  • McWhiney, Grady, Battle in the Wilderness: Grant Meets Lee (1995)
  • McDonough, James Lee, Shiloh: In Hell before Night (1977).
  • McDonough, James Lee, Chattanooga: A Death Grip on the Confederacy (1984).
  • Maney, R. Wayne, Marching to Cold Harbor. Victory and Failure, 1864 (1994).
  • Matter, William D., If It Takes All Summer: The Battle of Spotsylvania (1988)
  • Miers, Earl Schenck., The Web of Victory: Grant at Vicksburg. 1955.
  • Mosier, John., "Grant", Palgrave MacMillan, 2006 ISBN 1-4039-7136-6.
  • Rhea, Gordon C., The Battle of the Wilderness May 5–6, 1864, Louisiana State University Press, 1994, ISBN 0-8071-1873-7.
  • Rhea, Gordon C., The Battles for Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern May 7–12, 1864, Louisiana State University Press, 1997, ISBN 0-8071-2136-3.
  • Rhea, Gordon C., To the North Anna River: Grant and Lee, May 13–25, 1864, Louisiana State University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-8071-2535-0.
  • Rhea, Gordon C., Cold Harbor: Grant and Lee, May 26 – June 3, 1864, Louisiana State University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-8071-2803-1.
  • Miller, J. Michael, The North Anna Campaign: "Even to Hell Itself," May 21-26, 1864 (1989).
  • Simpson, Brooks D, Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph Over Adversity, 1822-1865 (2000).
  • Simpson, Brooks D, "Continuous Hammering and Mere Attrition: Lost Cause Critics and the Military Reputation of Ulysses S. Grant," in Cad Gallagher and Alan T. Nolan, eds., The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History, (2000)
  • Steere, Edward, The Wilderness Campaign (1960)
  • Sword, Wiley, Shiloh: Bloody April. 1974.
  • Williams, T. Harry, McClellan, Sherman and Grant. 1962.

Primary sources

  • Grant, Ulysses S. Memoirs (1885) online edition
  • Grant, Ulysses S. Memoirs and Selected Letters (Mary Drake McFeely & William S. McFeely, eds.) (The Library of America, 1990) ISBN 0-940450-58-5
    • Wilson, Edmund. Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War (1962) pp 131-73, on the Memoirs
  • Johnson, R. U., and Buel, C. C., eds., Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. 4 vols. New York, 1887-88; essays by leading generals of both sides; online edition
  • Porter, Horace, Campaigning with Grant (1897, reprinted 2000)
  • Sherman, William Tecumseh, Memoirs of General William T. Sherman. 2 vols. 1875.
  • Simon, John Y., ed., The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant, Southern Illinois University Press (1967- ) multivolume complete edition of letters to and from Grant. As of 2006, vol 1-28 covers through September 1878.

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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