Ulysses S. Grant
April 27, 1822-July 23, 1885 General and President
General Grant President Grant
Born Hiram Ulysses Grant to Father Jesse Root Grant and Mother Hannah Simpson in Point Pleasant, Ohio on April 27, 1822 Ulysses was the son of a tanner. Young Grant did not like working as a tanner and preferred working the family farm where he developed into a exceptional horse handler that would later serve him well. Knowing his son was unhappy working as a farmhand his Father secured for Hiram an appointment to West Point in 1839. Hiram had no real interest in the military but realized it was his chance for a higher education and accepted the appointment. Hiram upon filling out his entrance paperwork reversed his name to read Ulysses Hiram Grant but when his Congressional appointment came through his name had been listed in error as Ulysses S. Grant that Grant just accepted and was from that time forward referred to by that name.
Grant’s Military Career
Grants time at West Point was one of boredom with military studies that caused him to finish 21st of a class of 39 upon graduation. There were two areas where young Grant did distinguish himself though and that was Horsemanship and a considerable gift for mathematics. Upon graduation as a Second Lieutenant he was assigned to the 4th U.S. Infantry stationed near St. Louis, Missouri. While stationed there he married Julia Boggs Dent the sister of his room mate at West Point. Lt. Grants first military action occurred during the Mexican War (1846-48) where he distinguished himself with a show of great personal bravery while serving under General Zachary Taylor who was to later become the 12th President of the United States. 2nd Lt. Grant was subsequently transferred to Gen. Winfield Scott’s Army where he served as Regimental Quartermaster and Commissary where he learned important future lessons about Logistical Supply. In July of 1853 the 4th Infantry was transferred from New York to the West Coast where Grant was assigned to Fort Vancouver in the then Oregon Territory that would later be Washington State. Although receiving a promotion to the rank of Captain he wasn’t able to bring his family with him and after he was reassigned to Fort Humboldt California where he had a commanding officer he didn’t get along with Capt. Grant resigned his commission on April 11, 1854 and left the Army. Grant then moved to Missouri where he and his family farmed an 80 acre farm given to them by his wife’s father but the farm was a failure as well as some other business ventures he tried so in 1860 Grant went to Galena, Illinois and joined the leather business his father had started and was being run by his brothers.
The Civil War Years (1861-1865)
When the Civil War broke out Grant being the only person in the area with military experience he was asked to help recruit, arm and train the volunteers which he did with great enthusiasm because it was a break away from the job that he was bored with and resented. After training he accompanied the troops to the capital of the state in Springfield, Illinois. While there Illinois Governor Richard Yates made Grant his aide and assigned him to the state’s Adjutant General’s Office. Governor Yates them appointed him Colonel of the 21st Illinois Volunteers. While serving as Colonel and not yet seeing any action Col. Grant was promoted to Brigadier General with the help and influence from Galena, Illinois Congressman Elihu B. Washburne. General Grant was subsequently given command of the District of Southeast Missouri, headquartered at Cairo, Illinois. Gen. Grant became very unhappy with being assigned as merely manning defensive positions and acting as a diversionary force Grant petitioned and gained permission from General Henry Wager Halleck to begin offensive operations against the enemy. General Grant’s first campaign was against Fort Donelson in Tennessee on the Cumberland River on February 16, 1862. With the battle won the fort’s commander General Simon B. Buckner sent word to Gen. Grant requesting terms for surrender. The reply he got was one that General Grant was famous for “No terms except unconditional surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works.” From that day forward Grant’s initials of U S Grant were referred to as “Unconditional Surrender Grant”. Promoted to Major General after that action Grant’s next engagement was to repel a Confederate attack on Shiloh Church near Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee on April 6th and 7th of 1862. Although Grant successfully fought off the attack the large number of Union casualties tarnished his reputation to the point he was temporarily relieved of his command until the new commander General Henry Wager Halleck was called to Washington to serve as General in Chief. Regaining his command again Grant now began to show his aggressive style of leadership and initiative. After several more battles including Vicksburg and Chattanooga, Grant was again promoted this time to Lieutenant General and appointed General in Chief of all U.S. armies. It was during this time that Grant’s great friend General William Tecumseh Sherman and he came up with the now famous plan of Sherman’s March to the Sea. The plan was multi- phased and designed to split Lee’s Army down the middle, deny him reinforcements and supplies and to demoralize the Confederacy as a whole. What might first appear as a haphazard battle plan it was intricately designed by studying the demographics of the south to take advantage of the best route Sherman’s troops could take to resupply their food stores along the way by confiscating what was needed from the local population and destroying any material stores that could be shipped to Lee’s Army. Sherman would for the entire campaign be so to speak behind enemy lines. The plan worked brilliantly and Lee was finally trapped outside of Petersburg close to Richmond, Virginia. The siege lasted for nine months of murderous trench warfare that ended on April 2, 1865 when Lee was forced to retreat from his defensive positions. On April 9, 1865 Confederate General Robert E. Lee signed the Unconditional Surrender of Confederate forces to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox that finally ended the Civil War the was to prove to be the bloodiest war in American history to this date. After the war in late 1865 Grant was asked to tour the South by President Andrew Johnson and to send a report back on the conditions in the South. General Grant was greeted with surprising friendliness as he made his tour and when he sent his report (Officially called the “Report on Conditions in the South”) Grant recommended a lenient Reconstruction Policy. Grants war record had earned him great respect not only with the population but also those in government and on July 25, 1866 Congress establishes a new rank of “General” for Grant making him the first four star General in U. S. history. During this time General Grant and President Johnson worked closely together on the reconstruction of the South and General Grant oversaw the early years of Army oversight the South’s reconstruction. The South was divided into five military districts consisting of (Virginia, the first district, was commanded by Gen. John Schofield. The second district brought North and South Carolina under the command of Gen. Daniel E. Sickles, and Gen. John Pope oversaw the reconstruction of Georgia, Alabama, and Florida in the third district. The fourth district, comprising Mississippi and Arkansas, was commanded by Gen. Edward Ord, and in the fifth, Texas and Louisiana came under the control of Gen. Philip H. Sheridan. Some 200,000 U.S. soldiers were stationed throughout the South to preserve order and carry out the dictates of Congress). The Freedmen’s Bureau Act of March 3, 1864 was enforced under Army supervision.
President Johnson was now running for re-election and needed to get the very popular Grant out of the way and ordered him to Mexico in the fall of 1866, an order Grant adamantly refused to obey because he argued the President did not have the authority to send the military on a political mission. In 1867 Johnson removed Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and thereby tested the constitutionality of the Tenure of Office Act, which dictated that removals from office be at the assent of Congress, and in August appointed Grant interim secretary of war. When Congress insisted upon Stanton’s reinstatement, Grant resigned (January 1868), thus infuriating Johnson, who believed that Grant had agreed to remain in office to provoke a court decision. Johnson’s angry charges brought an open break between the two men and strengthened Grant’s ties to the Republican Party, which led to his nomination for president in 1868.
President Ulysses S. Grant (March 4, 1869-March 4, 1877)
Ulysses S. Grant could be correctly called the Reluctant President in that he had no ambition for politics at all. Because of his support of Stanton he had become extremely popular with the Radical Republicans and they pushed him to run for the Presidency. Grant initially refused to consider the thought because his career in the military had kept him isolated from the political arena and therefore he had almost no knowledge of the political scene. Grant was also reluctant because if he was elected and were to serve two terms he would lose his lifetime military pension and would be 56 years old with no guaranteed income to support himself and his wife after his time as President. The editor of the Washington Daily Chronicle John Weiss Forney who had previously supported other candidates for President took on the job of convincing Grant to run to save the country he had so gallantly fought for. Forney drew up an article listing Grant’s accomplishments during the war that only increased his popularity with the Republicans and at the 1868 Republican National Convention held in Chicago, Illinois Grant was unanimously chosen to be the Republican candidate for President. History has proven that President Grant was a man of unusual honesty but also a man of somewhat poor judgement when it came to his Cabinet appointments. Because he was so naive when it came to politics he lacked to political savvy to appoint some powerful Congressional members to his Cabinet in favor of friends he trusted that proved to be less than trustworthy once appointed. His reluctance to then remove them led to some very embarrassing scandals that plagued his administration especially in his second term. These scandals included Crédit Mobilier, Black Friday, The Whiskey Ring and the Trader post scandal (1876). Although these scandals were to prove to be an embarrassment for Grant himself was never personally involved in any of them. To his great credit he also had some great accomplishments to add to his legacy including the 15th Amendment, Force Acts of 1870, Amnesty Act of 1872, Comstock Act, Civil Rights Act of 1875, The Electoral Commission Act of 1876 and the Yellowstone Act.
Impact and Legacy
Ulysses S. Grant left the White House in 1877, admitting in a remarkable farewell address to Congress that it had been his “misfortune to be called to the Office of Chief Executive without any political training” and apologizing for his “errors of judgment.” Perhaps some of Grant’s troubles as President are related to his disdain for politics. He came into office wanting to serve all the American people and was determined to avoid party politics. At the same time, he did not really understand politics, which hindered his effectiveness as President, and he believed in the supremacy of the legislative branch. The Grant years finished what the Johnson years had begun: a significant weakening of the American presidency. Congress, especially the Senate, had seized the reins of power, and the presidency would not regain its stature until the turn of the twentieth century.
Nevertheless, Grant’s motives and efforts as President were admirable and noteworthy. For many years, his presidency was viewed against the backdrop of Southern resentment toward Reconstruction. Only more recently have historians begun to appreciate Grant’s commitment to African Americans. He fought to protect the rights of African Americans more than any other nineteenth-century President. He worked hard to ensure the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment and tried to make it possible for blacks to vote. Ultimately much of the country abandoned African Americans to segregation and discrimination but Grant was not responsible for that failure.
The Grant administration was also routinely labeled one of the most corrupt in U.S. history. Despite the scandals that arose during his tenure, Grant was never personally involved with any of them, and his honesty and personal integrity were never questioned. Still, his inability to clean up his own administration was a blight on his presidential record. Grant’s disdain for politics might be responsible for some of the corruption in his administration. He believed that his more straightforward approach was superior but his inability or unwillingness to play the political game led him to become involved with people of an unsavory reputation. And his loyalty to those who served him prevented him from ruthlessly purging his administration of ineffective or corrupt politicians.
Ultimately, President Grant remains somewhat of an enigma in American history. He was such a successful general that his failings as President seem hard to comprehend. He was a natural leader on the battlefield but was not an especially effective leader of his country. Still, in the areas of Native American policy, civil service reform, and African American rights, he took steps that few had attempted. He also executed a successful foreign policy and was responsible for improving Anglo-American relations.  Copied from millercenter.com