Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant: A Military Genius and American Statesman

Ulysses S. Grant, a name etched in the annals of American history, stands as a prominent figure whose life and achievements have left an indelible mark on the nation. Born on April 27, 1822, in Point Pleasant, Ohio, Hiram Ulysses Grant would rise to become a distinguished military leader and the 18th President of the United States. Grant’s legacy is deeply intertwined with the American Civil War, where his strategic brilliance and unyielding determination played a pivotal role in the Union’s victory. This article by Academic Block explores the life, military career, and presidency of Ulysses S. Grant, shedding light on the man behind the iconic image.

Early Life and Military Career:

Grant’s early years were marked by an unassuming background, growing up in the small town of Georgetown, Ohio. The son of Jesse Root Grant and Hannah Simpson Grant, he demonstrated little interest in academics but exhibited a natural talent for horsemanship and practical skills. In 1839, at the age of 17, Grant entered the United States Military Academy at West Point. Contrary to popular belief, he did not receive the name ‘Ulysses S.’ at birth. A mistake by the congressman who nominated him resulted in the addition of an “S” to his name, which he later accepted.

Despite his initial disinterest in a military career, Grant’s time at West Point proved to be a turning point. He excelled in horsemanship and mathematics, showcasing an innate ability for strategy. After graduating in 1843, Grant served in the Mexican-American War under General Zachary Taylor and General Winfield Scott, gaining valuable experience that would later shape his approach to warfare.

Post-war Life and Civilian Struggles:

Following the Mexican-American War, Grant faced numerous challenges in civilian life. He married Julia Dent in 1848, and the couple would go on to have four children. Grant’s attempts at various civilian occupations, including farming and real estate, were marred by financial difficulties. His ventures were largely unsuccessful, leading to a period of hardship and strained family relationships. During these years, Grant struggled with alcohol, which would become a recurring theme in his life.

Grant’s resilience and determination, however, remained steadfast. Despite facing financial ruin and social isolation, he continued to support his family, often working in obscurity. These experiences would later contribute to his stoic demeanor and pragmatic approach during the Civil War and his presidency.

Civil War and Rise to Prominence:

When the Civil War erupted in 1861, Grant’s military instincts were reignited. He reentered military service and quickly rose through the ranks due to his strategic acumen. His first major success came in 1862 when he captured Fort Donelson, securing a key position for the Union along the Cumberland River. Grant’s famous demand for “unconditional surrender” earned him the nickname “Unconditional Surrender” Grant.

The Battle of Shiloh in April 1862 tested Grant’s leadership as Confederate forces launched a surprise attack. Although the Union forces initially struggled, Grant’s determination and strategic thinking turned the tide, resulting in a Union victory. Despite heavy casualties, Shiloh showcased Grant’s resilience and ability to adapt under pressure.

Grant’s military successes continued with the capture of Vicksburg in 1863, a crucial victory that gave the Union control of the Mississippi River. Around the same time, he played a pivotal role in the Union victory at the Battle of Chattanooga. These successes solidified Grant’s reputation as one of the Union’s most capable generals.

In March 1864, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Grant as Lieutenant General, a rank previously held only by George Washington. Grant’s new role as general-in-chief placed him in command of all Union armies. His strategic vision became central to the Union’s war effort, as he developed a coordinated plan to defeat the Confederacy.

The Overland Campaign and Appomattox:

Grant’s most well-known campaign, the Overland Campaign, began in 1864 with the goal of engaging and defeating General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. This brutal and protracted campaign included some of the bloodiest battles of the war, such as the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, and Cold Harbor.

Grant’s tactics were marked by relentless pressure on the Confederate forces, recognizing the Union’s superior resources. Despite heavy casualties, Grant maintained a steady advance, keeping Lee’s army on the defensive. The Siege of Petersburg, a prolonged affair that lasted almost a year, ultimately led to the fall of Richmond, the Confederate capital.

On April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the Civil War. Grant’s magnanimous terms of surrender allowed Confederate officers and soldiers to return home without facing prosecution. This gesture aimed to promote reconciliation and heal the wounds of a divided nation.

Post-War Reconstruction and Politics:

With the war over, Grant faced the monumental task of overseeing the post-war Reconstruction era. As general-in-chief, he supported the Reconstruction policies of President Andrew Johnson, aimed at reintegrating the Southern states into the Union. Grant advocated for civil rights and the protection of freed slaves, aligning himself with the Radical Republicans in Congress.

In 1868, Grant entered the political arena as the Republican candidate for the presidency. His military successes and reputation as a unifier appealed to voters, and he won the election against his Democratic opponent, Horatio Seymour. Grant’s presidency, spanning two terms from 1869 to 1877, focused on issues such as civil rights, economic stability, and westward expansion.

Domestic Policies and Challenges:

Grant’s administration faced numerous challenges, including economic issues such as the Panic of 1873, which led to a severe economic depression. Despite the economic turmoil, Grant pursued policies aimed at protecting the rights of African Americans in the South, including the enforcement of the 15th Amendment, granting voting rights regardless of race or color.

Grant’s efforts to address corruption within his administration were mixed. While he implemented civil service reforms and sought to root out corruption, his presidency was marred by the notorious Whiskey Ring scandal, which implicated members of his administration in a tax evasion scheme.

Foreign Affairs and Achievements:

Grant’s presidency also saw notable achievements in foreign affairs. His administration successfully settled the Alabama claims with Great Britain through the Treaty of Washington in 1871, easing tensions between the two nations. Grant’s diplomacy played a crucial role in preventing a conflict that could have strained relations between the United States and Britain.

In 1872, Grant became the first sitting president to visit a foreign country when he traveled to Canada. This diplomatic move aimed to strengthen ties with the neighboring nation and promote peaceful relations.

His Works:

Transcontinental Railroad: One of the most significant development projects during Grant’s presidency was the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad. The Pacific Railway Act of 1862, passed during Abraham Lincoln’s administration, provided federal support for the construction of a railroad connecting the east and west coasts. The Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads were the primary companies involved in the project, and their tracks met at Promontory Summit, Utah, in 1869. The completion of the transcontinental railroad facilitated cross-country travel and commerce, contributing to economic growth and westward expansion.

Southern Reconstruction: Grant’s presidency coincided with the tumultuous period of Southern Reconstruction following the Civil War. Development projects in the Southern states included efforts to rebuild infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and railroads, that had been damaged or destroyed during the war. The Freedmen’s Bureau, established in 1865, also played a role in providing assistance to newly freed slaves and poor whites, including education and healthcare initiatives.

Civil Rights Legislation: Grant supported and signed into law several civil rights acts during his presidency. The Civil Rights Act of 1871, also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, aimed to protect the rights of African Americans in the South by combating the violence and intimidation perpetrated by the Ku Klux Klan. These legislative efforts were crucial for fostering social development and addressing the challenges faced by newly emancipated individuals.

Currency and Banking Reform: Grant’s administration undertook efforts to address the economic challenges of the time. The National Banking Act of 1864 established a system of national banks, providing a more stable and uniform currency. The administration also worked to reduce wartime inflation by implementing policies to contract the money supply, known as the Resumption Act of 1875, with the goal of returning to the gold standard.

Treaty of Washington: In 1871, the United States, under Grant’s administration, negotiated the Treaty of Washington with Great Britain. The treaty settled several long-standing disputes between the two nations, including the Alabama Claims, stemming from British-built Confederate raiders damaging Union ships during the Civil War. The resolution of these issues contributed to improved relations between the United States and Great Britain and had positive economic implications.

Conservation and National Parks: While not as extensive as later conservation efforts, Grant’s administration did make contributions to the preservation of natural resources. In 1872, he signed into law the Yellowstone National Park Act, establishing the world’s first national park. This marked an early step in the development of the national park system, preserving natural wonders for future generations.

Civil Service Reforms: Grant’s presidency witnessed some initial efforts towards civil service reforms. The Civil Service Act of 1871, also known as the Civil Service Reform Act, established a merit-based system for certain federal appointments. Although the act had limited impact at the time, it laid the groundwork for later civil service reforms in the United States.

Diplomatic Relations with China: Grant’s administration also played a role in the development of diplomatic and economic ties with China. The Burlingame Treaty of 1868 expanded trade relations and facilitated Chinese immigration to the United States, contributing to the economic development of both nations.

Legacy and Death:

Ulysses S. Grant’s legacy is multifaceted, encompassing his military prowess, his role in the Reconstruction era, and his presidency. While celebrated for his military victories and contributions to the Union cause, Grant’s presidency is often criticized for corruption within his administration. However, his commitment to civil rights and efforts to mend the nation after the Civil War remain significant aspects of his legacy.

After leaving the presidency in 1877, Grant faced financial ruin once again due to failed investments. Diagnosed with throat cancer in 1884, he began writing his memoirs to secure his family’s financial future. Completed just days before his death on July 23, 1885, Grant’s memoirs, titled “Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant,” became a critical and commercial success. The memoirs are praised for their candid and eloquent style, offering invaluable insights into the Civil War and the man who played a central role in its outcome.

Final Words

Ulysses S. Grant’s life is a remarkable narrative of resilience, leadership, and service to the nation. From humble beginnings to the pinnacle of military and political power, Grant’s journey reflects the challenges and triumphs of a critical period in American history. As a military strategist, he played a decisive role in securing Union victory during the Civil War, while his presidency grappled with the complexities of Reconstruction and the challenges of a rapidly changing nation. Despite facing personal and political setbacks, Grant’s enduring legacy endures as a testament to his indomitable spirit and commitment to the principles of the United States. Please provide your comments below, it will help us in improving this article. Thanks for reading!

Ulysses S. Grant
18th President of the United States
Personal Details
Date of Birth : 27th  April 1822
Died : 23th  July 1885
Place of Birth : Point Pleasant, Ohio, U.S.
Father : Jesse Root Grant
Mother : Hannah Simpson Grant
Spouse/Partner : Julia Dent
Children : Frederick Dent, Ulysses S. “Buck” Grant Jr., Ellen Wrenshall “Nellie”, Jesse Root
Alma Mater : United States Military Academy at West Point
Professions : Military Officer, Politician
Career History

Served As:      18th President of the United States
Time Period:   March 4, 1869 – March 4, 1877
Predecessor:  Andrew Johnson
Successor:     Rutherford B. Hayes

Served As:      Commanding General of the U.S. Army
Time Period:  March 9, 1864– March 4, 186
Predecessor:  Henry W. Halleck
Successor:      William Tecumseh Sherman

Served As:      Acting United States Secretary of War
Time Period:  August 12, 1867– January 14, 1868
Predecessor:  Edwin Stanton
Successor:      Edwin Stanton

Famous quotes by Ulysses S. Grant

“The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on.”

“In every battle there comes a time when both sides consider themselves beaten, then he who continues the attack wins.”

“The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most. I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity.”

“The fact is, I think I am a verb instead of a personal pronoun. A verb is anything that signifies to be; to do; or to suffer. I signify all three.”

“I only know two tunes: one of them is ‘Yankee Doodle,’ and the other one isn’t.”

“The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most. I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity.”

“Labor disgraces no man; unfortunately, you occasionally find men who disgrace labor.”

“I know no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent execution.”

“I have never advocated war except as a means of peace.”

“I appreciate the fact, and am proud of it, that the attentions I am receiving are intended more for our country than for me personally.”

Controversies related to Ulysses S. Grant

Corruption Scandals: Grant’s administration was marred by several corruption scandals that tarnished his reputation. The most infamous among them was the Whiskey Ring scandal. In 1875, it was revealed that government officials and distillers were conspiring to defraud the government of excise tax revenues on whiskey. Grant’s private secretary, Orville E. Babcock, was implicated in the scandal, and although Grant himself was not directly implicated, the controversy raised questions about the administration’s integrity.

Credit Mobilier Scandal: The Credit Mobilier scandal, which unfolded in the early 1870s, involved the Union Pacific Railroad’s construction company, Credit Mobilier of America. Members of Congress, including Grant’s Vice President, Schuyler Colfax, were accused of accepting bribes and discounted shares in return for favorable legislation related to the transcontinental railroad. While Grant himself was not implicated, the scandal further fueled perceptions of corruption within the government.

Indian Affairs and the Peace Policy: Grant’s administration pursued a Peace Policy towards Native American tribes, aimed at assimilating them into white culture and reducing conflicts on the frontier. However, the implementation of this policy faced criticism for its paternalistic approach, and some individuals involved in Indian affairs were accused of corruption. The policy itself had mixed results and did not entirely alleviate tensions with Native American communities.

Economic Challenges and the Panic of 1873: Grant’s presidency coincided with economic challenges, culminating in the Panic of 1873. The economic downturn led to widespread unemployment and financial hardship for many Americans. While the administration attempted to address the economic crisis, including the passage of the Resumption Act of 1875, the measures were not entirely successful, and Grant faced criticism for the economic turmoil.

Civil Rights and Enforcement of Reconstruction: While Grant supported civil rights legislation, the enforcement of Reconstruction policies in the Southern states faced challenges. The Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 aimed at combating violence and intimidation against African Americans, but its enforcement was difficult. Grant declared martial law in several Southern counties, suspending habeas corpus and using federal troops to suppress Klan activities. Critics argued that these measures were excessive and undermined civil liberties.

Grant’s Relationship with Congress: Grant faced tension with Congress, particularly during his second term. Disagreements over economic policies, civil service reforms, and issues related to Reconstruction strained the relationship between the executive and legislative branches. Grant’s attempt to seek a third term further exacerbated these tensions.

Foreign Relations and the Virginius Affair: The Virginius Affair in 1873 strained relations between the United States and Spain. The Virginius, an American ship involved in filibustering activities (supporting insurrections), was captured by Spanish authorities. The incident escalated, raising the specter of war between the two nations. While diplomatic efforts averted a military conflict, the incident added another layer of complexity to Grant’s foreign policy legacy.

Academic References on Ulysses S. Grant

Books:

“Grant” by Ron Chernow (2017)

“Grant Takes Command” by Bruce Catton (1968)

“Grant: A Biography” by William S. McFeely (1981)

“The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace” by H.W. Brands (2012)

“Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant” (1885)

“Grant’s Final Victory: Ulysses S. Grant’s Heroic Last Year” by Charles Bracelen Flood (2011)

“Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won the Civil War” by Charles Bracelen Flood (2005)

“Grant’s Tomb: The Epic Death of Ulysses S. Grant and the Making of an American Pantheon” by Louis L. Picone (2019)

Articles:

“Ulysses S. Grant: An American Hero” by Joan Waugh (American History, April 2012)

“Ulysses S. Grant: Strategist, Commander, and the Man” by James I. Robertson Jr. (American History, May 2009)

“Ulysses S. Grant: An Unlikely Hero” by William S. McFeely (American Heritage, June/July 2000)

“Grant and Lee at Appomattox” by James M. McPherson (Smithsonian Magazine, April 2010)

“Ulysses S. Grant: The Indispensable Man” by Joan Waugh (Civil War Times, November 2019)

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