On April 27, 1822 a boy was born to Jesse Root Grant and Hannah Simpson Grant in the small town of Point Pleasant, Ohio. They named their son Hiram Ulysses Grant. In 1823 the family moved to a town nearby called Georgetown, Ohio, where Ulysses’ father owned a tannery and some farmland. Grant had two brothers and three sisters born in Georgetown. Ulysses attended school in Georgetown until he was 14. He then spent one year at the academy in Maysville, Kentucky, and in 1838, he entered an academy in nearby Ripely, Ohio. Early in 1839, his father learned that a neighbors son had been dismissed from the U.S. Military Academy.
Jesse asked his congressman to appoint Ulysses as a replacement. The congressman made a mistake in Grant’s name. He thought that Ulysses was his first name and his middle name that of his mother’s maiden name. But Ulysses never corrected the mistake. Grant was an average student at West Point. He spent most of his free time reading novels and little time studying. He ranked high in math and was very good at horsemanship. Ulysses did not like the military life and had no intention of making it his career. Instead he considered teaching mathematics in a college.
Grant graduated from West Point in 1843 and was commissioned a second lieutenant. He was assigned to the 4th Infantry Regiment stationed near St. Louis. It was there that he met Julia Dent. They fell in love and soon became engages. The threat of war with Mexico delayed their wedding plans. In 1847, Grant took part in the capture of Mexico City and won a promotion for his skill and bravery. He reached the rank of 1st Lieutenant by the end of the war. Grant returned to St. Louis as soon as he could and on Aug. 22, 1848, he was married to Julia Dent.
During their marriage, the Grant’s had four children: Frederick, Ulysses S.Jr. , Ellen, and Jesse Root Jr. Civil War Era Grant was almost 39 years old when the Civil War began in 1861. He had freed his only slave in 1859 and strongly opposed secession. After President Abraham Lincoln called for Army volunteers, Grant helped drill a company that was formed in Galena. Then he went to Springfield, the state capital, and worked for the Illinois assistant general. Grant asked the federal government for a commission as colonel, but his request was ignored. Two months later, Governor Richard Yates appointed him colonel of a regiment hat became the 21st Illinois Volunteers.
Grant led these troops on a campaign against Confederates in Missouri. During two months of campaigning, Grant refreshed his memory about handling troops and supplies. Upon the recommendation of Elihu B. Washburne, an Illinois congressman, President Lincoln appointed Grant a brigadier general in August 1861. Grant established his headquarters at Cairo, Illinois, in September 1861. He soon learned that Confederate forces planned to seize Paducah, Kentucky. Grant ruined this plan by occupying the city. On Nov. 7, 1861, is troops drove the Confederates from Belmont, Missouri, but the enemy rallied and retook the position.
In January 1862, Grant persuaded his commanding officer, General Henry W. Halleck, to allow him to attack Fort Henry, on the Tennessee River. As Grant’s army approached Fort Henry, most of the Confederates withdrew. A Union gunboat fleet, sent ahead to aid Grant, captured the fort easily. On his own initiative, Grant then lay siege to nearby Fort Donelson. When the fort commander asked for terms of surrender, Grant replied: “No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. The Confederate commander realized he had no choice but to accept what he called Grant’s “ungenerous and unchivalrous” demand.
Northerners joyfully declared that Grant’s initials, U. S. , stood for “Unconditional Surrender. ” Grant was promoted to major general. On April 6, 1862, the Confederates opened the Battle of Shiloh by launching a surprise attack on Grant’s forces at Pittsburg Landing, Tenn. The Union troops barely held off the enemy until reinforcements arrived. Persistence brought Grant a great victory at Vicksburg, Miss. All through the winter of 1862-1863, his roops advanced against this Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River. In May 1863, Grant defeated a Confederate army and then besieged Vicksburg.
On July 4, 1863, the Confederates surrendered. Grant succeeded consistently in the West while Union generals in the East were failing. Early in 1864, Lincoln promoted Grant to lieutenant general and put him in command of all Union armies. Grant went to Virginia and began a campaign against the forces of General Robert E. Lee. Grant’s troops suffered severe losses in several battles as he forced Lee to retreat slowly toward Richmond, Va. the Confederate capital. Many critics in the North called Grant a “butcher” because he lost so many men.
During a bloody battle at Spotsylvania Court House on May 8-12, 1864, Grant declared: “I … urpose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer. ” The fierce pressure of the Union Army forced Lee to abandon Richmond early in April 1865. Grant quickly pursued him, and Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House, Va. Grant released Lee and his soldiers on their honor and allowed the men to keep their horses “for the spring plowing. ” The Election of 1868 The Republicans badly needed a popular hero for their presidential candidate in 1868. The Democratic Party still controlled many large Northern states that had a great percentage of the electoral votes.
Delegates to the Republican National Convention nominated Grant unanimously on the first ballot. They chose speaker of the House Schuyler Colfax of Indiana for vice president. The Democrats nominated former Governor Horatio Seymour of New York for president and former Representative Francis P. Blair, Jr. , of Missouri as his running mate. Grant defeated Seymour by a decisive majority f the electoral votes. In Grant’s first inaugural address on March 4, 1869, He admitted that he had no political experience. But he promised that he would not be ruled by professional politicians.
The office has come to me unsought,” he said. “I commence its duties untrammeled. ” Grant’s selections for his Cabinet showed his independence from the Republican Party. He did not consult party leaders about his appointments. For other government offices, Grant chose personal friends and army officers. He also appointed some relatives. Grant’s administration worked to bring the North and South closer ogether. It helped persuade Congress to pardon many former Confederate leaders and tried to limit the use of federal troops stationed in the South.
He also tried to maintain the rights of Southern blacks. He used federal troops to protect blacks from the Ku Klux Klan and other white groups that organized in the South to keep blacks from voting. In 1870 and 1871, Congress passed three Force Bills to enforce the voting rights of blacks In 1873, Grant won the presidential ballet again against Horace Greeley. Greeley was the editor of the New York Tribune. Grant’s second erm got off to a bad start as Congress investigated the Credit Mobilier, a construction company owned by leading stockholders of the Union Pacific Railroad.
The investigation revealed that many congressmen had taken bribes from the firm to do favors for the Union Pacific. Congress reprehended several men involved in the scandal. In September 1873, several important Eastern banks failed, and a financial panic swept the country. Hardest hit by the panic were bankers, manufacturers, and farmers of the South and West. In an attempt to gain relief, many farmers joined the Greenback Party. This party and other groups emanded an inflation of the nation’s currency to ease the depression. This event was known as the Panic of 1873.
The voters reacted strongly to the panic and to continued evidence of corruption in government. Grant himself showed poor judgment by accepting personal gifts. The Democrats won a sweeping victory in the congressional elections of 1874. The new Congress investigated the Whiskey Ring, which Secretary of the Treasury Benjamin H. Bristow had uncovered. The investigators found that whiskey distillers in St. Louis and other cities had conspired with tax officials to rob the government of excise taxes. The investigators also charged that Grant’s secretary, General Babcock, had protected the ring from exposure.
Grant stoutly defended Babcock, who was cleared of the charges. Many other officials were convicted of defrauding the government. In spite of the growing list of scandals, many Republican leaders wanted to nominate Grant for a third term as president. But Grant refused to run again. In June 1876, the Republicans nominated Governor Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio for president. Hayes won the presidency by a margin of only one electoral vote. When Grant retired in 1879, he had about $100,000 in savings and ecided to invest it in a banking firm called Grant & Ward.
His son was a partner in this company. Grant knew nothing about banking, but his son assured him that Ferdinand Ward was a financial genius. The collapse of the company came in 1884 leaving Grant almost penniless. In order to make a living after this great loss, Grant began writing magazine articles about his war experiences. Soon he began to write his memoirs. The memoirs were a great success and earned Grant’s family about $500,000. In 1885, Grant moved to Mount McGregor, New York, near Saratoga. Grant died on July 23,1885 from cancer. His wife later died in 1902.