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Ulysses S. Grant

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Background Information

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Ulysses Grant
Ulysses Grant 1870-1880.jpg
18th President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1869 – March 4, 1877
Vice President Schuyler Colfax (1869–1873)
Henry Wilson (1873–1875)
None (1875–1877)
Preceded by Andrew Johnson
Succeeded by Rutherford B. Hayes
Commanding General of the Army
In office
March 9, 1864 – March 4, 1869
President Abraham Lincoln
Andrew Johnson
Preceded by Henry Halleck
Succeeded by William Sherman
Personal details
Born Hiram Ulysses Grant
(1822-04-27)April 27, 1822
Point Pleasant, Ohio, US
Died July 23, 1885(1885-07-23) (aged 63)
Wilton, New York, US
Resting place General Grant National Memorial
New York City
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Julia Dent
Children Jesse
Alma mater U.S.M.A.
Profession Soldier
Religion Methodism
Signature Cursive signature in ink
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch Union Army
United States Army
Years of service 1839–1854
Rank US Army General insignia (1866).svg General of the Army
Commands 21st Illinois Infantry Regiment
Army of the Tennessee
Military Division of the Mississippi
United States Army
Battles/wars Mexican-American War
  • Battle of Resaca de la Palma
  • Battle of Palo Alto
  • Battle of Monterrey
  • Siege of Veracruz
  • Battle of Molino del Rey
  • Battle of Chapultepec

American Civil War

  • Battle of Fort Donelson
  • Battle of Shiloh
  • Siege of Vicksburg
  • Chattanooga Campaign
  • Overland Campaign
  • Siege of Petersburg
  • Appomattox Campaign

Ulysses S. Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant; April 27, 1822 – July 23, 1885) was the 18th President of the United States (1869–1877) following his highly successful role as a war general in the second half of the Civil War. Under Grant, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military; having effectively ended the war and secession with the surrender of Robert E. Lee's army at Appomattox. As president he led the Radical Republicans in their effort to eliminate all vestiges of Confederate nationalism and slavery. Upset over uncontrolled violence in the South, President Grant effectively destroyed the Ku Klux Klan in 1871. President Grant believed in the protection of African-American voting and civil rights. Grant was the first President to establish Civil Service reform having created a two-year federally funded Civil Service Commission in 1871. In terms of foreign policy, Grant revealed an "unexpected capacity for deliberation and consultation" that promoted the national interest. His reputation was marred by his repeated defense of corrupt appointees, and by America's first industrial age economic depression (called the " Panic of 1873") that dominated his second term. Although his Republican Party split in 1872 with reformers denouncing him, Grant was easily reelected. By 1875 the conservative white Southern opposition regained control of every state in the South and as he left the White House in March 1877 his policies were being undone. Reconstruction ended on a note of failure as the civil rights of blacks did not remain secure. President Grant, however, after the controversial Presidential election of 1876, through a series of military deployments, secured the South from secession.

A career soldier, he graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and served in the Mexican–American War. When the Civil War began in 1861, Grant trained Union volunteer regiments in Illinois. In 1862, as a general he fought a series of battles and was promoted to major general after forcing the surrender of a large Confederate army and gaining control of Kentucky and most of Tennessee. He then led Union forces to victory after initial setbacks in the Battle of Shiloh, earning a reputation as an aggressive commander. In July 1863, after a long, complex campaign, Grant defeated five uncoordinated Confederate armies (capturing one of them) and seized Vicksburg. This famous victory gave the Union full control of the Mississippi River, split off the western Confederacy, and opened the way for more Union triumphs. After another win at the Battle of Chattanooga in late 1863, President Abraham Lincoln made him lieutenant general and commander of all of the Union Armies. As commanding general of the army, Grant confronted Robert E. Lee in a series of very bloody battles in 1864 known as the Overland Campaign that ended with the bottling up of Lee at Petersburg, outside the Confederate capital of Richmond. During the siege, Grant coordinated a series of devastating campaigns launched by William Tecumseh Sherman, Philip Sheridan, and George Thomas. Finally breaking through Lee's trenches, the Union Army captured Richmond in April 1865. Lee surrendered his depleted forces to Grant at Appomattox as the Confederacy collapsed. Although Lee's allies denounced Grant in the 1870s as a ruthless butcher who won by brute force, most historians have hailed his military genius.

Grant's two consecutive terms as President stabilized the nation after the American Civil War and during the turbulent Reconstruction period that followed. As president, he enforced Reconstruction by enforcing civil rights laws and fighting Ku Klux Klan violence. Grant won passage of the Fifteenth Amendment; giving constitutional protection for African-American voting rights. He used the army to build the Republican Party in the South, based on black voters, Northern newcomers (" Carpetbaggers") and native white supporters (" Scalawags.") As a result, African Americans were represented in the U.S. Congress for the first time in American history in 1870. Reformers praised Grant's Indian peace policy by having broken the deadlock on Indian appropriations in Congress, the creation of the Board of Indian Commissioners to make reform recommendations, and his enlistment of Quaker Protestants who controlled mid western Indian agencies, that effectively curbed Congressional patronage. Grant remained determined in keeping Indians from being exterminated from white settler encroachment or by the U.S. military. Grant's reputation as president by 1875 was at an all-time high for his previous veto of the Inflation Bill, the passage of the Resumption of Specie Act, and Secretary Bristow's successful raids that shut down the Whiskey Ring.

Grant's foreign policy, led by Secretary of State Hamilton Fish, implemented International Arbitration, settled the Alabama Claims with Britain and avoided war with Spain over the Virginius Affair. His attempted annexation of the Dominican Republic failed. Grant's response to the Panic of 1873 gave necessary, although limited, financial relief to New York banking houses, but was ineffective in stopping the severe five-year industrial depression that followed. More than any other president, Grant had to respond to Congressional investigations into financial corruption charges of all federal departments. In 1876, Grant's reputation was damaged by his White House deposition defending his personal secretary Orville Babcock, indicted in the Whiskey Ring graft trials, and his Secretary of War William W. Belknap's resignation, impeachment by the House, trial and acquittal in the Senate over receiving profit money from the Fort Sill tradership. After leaving office, Grant embarked on a two-year world tour that included many enthusiastic royal receptions. In 1880, he made an unsuccessful bid for a third presidential term. His memoirs were a critical and popular success. Historians until recently have given Grant's presidency the worst rankings; however, his reputation has significantly improved because of greater appreciation for his foreign policy and civil rights achievements, particularly: avoiding war with Britain and Spain, the Fifteenth Amendment, persecution of the Ku Klux Klan, enforcement of voting rights, and his Indian Peace Policy.

Early life and family

This is a color photo of Grant's birthplace:a small one story wood panel house.
Ulysses S. Grant's birthplace in Point Pleasant, Ohio

Hiram Ulysses Grant was born in Point Pleasant, Ohio on April 27, 1822. His father Jesse Root Grant (1794–1873) was a self-reliant tanner (leather producer) and businessman, from an austere family, and his mother was Hannah (Simpson) Grant (1798–1883). Both were natives of Pennsylvania. In the fall of 1823, the family moved to the village of Georgetown in Brown County, Ohio. At one point, according to Grant's memoirs, his father Jesse worked in the tanning business for the father of John Brown.

Grant was of English and Scottish ancestry; his immigrant ancestor Mathew Grant arrived with Puritans from England in the 1630s. Raised in a Methodist family devoid of religious pretentiousness, Grant prayed privately and was not an official member of the church. Unlike his younger siblings, Grant was neither disciplined, baptized, nor forced to attend church by his parents. Grant is said to have inherited a degree of introversion from his reserved, even "uncommonly detached" mother (she never took occasion to visit the White House during her son's presidency). Grant assumed the duties expected of him as a young man at home, which primarily included maintaining the firewood supply; he thereby developed a noteworthy ability to work with, and control, horses in his charge, and used this in providing transportation as a vocation in his youth. At the age of 17, with the help of his father, Grant was nominated by Congressman Thomas L. Hamer for a position at the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, New York. Hamer mistakenly nominated him as "Ulysses S. Grant of Ohio." At West Point, he adopted this name with a middle initial only. His nickname became "Sam" among army colleagues at the academy, since the initials "U.S." stood for "Uncle Sam". The "S", according to Grant, did not "stand for anything", though Hamer had used it to abbreviate his mother's maiden name.

The influence of Grant's family brought about the appointment to West Point, while Grant himself later recalled "a military life had no charms for me". Grant, then standing at 5 feet 2 inches and weighing 117 lbs, graduated from West Point in 1843, ranking 21st in a class of 39. Part of Grant's demerits were due to his refusal, at times, of compulsory church attendance, then a West Point policy that Grant viewed as anti-republican. Grant freely admitted that he was lax in his studies; however, he achieved above average grades in mathematics and geology. He established no close or lasting friendships while at West Point, though to his own later advantage, he closely observed the many notable officers he would serve with and command in the future. At West Point, Grant studied under Romantic artist Robert Walter Weir and produced nine surviving artworks. Trained under Prussian horse master Herschberger, Grant established a reputation as a fearless and expert horseman, setting an equestrian high-jump record that lasted almost 25 years. Grant later recalled that his departure from West Point was of the happiest of his times, and that his intent had been to resign his commission after serving the minimum term of obligated duty. Although naturally suited for cavalry, he was assigned to duty as a regimental quartermaster, managing supplies and equipment in the 4th U.S. Infantry, and achieved the rank of brevet second lieutenant.

Mexican–American War and pre Civil War service

Grant's portrait is in the middle of a picture surrounded by his chronological military history starting with graduating from West Point, next the Mexican-American War, and finally Civil War events and battle scenes.
Grant from West Point to Appomattox, an 1885 engraving by Thure de Thulstrup. Clockwise from lower left: Graduation from West Point (1843); In the tower at Chapultepec (1847); Drilling his Volunteers (1861); The Battle of Fort Donelson (1862); The Battle of Shiloh (1862); The Siege of Vicksburg (1863); The Battle of Chattanooga (1863); Appointment as Lieutenant General by Abraham Lincoln (1864); The Surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House (1865)

During the Mexican American War (1846–1848), Lieutenant Grant served under Generals Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott. Not content with his responsibilities as a quartermaster, Grant made his way to the front lines to engage in the battle, and participated as a de facto cavalryman in the battles of Resaca de la Palma, Palo Alto, Monterrey, and Veracruz. At Monterrey, he demonstrated his equestrian ability, carrying a dispatch through sniper-lined streets on horseback while mounted in one stirrup . He was twice brevetted for bravery—at Molino del Rey and Chapultepec. He detailed his reflections on the war in his memoirs, indicating he had learned extensively by closely observing the decisions and actions of his commanding officers, particularly admiring Zachary Taylor's methods, and in retrospect identified himself with Taylor's style. At the time he felt that the war was a wrongful one and believed that territorial gains were designed to spread slavery throughout the nation, writing in 1883, "I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day, regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation." He also opined that the later Civil War was inflicted on the nation as punishment for its aggression in Mexico.

On August 22, 1848, after a four-year engagement, Grant married Julia Boggs Dent (1826–1902), the daughter of a prominent Missouri plantation and slave owner, and sister of a West Point roommate, Frederick. He and Julia had four children: Frederick Dent Grant; Ulysses S. "Buck" Grant, Jr.; Ellen Wrenshall "Nellie" Grant; and Jesse Root Grant. The couple corresponded during his service in Mexico; in one letter Julia shared with him a very pleasurable dream she had of him in a beard, which he was then sporting upon his return after the war.

Lieutenant Grant was assigned to several different posts over the ensuing six years. His first post war assignments took him and Julia to Detroit and Sackets Harbour, New York, which was perhaps their happiest location. At this time Julia asked Grant to provide her regularly with whatever funds he considered appropriate to manage their household, which he consented to. She continued to manage the household accounts for them until her death. In the spring of 1852, he traveled in to Washington, DC in a failed attempt to prevail upon the Congress to rescind an order that he, in his capacity as quartermaster, reimburse the military $1000 in losses incurred on his watch, for which he bore no personal guilt.

He was sent west to Fort Vancouver in the Oregon Territory in 1852, initially landing in San Francisco during the height of the California Gold Rush. Julia could not accompany him primarily because she was eight months pregnant with their second child; also, a lieutenant's salary would not support a family on the frontier. The journey proved to be an ordeal due to transportation disruptions and an outbreak of cholera within the entourage while traveling overland through Panama. Grant exhibited notable organizational and humanitarian skills, arranging makeshift transportation and hospital facilities in Cruces to take care of the sick. There were 150 4th Infantry fatalities including Grant's long time fellow soldier friend John H. Gore. After Grant arrived in San Francisco he was stationed in the Pacific Northwest. At Fort Vancouver, he served as quartermaster of the 4th Infantry Regiment. Grant came in contact with western American Indian tribes. In 1853, Grant stated that the Native Americans were "harmless" and that they would be "peaceful" had they not been "put upon by the whites". He stated that the Klickitat tribe was formerly "powerful", yet had been inundated by white civilization's "whiskey and Small pox."

While on assignment out west and in an effort to supplement a military salary inadequate to support his family, Grant, assuming his work as quartermaster so equipped him, attempted but failed at several business ventures. His father had predicted early in this son's life that he would never succeed in business, hence Jesse's efforts to steer him to the military. The business failures in the west only confirmed this belief, creating frustration for both father and son, now into his thirties. In at least one case Grant had even naively allowed himself to be swindled by a partner. These failures, along with the separation from his family, made for quite an unhappy soldier, husband and son. Widespread rumors began to circulate that Grant was drinking in excess.

In the summer of 1853, he was promoted to captain, one of only 50 still on active duty, and assigned to command Company F, 4th Infantry, at Fort Humboldt, at Eureka on the northwest California coast. Without explanation, he shortly thereafter resigned from the army with little notice on July 31, 1854. The commanding officer at Fort Humbolt, Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Robert C. Buchanan, a strict disciplinarian, had reports that Grant was intoxicated off duty while seated at the pay officer's table. Buchanan had previously warned Grant several times to stop the alleged binge drinking. In lieu of a court-martial, Buchanan gave Grant an ultimatum to sign a drafted resignation letter. Grant resigned; the War Department stated on his record, "Nothing stands against his good name." Rumors, however, persisted in the regular army of Grant's intemperance. According to biographer McFeely, historians overwhelmingly agree that his intemperance at the time was a fact, though there are no eyewitness reports extant. Grant's father, again believing his son's only potential for success to be in the military, tried to get the Secretary of War to rescind the resignation, to no avail.

Respite from the military

General Ulysses S. Grant at City Point in 1864 with his wife and son Jesse
"Hardscrabble" home Grant built in Missouri for his family. Photo: 1891

At age 32, with no civilian vocation, Grant began to struggle through seven financially lean years. Jesse initially offered Grant a position in the Galena, Illinois branch of the tannery business, on condition that Julia and the children, for economic reasons, stay with her parents or the Grants in Kentucky. Ulysses and Julia were adamantly opposed to another separation, and declined the offer. From 1854 to 1858, Grant labored on a Dent family farm near St. Louis, Missouri, using slaves owned by Julia's father, but it did not succeed. In 1856, Grant, in order to give his family a home, built a house he called "Hardscrabble", and which he considered an achievement. Julia hated the rustic house, which she described as an "unattractive cabin". During this time, Grant also acquired a slave from Julia's father; Julia herself had inherited four slaves. Having met with no success farming, the Grants left the St. Louis farm when their fourth and final child was born in 1858. Grant, notably, freed his slave instead of selling him, at a time when slaves commanded a high price and Grant needed money badly. For the next year, the family took a small house in St. Louis where he worked, again without success, with Julia's cousin Harry Boggs, as a bill collector. In 1860 Jesse offered him the job in his tannery in Galena, Illinois, without condition, which Ulysses accepted. The leather shop, "Grant & Perkins", sold harnesses, saddles, and other leather goods and purchased hides from farmers in the prosperous Galena area. He moved his family to Galena before the Civil War broke out.

Although unopposed to slavery at the time, Grant kept his political opinions private and never endorsed any candidate running for public office before the Civil War. His father-in-law was a prominent Democrat in St. Louis, a factor that helped derail Grant's bid to become county engineer in 1859, while his own father was an outspoken Republican in Galena. In the 1856 election, he cast his first presidential vote for the Democratic candidate James Buchanan, saying he was really voting against Fremont, the Republican presidential candidate. In 1860, he favored the Democratic presidential candidate Stephen A. Douglas over Abraham Lincoln, and Lincoln over the alternate Democratic candidate, John C. Breckinridge. Lacking the residency requirements in Illinois at the time, he could not vote. It was during the Civil War that his political sympathies coincided with the Republicans' aggressive prosecution of the war. In 1864, his patron Congressman Elihu B. Washburne used Grant's private letters as campaign literature for Lincoln's reelection.

Civil War commands

Volunteer recruitment and training

On April 13, 1861, Confederate troops attacked Union Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina forcing surrender. Two days later, on April 15, President Lincoln put out a call for 75,000 volunteers. A mass meeting was called in Galena to initiate recruitment, and recognized as the sole military professional in the area, Grant was asked to lead the meeting and ensuing effort. He proceeded to help recruit a company of volunteers and accompanied it to Springfield, the capital of Illinois. He accepted a position offered by Illinois Gov. Richard Yates to recruit and train volunteer units, but Grant wanted, and expected, a field command in the regular Army. He made multiple efforts with contacts (including General McClellan) to acquire such a position with no success. Meanwhile, he remained efficient and energetic at the training camps and made a positive impression on the volunteer Union recruits. With the aid of his advocate in Washington, DC, Elihu B. Washburne, Grant was promoted to Colonel by Governor Richard Yates on June 14, 1861, and put in charge of the unruly 21st Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment. By the end of August 1861, Grant was given charge of the District of Cairo by Maj. Gen John C. Fremont, an outside Lincoln appointment, who viewed Grant as "a man of dogged persistence, and iron will." Grant's own demeanor had changed immediately at the outset of the war; having renewed energies, he began to walk with a confident step. Indeed, he later recalled with apparent satisfaction that after that first recruitment meeting in Galena, 'I never went into our leather store again, to put up a package or do other business..." During this time Grant quickly perceived that the war would be fought for the most part by volunteers, and not professional soldiers.

Belmont, Ft. Henry and Ft. Donelson

Campaigns for Belmont, Fort Henry and Fort Donelson

Grant's first battles during the Civil War were launched from his base at Cairo, Illinois, the strategic point where the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi River and there are easy links to the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. The Confederate Army was stationed in Columbus, Kentucky under General Leonidas Polk. Grant, who was headquartered at Cairo, was given an open order by Union General John C. Frémont to make "demonstrations", not including attack, against the Confederate Army at Belmont. After President Lincoln relieved Frémont from command, Grant attacked Fort Belmont taking 3,114 Union troops by boat on November 7, 1861, and initially took the fort, but his army was later pushed back to Cairo by the reinforced Confederate General Gideon J. Pillow. Though a defeat logistically, the battle instilled much needed confidence in Grant and his volunteers. Following Belmont, Grant asked Gen. Henry Halleck for permission to move against Ft. Henry; Halleck agreed on condition that the attack be conducted with oversight by Union Navy Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote. Grant's troops, in close collaboration with the Union Navy under Foote, successfully captured Fort Henry on the Tennessee River on February 6, 1862 and nearby Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River on February 16. Fort Henry, undermanned by Confederates and nearly submerged from flood waters, was taken over with few losses. However, at Fort Donelson, Grant and Foote encountered stiffer resistance from the Confederate forces under General Pillow. Grant's initial 15,000 troop strength was increased by 10,000 reinforcements. With 12,000 Confederate troops at Fort Donelson, Foote's initial approach by Union naval ships were repulsed by Donelson's guns. The Confederates, who were surrounded by Grant's Union Army attempted a break out pushing the Union Army's right flank into disorganized retreat eastward on the Nashville road. Grant, however, rallied his troops, resumed the offensive, retook the Union right and attacked Pillow's left. Pillow ordered Confederate troops back into the fort, relinquished command to General Buckner who surrendered to Grant's Army the following day. Grant's terms were repeated across the North: "No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender." Grant became a celebrity in the North, now called "Unconditional Surrender" Grant. With these victories, President Abraham Lincoln promoted Grant to major general of volunteers.


The Union advances achieved by Maj. Gen. Grant and Adm. Foote at Forts Henry and Donelson caused significant concern in the Confederate government. The Union army, known as the Army of the Tennessee, under Grant had increased to 48,894 men and was encamped on the western side of the Tennessee River. Grant met with his senior General, William T. Sherman, who advised he was prepared to attack the Confederate stronghold of equal numbers at Corinth, Mississippi. The Confederates had the same thing in mind, and moved first at dawn on April 6, 1862, with a full-force attack on the Union Army at the Battle of Shiloh; the objective was to annihilate the western Union offensive in one massive assault. Over 44,699 confederate troops, led by Albert Sidney Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard, vigorously attacked five divisions of Grant's army bivouacked nine miles south at Pittsburgh Landing. Aware of the impending Confederate attack, Union troops sounded the alarm and readied for battle, however, no defensive entrenchment works had been made. The Confederates struck hard and repulsed the Union Army towards the Tennessee River. At the end of the day, the Union Army was largely vulnerable, and subject to elimination by Beauregard, had he been able to continue the fight, but for the exhaustion of his troops. Not only did they avoid panic, but Grant and Sherman actually rallied their troops for a vicious counterattack the next morning. With reinforcement troops from Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell and Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace's missing division, Grant succeeded in driving the Confederates back to the road from Corinth; though he stopped short of capturing Beauregard's army, he was able to stabilize the Army of the Tennessee.

The battle was the costliest of the Civil War at the time, with aggregate Union and Confederate casualties of 23,746, and minimal strategic advantage gained by either side. Nevertheless, Grant received high praise from many corners. He later remarked that the carnage at Shiloh had made it clear to him that the Confederacy would only be defeated by complete annihilation of its army. Lincoln was also alarmed at the level of casualties, and queried Halleck as to Grant's potential responsibility for them; Grant was criticized for his decision to keep the Union Army bivouacked rather than entrenched. Gen. Halleck transferred command of the Army of the Tennessee to Gen. George H. Thomas and effectively demoted Grant to the hollow position of second-in-command of all the armies of the west. As a result, Grant was again on the verge of resigning until Gen. Sherman paid a visit to his camp. Sherman's experiences in the military had been very similar to Grant's; he had studied at West Point, served in the Mexican War, and later had resigned from the Army only to fail in his civilian career. Sherman succeeded in convincing Grant to remain in Halleck's army. Due to Halleck's sluggardly assault on Corinth—covering 19 miles in 30 days—the entire Confederate force there escaped; the 120,000-man Union Army was then broken up. Charles A. Dana, an investigative agent for Secretary of War Stanton at the time, interviewed Grant; Dana related to Lincoln and Stanton that Grant appeared "self-possessed and eager to make war." Thus, Grant was reinstated to his command of the Army of the Tennessee.


The Battle of Jackson, fought on 14 May 1863, in Jackson, Mississippi, was part of the Vicksburg Campaign.

President Lincoln was determined to take the strategic Confederate stronghold at Vicksburg, located on the Mississippi River. Major General John A. McClernand was authorized to raise an army in his home state of Illinois for the purpose of taking Vicksburg; Grant was very frustrated at the lack of direction he was receiving to move forward from his station in Memphis, and more aggravated to learn of this apparent effort to brush him aside. According to biographer McFeely, this discontent may have been responsible for Grant's ill-considered issuance of General Orders No. 11 on December 17, 1862. This order expelled Jews, as a class, from Grant's military district, in reaction to illicit activities of overly aggressive cotton traders in the Union camps, which Grant believed was interfering with military operations. President Lincoln demanded the order be revoked, and Grant rescinded it 21 days after issuance. Without admitting fault, Grant believed he had only complied with the instructions sent from Washington. According to another Grant biographer, Jean E. Smith, it was "one of the most blatant examples of state-sponsored anti-Semitism in American history." Grant had believed that gold, along with cotton, was being smuggled through enemy lines and that Jews could pass freely into enemy camps. Grant later expressed regret for this order in 1868; his attitude concerning Jews was otherwise undeclared.

In December 1862, with the approval of Halleck, Grant moved to take Vicksburg by an overland route, aided by Charles Hamilton and James McPherson, in combination with a water expedition on the Mississippi led by Maj. Gen. Sherman. Grant had thus pre-empted his rival McClernand's move. Confederate cavalry raiders Bedford Forrest and Earl Van Dorn stalled Grant's advance by breaking communications, while the Confederate army led by John C. Pemberton concentrated and repulsed Sherman's direct approach at Chickasaw Bayou. McClernand afterwards made an attempt to salvage Sherman's effort to no avail, so at the end of the first day neither Grant nor McClernand had succeeded.

During the second attempt to capture Vicksburg, Grant made a series of unsuccessful and highly criticized movements along bayou and canal water routes. Finally, in April 1863, Grant marched Union troops down the west side of the Mississippi River and crossed east over at Bruinsburg using Adm. David Porter's naval ships. Grant previously had implemented two diversion battles that confused Pemberton and allowed the Union Army to cross the Mississippi River. After a series of battles and having taken a railroad junction near Jackson, Grant went on to defeat Confederate General John C. Pemberton at the Battle of Champion Hill. Grant then made two assaults on the Vickburg fortress, and suffered gruesome losses. This battle and one other at Cold Harbour were prominent in his memory as the distinctly regrettable ones of the war. After the failed assault, Grant decided to settle for a siege lasting seven weeks. According to biographer McFeely, as the siege began, Grant lapsed into a two-day drinking episode. Pemberton, who was in charge of the fortress, surrendered to Grant on July 4, 1863. During the Vicksburg campaign, Grant assumed responsibility for refugee-contraband slaves who were dislodged by the war and vulnerable to Confederate marauders; President Lincoln had also authorized their recruitment into the Union Army. Grant put the refugees under the protection of Chaplain John Eaton who authorized them to work on abandoned Confederate plantations harvesting cotton and cutting wood to fuel Union steamers. The effort was the precursor to the Freedman's Bureau during later Reconstruction.

The Vicksburg Campaign was Grant's greatest achievement up to this time, opening the south to Chattanooga and giving the Union army access to the vital grain supply in Georgia. The fall of Vicksburg in 1863, combined with the Union naval capture of New Orleans in 1862, gave the Union Army and Navy control over the entire Mississippi and logistically fractured the Confederacy. Grant demonstrated that an indirect assault coupled with diversionary tactics was highly effective strategy in defeating an entrenched Confederate Army. Although the success at Vicksburg was a great morale boost for the Union war effort, Grant received much criticism for his decisions and his reported drunkenness. President Lincoln again sent Charles Dana to keep a watchful eye on Grant's alleged intemperance; Dana eventually became Grant's devoted ally, and made light of the drinking. The personal rivalry between McClernand and Grant continued over Vicksburg, but ended when Grant removed McClernand from command after he issued, and arranged the publication of, a military order in contravention of Grant.


Union troops swarm Missionary Ridge and defeat Bragg's army.

President Lincoln put Grant in command of the newly formed Division of the Mississippi in October 1863; Grant was then effectively in charge of the entire western war front for the Union, except for Louisiana. After the Battle of Chickamauga, Confederate General Braxton Bragg forced Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans's Army of the Cumberland to retreat into Chattanooga, a central railway hub, surrounded the city and kept the Union army from escaping. Only Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas and the XIV corps kept the Army of the Cumberland from complete defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga. When informed of the ominous situation at Chattanooga, Grant relieved Maj. Gen. Rosecrans from duty and placed Maj. Gen. Thomas in charge of the besieged Army of the Cumberland. To stop the siege and go on the attack, Grant, injured from a recent horse fall in New Orleans, personally rode out to Chattanooga and took charge of the Union Army's desperate situation. Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker and two divisions of the Army of the Potomac were sent by President Lincoln to reinforce the Army of the Cumberland, however, the Confederates kept the two Armies from meeting. Grant's first action was to open up a supply line to the Army of the Cumberland trapped in Chattanooga. Through an ingenious plan by Maj. Gen. William F. Smith, a "Cracker Line" was formed with Hooker's Army of the Potomac located at Lookout Mountain and supplied the Army of the Cumberland with food and military weapons.

On November 23, 1863 the situation at Chattanooga was urgent. Grant had organized three armies to attack Bragg on Missionary Ridge and Confederate troops on Lookout Mountain. On November 24, Maj. Gen. Sherman and four divisions of the Army of the Tennessee assaulted Bragg's right flank. Thomas and Army of the Cumberland, under order from Grant, overtook Confederate picket trenches at the base of Missionary Ridge. Maj. Gen. Hooker and the Army of the Potomac took Lookout Mountain and captured 1,064 prisoners. On November 25, Sherman continued his attack on Bragg's right flank on the northern section of Missionary Ridge. In response to Sherman's assault Bragg withdrew Confederate troops on the main ridge to reinforce the Confederate right flank. Seeing that Bragg was reinforcing his right flank, Grant ordered Thomas to make a general assault on Missionary Ridge. After a brief delay, the Army of the Cumberland, led by Sheridan and Wood, stormed over and captured the first Confederate rifle entrenchments. Without further orders, the Army of the Cumberland continued up hill and captured the Confederate's secondary entrenchments on top of Missionary Ridge; forcing the defeated Confederates into disorganized retreat. Though Bragg's army had not been captured, the decisive battle opened Georgia and the heartland of the Confederacy to Union invasion by Maj. Gen. Sherman. Grant's fame increased throughout the country, and he was promoted to Lieutenant General, a position that had previously been given to George Washington and given to Winfield Scott as a brevet promotion. Grant was given charge of the entire Union Army. Grant gave the Department of the Mississippi to Maj. Gen. Sherman, and went east to Washington, DC, to make and implement a strategy with President Lincoln to decisively win the Civil War in 1864, when Lincoln was facing re-election. After settling Julia into a house in Georgetown, he then established his headquarters fifty miles away, near Gen. Meade's Army of the Potomac in Culpeper, Virginia.

Overland Campaign

"On to Richmond" – Ulysses S. Grant and George Meade riding horseback at the Battle of the Wilderness.

The Union strategy, of a comprehensive effort to bring about a speedy victory for the Union, designed by President Lincoln and Grant, consisted of combined military Union offensives, attacking the Confederacy's armies, railroads, and economic infrastructure, to keep the Confederate armies from mobilizing reinforcements within southern interior lines. Maj. Gen. Sherman would attack Atlanta and Georgia, while the Army of the Potomac, led by Maj. Gen. George Meade with Grant in camp, would attack Robert E. Lee's Army of Virginia. Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler was to attack and advance towards Richmond from the south, going up the James River. Depending on Lee's actions, Grant would join forces with Butler's armies and be fed supplies from the James River. Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel was to capture the railroad line at Lynchburg, move east, and attack from the Blue Ridge Mountains. Lee's objectives were to prolong the war and discourage the Northern will to fight, keep Grant from crossing south of the James River, and protect Richmond from Union attack. Grant was riding a tide of popularity, and there were discussions in some corners that a Union victory early in the year could open the possibility of his candidacy for the presidency. Grant was aware of it, but had ruled out any self-interest in discussions with Lincoln, and assigned no weight to it; in any case, the possibility would soon vanish with delays on the battlefield.

The efforts of both Sigel and Butler failed and Grant was left alone to fight Lee in a series of bloody battles of attrition known as the Overland Campaign. After taking the month of April 1864 to assemble and ready the Union Army of the Potomac, Grant crossed the Rapidan River on May 4 and attacked Lee in the Wilderness, a hard-fought battle with many casualties, lasting three days. Rather than retreat as his Union predecessors had done, Grant flanked Lee's Army of Virginia to the southeast and attempted to wedge the Union Army between Lee and Richmond at Spotsylvania. Lee's army got to Spotsylvania first and a costly and lengthy battle began that lasted 13 days. During the battle, Grant attempted to break through Lee's line of defense at the Mule Shoe, which resulted in one of the most violent assaults during the Civil War, known as The Battle of the Bloody Angle. Unable to break Lee's line of defense after repeated attempts, Grant flanked Lee to the southeast east again at North Anna, a battle that lasted three days. This time the Confederate Army had a superior defensive advantage on Grant; however, due to sickness, Lee was unable to lead the battle. Grant then maneuvered the Union Army to Cold Harbor, a vital railroad hub that was linked to Richmond, but Lee was able to make strong trenches to defend against a Union assault. During the third day of the 13-day Cold Harbor battle, Grant led a costly fatal assault on Lee's trenches, and as news spread in the North, heavy criticism fell on Grant, who was called "the Butcher", having lost 52,788 casualties in 30 days since crossing the Rapidan. Lee suffered 32,907 Confederate casualties, on troops he could not replace, and was forced to take defensive entrenchment positions to stave off attack on Richmond. When the two armies had fought to a stalemate, the two generals ruthlessly took three days to reach a truce, so that the dead and dying could be removed from the battlefield. The costly June 3 assault at Cold Harbor was the second of two battles in the war which Grant later distinctly regretted. Unknown to Robert E. Lee, Grant pulled out of Cold Harbour and stealthily moved his Army south of the James River, freed Maj. Gen. Butler from the Bermuda Hundred, and attacked Petersburg, Richmond's central railroad hub.


The Dictator siege mortar used by the Union Army at Petersburg. 1864

After Grant and the Army of the Potomac had successfully crossed the James River undetected by Lee and rescued Maj. Gen. Butler from the Bermuda Hundred, Grant advanced the Union army southward to capture Petersburg. Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard, in charge of Petersburg, was able to defend the city and Lee's veteran reinforcements arrived. Grant forced Lee into a long nine month siege of Petersburg and the Union war effort stalled. Northern resentment grew as the Copperhead movement led by Clement Vallandigham demanded that the war be settled through peace talks. But an indirect benefit of the Petersburg siege was found in preventing Lee from reinforcing armies to oppose Sherman and Sheridan. During the siege, Sherman was able to take Atlanta, a victory that advanced President Lincoln's reelection. Maj. Gen. Sheridan was given command of the Union Army of the Shenandoah and directed to "follow the enemy to their death". Sheridan defeated Confederate General Jubal Early in the Shenandoah Valley, saving Washington, DC from capture. Lee had sent Early up the Shenandoah Valley to attack Washington, DC and draw troops away from Grant's Army of the Potomac. Sheridan's cavalry, after Early was defeated, pursuant to Grant's orders, destroyed vital Confederate supply farms in the Shenandoah Valley. When Sheridan reported suffering attacks by irregular Confederate cavalry under John S. Mosby, Grant recommended rounding up their families for imprisonment as hostages at Ft. McHenry.

Grant attempted to blow up part of Lee's Petersburg trenches from an underground tunnel; however, the explosion created a crater from which Confederates could easily pick off Union troops below. The 3500 Union casualties were over 3 for every 1 of the Confederates; Grant admitted the tactic had been a "stupendous failure". On August 9, 1864 Lieut. Gen. Grant, who had just arrived at his headquarters in City Point, narrowly escaped certain death when Confederate spies blew up an ammunition barge moored below the city's bluffs. The enormous explosion, similar to the Petersburg mine, killed 47 men; 146 injured. As the war slowly progressed, Grant continued to extend Robert E. Lee's entrenchment defenses southwest of Petersburg, in an effort to capture vital railroad links. By August 21, 1864 the Union Army had reached and captured the Weldon Railroad. As Grant continued to push the Union advance westward towards the South Side Railroad, Lee's entrenchment lines became overstretched and undermanned. With the Federal army having rebuilt the City Point Railroad, Grant was able to use mortars to attack Lee's entrenchments; the most famous and largest mortar used during the Civil War, over 17,000 pounds, was called the Dictator. Lee also implemented the use of mortars on the Confederate line.

Once Sherman reached the East Coast and Gen. Thomas finally dispatched Gen. Hood in Tennessee, Union victory appeared certain, and Lincoln resolved to attempt a negotiated end to the war with the Confederates. He enlisted Francis Preston Blair to carry a message to Jefferson Davis; Davis appointed three Commissioners, who were sent to Grant to arrange a peace conference. Meanwhile, Lincoln sent Secretary of State Seward and his emissary Major Thomas T. Eckert to Hampton Roads to facilitate a meeting. Eckert met with the Confederate Commissioners and insisted that they acknowledge that "one common country" was to be the subject of the conference. This brought matters to a halt; Grant contacted the President directly and Lincoln agreed to personally meet with the Commissioners at Ft. Monroe. Though Grant was pivotal in arranging the peace conference, it ultimately yielded no results; but Grant had demonstrated a remarkable willingness and ability to assume a diplomatic role beyond his normal military posture. Grant's diplomacy failed him, however, when he jokingly suggested to his wife that, perhaps if she met with Mrs. Louise (James) Longstreet, they could restore peace. When Julia took the offer seriously and pleaded for the opportunity, and Grant earnestly objected, she turned silent, indignant and quite disappointed.


In March 1865, while Lincoln met at City Point with Grant, Sherman and Admiral David Dixon Porter, Union forces finally took Petersburg and then captured Richmond in April, after an unsuccessful Confederate assault on Fort Stedman. Lee's Confederate troops began deserting in large numbers to the Army of the Potomac; disease and lack of supplies also weakened Lee's forces. Lee attempted to link up with the remnants of Confederate General Joe Johnson's defeated army; however, Union cavalry forces led by Maj. Gen. Phil Sheridan were able to stop the two armies from converging. Lee and the Army of Virginia reluctantly surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. Grant gave generous terms; Confederate troops surrendered their weapons and were allowed to return to their homes, with their mounts, on the condition that they would not take up arms against the United States. Within a few weeks the Civil War was over.

Lincoln's death and aftermath

On April 14, only five days after Grant's victory at Appomattox, President Lincoln was fatally shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theater, and died the next morning. The assassination was part of a conspiracy which targeted a number of government leaders. Grant attended a cabinet meeting on the 14th, and Lincoln had invited the Grants to the theatre, but they declined, as they had plans to travel to Philadelphia. Grant is thought by many to have been a target in the Lincoln assassination plot; an unknown assailant allegedly failed in an attempt to break into Grant's railroad car. Stanton, through Charles Dana, notified Grant of the President's death and summoned him to Washington. At Dana's recommendation, for security purposes a scapegoat engine preceded Grant's train on the return trip. The following day Grant hastily ordered arrests of paroled Confederate officers. Maj. Gen. Edward Ord, however, was able to narrow the existing threats in Washington through the use of accurate army intelligence and persuaded Grant to reverse his arrest orders. Attending Lincoln's funeral on April 19, Grant stood alone and wept openly. Grant said of Lincoln, "He was incontestably the greatest man I have ever known." Regarding the new President, Andrew Johnson, Grant commented to Julia that he dreaded the change in administrations; he judged Johnson's attitude toward white southerners as one that would "make them unwilling citizens", and initially thought that with Johnson "Reconstruction has been set back no telling how far."

Later in April, Gen. Sherman, without consulting Washington, concluded an agreement with Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston to effect the latter's surrender, believing it to be consistent with Lincoln's recent statements to him at City Point; Secretary Stanton and Grant quickly surmised the terms were much too lenient. Stanton even declared so publicly with scorn for Sherman; Grant, concerned that his lead commander's mistake not be mishandled, requested a cabinet meeting to discuss the problem, and offered to personally deliver the message of repudiation to Sherman, who was expected to be quite vexed. Grant handled the matter adroitly and made the most of their friendship, conveying the message to Sherman and ultimately getting his consent to renegotiate the agreement in accordance with the terms at Appomattox, and with no residual hard feelings between the two.

After the war

War hero celebrations and exploits

Two-story brick house where Grant lived in Galena.
The post-Civil War home of Ulysses S. Grant, in Galena, Illinois.

In May 1865 the Grants were provided a house in Philadelphia, but Grant's work was in Washington. He attempted to commute for a time and return on the weekends, but he and Julia decided to move to Washington and secured a place in Georgetown Heights, while he instructed his old ally Washburne that, politically, his legal residence remained in Galena, Illinois. In the spring of 1865 the Grants went to New York and Grant made an appearance at Cooper Union; the New York Times thus described the reception for the war hero: "...the enhanced and bewildered multitude trembled with extraordinary delight." Further travels that summer, with repeated enthusiastic receptions, took the Grants to Albany and back to Galena and throughout Illinois and Ohio. On July 25, 1866, Congress promoted Grant to the newly created rank of General of the Army of the United States, a form of the rank General of the Armies of the United States.

Grant was the most popular man in the country; when President Johnson was at loggerheads with the Congress over Reconstruction, he decided to take his case to the people with his infamous "swing around the circle" throughout the country and he sought to capitalize on Grant's popularity by having Grant travel with him. Grant, wishing to appear loyal to his Commander-in-Chief, agreed to accompany Johnson; however he confided in his wife that he thought Johnson's speeches were a "national disgrace". Grant continued his efforts to appear loyal while not alienating Republican legislators essential to his future. At the same time, Johnson also suspected Grant to be a potential rival candidate in the 1868 presidential election, and decided to replace Secretary of War Stanton with Grant or Gen. Sherman. Grant discussed the matter with Sherman and initially convinced him to avoid the politically troubled President.

Inspection of the South

President Johnson sent Grant on a fact finding tour of the South after which he filed a report recommending continuation of the Freedman's Bureau but opposed use of black troops in garrisons which were still needed in the South for protection of both races. He also warned of threats by disaffected poor people, black and white, and recommended that local decision making be entrusted only to "thinking men", by which he was thought to have meant, men of property. In this respect, Grant's initial Reconstruction policy aligned with Johnson's policy of pardoning established southern leaders and restoring them to their positions of power. He joined Johnson in arguing that Congress should allow congressional representatives from the South to be seated.

The French in Mexico; Fenians in Canada

Grant, as commanding general, immediately had to contend with Maximilian of Mexico and the French army which had taken over Mexico under the authority of Napoleon III, which the Americans felt to be a violation of their Monroe Doctrine. Johnson told Grant to put military pressure on the French to leave Mexico by sending 50,000 troops to the Texas border under Phil Sheridan. Grant told Sheridan to do whatever it took to get Maximilian to abdicate and the French Army to leave Mexico. Sheridan sent Benito Juárez, the ousted leader of Mexico, 60,000 US rifles to aid in an effort to defeat Maximilian. By 1866, the French Army completely withdrew from Mexico; Maximilian was executed by Juárez in 1867.

At one point in a cabinet meeting President Johnson blindsided Grant with an attempt to have him assigned to Mexico as a way of removing him from the political mainstream. Grant immediately recognized the disingenuous nature of this proposal, and refused to agree to the recommendation. As a compromise Grant sent Lieut. Gen. Sherman in his place; this posting to Mexico also conveniently diminished Sherman's availability for the War Secretary's job.

After the war, thousands of Irish veterans joined the Fenian Brotherhood and formed the Irish Republican Army with the intention of invading and holding Canada hostage in exchange for Irish independence. In June 1866, Johnson sent Grant to Buffalo, NY, to assess the situation. He ordered the Canadian border closed to prevent Fenian soldiers from crossing over at Fort Erie and that more weapons be confiscated. In June 1866, the US Army arrested 700 Fenian troops at Buffalo and the Fenians gave up on their attempt to invade Canada.

Congressional Reconstruction

In the elections of 1866 an intramural fight arose in Maryland, when the Governor appointed partisan Radical police commissioners who would be responsible for managing voter registration. A request was made for federal troops to intervene by the opposing Conservatives, a move which Grant initially considered inappropriate. In a political move to provide some manner of response, Grant met as a civilian with the opposing party heads and, with his potential use of the armed forces an implicit threat, was able to facilitate a settlement.

Making unprecedented use of the power of the military, Congress divided the southern states into five military districts to ensure that African Americans newly granted constitutional and congressional rights were protected. Transitional state governments in each district were to be led by military governors general. Grant, who was to select the general to govern each district, preferred the will of Congress through the enforcement of congressional Reconstruction, but at the outset was opposed to the use of the military; nevertheless, he adapted, and for example, authorized Phil Sheridan to remove public officials in Louisiana who were against congressional Reconstruction. Sheridan's aggressive methods to register freedmen met with Johnson's disapproval, and the President sought his removal. Grant perceptively stayed the middle course, and recommended a rebuke but not a dismissal. Throughout the Reconstruction period, more than 1,500 African Americans were elected to political office, while Grant and the military protected their rights initially by overturning the black codes in 1867. Congressional Reconstruction finally ended with the Compromise of 1877 and the complete withdrawal of military troops from the southern states.

Imbroglio over the Secretary of War

President Johnson had for some time wished to replace Secretary of War Stanton, who sympathized with Congressional Reconstruction, and asked Grant to take the post in an effort to keep him in his camp, and under his control as a potential political rival. Grant's reply was a recommendation against the move, in light of the Tenure of Office Act which required Senate approval of any removal of a cabinet appointment subject to their advice and consent. Johnson forced the issue by making it an interim appointment during a Senate recess. Grant relented and agreed to accept the post temporarily, lest he be rendered irrelevant politically. Later when the Senate reinstated Stanton, Johnson requested Grant refuse to surrender the office to Stanton and let the courts resolve the matter. Nevertheless, Grant stepped aside, and incurred the open wrath of the President during a cabinet meeting immediately afterwards, for allegedly breaking a promise not to do so, which Grant disputed. Johnson's true frustration was with Grant's decidedly "going over" to the Radical's side. On January 14, 1868, Johnson launched a media campaign in an attempt to discredit Grant over giving the War Department to Stanton, stating Grant had been deceptive in the matter. Grant, however, defended himself in a written response to the President, which became public knowledge; Grant thereby increased his national popularity and emerged from the controversy unscathed. Grant also was able to stand apart from the President's impeachment proceedings which ensued from his attempt to remove Stanton; none of the principals in the matter benefited from it.

1868 presidential campaign

A Thomas Nast cartoon depicting Grant steering a ship and being challenged by opponents during presidential election of 1872.
Cartoon by Thomas Nast on Grant's opponents in the re-election campaign

Grant's curt response to Johnson in the Stanton matter increased his popularity with the Radical Republicans; John Weiss Forney, editor of the Washington Daily Chronicle, who had paved the way for previous presidential nominations, took up the effort for Grant's nomination, by first inquiring with Rawlins about Grant's interest in the presidency. Rawlin's response was that while Grant was a loyal member of the Republican Party, he would be unable to serve as president for financial reasons, since he would lose his lifetime military pension upon ascendancy to the White House, and the presidency did not provide any such income benefit. By becoming President under current terms, Grant would at best leave the office at age 56 with no income, assuming he served two terms. Rawlin's strategy in making this response was that if Forney had real influence over the matter, he could facilitate a legislative change to solve the problem. The ultimate answer was that this could not be changed.

Forney forged ahead with an editorial reviewing Grant's record with the recommendation for his nomination; he made a point of getting Grant's personal review before publication. By reviewing the article, though limited to the accuracy of his record, Grant implicitly opened the door for the nomination despite the precarious financial prospects in his future. He was chosen as the Republican presidential candidate at the 1868 Republican National Convention in Chicago; he faced no significant opposition. In his letter of acceptance to the party, Grant concluded with "Let us have peace," which became his campaign slogan.

As was common practice at the time, Grant remained home in Galena during the campaign, and left most of the active campaigning and speaking on his behalf to his campaign manager William E. Chandler and others. Grant's General Orders No. 11 and antisemitism became an issue during the 1868 presidential campaign. In a letter, published after the election, Grant sought to unequivocally distance himself from General Orders No. 11: "Grant's self-serving explanation", notes Jonathan Sarna, "did not actually bear close scrutiny," but Jews nonetheless generously accepted his attempt at self-extrication: "I have no prejudice against sect or race, but want each individual to be judged by his own merit. Orders No. 11 does not sustain this statement, I admit, but then I do not sustain that order. It never would have been issued if it had not been telegraphed the moment it was penned, and without reflection." Though Jewish opinion was mixed, Grant's determination to court Jewish voters ultimately resulted in his capturing the majority of that vote, though Grant did lose some Jewish votes as a result of the order. In the general election of that year, Grant won against former New York Governor Horatio Seymour with a lead of 300,000 votes out of 5,716,082 votes cast. Grant commanded an Electoral College landslide, receiving 214 votes to Seymour's 80. When he assumed the presidency, Grant had never before held elected office and, at the age of 46, was the youngest person yet elected president. After the election, in an attempt to reconcile with Jewish leaders and people, Grant offered the position of Secretary of the Treasury to Joseph Seligman, a prominent Jewish businessman. Seligman, who had helped finance the Union war effort by obtaining European capital, declined the offer. Grant appointed more Jews to public office than any president before him. Grant was the first US President to be elected after the nation had outlawed slavery and given citizenship to former African-American slaves by US constitutional amendments. Implementation of these new rights was slow to come; in the 1868 election, the black vote counted in only sixteen of the thirty-seven states.

Presidency 1869–1877

President Ulysses S. Grant
Brady 1869

The second president from Ohio, Grant was elected the 18th President of the United States in 1868, and was re-elected to the office in 1872; he served as President from March 4, 1869, to March 4, 1877. Historian H. W. Brands described Grant as the greatest of war hero Presidents and that by the end of his second term the nation was secure from secession.

The commencement of the Grant administration was somewhat unorthodox. First, Grant's relationship with his predecessor Johnson had deteriorated badly, culminating with Johnson's appointment of Grant antagonist William Rosecrans as minister to Mexico. Breaking a long held tradition, President Johnson declined to ride with Grant's carriage or attend Grant's Inauguration at the Capitol, having chosen to remain at the White House signing last-minute bills into law. Grant took a unique and overly self-confident approach to his cabinet choices. In keeping with his style of acting unilaterally as a military commander, his nominations were made with minimal Congressional consultation, and were even kept secret until submission to the Senate for confirmation. Finally, Grant's primary appointment, the Secretary of State, which went to Hamilton Fish, a New York conservative statesman, actually grew out of a strong relationship initially forged between the two men's wives. Grant's first choice, Elihu B. Washburne, given the State Department only as personal favour, served 12 days in office, resigned due to "sickness", and then was appointed Minister to France. Grant's other Cabinet appointments, Jacob D. Cox (Interior), John A.J. Creswell (Postmaster General), and Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar (Attorney General), were popularly received by the nation. Grant desired to select non politicians to his Cabinet including Adolph E. Borie and A.T. Stewart. Borie, however, only served briefly as Secretary of Navy, replaced by Grant appointment George M. Robeson, while Stewart was lawfully prevented from becoming Secretary of Treasury by a 1789 statute and by Senator Charles Sumner's and Senator Roscoe Conkling's opposition to amend the law. In place of Stewart, Grant appointed George S. Boutwell, known for his integrity, as Secretary of Treasury.

Booming post-war industrial markets and the expansion of the American West fueled wild speculation and corruption throughout the United States, only to come to an abrupt crash with the Panic of 1873. National wounds brought on by the massive socio-economic upheaval of the Civil War continued to mend. Although there were initial scandals in his first term, Grant remained popular in the country and was re-elected a second term in 1872. Notable accomplishments as President include policies for the protection of African Americans in the Reconstruction states as well as Native Americans in the West, the Treaty of Washington in 1871, and the Specie Payment Resumption Act in 1875. The Department of Justice was created during the Grant administration in an effort to centralize under the Attorney General the hiring of lawyers to represent federal agencies. President Grant sponsored two federally funded scientific discovery projects; the Polaris Expedition, America's first large-scale attempt to reach the North Pole, and the Hayden Geological Survey into the Yellowstone, that led to the establishment of Yellowstone National Park. Grant's 1862 General Orders No. 11 had haunted him, and as President he opposed a constitutional amendment that would have named Jesus as "ruler among the nations," out of respect for the Jewish people. President Grant appointed a Jew, Edward S. Salomon, Governor of the Territory of Washington in 1870. In 1875, Grant supported the Blaine Amendment, having stated the church and state should remain "forever separate."

Grant's personal reputation as President suffered from the continued scandals caused by many corrupt appointees and personal associates and for the ruined economy caused by the Panic of 1873. A faction of the Republican party, the Liberal Republicans, bolted in 1872, publicly denounced the political patronage system known as Grantism and demanded amnesty for Confederate soldiers. In his re-election campaign, Grant benefited from the loyal support of Harper's Weekly political cartoonist Thomas Nast. Grant had multiple opportunities to strengthen the Supreme Court with nominations; biographer, William S. McFeely, considered his appointments not to have benefitted the Court. When Chief Justice Chase died, Grant initially delayed in making the replacement, and after muddling through two failed nominations, the ultimate choice, Morrison Remick Waite was finally confirmed by the Senate. By 1876, during Grant's second term in office, as more scandals were exposed by Congress, his personal reputation was damaged, and Republicans decided not to renominate Grant for a consecutive third term.

Grant was the first president to have both parents living at the time of his election. His father Jesse Root Grant died on June 29, 1873, whereas his mother Hannah Simpson Grant died on May 11, 1883. To date, the only other presidents to enter office with both of his parents alive are John F. Kennedy and George W. Bush.

Domestic policies

Later Reconstruction

When Grant took Presidential office in 1869, Reconstruction of the former Confederate States had not been completed. President Grant successfully worked with Congress to readmit the last four Confederate states Virginia, Mississippi, Texas, and Georgia into the Union, while ensuring their constitutions protected every citizen's voting rights through the use of the military. President Grant won passage of the Fifteenth Amendment having guaranteed the voting rights to over a million freed African Americans. President Grant signed the Naturalization Act of 1870 that allowed persons of African descent to become citizens of the United States. President Grant effectively enforced the Civil Rights of Southern freedmen through the use of Justice Department in coordination with the U.S. Military and the Department of War. Grant's two Attorney Generals Amos T. Akerman and George H. Williams, in addition to Solicitor General Benjamin Bristow, effectively prosecuted and shut down the Ku Klux Klan by 1872 through the use of the Force Acts passed by President Grant and Congress. President Grant supported amnesty for former Confederates and signed the Amnesty Act of 1872 to further this. He favored a limited number of troops to be stationed in the South—sufficient numbers to protect Southern Freedmen, suppress the violent tactics of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), and prop up Republican governors, but not so many as to create resentment in the general population. After the collapse of the Klan in 1872, organized conservative southern insurgent militia groups took over, having used violence and intimidation tactics against African Americans and weakened supportive Republican state government control. Grant's prosecution of civil rights cases under both his Attorney Generals Akerman and George H. Williams, lasted from October 1871 to the Spring of 1873; the Justice Department having been overburdened and under staffed to handle all the cases.

By 1873, Grant was confronted by a Northern public angry with the economic depression that began in 1873 and tired of continuing to use the army to control politics in the former Confederate states. In 1873–75, he watched as the Democrats (called Redeemers) took the control of all but three Southern states. The Republican coalition in the South was collapsing. When urgent telegrams from Republicans begged for Army help to put down the violence by paramilitary groups at election time, he told his Attorney General that, "the whole public is tired of these annual autumnal outbreaks in the South," insisting that state militias should handle the problems, not the Army. Grant favored limited use of federal troops, lest they engender the notion he was acting as a military dictator; he was also concerned that increased military pressure in the South might cause white supremacists in the North to bolt from the Republican Party. Grant did effectively use the military to keep peace during the Election of 1874 in Louisiana, the nation's most highly contested Reconstructed states. Grant signed the Civil Rights Act of 1875, that gave rights for African Americans to attend public events, to eat in public places, and to stay overnight in public hotels. The Republican Party and the nation, however, during the Election of 1876 became more concerned with monetary legislation rather than Reconstruction. Conservative Democratic Party legislators took over all of the Southern state governments as all remaining U.S. troops were pulled out of the South by President Rutherford B. Hayes under the Compromise of 1877.

Civil and human rights

Grant's staff. General Ely S. Parker (far left), a Seneca, was the first Native American to be appointed as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, serving until 1871.

A distinguishing characteristic in the Grant Presidency was his concern with the plight of African Americans and native Indian tribes, in addition to civil rights for all Americans. Grant's 1868 campaign slogan, "Let us have peace," defined his motivation and assured his success. As president for two terms, Grant made many advances in civil and human rights. In 1869 and 1871, he signed bills promoting black voting rights and prosecuting Klan leaders. He won passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave freedmen the vote, and the Ku Klux Klan Act, which empowered the president "to arrest and break up disguised night marauders.

Grant continued to fight for black civil rights when he pressed for the former slaves to be "possessed of the civil rights which citizenship should carry with it." However, by 1874, a new wave of paramilitary organizations arose in the Deep South. The Red Shirts and White League, who conducted insurgency in Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Louisiana, operated openly and were better organized than the Ku Klux Klan had been. They aimed to turn Republicans out of office, suppress the black vote, and disrupt elections. In response to the renewed violent outbreaks against African Americans, Grant was the first President to sign a congressional civil rights act: the Civil Rights Act of 1875. This legislation mandated equal treatment in public accommodations and jury selection.

Grant's attempts to provide justice to Native Americans marked a radical reversal of what had long been the government's policy of Indian removal. "My efforts in the future will be directed ... by a humane course, to bring the aborigines of the country under the benign influences of education and civilization. It is either this or war of extermination: Wars of extermination... are demoralizing and wicked," he told Congress. Grant's innovative "Peace" policy advocated Native American citizenship and education. It recommended use of reservations for protection of tribes. Grant, however, allowed millions of buffalo to be hunted without restriction, eventually resulting in the depletion of Native American food supply and of tribal independence. Statistical data indicate that during Grant's two terms as President the number of Indian battles per year decreased by 58, going from 101 Indian battles in 1869 to 43 in 1877. Historian H. W. Brands stated that Grant's peace policy was successful in terms of reducing Indian battles, while many tribal leaders, including Red Cloud, The Grass, and Spotted Owl, accepted Grant's reservation system to protect Indians from settler intrusion.

Panic of 1873, inflation bill, and resumption act

The Panic of 1873 was a world-wide depression that started when the stock market in Vienna crashed in June 1873. Unsettled markets soon spread to Berlin, and throughout Europe. Three months later, the Panic spread to the United States when three major banks stopped making payments, the New York Warehouse & Security Company on September 8, Kenyon, Cox, & Co. on September 13, and the largest bank, Jay Cooke & Company, on September 18. On September 20, the New York Stock Exchange shut down for ten days. All of these events created a depression that lasted five years in the United States, ruined thousands of businesses, depressed daily wages by 25% from 1873 to 1876, and brought the unemployment rate up to 14%. Some 89 out of 364 American railroads went bankrupt. At the height of the depression in 1874, as unrest increased among Western farmers who lost their property on defaulted bank loans, the Democrats gained a majority in the House.

A Thomas Nast cartoon depicting President Grant after vetoing the Inflation bill.
Political cartoon by Thomas Nast: Grant congratulated for vetoing the "inflation bill" on April 22, 1874.

The causes of the panic in the United States included over-expansion in the railroad industry after the Civil War, losses in the Chicago and Boston fires of 1871 and 1872, respectively, and insatiable speculation by Wall Street financiers. All of this growth was done on borrowed money by many banks in the United States, having over-speculated in the railroad industry. Grant, who knew little about finance, traveled to New York to consult leading businessmen and bankers for advice on how to curb the panic. Secretary of Treasury William A. Richardson responded by liquidating a series of outstanding bonds. The banks, in turn, issued short-term clearing house certificates to be used as cash. The result of these combined federal and New York banking moves resulted in putting $50,000,000 of needed cash into the national economy, without resulting in the decline of the dollar. Although these actions curbed the Panic on Wall Street, an ensuing five-year industrial depression took place throughout the nation. Grant, a fiscal conservative, received Washington D.C. pressure from politicians, including members of his own cabinet, to adopt an inflationary policy to relieve the depression.

After the Panic of 1873, Congress debated an inflationary policy to stimulate the economy and passed the Legal Tender Act (known as the "Inflation Bill") on April 14, 1874 to increase the nation's tight money supply. Many farmers and working men favored the bill; but Eastern bankers favored a veto because of their reliance on bonds and foreign investors. On April 22, 1874, Grant unexpectedly vetoed the bill on the grounds that it would destroy the credit of the nation. Grant's veto was a pivitol event in American history; for the first time the Republican Party stood for "economic conservatism, fiscal restraint, and a sound dollar." Grant pressured Congress for an anti-inflationary resumption bill to obtain a stronger currency. On January 14, 1875 Grant signed into law the Resumption Act passed by Congress that required the resumption of specie payment on January 1, 1879. The Resumption Act created more banks in the West, to help farmers, that were in turn allowed to issue more banking notes. Grant also replaced Secretary Richardson, involved in the Sanborn contracts, with the energetic reformer Benjamin H. Bristow, who supported Grant's anti-inflationary hard currency policy.

Secured South 1876 election

After the controversial Presidential election of 1876, President Grant was warned in a report by General of the Army William T. Sherman that Southern states were threatening to secede for a second time from the United States. In November 1876, President Grant, through the War Department ordered Lieutenant General Phil Sheridan to concentrate troops in New Orleans. Major General Winfield S. Hancock was ordered to send troops to South Carolina. The result of these troop movements and the delicate and prudent discretion of their commanding officers appointed by President Grant kept peace in the South and secured the nation from a second secession. According to biographer H. W. Brands, when Grant left office in 1877, the "Union was secure. Secession was a dead letter...Slavery, the root of the sectional crisis, was a memory."

Foreign policies

Dominican Republic and Washington treaties

Grant with family at their cottage in Long Branch, New Jersey, 1870.

Grant wanted to annex the Dominican Republic by treaty to allow new economic opportunities for Freedmen, and to force Brazil to abandon slavery. Senator Charles Sumner opposed annexation because it would reduce the number of autonomous nations run by Africans in the western hemisphere. Also disputed was the unscrupulous annexation process under the supervision of Grant's private secretary, Orville E. Babcock. Grant did not consult with his Cabinet over the issue, and by-passed State Department procedures. Secretary Fish decided to resign over the affair, however, Grant was able to convince Fish to remain on his Cabinet. Grant personally lobbied Senators to pass the treaty. The annexation treaty was defeated by the Senate in 1871 and led to unending political enmity between Sumner and Grant. Nineteenth Century ideals of Anglo superiority and fears of miscegenation were factors in the treaty's defeat.

Historians have heralded the Treaty of Washington for settling the Alabama Claims dispute between Britain and the United States by International Arbitration. In 1871, Grant's Secretary of State Hamilton Fish orchestrated the negotiation. The main purpose of the arbitration treaty was to remedy the damages done to American merchants by three Confederate war ships built by or purchased from the British. A major point of contention in the negotiation was whether "indirect" damages would be included in the settlement. A commission met in Washington and designed a treaty whereby an international tribunal would settle the damage amounts; the British admitted regret, rather than fault. Grant and the Senate approved the Treaty of Washington. The international tribunal awarded the United States $15,500,000.

reception line
King Kalākaua of Hawaii meets President Grant at the White House, 1874.

Virginius incident

On October 31, 1873, a merchant ship, Virginius, carrying war materials and men to aid the Cuban insurrection, was taken captive by a Spanish warship. Virginius was flying the United States flag and had an American registry; the US did not at first realize it was secretly owned by Cuban insurgents. 53 of the passengers and crew, eight being United States citizens, were trying to illegally get into Cuba to help overthrow the government. They were executed, and many Americans called for war with Spain. Secretary Fish, with President Grant's support, handled the crisis coolly to reach a diplomatic solution rather than war. Grant kept the Virginius incident at the top of his weekly cabinet meetings agenda and kept his policy of non recognition of Cuban belligerancy. Fish discovered there was question over whether Virginius had the right to bear the United States flag. Spain's President expressed profound regret for the tragedy and was willing to make reparations through arbitration. Fish negotiated reparations and Spain surrendered the Virginius and paid a cash indemnity of $80,000 to the families of the executed Americans.


President Grant and family pose in an informal portrait outside. Grant is seated to the left and his wife Julia is seated to the right. Their son Jesse is standing between Grant and Julia.
President Grant with his wife, Julia, and son, Jesse, in 1872.

President Grant faced financial corruption charges or scandals in all federal departments during his two terms in office. Some historians have emphasized Grant's responsibility for the corruption, while others have considered this exaggeration, and stress Grant's establishment of Civil Service reform and abolishment of the moiety system. Although personally honest with his own money matters, Grant had difficulty in spotting corrupt individuals. President Grant by personal nature was extremely loyal and protective of associates whom he befriended and viewed as victims of injustice. Grant's military instinct was to shield associates from attack at the expense of his own Presidential reputation, unless evidence of personal misconduct was overwhelming. Reformers who desired integrity in the federal government became hostile to the Administration and caused a party split in 1872. In November 1876, President Grant pardoned both William O. Avery and William McKee, who were convicted in connection with the Whiskey Ring tax evasion frauds in St. Louis; having served six months of their two-year sentences.

There were 11 scandals directly associated with Grant's two terms. The main scandals included Black Friday in 1869, the Whiskey Ring in 1875, and his Secretary of War William Belknap's resignation, House impeachment, and Senate trial in 1876 over accepting illicit payments from the Fort Sill tradership. The primary instigator and contributor to many of these scandals was Grant's personal secretary, Orville E. Babcock, who indirectly controlled many cabinet departments and was able to delay investigations by reformers. Babcock had direct access to Grant at the White House and had tremendous influence over who could see the President. Grant's political opponents used the phrase Grantism, coined by Sen. Charles Sumner during the Presidential election of 1872, to describe the many corruption charges during the Grant Administration. The Crédit Mobilier scandal was exposed by Congress, during the Grant Administration in 1872; the involvement of Vice-President Schuyler Colfax was an embarrassment to the Administration, but the wrongdoing in that instance is not generally imputed to Grant's Presidency. Grant's Attorney General George H. Williams prosecuted the Crédit Mobilier company, although unsuccessfully, having represented the share holders who lost money. Robert C. Schenck, U.S. Ambassador to Britain, was involved with the Emma Silver Mine scandal, however, this embarrassment was not directly associated with President Grant or the State Department.

Grant appointed reformer Benjamin Bristow to the Secretary of Treasury in 1874, who uncovered and shut down the notorious Whiskey Ring. In order to help Bristow's investigation and clean house, Grant appointed reformer Edwards Pierrepont as U.S. Attorney General. Initially Grant fully endorsed Bristow's investigation having stated, "Let no guilty man escape if it can be avoided," however, after Sec. Bristow discovered that the President's personal secretary Babcock was involved in the ring, Grant became defensive and eventually defended Babcock in an unprecedented 1876 deposition, which biographer McFeely contends was perjurious; the deposition was read in St. Louis during the Whiskey Ring graft trials. Biographer Smith, however, maintains that evidence against Babcock was circumstantial. The result of Grant's deposition, as well as testimony from Sherman, brought Babcock an acquittal. No President, before or since Grant, has ever given a deposition for a criminal defendant in a federal trial. This and the other scandals ruined any chances for Grant getting a third term nomination.

Concurrent Scandals and Corruption Description Date
Black Friday Speculators corner the gold market and ruin the economy for several months.
New York custom house ring Three investigations, two congressional and one Treasury, looked into alleged corruption ring set up at the New York Custom House under two of Grant's appointments, collectors Moses H. Grinnell and Thomas Murphy.
Star Route Postal Ring Corrupt system of postal contractors, clerks, and brokers to obtain lucrative Star Route postal contracts.
Salary Grab Congressmen receive a retroactive $5,000 bonus for previous term served.
Sanborn Contract John Sanborn collected taxes at exorbitant fees and split the profits among associates.
Delano Affair Secretary of Interior, Columbus Delano, allowed rampant fraud in the Patent Office and Indian Bureau.
Pratt & Boyd Attorney General George H. Williams's wife allegedly received a bribe not to prosecute the Pratt & Boyd company.
Whiskey Ring Corrupt government officials and whiskey makers steal millions of dollars in national tax evasion scam.
Trading Post Ring Secretary of War William Belknap took illicit payments from trading contractor at Fort Sill, impeached by the House, and acquitted by the Senate.
Cattelism Secretary of Navy George Robeson allegedly received kick backs from Cattell & Company in exchange for lucrative Naval contracts.
Safe Burglary Conspiracy Private Secretary Orville Babcock indicted over framing a private citizen for uncovering corrupt Washington contractors.

Administration and Cabinet

Judicial appointments

Grant appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:

  • Edwin M. Stanton – 1869 (died before taking seat)
  • 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 and parks

  • Department of Justice (1870)
  • Office of the Solicitor General (1870)
  • "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)
  • Yellowstone National Park (1872)


Grant is standing in a civilian dress suit holding a top hat after the Civil War.
Ulysses S. Grant sometime in the postbellum period

World tour

After the end of his second term in the White House, Grant spent over two years traveling the world with his wife. In Britain and Ireland the crowds were enormous. The Grants dined with Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle, and with Chancellor Bismarck in Germany, met Pope Leo XIII at the Vatican then ventured east to Russia, Egypt, the Holy Land, Siam (Thailand), Burma, and China.

In Japan, they were cordially received by Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōken at the Imperial Palace. Today in Shiba Park in Tokyo, a tree still stands that Grant planted during his stay. In 1879, the Meiji government of Japan announced the annexation of the Ryukyu Islands. China objected, and Grant was asked to arbitrate the matter. He worked with Japanese and Chinese officials to arrange a compromise, by which Japan would get most of the Ryukyus, and China would get the southernmost island groups, and Taiwan, thus settling the dispute over Taiwan at the same time. In the end, after Grant's departure, and much negotiation, China refused to sign the agreement.

Third term attempt

Puck, a Democratic magazine, in 1880 lampooned Grant's support of "rings" of corruption among his associates.

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 businessmen, 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, who won by a narrow margin. Grant supported his Stalwart ally Conkling against Garfield in the battle over patronage in spring 1881 that culminated in Conkling's resignation from office. Historians consider the world tour was in part a strategic attempt to rejuvenate Grant's image and set the stage for a political comeback; they conclude that, despite efforts to prolong the tour, Grant was unable to procure transportation and was forced to return too early, six months before the Republican convention, and thus lost the momentum the trip provided.

Grant & Ward and destitution

The trip around the world, although successful, was costly. When Grant returned to America, he had depleted most of his savings from the long trip and needed to earn money. He became a principal in the establishment of the new Mexican Southern Railroad Co., which failed. In 1881, Grant purchased a house in New York City and at the suggestion of his bright and successful son Buck, placed almost all of his financial assets into Grant & Ward, the investment banking partnership which his son had established with Ferdinand Ward. In 1884, Ward swindled Grant (and other investors who had been encouraged by Grant), bankrupted the company, and fled. Depleted of money, but compelled by a sense of personal honour, Grant repaid a personal loan of $150,000 from William H. Vanderbilt with his Civil War mementos. Although the market value did not completely cover the loan, Vanderbilt insisted the loan was paid in full. The matter left Grant financially destitute.


Grant funeral train passing through West Point, New York

Grant learned in 1884 that he was suffering from throat cancer. He had forfeited his military pension when he assumed the Presidency, but Congress subsequently restored Grant to the rank of General of the Army with full retirement pay.

At the suggestion of Robert Johnson, Grant wrote several articles on his Civil War campaigns for The Century Magazine at $500 each. The articles were well received by critics, and Johnson suggested Grant write a book of memoirs, as Sherman and others had successfully done. Grant took up the project and asked an old friend and fellow writer, Adam Badeau, to review and critique his work (though Grant is reputed to have been the better writer). Century offered Grant a book contract, including a 10% royalty. When Grant shared this information with his friend Mark Twain, Twain suggested that Grant counter with a request for double the royalty; at the same time, he made his own offer to Grant for his memoirs, talking of a 75% royalty. Grant ultimately decided on Twain's company, Charles L. Webster and Co., as his publisher. His son Fred assisted primarily with references and proofing. Grant finished his memoir just a few days before his death.

Twain created a unique marketing system designed to reach millions of veterans with a patriotic appeal just as the nation began mourning the war hero's death. Ten thousand agents canvassed the North, following a script Twain had devised; many were themselves veterans who dressed in their old uniforms. They sold 350,000 two-volume sets at prices from $3.50 to $12 (depending on the binding). Each copy contained what looked like a handwritten note from Grant himself. In the end, Grant's widow Julia received about $450,000, suggesting a royalty of about 30%.

The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant has been highly regarded by the general public, military historians and literary critics. Grant was a shrewd, intelligent, and effective writer. He portrayed himself in the persona of the honorable Western hero, whose strength lies in his honesty and straightforwardness. He candidly depicts his battles against both the external Confederates and internal Army foes.


Grant's Tomb concrete structure face and dome shown.
General Grant National Memorial, known colloquially as "Grant's Tomb", is the largest mausoleum in North America, and one of the largest in the world.

Grant died of throat cancer at the age of 63 in Mount McGregor. His last words were, "I hope that nobody will be distressed on my account." After lying in state, Grant's body was placed on a funeral train and traveled via West Point to New York City. His body was interred in New York City's Riverside Park, beside that of his wife, in what is now known as General Grant National Memorial ("Grant's Tomb"), the largest mausoleum in North America. Grant is honored by the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial at the base of Capitol Hill in Washington.


  • In early 2010, the Ohio Historical Society proposed Grant as a finalist in a statewide vote for inclusion in Statuary Hall at the United States Capitol.

Historical reputation

Ulysses S. Grant, during the latter 19th Century, was popularly viewed as "a symbol of the American national identity and memory." Millions of people viewed his New York City funeral procession in 1885 and attended Grant's Tomb 1897 Manhattan dedication. However, at the turn of the 20th Century, ex-Confederates and the Dunning School began to minimize Grant's accomplishments as commanding general and President. Northerners in addition having desired national reconciliation distorted Grant's reputation, having viewed the Northern and Confederate cause on equal moral terms. Grant himself desired peace, however, he believed the Union victory was morally superior and meant the Southerners had to abide by the Northern victor's terms. From the 1920s through the 1980s Grant was viewed as a brutal warrior general and an inept President. However, though Grant's legacy as a military leader and President will always be entwined with the American Civil War and Reconstruction, revisionist historians have since begun to look at Grant from a new approach having appreciated his genius as general, his protection of African Americans during Reconstruction as commanding general and President, and his peace policy towards American Indians.

Historian Eric Foner stated that Grant was a "decent guy who tried his best" and that he had an exceptional combination of "character and policy". Foner stated that Grant's presidency did have corruption and that Grant himself too readily trusted his associates. Historian H. W. Brands has said Grant's reputation suffered in the years after his presidency as "Southern Democrats forgot that secession was about slavery" and embraced the Lost Cause view of the war, while northern Republicans likewise "lost touch with the anti-slavery roots of their party" and embraced a more capitalistic view of politics. Brands states that since Grant's presidency stood against both party's revisions of history, he was attacked for scandals and failed actions while the positive aspects of his presidency were overlooked.

In terms of assessing President Grant from an "emancipationist" historical view, Grant's policies look "surprisingly good." Grant secured the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment and enforced the rights of African Americans to vote. Grant's reputation has improved due to his use of federal troops and the Justice Department under his Enforcement Acts to prosecute and shut down the Ku Klux Klan from 1871 to 1873; the result, according to historian James McPherson, was that Grant's victory in 1872 was one of the fairest Presidential elections in the United States.

Although Grant was criticized in the 1960s for the end of Reconstruction, historians believe Grant did the best he could and that according to Brooks Simpson "his limitations were also the limitations of his countrymen." Grant's policy for a peaceful assimilation and citizenship for Indians rather than their extermination has also improved his Presidential reputation. Grant's reputation as a soldier during the American Civil War has been criticized for removal of Jews as a class from his military department in an effort to stop the illegal cotton trade, and for his high casualties. Historian McPherson, however, stated that Grant as a general pioneered U.S. military capability to use "overwhelming power to attack the enemy's infrastructure"; an effective U.S. military strategy used in World War II. Sociologist and attorney Nathan Newman stated that Grant's legacy was hampered by the 1875 Supreme Court decision in United States v. Cruikshank that severely restricted federal intervention in protecting African Americans from individual acts of terror. President Grant, however, persisted in protecting African Americans by signing the Civil Rights Act of 1875. Newman concluded that Grant "was the true founder and implementor of the modern American nation of equal rights."

Presidential library

In May 2012, on the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Ulysses S. Grant Foundation, Mississippi State University was selected as the permanent location for Ulysses S. Grant's Presidential Library. President Grant's artifacts are to remain permanently at the Mitchell Memorial Library on the MSU campus. These include Grant's letters and photographs while he was President from 1869 to 1877. The MSU library cataloged and cross-referenced 15,000 linear feet of material. Grant's letters have been divided into 31 volumes while a 32nd volume is due to be released.

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