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Analysis of Leadership Traits of Ulysses S. Grant

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There are numerous different qualities that someone would want to have and acquire to be recognized as one of America’s major generals during the Civil War, become an American president, and be known in U.S. history. Hiram Ulysses Grant was mostly recognized as a leader and he had numerous leadership traits. Some of Grants traits consisted of honesty, strong willed, courageousness, someone who cared for his military brothers, and knew how to get something done in a caring method.

Hiram Ulysses Grant, also known as Ulysses S. Grant, was born on April 27, 1822, in Point Pleasant, Ohio. He was born to James and Hanna Grant and was the oldest of seven children (three brothers and three sister). Grant was bullied as a child, called names such as “Useless” Ulysses. People did not believe that Ulysses would make anything of himself. As a child, Grant did not desire working with his father at their family owned tannery since he could not handle the blood. “Ulysses did anything he could to avoid working there. He hated being around the bloody animal hides.” Grant did find an interest in farming; he wanted to know everything there was about it. Farming was one of the dreams that Ulysses had wanted to turn into a reality when he became an adult. He also hoped to either become a river trader or a college-educated man.

When Grant was older he did not like hunting and everything about it. “Even when he was in the army years later and was instructed to hunt animals for food, Ulysses couldn’t bring himself to shoot an animal.” Two of Ulysses’ favorite things were nature and horses. At a young age he would play around with horses and you could never find him inside. By the age of five years old, Grant could ride a horse like a pro. When the circus came to town Ulysses would volunteer to ride the pony; where he would put on an astonishing show and the crowd loved it. When he was eight years old, he bought his first horse from his neighbor for twenty-five dollars. By his tenth birthday he was taking trips to Cincinnati (which was fifty miles from his home) and other cities. He would pick up and take people from his home to those different cities. Ulysses was not a stranger of hard work, from a very young age his parents made him work for anything he wanted. His parents allowed him to have free time and during that free time Ulysses would go fishing, ice skating, and horseback riding. Grant’s father taught him to read at a young age, because not many books at that time were made for children; by the age of six he was reading adult books.

Once Grant finished school in Ohio, he then went to attend West Point Military School in New York. Ulysses father made an appointment with West Point without him knowing. Grant’s father did this “because Ulysses wanted to attend college, he had found a way for the boy to go for free. Through a congressman, Jesse had arranged for his boy to get a spot at West Point, the famous school for future soldiers.” Grant did not want to go because he did not want to a solider, but in the end his father made him go to West Point. Grant was a cadet for four years on the Hudson. “He made no strong impression on his superiors or classmates, except in horsemanship… Grant did what was required, and that not especially well. As the cadets advanced from class to class, their leaders became the academy’s officers. Grant briefly made sergeant, but rash of demerits knocked him back down to private.” When Grant graduated from West Point he was commissioned Brevet Second Lieutenant and assigned with the 4th +infantry, which was located in Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. During the Mexican-American war Grant fought as a Quartermaster, under General Zachary Taylor. While stationed in Missouri, Grant met Julia Dent, which was a sister of one of his West Point classmates. After the Mexican-American war he moved back to Missouri, where he married Julia in August 1848. The Grant’s had four children, three boys and one girl. “In the early years of his marriage, Grant was assigned to a series of remote army posts, some of them on the West Coast, which kept him separated from his family.” He resigned from the military in 1854. Now with his family in White Haven, Grant tried to farm and start a St. Louis real estate office, but failed at both. 

In 1861 the American Civil War began, Grant became a colonel of the 21st Illinois Volunteers. He trained his men himself and he made sure that the soldiers followed rules. ” If an individual or group of soldiers broke rules, they were punished. Ulysses’ men quickly learned that he was a serious boss.” “Later that summer, President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) made Grant a brigadier general.” Ulysses Grant was chosen General-in-Chief of the Union armies on March 1864. His first two battles or “sieges” were at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson. He led the battles at Shiloh, which occurred in the early part of the war. Grant liked to move at a fast pace during battle. He tried to take over Vicksburg in May of 1863. Vicksburg is located in Mississippi, on the east bank of the Mississippi river, halfway between Memphis and New Orleans. Vicksburg was a key Confederate river defense, and was Grant’s main focus in his actions in the west. Grant stayed in the west from October 1862 until July 1863. In the battle of Vicksburg, 29,500 Confederate men surrendered and it was a major physiological disappointment to the Confederate army. The main reason it was such an upset to the Confederate army was, because it came soon after the defeat of the Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg. With Vicksburg captured and seized the South was losing ports, and having difficulties getting supplies to their troops. Grant’s official movement to capture the city began on November 2nd, right after he had created an army of thirty thousand men in Grand Junction, Tennessee. “He moved this army in three columns down the Mississippi river heading toward Vicksburg, making the confederate army eventually retreat and surrender.” “By orchestrating a complete national strategy, Lincoln and his top general, Grant, provided the template for American success in war.” Since Grant liked and wanted to move at a fast pace and not waste time, he helped out the Union army during the Civil War with this strategy. This ultimately led to Robert E. Lee surrendering at the Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865.

One feature of Ulysses’ life many people do not know about was his drinking problem. Grant was caught several times for intoxication in public. Oddly the drinking never affected him as a person nor as a commander. Grant would just go and get the job done that was required of him and did his own thing.

Once Abraham Lincoln was assassinated (April 14, 1865), Andrew Johnson became president. Ulysses Grant was elected president of the United States of America in 1868. Grant believed in peace and equality. He worked with Native Americans to provide them with Peace Treaties. Grant had some great accomplishments as president, but also had failures. He did not do much with the reconstruction period of the south. Grant was reelected as president in 1872 to serve out his second term. Grant’s peace negotiations with the Native Americans had them move to reservations, where they were taught how to farm, write, and where also converted to Christianity. Those that did not go willingly were push off their homeland and forced to the reservations. These actions in the end were destructive to the Native Americans by turning them into the common white man. 

In 1884 Grant was diagnosed with throat cancer. Before Grant’s passing he wrote an autobiography that mainly focused on his military career. His friend Mark Twain published his work soon after Grant’s passing. Twain marketed the Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant to allow for it to reach millions of veterans. Ulysses passed away on July 23rd, 1885, in Mount McGregor, New York.

Hiram Ulysses Grant did many great things for the United States while serving in the military as well as serving his two Presidential terms. Grant went up and down numerous hills during his life and had to overcome many challenges in order to accomplish the task that he did. Grant is still the only President that served after being a major general in the United States Army to this day, roughly 140 years later.


  • Brands, H. W. The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace. New York: Doubleday, 2012. (Accessed November 18, 2017
  • Erath, John. ‘Union Success in the Civil War and Lessons for Strategic Leaders.’ JFQ: Joint Force Quarterly no. 77 (2015 2nd Quarter 2015): 128-136. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed November 19, 2017).
  • Josiah Bunting III. Ulysses S. Grant, the American Presidents. New York. Henry Holt and Company, LLC. 2004. 107-109. (Accessed November 15, 2017).
  • Laver, Harry. General Who Will Fight: The Leadership of Ulysses S. Grant. University Press of Kentucky.
  • O’Shei, Tim, and Authur Schlesinger Jr. “Ulysses S. Grant- Military Leader & President.” (January 2001): 6. Biography Reference Center, Ebscohost (accessed November 16, 2017).
  • Sim, David. “The Peace Policy of Ulysses S. Grant.” American Nineteenth Century History 9, no. 3 (September 2008): 241-268. Academic Search Complete (accessed November 18, 2017).
  • Thomas Fleming. “The Civil War Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant.” New York. Tom Doherty Associates. March 2002. (Accessed November 18, 2017).
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  • ‘Vicksburg.’ The Confederacy, 645-650. Vol. 4. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993.

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