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Biography and Career of Ulysses S. Grant

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Ulysses S. Grant’s full name is Hiram Ulysses Grant. He was born in Point Pleasant, Ohio on April, 27, 1822. He was the son of Jesse Root Grant and Hannah Simpson Grant. His father was a tanner and a business man. He was the eldest child out of 6. His siblings were Simpson, Clara, Orvil, Jennie, and Mary.

While Grant was a child he was quiet and reserved like his mother. As a child he disliked the idea of taking over his fathers business. When he was five years old he began his education. He started out his education at a subscription school and later moved to a private school. He went to Maysville Seminary in the winter of 1836-1837, and in the autumn of 1838 he attended John Rankin’s academy.

At the age of 17 his father arranged for him to go to the United States Military Academy in West Point. Due to clerical error he was listed in the system as Ulysses S. Grant. Not wanting to be rejected by the school, he changed his name on the spot. Grant was not the best student he received several demerits for tardiness, slovenly dressing, and decided that the academy had no charms for him. At West Point he received average grades in very class except mathematics and geology. He also excelled in horsemanship, which was not surprising. He graduated from West Point in 1843. He graduated the 21st in his class out of 39, but he didn’t care he was just happy to leave. After he served his mandatory four of duty he planned to resign from the military.

After graduation, Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant was stationed in St. Louis, Missouri. Before the couple could wed, however, he was shipped off for duty. During the Mexican-American War, Grant served as quartermaster, efficiently overseeing the movement of supplies. Serving under General Zachary Taylor and later under General Winfield Scott, he closely observed their military tactics and leadership skills. After getting the opportunity to lead a company into combat, Grant was credited for his bravery under fire. He also developed strong feelings that the war was wrong, and that it was being waged only to increase America’s territory for the spread of slavery.

He ended up marrying a woman named Julia Dent while he was stationed in St. Louis, Missouri. He proposed her in 1844, and she accepted. They were engaged for four-years, but they finally married in 1848. From 1848-1854 they had four children, and he was assigned to several post during the time. He was sent to Fort Vancouver in 1852. While at Fort Vancouver he missed his wife, Julia, and his two sons. He had not even met his second son at this point in his life. While attempting to get his family closer to him he invested in several businesses that ended up failing. He started to drink, and that got him his reputation that would follow him for the rest of his life.

In the summer of 1853, Grant became a captain and transferred to Ford Humboldt on the Northern California coast. Grant had a disagreement with the fort’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Robert C. Buchanan, while in Northern California coast. Grant resigned from the Army on July, 31, 1854, because of allegations of heavy drinking and arming of disciplinary action.

In 1854, Ulysses S. Grant moved him and his family back to Missouri, but when he tired to go back to his normal life, he hit a low point. When his father-in-law gave him land he began to farm, but their business proved to be unsuccessful after a few years. Grant then failed to find success with a real estate venture, and was denied employment as an engineer and clerk in St. Louis. He began selling fire wood on the streets to help support his family. In 1860, he finally went to work at his father’s tannery business. He worked as a clerk, and was supervised by his two younger brothers.

On April 12, 1861, Confederate troops attacked Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. This act of rebellion sparked Ulysses S. Grant’s patriotism, and he volunteered his military services. Again he was initially rejected for appointments, but with the aid of an Illinois congressman, he was appointed to command an unruly 21st Illinois volunteer regiment. Grant applied lessons that he had learned from during the Mexican-American War from his commanders, Grant saw that the regiment was combat-ready by September 1861.

When Kentucky’s fragile neutrality fell apart in the fall of 1861, Grant and his volunteers took the small town of Paducah, Kentucky, at the mouth of the Tennessee River. In February 1862, in a joint operation with the U.S. Navy, Grant’s ground forces applied pressure on Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, taking them both these battles are credited as the earliest significant Union victories of the American Civil War. After the assault on Fort Donelson, Grant earned the moniker ‘Unconditional Surrender Grant’ and was promoted to major general of volunteers.

In April 1862, Ulysses S. Grant moved his army cautiously into enemy territory in Tennessee, in what would later become known as the Battle of Shiloh (or the Battle of Pittsburg Landing), one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. Confederate commanders Albert Sidney Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard led a surprise attack against Grant’s forces, with fierce fighting occurring at an area known as the ‘Hornets’ Nest’ during the first wave of assault. Confederate General Johnston was mortally wounded, and his second-in-command, General Beauregard, decided against a night assault on Grant’s forces. Reinforcement finally arrived, and Grant was able to defeat the Confederates during the second day of battle.

The Battle of Shiloh was a near disaster for Grant and it was a watershed for American military. Though he was supported by President Abraham Lincoln, Grant faced heavy criticism from members of Congress and the military brass for the high casualties, and for a time, he was demoted. A war department investigation led to his reinstatement.

Union war strategy called for taking control of the Mississippi River and cutting the Confederacy in half. In December 1862, Grant moved overland to take Vicksburg a key fortress city of the Confederacy but his attack was stalled by Confederate cavalry raider Nathan Bedford Forest, as well as due to getting bogged down in the bayous north of Vicksburg. In his second attempt, Grant cut some, but not all, of his supply lines, moved his men down the western bank of the Mississippi River, and crossed south of Vicksburg. Failing to take the city after several assaults, he settled into a long siege, and Vicksburg finally surrendered on July 4, 1863.

Though Vicksburg marked both Grant’s greatest achievement thus far and a moral boost for the Union, rumors of Grant’s heavy drinking followed him through the rest of the Western Campaign. Grant suffered from intense migraine headaches due to stress, which nearly disabled him and only helped to spread rumors of his drinking, as many chalked up his migraines to frequent hangovers. However, his closest associates said that he was sober and polite, and that he displayed deep concentration, even in the midst of a battle.

Grant took control of Chattanooga, Tennessee in October 1863. In November from the 22-25, Union forces routed Confederate troops in Tennessee at the battles of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. This is known collectively as the Battle of Chattanooga. The Confederates to retreat into Georgia because of the victories. This ended the siege of the vital railroad junction of Chattanooga and ultimately paving the way for Union General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Atlanta campaign and march to Savannah, Georgia, in 1864.

Ulysses S. Grant saw the military objectives of the Civil War differently than most of his predecessors, who believed that capturing territory was most important to winning the war. Grant adamantly believed that taking down the Confederate armies was most important to the war effort, and to that end, set out to track down and destroy General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. From March 1864 until April 1865, Grant doggedly hunted for Lee in the forests of Virginia, all the while inflicting unsustainable casualties on Lee’s army.

On April 9, 1865, Lee surrendered his army, marking the end of the Civil War. The two generals met at a farm near the village of Appomattox Court House, and a peace agreement was signed. In a magnanimous gesture, Grant allowed Lee’s men to keep their horses and return to their homes, taking none of them as prisoners of war.

During post-war reorganization, Ulysses S. Grant was promoted to full general and oversaw the military portion of Reconstruction. He was then put in an awkward position during President Andrew Johnson’s fight with the Radical Republicans and Johnson’s impeachment. Subsequently, in 1868, Grant was elected the 18th president of the United States. When he entered the White House the following year, Grant was not only politically inexperienced, he was — at the age of 46 — the youngest president theretofore.

Though scrupulously honest, Grant became known for appointing people who were not of good character. While he had some success during his time in office, including pushing through ratification of the 15th Amendment and establishing the National Parks Service, his administration’s scandals rocked both of his presidential terms, and he didn’t get the opportunity to serve a third.

After leaving the White House, Ulysses S. Grant’s lack of success at civilian life continued once again. He became a partner of the financial firm Grant and Ward. His partner, Ferdinand Ward. In 1884 the firm went bankrupt as did Grant. Grant figured out that he was suffering from throat cancer, but he was strapped for cash. Grant began selling short magazine articles about his life and then negotiated a contract with a friend, famed novelist Mark Twain, to publish his memoirs. The two-volume set went on to sell some 300,000 copies, becoming a classic work of American literature. Ultimately, the work earned Grant’s family nearly $450,000.

Ulysses S. Grant died on July 23, 1885. He died just as his memoirs were being published. He dies at the age of 63, in Mount McGregor, New York. He is buried in New York City. 

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