Ulysses Hiram Grant was born April 27, 1822, in a two room frame house at Point Pleasant, Ohio. His father, Jesse Root Grant, was foreman in a tannery and a farmer. His mother, Hannah Simpson Grant, was a hard working frontier woman. When Ulysses was a year old, the family moved to Georgetown. There his father bought a farm, built a house, and set up his own tannery. Jesse and Hannah had five more children there, two boys and three girls. Grant love horses and learned to manage them at an early age. When he was seven or eight he could drive a team and began hauling all the wood used in the house and shops.
From that point on until he reached seventeen, Grant did all the work done with horses; such as breaking up the land, furrowing, plowing corn, bringing in the crops when harvested, and hauling wood. Three months each winter when work was minimized Grant went to a one room schoolhouse, and that’s how he was educated until he went to West Point at age seventeen. When Grant turned seventeen, his father got him an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. The congressman who made the appointment did not know Grants’ full name, so he left out Hiram and added Simpson. Simpson, was Grants’, others’ maiden name.
Grant did not care for military life and never expected to stay in the army. He was good in mathematics and hoped sometime to teach. He was, however, the best horseman at the academy. He was Quiet, shy, and he made few friends. When he was commissioned, Ulysses was ordered to Jefferson Barracks, near St. Louis, Missouri. While stationed there he met Julia Dent, daughter of a slave owning Southern family . Within three months he proposed to her and was accepted. Since he had only his pay as lieutenant, the wedding was postponed. Grant was in almost every battle of the Mexican War.
He fought on foot, observing many different commanders and how they lead their troops. This experience, he said, was of great value to him, because he became acquainted with nearly all the officers of the regular army. Some of them including the great soldier Robert E. Lee were to be on the Confederate side in the Civil War. Grant came back from Mexico a captain. He at once married Julia and took her to his new station, Sackett’s Harbor, New York. During the Mexican War. This is where Grant formed the habit of drinking. At Sackett’s Harbor he joined a temperance society, but he orgot the pledge the next year when he was sent to Detroit. In 1852 Grants regiment was ordered to the pacific coast by way of the Isthmus of Panama. Mrs. Grant stayed with her parents because she didnt want to take their two-year-old child on a trip like that. Cholera attacked the regiment in Panama. Grant showed great leadership and resourcefulness in getting the mules to carry the delirious men across the isthmus. He kept his cool and showed how he could lead men when times got rough.
Grant spent two years on the pacific coast. He missed Julia and wasnt there when his econd child was born. He turned again to drink and wore slovenly uniforms. His colonel asked for his resignation, and Grant borrowed money to return hom. Julias father gave Grant 80 acres to farm, near St. Louis. Grant called the place Hardscrabble. He cleared the land, built a log cabin, and worked hard but could not make farming pay. Two more children were born and Grant couldnt support his family. Grant sold his stock and implements and turned to selling real estate in St. Louis. He failed again and walked the streets looking for something to do.
Finally his father persuaded his ounger sons to take Grant into their leather business at Galena, Illinois. Grant worked as a clerk, selling hides to saddle makers and cobbles. When the Civil War broke out he was 39 years old and was generally regarded as a failure. After Fort Sumter was fired on April 12, 1861, President Lincoln issued a call to arms. Within two weeks Grant was drilling volunteers in Galena, because, as he said, there was no one else to do the job. He went with the volunteers to Springfield, Illinois, wearing his threadbare citizen’s clothes. At Springfield, the governor made him first a clerk, then a mustering officer.
When the gathering was completed Grant left. A few weeks later the governor telegraphed him to come back and accept the rank of colonel because the men he had recruited had asked for him. Officers were expected to supply their own uniform and horse, but Grant didn’t have either one. Still, he enforced discipline on the rough farm youths and in a month had a trained regiment. He marched his men into Missouri, and in St. Louis he read in a newspaper that he had been made a brigadier general of volunteers. Grant reached his headquarters at Cairo, Illinois, September 4, 1861. Two days later, ithout firing a shot, he occupied Paducah, Kentucky. In November his raw recruits made an unsuccessful attack on a Confederate camp at Belmont, Missouri. Grant then set to work to prepare his men for a long, hard struggle. Volunteers poured in until he had nearly 20,000 men. In February 1862 Grant advanced into Tennessee. With the aid of Commodore Foote’s gunboats, he captured Fort Henry on the Tennessee River.
Then he moved against the more formidable Fort Donelson, on the Cumberland River. While he was invading this fort, the Confederate general, Simon B. Buckner asked for a truce. This was the same fficer who in had loaned Grant money to rejoin his family in 1858. Grant’s answer became famous in American history: “No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works. Buckner surrendered the fort with 14,000 prisoners. Newspapers in the North were filled with praise of Unconditional Surrender Lincoln named him a major general. The objective of the campaign in the West was to cut the Confederacy in two by winning the Mississippi Valley. The first major success came during1862 in the battle of Shiloh in southern Tennessee.
In two days of desperate fighting, Grant pushed the Confederate forces back to Corinth in Mississippi. Losses on both sides were heavy. Grant made no excuses but spent the rest of 1862 making plans to take Vicksburg, the stronghold on the Mississippi River that served as a major transportation point for the Confederacy. Vicksburg was a brilliant operation and showed Grant at his best. The fort surrendered unconditionally on July 4, 1863, a day after the battle of Gettysburg. Five days later Port Hudson fell. As a reward for his victory at Vicksburg, Grant was given supreme command of all the armies in the West.
When he returned to Tennessee, he set out to relieve a Federal army penned up in Chattanooga. The Confederates occupied Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, those two locations were the only things in the way approaching the city. On November 24 and 25, the Federal troops stormed the heights, and the Confederates fled into Georgia. All Tennessee was now captured, and the power of the Confederacy was effectively broken. In the final battle of the Civil War, Grant found himself up against Robert E. Lee. Lee was the only general left in the south who had a chance of beating Grant and the North.
With roops outnumbering Lee’s two to one, Grant sought out to destroy the Southern army. Grant’s strategy was simply to send all his men into battle at once, never letting them rest until victory prevailed. Lee saw that Grant wouldn’t back down, so he surrendered in order to save lives of the all ready bloodthirsty war. Grant went to Washington to disband the army. In April 1866 congress revived for him the rank of full general, a title not used since George Washington had held it. The pay gave Grant financial security, and he became a familiar figure in the streets in his light buggy, driving a spirited horse.
Gifts were showered on him. Galena and Philadelphia both presented houses to him. New York City gave him $100,000. Grant had never been interested in politics and belonged to no political party. President Johnson hoped to put through Lincoln’s mild plan of “reconstructing” the seceded states. The Radical Republicans in Congress demanded a harsh policy. Johnson hoped to have Grant’s support, but Grant quarreled with him and was won over by the Radicals. While the Senate was impeaching Johnson, the Republican convention in Chicago unanimously nominated Grant for president, with Schuyler Colfax of Indiana for vice- resident.
Grant received 214 electoral votes as against 80 for the Democratic candidate, Horatio Seymour. Grant received great support from the black people in the Southern states. Grant moved into the White House with Julia and his beautiful daughter Nellie. His sons were also there from time to time, and his old father, now a postmaster in Covington, Kentucky, made brief visits. Grant’s brothers stayed with their business and were too busy to visit him. Serious problems confronted the nation. The war had brought poverty and desolation to the South, but it brought the North prosperity.
There was widespread corruption in both political and business life. Grant’s presidency contributed to corruption in politics. In 1869 two speculators, Jay Gould and James Fisk, attempted to corner gold and brought pressure on Grant to keep the United States treasury from selling it. Foreign trade was almost stopped. On Black Friday, September. 24, 1869, the United States treasury, with Grant’s approval, suddenly put 4 million dollars in gold up for sale. The price plunged, causing the ruin of many speculators. Led by Carl Schurz and other reformers, a group in the Republican Party set out to defeat
Grant for reelection. They organized the Liberal Republican Party, which called for civil service reform, an end to corruption in government, and the withdrawal of troops from the South. The Democratic Party joined with them in supporting Horace Greeley, founder of the New York Tribune, for the presidency. The regular Republicans renominated Grant. Grant received 286 electoral votes. Greeley died shortly after the election, and his 63 electoral votes were divided among other candidates. Grant’s popularity declined as evidence of serious political corruption came to light. The overnment had given money and land grants to the new railways in the West. In 1873 it was found that certain members of Congress had been bribed to vote in the interests of the Union Pacific Railroad. The bribes were in the form of stock in a railway construction company, the Credit Mobilier. In 1874 the Whiskey Ring scandal was uncovered. The ring was a combination of distillers and tax officers who defrauded the treasury of the revenue tax on whiskey.
Grant was not personally implicated in the scandals, but he gave appointments to unfit people and stood by them after they had been shown to be ishonest. The wartime boom ended with the great panic of 1873. Five years of hard times followed. Businessmen urged the government to return to a sound currency and call in the “greenbacks”–paper money issued during the Civil War. The greenbacks were not based on gold or silver in the treasury and had therefore declined in value, causing a steep rise in prices. Grant vetoed a bill calling for more paper currency. In 1875 he signed the Specie Resumption Act, which made greenbacks redeemable in gold or silver coin. Grant reluctantly announced that he would not be a candidate for a third term because he new that the scandals of his administration had turned the voters against him. Both the Republicans and the Democrats nominated reform candidates.
The election was so close that the results were disputed until March 2, when a congressional committee decided in favor of Rutherford B. Hayes. For the next two years Grant, with his wife and son Jesse toured Europe and Asia. He returned home with many gifts, but his money was nearly gone. In 1880 the Republicans tried to have him nominated for a third term, but the Democrats prevailed and nominated James A. Garfield. Grant, however, was still the people’s hero, and his friends raised a arge fund for him by popular subscription. Grant went to New York City and bought a house with the money. Grant’s children had become adults and been successful in living their lives. Nellie had been married at the White House to a wealthy Englishman. Frederick was a lieutenant colonel in the army, Jesse was a lawyer, and Ulysses, Jr. , was in a Wall Street brokerage firm, Grant and War. Grant unwisely invested all his money in Grant and Ward. He paid no attention to its operations, and his son apparently knew little about the business. Ferdinand Ward was a dishonest speculator.
The firm crashed in 1884 and left Grant penniless and humiliated. Ward was sent to the state penitentiary. To earn money, Grant turned to writing. Samuel L. Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, was then a subscription book publisher. He offered Grant a high royalty for his memoirs, and in 1885 Grant began to dictate them. A pain in his throat was finally diagnosed as cancer, but Grant went on, writing with a pen, to provide for his wife after he was gone. In the summer of 1885 Mrs. Grant took her husband to the Adirondacks near Saratoga. There he finished his `Personal Memoirs’ about a week before he died on July 23.
Written frankly, the work ranks high among military biographies. It was so popular that Mrs. Grant received nearly $450,000 from its sale. A granite tomb to Grant’s memory was built on Riverside Drive in New York City, in 1959 it became a national memorial. Grant’s life was like a roller coaster, in the beginning he started low and was regarded as a failure. He worked his way to the top, became the most honored general in the U. S. , and was elected President of the United States. Then suddenly his life went downhill, his firm crashed, he developed cancer and died bankrupt.