Growing up, Ulysses was timid, quiet, and sensitive. Others mistook his quietness for stupidity. They even labeled him “Useless”; however, he was great in horsemanship, a critical skill during that time. It was because he was assigned to the stable chores by his father and took care of the horses and other farm animals. He was even known to tame unruly horses. His father was supportive of his ambition to work beyond the life of being a tanner. Even though their family barely makes ends meet, they wish Ulysses to enter college.
In 1839, Ulysses’ father, Jesse, arranged for his admission to the United States Military Academy at West Point, which offered a deal. He will receive free education but will serve for Army service upon graduating in return. As a shy young man, Ulysses refused to attend the USMA. Eventually, he was persuaded and accepted to move to West Point to fulfill his yearning to travel and to take advantage of the free education he received.
The congressman who appointed Ulysses Grant accidentally wrote “Simpson” as his second name, although it was his mother’s maiden name. He decided to keep the Ulysses S. Grant and never amended the mistake, although the “S” did not stand of anything.
Ulysses exhibit skills in Math and drawing; however, his foundation was limited; that is why it left him a modest student. Despite his academic gaps, his horse-riding skill was unmatched. Because of this, he earned a spot in the Army’s cavalry when he graduated in 1843.
Ulysses Grant was appointed as brevet second lieutenant in the 4th United States Infantry stationed at Jefferson Barracks in Missouri. He met and fell in love with Julia Dent, sister of his roommate at West Point, and a daughter of a planter and merchant. The couple was secretly engaged before Ulysses Grant left for service in the Mexican-American War.
While serving in the Mexican-American War, Ulysses served as quartermaster, responsible for controlling the movement of supplies and even experienced combat. He also had the opportunity to analyze Winfield Scott and Zachary Taylor as generals and learn from their victories and failures.
After he returned from the Mexican-American War, he married Julia in August 1848. They were blessed with four children: Frederick, Ulysses Jr., Nellie, and Jesse. In the early years of his marriage, Ulysses is continuously sent to remote army posts and kept him far from his family because most of them were on the West Coast. He resigned from the military on April 11, 1854, to reunite with his family with an uncertain future.
As a civilian, Ulysses needed to work to support his growing family. He experienced seven years of financial problems and instability. His father offered him to work for the family’s leather business in Illinois; however, Ulysses and Julie declined. The Grants moved to Missouri and began to farm the land given to Ulysses by Julia’s father and even called it Hardscrabble. They were able to build a modest house and planted potatoes, corn, and oats; however, the farm had failed. They eventually moved to St. Louis, where he also failed in several ventures. Then, Ulysses decided to move his family back to Galena, Illinois, and accepted his father’s offer to work as a clerk in their leather goods shop.
When the American Civil War broke in 1861, Ulysses volunteered. Serving as a battlefield commander, he was able to win the Union’s first major victory and captured Fort Donelson located in Tennessee. Ulysses Grant even demanded an unconditional surrender from the rebels. He also successfully orchestrated a surprise attack to the Confederates at the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee. On July 4, 1863, he was able to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi, and broke the Confederate stranglehold.
Ulysses S. Grant displayed his military prowess and exhibited a rare trait — willingness to fight and win. Most of the Northern commanders lack nerve and logical skills to take out the rebels effectively. Among all the first of many generals appointed by President Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant led the North to victory.
Abraham Lincoln does not know Ulysses S. Grant at first, but as he shined on the battlefield, his name began to surface and earned him a reputation of being tenacious and a determined leader. The president was grateful to Ulysses’ Grant’s service; that is why he was appointed to become the commander of all the U.S. armies on March 10, 1864.
Ulysses led numerous campaigns that wore down the Confederate Army and brought the Civil War to a close. Confederate General Robert Lee surrendered to him on April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House in Virginia and successfully ended the Civil War.
Five days later, Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865, while attending a play “Our American Cousin” in Ford’s Theater in Washington D.C Ulysses S. Grant and his wife were invited but declined.
Abraham Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson, took charge of an ineffective administration. He was very lenient with Reconstruction’s efforts as he had little interest in protecting the rights of the newly freed slaves. At the beginning of Andrew Johnson’s term, Ulysses Grant attempted to work hand in hand with him; however, he opposed the policies of the president and believed it retracted the war’s legacy.
As a war hero, his popularity was still high and was nominated by the Republicans as the presidential nominee and easily won the seat.
Ulysses Grant led the country in the middle of the Reconstruction era. As president, he aimed to foster peaceful reconciliation between North and South. He even supported pardons to many former Confederate leaders and protected the civil rights of former slaves. One of the significant policies during his presidency was the 15th amendment in 1870, which allowed black men to vote. In addition to many of his policies, he also approved establishing the Department of Justice, Weather Bureau, and more.
After serving two terms as a president, Ulysses and his family took a two-year trip around the world and even met with dignitaries in the countries he visited.
He was able to commission his friend, Samuel Clemens, or known as Mark Twain to write and publish his memoirs. Ulysses S. Grant died on July 23, 1865, in Mount Gregor, New York, at 63 due to throat cancer.