HistoryUlysses S. Grant

Childhood and career of Ulysses S. Grant

 

Portrait of Ulysses Grant

Hiram Ulysses Grant was born on April 27, 1822, to religious and hard-working parents, Jesse and Hannah Grant, in Point Pleasant, Ohio. He was eldest among the six children. He grew up in a middle-class family, educated in private and public schools because of his father’s tannery business. Ulysses was from a Methodist family but preferred to pray privately. Young Ulysses’ hobbies were ice skating, fishing, and rode horses. He expressed his disgust towards the horrible stench and filth of their family business. He was squeamish and cannot take the skinning of raw animal carcasses as well as the chemicals.

His father realized that Ulysses would never succeed as a businessman. Recognizing that fact, he sent him to the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1839 despite being small, standing five feet and an inch and skinny for a seventeen-year-old. Ohio Congressman Thomas L. Hamer erroneously wrote Ulysses Simpson Grant, which he eventually accepted, resulting in a middle name standing for nothing. Ulysses was then known as U.S. Grant and Uncle Sam Grant because of his initials. He grew more than six inches during his tenure in the academy.

Ulysses S. Grant is an undistinguished student. He ranked 21st out of 39 in his class when he graduated and recalled leaving West Point the happiest day. Similar to many graduates, he intends to resign after a mandatory four-year stint.

After graduation, his first assignment was at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri. He met Julia Boggs Dent, his roommate’s sister at West Point, and a daughter of a prosperous merchant and plantation owner. They fell in love in an instant. In 1844, Ulysses proposed to Julia; however, before they could marry, Ulysses served for the Mexican-American war.

As the tension between Mexico and the United States began to intensify, President James K. Polk ordered Major General Zachary Taylor to coerce the Mexican government to negotiate over the two countries’ disputed territory. Ulysses served as a quartermaster, who is in charge of controlling the supplies’ movement, to prepare for the move southward. He also had the opportunity to witness combat and exhibit bravery under fire. He was able to carefully analyze Winfield Scott and Zachary Taylor’s strategies as he learned from their victories and failures.

After being engaged for four years with Julia, the couple was married on August 22, 1848. They had four children, Frederick, Ulysses “Buck,” Jr., Ellen “Nellie,” and Jesse. After the war, the couple enjoyed their time together; however, in 1852, Ulysses was then assigned to Fort Vancouver. From there, he began to feel homesick and found comfort in alcohol. He missed Julia and their two young sons, the other one he had not seen yet. He was then transferred to California during the height of California Gold Rush, promoted to captain, and it helped him a little. Eventually, he decided to leave the service and resigned on April 11, 1854.

After turning his back from military life, Ulysses and his family moved to Missouri and attempted to plow the land he received as a gift from Julia’s father. He built a modest house he called “Hardscrabble.” Living without any civilian vocation, Ulysses and his family suffered seven years of financial struggle; especially, he needs to support his growing family. His hard work still left him challenged to make a living. He had the opportunity to make money by selling slaves his father-in-law gave him, but he decided to free them instead. Out of desperation, he was forced to seek help from his father. He welcomed him with open arms and worked for the family’s leather shop in Galena, Illinois.

As the Civil War broke in 1861, Ulysses S. Grant served in the military again. In Galena, he helped recruit, equip and train the troops. He then escorted them to Springfield. Ulysses was incredibly dissatisfied with defensive and diversionary uses of the forces, General Henry Wager Halleck granted Ulysses S. Grant to conduct an offensive campaign in January 1862. From there, he won the first significant victory of the Union on February 16, 1862. It is when Fort Donnellson surrendered with an estimated 15,000 troops. He earned the nickname “unconditional surrender” as he refused to give terms for surrender.

Because of his grit, he was promoted to major general. On April 6 to 7, 1862, Ulysses was able to repel an unexpected Confederate attack at Shiloh Church in Tennessee. He decided to advance towards the most vital Confederate stronghold, Vicksburg, Mississippi. He successfully cut the Confederacy into half on July 4, 1863, as Port Hudson, Louisiana, fell.

President Abraham Lincoln appointed him as the commander of all United States armies as he became a famous war hero and exhibited military prowess and determination to fight and win. Ulysses S. Grant worked hard to pin down Robert E. Lee’s rebel army. After battling for over a year, on April 9, 1865, he eventually defeated the Confederate army. Soon, Robert E. Lee surrendered to him at the Appomattox Court House, Virginia. The attempt to restore the Union, Ulysses, gave a generous term of surrender towards the Confederates. He allowed them to go home after they surrendered their weapons.

Before the fateful night of April 14, 1865, Ulysses and his wife, Julia, were invited by President Lincoln to watch a performance at Ford’s Theater where he was assassinated, but the couple declined.

In 1867, President Andrew Johnson suspended Secretary Edwin Stanton and replaced Ulysses S. Grant and violated the Tenure of Office Act, which led to an impeachment crisis.

As Ulysses’ popularity soared, he easily won the presidential election in 1868 under the Republican Party. After Andrew Jackson, he was the next president to serve for two terms. Unfortunately, his presidency was hurdled by a series of corruption scandals. Financial speculations led to an economic panic and stock market crash in 1873.

Despite it all, his tenure resulted in some positive accomplishments, such as establishing the National Park System, protecting the civil rights of both African Americans and Native Americans, the founding of the Department of Justice, and many more.

Ulysses attempted to run for a third term in office but did not win. He spent over two years traveling the world and meeting significant world leaders such as Prince Bismarck of Germany, the emperor of Japan, Queen Victoria in England, and even visited Egypt, China, Russia, and Israel.

After the trip, he attempted to run again in 1880; however, he failed. He spent the remaining days of his life writing his autobiography with the famous American writer Samuel Clemens, also known as Mark Twain.

On July 23, 1885, Ulysses S. Grant died due to throat cancer a couple of months after the publication. He was honored with a massive funeral procession in New York.

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