Monday, April 26, 2010
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) was born on April 27, 1822, in Point Pleasant, Ohio, which was located on the Ohio River southeast of Cincinnati. His family later moved to Georgetown. He was the first child in a family of three sons and three daughters. He was officially named Hiram Ulysses Grant but was usually called Ulysses or 'Lyss. Ulysses' father owned a prosperous tannery as well as farmland. Ulysses did not like working in the tannery. He much preferred working on the farm with horses, and he became an excellent horseman. Ulysses attended local schools in Georgetown until age 14. he attended an academy in Maysville, Kentucky, for one year and then entered an academy in Ripley, Ohio, in 1838. When a neighbor's son was dismissed from the U.S. Military Academy in 1839, Ulysses' father requested his congressman to name Ulysses as his replacement. The congressman made out the appointment to Ulysses S. Grant, and Ulysses never corrected the mistake. Ulysses was an average student at West Point because he read novels instead of studying. He did well in mathematics and horsemanship. He didn't like military life and didn't plan on an Army career, considering instead a job teaching college mathematics. When Grant graduated from West Point in 1843, he was commissioned a second lieutenant and stationed near St. Louis. He was introduced to Julia Dent, a classmate's sister. They became engaged but delayed their marriage because of the Mexican War. Grant's company went to Louisiana in 1844 and then to Texas in 1845. There he was in an area claimed by both the United States and Mexico. He was active in the capture of Mexico City where he was recognized for skill and bravery. By the end of that war he was a first lieutenant and had learned lessons that would help him in the Civil War. He returned to St. Louis as soon as possible after the war and married Julia Dent on August 22, 1848. The Grants had a happy marriage and were blessed with four children. Grant continued to serve in the Army and was stationed in Detroit and Sacketts Harbor, New York, before being sent to Fort Vancouver. He couldn't afford to take his wife and new son so she went to live with his parents in Ohio. He was made a captain and was transferred to Fort Humboldt, California, where he still couldn't afford to bring his family. He became depressed and started drinking heavily according to gossip. He resigned from the Army and settled his family in St. Louis. Grant spent six years working at several jobs and not succeeding ate any of them. He was 39 years old when the Civil War started in 1861. He strongly opposed secession and had freed his only slave two years earlier. He felt a duty to fight for the Union. He helped with military drills and worked for an adjutant general before the governor made him colonel of a regiment of volunteers. He spent two months campaigning and refreshing his leadership skills before his congressman recommended to President Lincoln to appoint him a brigadier general in August 1861. Through several battles Grant revealed that he had the qualities of a great military commander. After one battle the opposing commander asked for terms of surrender. Grant replied, "No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted." The Confederate commander realized he had no choice but to surrender. Northerners claimed that Grant's initials, U.S., stood for "unconditional Surrender." He was promoted to major general. Grant lost a lot of men by a surprise Confederate attack at Shiloh on April 6, 1862, but Union troops held on until reinforcements arrived. This was the last time that Grant was surprised in battle. Many congressmen pressured Lincoln to replace Grant because of the heavy Union losses at Shiloh. Lincoln answered them, "I can't spare this man - he fights!" Grant and his army defeated a Confederate army at Vicksburg, Mississippi, after advancing all winter until they laid a siege against the city in May 1863. The Confederates surrendered on July 4, 1863. After receiving command of all Union forces in the West in October 1863, Grant went to Chattanooga, Tennessee. There his ability to make decisions saved Union forces under siege and won a great victory on November 25, 1863. While Grant's army was succeeding in the West, the army in the East was failing. Lincoln promoted Grant to lieutenant general early in 1864 and made him commander of all the Union armies. Grant went to Virginia and started pressuring General Robert E. Lee. Lee began retreating, but Grant's troops suffered severe losses in the battles. Grant was called "butcher" because of the many losses. The fierce pressure from Union troops forced Lee to abandon Richmond early in 1865 and to surrender On April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. Lee and his soldiers were released on their honor by Grant and allowed to keep their horses to help with the spring planting. Grant became very popular in the North because of the victory and appreciated in the South because of his generous terms to Lee. Grant was nominated for President b y the Republican Party and won the election of 1868 by a decisive majority of electoral votes. He was the first West Point graduate to become President of the United States. In his first inauguration speech, Grant admitted that he had no political experience and promised that he would not be ruled by professional politicians. He showed his independence by his appointments to his Cabinet and other offices. Grant worked hard at bringing North and South closer together by persuading Congress to pardon many former Confederate leaders, limiting the use of federal troops in the South. He used federal troops to protect blacks from the Klu Klux Klan and other white groups determined to keep blacks from voting. Political corruption was rampant. Carpetbaggers controlled some state governments in the South. There were political machines in Northern cities making huge profits from dishonesty. Grant was honest, but some of the men he appointed were not. There was much need for civil service reform because of the many scandals. The president of the Dominican Republic offered to sell his country to the United States in 1869 and a treaty of annexation was signed. The Senate rejected the treaty on the argument that a black republic was losing its independence. Grant took little part in the social life in Washington except for official appearances. His daughter Nellie married an Englishman in the White House and attracted international attention. Grant's second administration was also plagued with scandals, but many Republican leaders urged him to run for a third term. He refused to run again. Grant was honest and tried to protect the rights of blacks to vote, own property, and other privileges. He also sought to correct injustices to American Indians. He lacked the political skills to achieve his goals of justice and reform. Historians generally consider Grant to be a poor President even though he remained very popular. When Grant left the White House after the election of Rutherford B. Hayes, he and his family spent two years traveling in Europe and the Far East, returning home in 1879 still highly popular. He received some votes for President in 1880, but James A. Garfield won the Republican nomination. Grant's response was, "I feel a great responsibility lifted from my shoulders." Grant retired from public life with $100,000 but became almost penniless after making a bad investment. He began writing magazine articles about his war experiences. When he wrote his memoirs, Mark Twain, the famous American author, became his publisher. The memoirs were so successful that Grant's family earned about $500,000 from them. Grant knew he was dying of cancer as he wrote his memoirs. He died on July 23, 1885, soon after he completed his memoirs. He is buried in a tomb in New York, City, which is called the General Grant National Memorial. Mrs. Grant died in 1902 and was buried beside him. World events during the time of President Grant include: 1) The first transcontinental railroad was completed at Promontory, Utah, in 1869. 2) The Suez Canal opened in 1869, joining the Mediterranean and the Red seas. 3) Susan B. Anthony founded the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869. Wyoming Territory gave women the right to vote in the same year. 4) Amendment 15 to the Constitution was adopted in 1870, stating that citizens cannot be denied the right to vote because of race. 5) The great Chicago fire killed 300 people and left 90,000 people homeless in October 1871. 6) Yellowstone National Park, our nation's first national park, was established by Congress in 1872. 7) Barbed wire, designed by Joseph Glidden in 1873, made it possible for small farmers to settle the frontier. 8) The Battle of the Big Horn or "Custer's Last Stand" took place in 1876 when Indians massacred Custer and all his troops. 9) The telephone was patented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. 10) The electric light was developed by Thomas Edison in 1879. Facts for this post came from an article by John Y. Simon in World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 8, pp 312-318.