The Life of Ulysses S Grant

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The 18th President of the United States

Late in the administration of President Johnson, General Ulysses S Grant argued with the President and in doing so; found himself aligned with the Radical Republicans.

Grant personified the Union victory over the South during the American Civil War and received the Republican nomination for the Presidency in 1868.

Grant’s Early Career

Grant was born to an Ohio tanner in 1822. He was sent to West Point against his will and graduated in the middle of his class. During the Mexican-American War Grant served under General Zachary Taylor

When the American Civil War broke out in 1860, Grant was working in his father’s leather shop. He was placed in command of a volunteer regiment by the state Governor. He whipped his men into fighting shape by September, 1861 and was promoted to the rank of brigadier general.

Grant believed that control of the Mississippi Valley was the key to ending the Civil War. In February, 1862, he attacked Fort Henry and Fort Donelson. When the Confederate commander asked for terms, Grant replied “no terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted.” The Confederate garrisons surrendered and Grant was promoted to the rank of major general.

Grant and the American Civil War

At Shiloh, Grant fought one of the bloodiest battles in the history of the American West. When his critics attacked Grant for losing the engagement and demanded his resignation, he was defended by President Lincoln who said, “I can’t spare this man—he fights.”

A few days before the Union victory at Gettysburg, Grant took the city of Vicksburg, allowing the Union to control the Mississippi River and cutting the Confederacy in two. Around the same time, Grant also broke the Confederate hold on Chattanooga.

In 1864, Grant became General-in-Chief of the Army and directed General William T Sherman to drive through the south, which resulted in the burning of Atlanta and the famous March to the Sea. In the meantime, Grant went in pursuit of General Robert E Lee and the Army of North Virginia.

Grant eventually caught up with Lee on April 9, 1865, at the Appomattox Court House, where General Lee surrendered, officially ending the American Civil War. Grant saw to it that Lee and the men under his command received very generous terms, wording the documents of surrender in such a way as to prevent treason trials.

President Grant

While President, Grant tried to run the government in the same manner that he ran his army during the war. He even went so far as to bring his general staff to the White House.

Grant had a reputation of scrupulous honesty, but he accepted gifts from admirers and allowed himself to be seen in public with the notorious speculators Jay Gould and James Fisk. When Grant realized that their plan was to corner the gold market, he ordered the Treasury to sell large quantities of gold, but it was too late. Gould and Fisk did significant damage to the economy.

When seeking re-election in 1872, Grant was attacked by Liberal Republicans. He dismissed them as “narrow minded men,” while calling his supporters “The Old Guard.”

During his second term he continued to allow Radical Reconstruction, which began during the Administration of President Andrew Johnson, to run its course.

Grant’s Death

After his retirement, Grant became a partner in a financial firm. Around the same time that the firm failed, Grant was diagnosed with throat cancer. He set about writing his memoires, partly to pay off several debts, but also to ensure that his family had a source of income. Ulysses S Grant died in 1885.

Sources

Ulysses S Grant.The White House. US Government. June 10/09

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