Union General & 18th President - Ulysses S. Grant

The life of the General who won the Civil War and became the 18th President.

Hiram Ulysses Grant was born APRIL 27, 1822, into a Methodist family in Ohio.

He did not like the initials H.U.G., so he rearranged them to U.H.G.

When he was nominated at age 17 for a position at West Point, Congressman Thomas Hamer mistakenly wrote the "H" as an "S," thinking it stood for Grant's mother's maiden name, Simpson.

With the name, U.S. Grant, he attended West Point where he excelled in horsemanship, setting an equestrian high-jump record that lasted for nearly 25 years.

After graduation in 1843, Grant was stationed at Jefferson Barracks on the banks of the Mississippi River, just south of St. Louis, Missouri.

While visiting the family of a West Point classmate he fell in love with the classmate's sister, Julia Dent, and they secretly engaged.

Julia had crossed eyes, which a doctor later offered to correct, but Grant refused, saying:

“Did I not see you and fall in love with you with these same eyes? I like them just as they are, and now, remember, you are not to interfere with them. They are mine, and let me tell you, Mrs. Grant, you had better not make any experiments, as I might not like you half so well with any other eyes.”

An earlier graduate from West Point, 14 years prior to Grant, was Robert E. Lee.

Lee graduated second in his class.

In 1837, Lee had been in St. Louis, supervising the Army Corps of Engineers to make the Mississippi River navigable.

Prior to the era of railroads, rivers were the only means of transporting large amounts of grain and goods to ports, and changing river currents left deposits of sediment, silting up St. Louis' access to the Mississippi.

In 1846, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant were both sent to fight in the Mexican-American War.

They participated together in General Winfield Scott's march from the coastal city of Vera Cruz inland to Mexico City.

When the Mexican-American War ended in 1848, Grant was stationed in Detroit, and then Sackets Harbor, New York.

The California Gold Rush began in 1849.

In 1852, Captain Ulysses S. Grant, along with the 4th Infantry, were ordered to San Francisco, California.

To get there, they had to travel across the Isthmus of Panama during rainy season.

Soaking wet marching through the tropical jungle, a cholera epidemic broke out, which killed 150 of the 400 traveling.

Grant organized a field hospital and personally cared for the ill, writing:

"Meanwhile the cholera had broken out, and men were dying every hour ...

I permitted the company ... to proceed ... and I was left alone with the sick and the soldiers who had families.

I was about a week at Cruces before transportation began to come in.

About one-third of the people with me died, either at Cruces or on the way to Panama.

We finally reached Panama. The steamer, however, could not proceed until the cholera abated, and the regiment was ... delayed six weeks.

About one-seventh of those who left New York harbor with the 4th infantry on the 5th of July, now lie buried on the Isthmus of Panama."

Grant later described the ordeal:

"The horrors of the road in the rainy season are beyond description."

After arriving in California, Grant was ordered further north to Fort Vancouver in the Oregon Territory and then Fort Humboldt in northwest California.

Accused by his senior officer for intemperance in drinking, Grant was pressured to resign in 1854.

Returning to his wife Julia in Missouri, Grant unsuccessfully attempted farming.

He struggled financially, pursuing various business endeavors, including gathering driftwood from the river bank and chopping it up to sell as firewood.

When the Civil War began, Grant responded to the call for volunteers.

He was quickly promoted to brigadier general and in February of 1862, he captured Fort Henry and Fort Donelson.

When the Confederate commander had asked for terms of surrender, Grant offered no terms, but instead demanded unconditional surrender.

This resulted in his nickname, "Unconditional Surrender" Grant.

Grant won the Battle of Shiloh, April 6-7, 1862, which was the costliest battle to that date, with 23,000 casualties.

Afterwards, Pennsylvania politician Alexander McClure tried to persuade Lincoln into removing Grant, writing:

"Lincoln remained silent for what seemed a very long time. He then gathered himself up in his chair and said in a tone of earnestness that I shall never forget: ‘I can’t spare this man; he fights.'"

Grant won the Battle of Iuka, September 19, 1862, and defended Corinth, Mississippi.

He captured Mississippi's Port Gibson, won the Battle of Raymond, captured Mississippi's State Capital of Jackson, and won the Battle of Champion Hill.

After a seven week siege, which included digging a canal along the Mississippi River, Grant captured Vicksburg, July 4, 1863.

This gave the Union control of the Mississippi and geographically split the Confederacy.

The loss of Vicksburg was devastating to the South as it occurred just one day after the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg.

After capturing Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain in November of 1863, Grant was promoted by Lincoln to Lieutenant General commanding all the Union Armies.

With the South having limited manpower, and the North having a continual flow of immigrants to draft, the contest became a war of attrition.

Immense casualties followed the Overland Campaign in May of 1864, with the:

  • Battle of the Wilderness,

  • Spotsylvania Court House,

  • Battle of the Bloody Angle,

  • Battle of North Anna, and

  • Battle of Cold Harbor.

A nine month siege began at Petersburg, Virginia, pinning down Lee's forces, thus allowing Union forces to decimate the Shenandoah Valley, destroying Confederate supply-lines.

On September 2, 1864, Atlanta surrendered to Union General Sherman.

This was followed by Sherman's "March to the Sea," culminating at Savannah, which brought unimaginable devastation to the Confederate heartland.

Burning plantations, homes, and destroying the South's infrastructure, Sherman's scorched-earth tactics is considered the first modern-day instance of total warfare.

Sherman's men even tore up train track rails, heated them till red hot, then twisted them around trees as "Sherman's neckties."

This made it impossible for the South to repair their railroads.

Later in life, Sherman addressed a crowd of 10,000 in Columbus, Ohio, April 11, 1880:

"There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell."

After retiring in1884, a movement began to recruit him to run for President. Sherman replied:

"If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve."

In March of 1865, U.S. Grant captured Petersburg and Richmond.

Shortly after, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered at the Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.

Lee gave his sword to Grant, who gave it back. Grant then stated:

"The war is over. The Rebels are again our countrymen."

Five days later, April 14, 1865, Lincoln invited Grant and his wife to accompany them to Ford's theater, but the Grants declined, having plans to travel to Philadelphia.

That night, Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth.

At Lincoln's funeral, Grant wept, saying of Lincoln:

"He was incontestably the greatest man I have ever known."

In 1868, Grant was elected the 18th U.S. President.

He was considered a radical Republican as he worked to end the Democrat policies of racial discrimination in the South.

Grant fought the Democrat-affiliated Klu Klux Klan.

Grant supported the 15th Amendment guaranteeing freed slaves the right to vote.

Grant stated in his Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1873:

"Under Providence I have been called a second time to act as Executive over this great nation ...

The effects of the late civil strife have been to free the slave and make him a citizen.

Yet he is not possessed of the civil rights which citizenship should carry with it. This is wrong, and should be corrected. To this correction I stand committed."

Grant defended natural marriage as being one man and one woman, stating December 4, 1871:

"In Utah there still remains a remnant of barbarism, repugnant to civilization ...

Neither polygamy nor any other violation of existing statutes will be permitted."

Grant ended the Democrat policy of Indian removal.

He appointed the first Native American to serve as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Ely S. Parker of the Seneca Tribe.

Grant continued his Second Inaugural:

"My efforts ... will be directed ... by a humane course, to bring the aborigines of the country under the benign influences of education and civilization ...

Wars of extermination, engaged in by people pursuing commerce and all industrial pursuits ... are demoralizing and wicked ..."

Grant continued:

"Our superiority of strength and advantages of civilization should make us lenient toward the Indian.

The wrong inflicted upon him should be taken into account and the balance placed to his credit ...

If the effort is made in good faith, we will stand better before the civilized nations of the earth and in our own consciences for having made it."

Grant's "Quaker Policy" removed entrepreneurs from being Indian agents and replaced them with missionaries, stating in his First Annual Message, December 6, 1869:

"The Society of Friends (Quakers) ... succeeded in living in peace with the Indians in the early settlement of Pennsylvania ...

These considerations induced me to give the management of a few reservations of Indians to them."

President Grant stated in his 2nd Annual Message, December 5, 1870:

"Such religious denominations as had heretofore established missionaries among the Indians ... are allowed to name their own agents ...

and are expected to watch over them and aid them as missionaries, to Christianize and civilize the Indians, and to train him in the arts of peace."

President Ulysses S. Grant addressed Congress, January 1, 1871:

"It would seem highly desirable that the civilized Indians of the country should be encouraged in establishing for themselves forms of Territorial government compatible with the Constitution of the United States ...

and it is highly desirable that they become self-sustaining, self-relying, Christianized, and civilized."

President Grant stated in his 3rd Annual Message, December 4, 1871:

"Through the exertions of the various societies of Christians to whom has been intrusted the execution of the policy ...

many tribes of Indians have been induced to settle upon reservations, to cultivate the soil, to perform productive labor of various kinds, and to partially accept civilization ...

They are being cared for in such a way, it is hoped, as to induce those still pursuing their old habits of life to embrace the only opportunity which is left them to avoid extermination.

I recommend liberal appropriations to carry out the Indian peace policy, not only because it is humane and Christian-like ... but because it is right."

During the Siege of Vicksburg, Grant had issued his notorious General Order 11 expelling Jews from the military, which Lincoln immediately cancelled.

Later as President, Grant appointed more Jews to high offices than any of his predecessors, including governor of the Washington Territory.

He was the first President to openly condemn the persecution of Jews, specifically the anti-Jewish pogroms in Romania.

He even sent a Jewish consul-general from America to Bucharest to "work for the benefit of the people who are laboring under severe oppression."

On June 26, 1876, President Grant proclaimed a Day of Thanksgiving to commemorate America's 100th anniversary:

"The founders of the Government, at its birth and in its feebleness, invoked the blessings and the protection of a Divine Providence ...

The thirteen colonies ... have expanded into a nation of strength and numbers ... for which fervent prayers were then offered.

It seems fitting that on the occurrence of the hundredth anniversary of our existence as a nation a grateful acknowledgment should be made to Almighty God for the protection and the bounties which He has vouchsafed to our beloved country.

I therefore invite the good people of the United States ... to mark its recurrence by some public religious and devout thanksgiving to Almighty God

for the blessings which have been bestowed upon us as a nation during the century of our existence, and humbly to invoke a continuance of His favor and of His protection."

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