Ulysses S. Grant

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Grant, (Hiram) Ulysses S.

(1822–85) eighteenth U.S. president; born in Point Pleasant, Ohio. The son of a tanner, he gained a place at West Point in 1839, from which he graduated with little distinction, except as a horseman. (It was at West Point that he was accidentally assigned the middle initial "S"; it is assumed it referred to his mother's maiden name, Simpson.) He served with considerable bravery in the Mexican War of 1846–48, but afterward languished in remote posts on the West Coast, taking to drink and finally resigning in 1854. He then spent six frustrating years in Missouri, farming and in other pursuits. When the Civil War began, he found a commission as a colonel and was promoted to general in August 1861. Soon he had proved himself the ablest of Northern leaders, winning a string of brilliant victories from 1862–63 that culminated in the capture of Vicksburg, Miss. After he had broken an apparently hopeless siege of Union forces in Chattanooga in late 1863, he was appointed by Lincoln to overall command of Union armies. In that post he created for the first time a single plan for the Union war effort; the main elements were Sherman's campaigns in Georgia and Grant's offensive against Lee in Virginia. After a year of brutal fighting, Lee surrendered to Grant in April 1865 and the Confederacy collapsed. The Republicans seized this war hero as their presidential candidate in 1868; he won a narrow victory in the popular vote. As president, he was out of his element; a cabinet of cronies and political contributors proved largely incompetent and corrupt, and Grant had no overall vision for the country. He managed to gain reelection in 1872 despite the Credit Mobilier and Whiskey Ring scandals and other sensations that would leave his administration—though not his personal integrity—tarnished. Grant left office to make a triumphant world tour, but did not succeed in his hopes for regaining the presidency. Having been swindled by a friend, he took to writing his memoirs to regain his fortune, finishing them a few days before his death.

Grant, Ulysses S.

(1822–1885) 18th U.S. president; nicknamed “Unconditional Surrender.” [Am. Hist.: Kane, 523]