The 18th President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant, was a most curious American public figure. His two presidential terms are considered by political critics as the most corrupt in American history, yet his contribution and role in those most important and historic times cannot be under-estimated.
He was born Hiram Ulysses Grant in 1822 to a hardworking couple in southwestern Ohio. He went to a seminary and a Presbyterian academy, as well as worked with horses in his father's farm (Grant 1885-1886), working with horses. At 17, he was admitted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point through a Congressman from Ohio. In 1839, he entered West Point, where he enjoyed drill and discipline more than most cadets did. He finished only with an average record, ranking only 21st in class. While hoping to teach Mathematics at the academy, he was instead assigned to an infantry duty on the southwestern frontier, where he served for two years in different posts in Missouri and Louisiana. He fought in the Mexican War (1846-490 under the command of General Zachary Taylor who cited him for bravery two times. Grant, however, later intimated to a friend that the Mexican War was the most wicked ever waged by the United States against Mexico, which, if he only had the courage, he would have resigned from (Grant).
In 1848, he married Julia Dent when he was stationed in Missouri and they had three sons and a daughter. From 1848 to 1852, he served at posts in Detroit, Michigan and Sackets Harbor in New York, until he was moved to the Pacific Coast in 1852, then to Fort Vancouver in Oregon Territory and later, to Fort Humboldt in California. But his duty in the Pacific Coast caused him much anguish. Costs and the difficulty of travel compelled his family to stay apart from him. Furthermore, the high cost of living in California - which was a consequence of the 1849 gold rush - drained him of finances for his family. He tried farming, woodcutting, selling imported Alaskan ice and livestock trading to supplement, but he failed in all of them. He was homesick and miserable and turned to drinking, which led to a bad temper and a bad quarrel with his commander, Brevet Colonel Robert C. Buchanan, who made him resign.
He settled with his family in Missouri in 1855 in a land given by his father-in-law, built a log house, farmed and sold wood to St. Louis, but he continued to fail. He turned to a real estate partnership in St. Louis, which similarly failed. He was working in his brothers' leather shop in Galena, Illinois, when the Confederate States of America (or Confederacy) separated from the federal Union and the Civil War sparked. He applied to serve as an officer when a call was sounded for troops (MSN Learning and Research).
Grant became prominent in a volunteer Galena regiment and took it to the state capital of Springfield. Afterwards, he mustered more regiments and this reached the knowledge of Governor Richard Yates who, in reaction, appointed Grant colonel of the rebellious 21st Illinois volunteer regiment in June 1861. He disciplined these men and led them against the pro-Confederate guerrillas in Missouri. For this exemplary leadership, he was made brigadier general in command of the volunteers district at Cairo, Illinois.
His first battle against the Confederates at Belmont, Missouri in November 18, 1861, was uneventful, but with the help of Commodore Andrew H. Foote's gunboats three months later, the course of his life changed. He captured Fort Donalson on the Cumberland River and Fort Henry on the Tennessee River - the first major victories of the Union. He yielded to none of the terms set by Brigadier General Simon B. Buckner, an old friend at that. He accepted only unconditional and immediate surrender. When Buckner gave up his army of 14,000 men, Grant turned into a national figure overnight, a new nickname ("Unconditional Surrender" Grant) and promotion as major general of volunteers.
The Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee in April, 1862 was another frustration to him, though, for not fortifying his position against an unexpected attach by the Confederates while he waited for General Don C. Buell and the Ohio army to join his own. Only when General Buell's army arrived were Grant's forces able to fight back. In those days, he was accused of excesses - being drunk and grossly negligent at Shiloh. Major General Henry W. Halleck took over his command and ignored him, although he was second in command. He felt humiliated and wanted to resign. Then President Abraham Lincoln was urged by sectors to remove Grant, but did not because "he fights." When President Lincoln recalled Halleck to Washington in 1862 as general in chief, the leadership of the Union forces returned to Grant. He had another chance to prove himself, and so designed a drive on Vicksburg, Mississippi.
The following year, his army went south and captured Jackson, the capital and thereon defeated General John Pemberton of the Confederate forces defending Vicksburg. In July of that year, Pemberton and his 30,000 men surrendered to Grant. This victory caused much joy to the North and turned the control of the Mississippi River to the Union. For the huge accomplishment, Grant was made major general in the regular army (Grant). That October, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton informed Grant that he was appointed supreme commander in the West and to head 60,000 troops to wrestle Chattanooga from General Braxton Bragg. Skillfully directing the movement of his armies, Grant took Chattanooga, clearing the way for the invasion of the lower South.
In March 1864, President Lincoln made Grant the supreme commander of all Union
Forces, the first of Lincoln's general to have his full trust. Grant constantly communicated with the President by personal conference or telegraph. It was most flattering for him to merit the President's great respect for his military knowledge, leadership and strong will. Grant returned the compliment by setting up an efficient command organization (MSN Learning and Research). His plans and supply requirement were sent directly to President Lincoln and Secretary Stanton in steering his 17 field commands of more than half a million men. Directing these men was General Halleck, who ironically, now served Grant as his chief of staff.
Grant developed an overall strategy: he went after principal Southern armies rather than subdue cities by coordinating the Union's armies and the Union river fleet to wear down Southern armies. He depended on the North for equipment and troops and prevented the Southern armies from receiving resources. But his attack on the army of General Robert E. Lee in Northern Virginia was one more immense failure, leading t a loss of 7,000 men or a total of 60,000 for the month. For this, he was branded "Butcher Grant" in contrast to his heroic name callings in previous victories. But he did not give up. He changed his strategy by proceeding against Petersburg but first failed to take it. He continued the siege on Petersburg from the middle of June 1864 to April 1865, cutting transportation lines to Lee. Slowly, Grant starved Lee's men and ordered his generals to undertake separate parts of his strategy - General Thomas to Tennessee at Nashville, General Philip H. Sheridan to Shenandoah Valley, and General Sherman to Georgia and South Carolina. With an army of more than 100,000 when he merged with General Sheridan, Grant's final campaign against General Lee began and ended on April 9 at the village of Appomattox Court House in Virginia. Lee requested a meeting with Grant to discuss terms of surrender, which effectively ended the war.
Grant served as President of the United States for two terms, but his true reputation lies more in his military career. Many admired his keenness of judgment of military men and how to bring them out to their best efforts. He planned and carried out campaigns, using large armies and complex operations, earning the respect of fellow soldiers and officials. His staff remarked that Grant handled those around him "so quietly and well, he so evidently has the faculty of disposing of work and managing men, he is cool and quiet, almost stolid and as if stupid, in danger, and in crisis he is one against whom all around... instinctively lean."
He received the rank of full generalship in 1866 and supervised the demobilization of the army and administered the Reconstruction, which aimed at restoring the Southern states into full membership in the Union. Because of his immense popularity, then President Johnson and his opponents elicited Grant's favors. A falling away from President Johnson led him to associate with the Radical Republicans.
In the 1868 Republican National Convention, Grant was the only one presented and unanimously nominated to run for President of the United States. He won both in the nomination and the subsequent Presidential elections, although he later displayed a lack of talent and understanding for…