- Grant, Ulysses S.
- (1822–1885)Ulysses S. Grant was an American Civil War hero and eighteenth President of the United States (1869–1877). In 1822, Grant was born in Point Pleasant, Ohio, to Jesse and Hannah Grant. His father was a farmer and a tanner. Grant was the oldest of six children and he had many different occupations throughout his younger years, but he was best known as a talented horse trainer. In 1839, he enlisted in the military, where he excelled in horsemanship, but was otherwise not an outstanding student. After graduation, Grant married Julia Dent and was assigned to General Zachary Taylor’s army in Texas around the same time as the outbreak of the Mexican War in 1846. He was involved in major battles and was promoted to first lieutenant. In 1854, he was promoted to captain and moved to California but became very depressed. He resigned from the military and wasted the next few years separated from his family and in many different and insignificant jobs. When Grant rejoined his family, the Civil War was looming. This national tragedy became Grant’s finest hour. He returned to the army and, in June 1861, was made a colonel at the head of the 21st Illinois Volunteers of the Union forces. His career then proceeded from minor victories at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson to a pivotal near-defeat at Shiloh and a major victory at Vicksburg, the capture of which on July 4, 1863, did more to doom the Confederate cause than the more storied Union victory at Gettysburg the same day. Late the same year Grant’s victory at Chattanooga opened the state of Georgia to a Union invasion. In March 1864, President Lincoln placed Grant in command of the entire Union Army. Grant’s aggressiveness and superior grasp of strategy thereafter relentlessly pursued the destruction the Confederate army led by Robert E. Lee, from whom he accepted the Confederate surrender on April 9, 1865. Grant is credited by many with having invented the American way of war. Grant served as secretary of war under President Andrew Johnson, but it was his military background and popularity that led to his own election to the presidency in 1868. As president he governed during the bitter era of Reconstruction yet presided over the historic amendments to the constitution that ended slavery and gave the electoral franchise to the freed slaves. In foreign policy Grant settled the Alabama claims with Britain and avoided war with Spain over the future of Cuba. His attempt to annex Santo Domingo as a naval base was thwarted by Congress. Grant nonetheless announced that henceforth no territory on the American continent was to be transferable to any European power, a reiteration of the Monroe Doctrine. Grant secured a treaty with Hawaii in 1875 providing for freer trade - a down payment on an eventual American protectorate there. He sought but failed to secure a treaty with Samoa in the southern Pacific and also failed to secure congressional approval for a treaty with Colombia for the rights to a Panamanian canal - in both cases revealing a personal awareness that the United States could not long delay a presence in strategically important waters.Grant’s presidency lasted two terms but was marred by charges of corruption, many of them valid, on the part of members of his administration. He died in 1885 in Mount McGregor, New York only four days after finishing his memoirs, widely considered one of the masterpieces of the English language.See also <
>.FURTHER READING:Fuller J.F.C. Grant and Lee: A Study in Personality and Generalship. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1957;Grant, Ulysses. Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant. New York: Penguin Classics, 1999;Korda Michael, Ulysses S. Grant: The Unlikely Hero. New York: Harper Collins, 2004;Smith, Jean Edward. Grant. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001;Weigley, Russell F. The American Way of War. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973.ARTHUR HOLST
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.