born in Point Pleasant, Ohio, and spent his boyhood in Georgetown, Ohio, where his father
had a tanning business. Young Grant attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point,
graduating in 1843 near the middle of his class. At this point, he did not want a military
career, but an education, followed by a college professorship. Instead, he was sent to
Jefferson Barracks, near St. Louis, Missouri. He saw duty in the Mexican-American War
(1846-1848) under the command of General Zachary Taylor, then General Winfield Scott.
During the war, Grant was twice promoted in recognition of his bravery and talented
leadership. The Mexican-American War proved to be a training ground for him as well as
other future Civil War officers.
After the war, Grant was stationed at Sacketts Harbor,
New York, Detroit, Michigan, and Fort Vancouver, Washington. At Fort Vancouver, he dearly
missed his wife, was bored by the monotonous duty, and began drinking. He resigned his
commission in 1854 and returned to Missouri where he unsuccessfully tried his hand at
farming, then real estate, before moving to Galena, Illinois, to work in his fathers
At the beginning of the Civil War, Grant was appointed commander of the 21st
Illinois Regiment and saw service fighting Confederate guerrillas in Missouri. In August
1861, he was appointed brigadier general of volunteers by President Lincoln. He quickly
led his troops to capture Paducah, Kentucky, but had to retreat after a Confederate
counterassault at Belmont, Missouri. In February 1862, Grant captured Forts Donelson and
Henry in Tennessee, handing the Union its first major victories and earning himself
national recognition and a promotion to major general.
In October 1862, he was named commander of the Department of Tennessee and placed in
charge of the Vicksburg campaign. The surrender of Vicksburg on 4 July 1863 was one of the
turning points of the Civil War. In March 1864 Grant was promoted to lieutenant and
commander of all Union armies. Giving the Confederates no rest, Grant chased Robert E. Lee
across Virginia, while Union General William Tecumseh Sherman advanced through Atlanta to
the Atlantic. Finally, on 9 April 1865 Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox, and the
Civil War was over.
In July 1866 Grant received the rank of full general of the army, the first American to
hold that distinction since George Washington. His postwar duties included overseeing
Indian Affairs and protection of the transcontinental railroad workers in the West and the
enforcement of Reconstruction policies in the South. Although he had doubts about Andrew
Johnsons Reconstruction policies, he accompanied the President on his infamous
"swing round the circle" during the 1866 campaign. Grant became an
integral part of the battle between Congress and the White House over control of
Reconstruction policy. In August 1867, Johnson suspended Secretary of War Edwin Stanton,
who had been working with the Radical Republicans in Congress against Johnson, and
appointed Grant as Stantons ad interim replacement. The General was uncomfortable
being placed in that awkward position, but he dutifully served for five months. When the
Senate refused to consent to Stantons removal, Grant resigned. Thereafter, Grant
sided with the Radical Republicans and supported Johnsons impeachment after he
violated the Tenure of Office Act in 1868.
Although previously a nominal Democrat, Grant became the Republican presidential
nominee in 1868. He easily defeated his Democratic challenger, Horatio Seymour, and was
soundly reelected in 1872, running against maverick newspaper editor Horace Greeley. The
Grant presidency had some successes, such as the Treaty of Washington (1871), but is
remembered mainly for a series of scandalsCredit Mobilier, the Sanborn contracts,
the Whiskey Ring, and the Belknap bribery. Other important events during his tenure
include the ratification of the 15th Amendment, the Panic of 1873, and the
Resumption of Specie Act (1875).
When he left office, Grant embarked on a triumphant two-year world tour. In 1880, he
was the top candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. After leading on 35
ballots, he finally lost to a dark-horse candidate, James Garfield, thus ending his hopes
for a third term. His business ventures in retirement were no more successful than in his
earlier days, and in 1884 he was forced to take bankruptcy when his sons Wall Street
firm failed. In his final years, he penned his Personal Memoirs, which are well respected
for both content and literary style. He died at Mount McGregor, New York.