Top 10 Things to Know About Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant was born in Point Pleasant, Ohio on April 27, 1822. His full name was Hiram Ulysses Grant, but he was always known as Ulysses. The H. was mistakenly changed to S. while he was enrolled in West Point. While proving to be an excellent general during the Civil War, Grant proved to be a poor judge of character as proven by the many scandals that touched his presidency and his personal woes after he retired.

01
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Attended West Point

Ulysses S. Grant. Getty Images

Grant was raised on a farm by his parents, Jesse Root and Hannah Simpson Grant. He attended local schools and was later appointed to West Point. While there, he proved himself to be good at math and had excellent equestrian skills. However, he was not assigned to the cavalry due to his low grades and class rank.

02
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Married Julia Boggs Dent

Julia Dent Grant, Wife of Ulysses S. Grant
Julia Dent Grant, Wife of Ulysses S. Grant. Kean Collection / Getty Images

Grant married his West Point roommate's sister, Julia Boggs Dent, on August 22, 1848. They had three sons and one daughter. Their son Frederick would become the assistant Secretary of War under President William McKinley.

Julia was known as an excellent hostess and First Lady. She gave their daughter Nellie an elaborate White House wedding while Grant was serving as president.

03
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Served in the Mexican War

Zachary Taylor, Twelfth President of the United States
Zachary Taylor, Twelfth President of the United States, Portrait by Mathew Brady. Credit Line: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-13012 DLC

After graduating from West Point, Grant was part of the military occupation of Texas. He served during the Mexican War with Generals Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott, proving himself a valuable officer. He participated in the capture of Mexico City. By the end of the war he was promoted to be first lieutenant.

04
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Resigned From the Military and Moved to St. Louis

St. Louis Arch - Gateway to the West Commemorating the Louisiana Purchase
St. Louis Arch - Gateway to the West Commemorating the Louisiana Purchase. Mark Williamson / Getty Images

With the end of the Mexican War, Grant had several more postings including New York, Michigan, and the frontier, before he retired from the military. He feared that he would not be able to support his wife and family with military pay and set up at a farm in St. Louis. However, this only lasted four years before he sold it. He tried other avenues to earn money until the outbreak of the Civil War.

05
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Rejoined the Military at the Start of the Civil War

Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln. Rischgitz/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Grant rejoined the military and was soon appointed the Colonel of the Twenty-First Illinois Infantry. He led the capture of Fort Donelson, Tennessee in February, 1862, the first major Union victory. He was promoted to be Major General of the US Volunteers. Other key victories under Grant's leadership included Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, and the Siege of Vicksburg.

After the Siege of Vicksburg, Grant was appointed to be the major general of the regular army. In March, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln named Grant as the Commander of all Union forces.

On April 9, 1865, Grant accepted General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Virginia. He served in command of military until 1869. He was concurrently Andrew Jackson's Secretary of War from 1867-1868.

06
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Easily Won the Presidency as a War Hero

Ulysses S Grant, Seventeenth President of the United States
Ulysses S Grant, Seventeenth President of the United States. Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-13018 DLC

In 1868, Grant was unanimously nominated to be the Republican candidate for president. He easily won against opponent Horatio Seymour with 72 percent of the electoral vote. Despite the Black Friday scandal that occurred during his first term in office, Grant was nominated for reelection in 1872. He won 55 percent of the popular vote. His opponent, Horace Greeley, died before the electoral vote could be counted. Grant ended up receiving 256 out of 352 electoral votes.

07
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Continued Reconstruction Efforts

CIRCA 1870: Grand celebratory parade in Baltimore celebrating the passage of the fifteenth amendment.
CIRCA 1870: Grand celebratory parade in Baltimore celebrating the passage of the fifteenth amendment. Buyenlarge / Getty Images

Reconstruction was the key issue during Grant's time as president. War was still fresh in the minds of many, and Grant continued the military occupation of the South. In addition, he fought for black suffrage because many southern states had begun denying them the right to vote. Two years after taking over the presidency, the fifteenth amendment was passed that stated that no one could be denied the right to vote based on race.

Another key piece of legislation was the Civil Rights Act passed in 1875, ensuring African-Americans the same rights for transportation and public accommodations among other things.

08
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Affected By Many Scandals

Financier Jay Gould. He and Jim Fisk almost cornered the gold market during Ulysses S. Grant's presidency.
Financier Jay Gould. He and Jim Fisk almost cornered the gold market during Ulysses S. Grant's presidency. Bettmann / Getty Images

Five scandals marred Grant's time as president.

  1. Black Friday - Jay Gould and James Fisk tried to corner the gold market, driving up its price. When Grant realized what was happening, he had the treasury department add gold into the market causing its price to plummet on September 24, 1869.
  2. Credit Mobilier - Officials of the Credit Mobilier Company stole money from the Union Pacific Railroad. They sold stocks at a huge discount to members of Congress as a way to coverup their wrongdoing. When this was revealed, Grant's Vice President was implicated.
  3. Whiskey Ring - In 1875, many distillers and federal agents were fraudulently keeping money that should have been paid as a tax on liquor. Grant was part of the scandal when he protected his personal secretary from punishment.
  4. Private Collection of Taxes - Grant's Secretary of the Treasury, William A. Richardson, gave a private citizen, John Sanborn the job of collecting delinquent taxes. Sanborn kept 50 percent of his collections but got greedy and began collecting more than allowed before he was investigated by Congress.
  5. Secretary of War Bribed - In 1876, it was found that Grant's Secretary of War, W.W. Belknap, was accepting bribes. He was unanimously impeached by the House of Representatives and he resigned.
09
of 10

Was President When the Battle of of Little Big Horn Happened

George Armstrong Custer
George Armstrong Custer. Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-B8172-1613 DLC

In 1875, Grant was president when the Battle of Little Big Horn occurred. Fighting had been raging between settlers and Native Americans who felt they were intruding on sacred lands. Lieutenant Colonel George Custer had been sent to attack Lakota and Northern Cheyenne Native Americans at Little Big Horn. However, he and his men were ambushed and massacred. The US military was put on the attack and defeated the Sioux nation within a year.

10
of 10

Lost Everything After Retiring From the Presidency

Mark Twain paid Ulysses S. Grant to write his memoirs.
Mark Twain paid Ulysses S. Grant to write his memoirs. PhotoQuest / Getty Images

After the presidency, Grant traveled before settling down in Illinois. However, his hopes of a happy retirement soon ended after borrowing money to help his son get started in a business. His friend's business partner was a scam artist, and Grant lost everything. He was found to have throat cancer. To raise money for his wife, he was contracted by Mark Twain to write his memoirs.

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Kelly, Martin. "Top 10 Things to Know About Ulysses S. Grant." ThoughtCo, Oct. 9, 2016, thoughtco.com/things-to-know-about-ulysses-s-grant-105376. Kelly, Martin. (2016, October 9). Top 10 Things to Know About Ulysses S. Grant. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/things-to-know-about-ulysses-s-grant-105376 Kelly, Martin. "Top 10 Things to Know About Ulysses S. Grant." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/things-to-know-about-ulysses-s-grant-105376 (accessed January 20, 2018).