Ulysses Grant - Eighteenth President of the United States

Ulysses S. Grant

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Ulysses Grant's Childhood and Education

Grant was born on April 27, 1822 in Point Pleasant, Ohio. He was raised in Georgetown, Ohio. He grew up on a farm. He went to local schools before attending the Presbyterian Academy and then being appointed to West Point. He was not necessarily the best student though he was good at math. When he graduated, he was placed in the infantry.

Family Ties

Grant was the son of Jesse Root Grant, a tanner and merchant along with a strict North American 19th-century anti-enslavement activist. His mother was Hannah Simpson Grant. He had three sisters and two brothers. 

On August 22, 1848, Grant married Julia Boggs Dent, the daughter of a St. Louis merchant and enslaver. The fact that her family owned enslaved people was a point of contention for Grant's parents. Together they had three sons and one daughter: Frederick Dent, Ulysses Jr., Ellen, and Jesse Root Grant. 

Ulysses Grant's Military Career

When Grant was graduated from West Point, he was stationed at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. In 1846, America went to war with Mexico. Grant served with General Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott. By the end of the war he was promoted to first lieutenant. He continued his military service until 1854 when he resigned and tried farming. He had a hard time and eventually had to sell his farm. He did not rejoin the military until 1861 with the outbreak of the Civil War.

U.S. Civil War

At the beginning of the Civil War, Grant rejoined the military as a colonel of the 21st Illinois Infantry. He captured Fort Donelson, Tennessee in February 1862 which was the first major Union victory. He was promoted to major general. He had other victories at Vicksburg, Lookout Mountain, and Missionary Ridge. In March 1864, he was made the commander of all Union forces. He accepted Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Virginia on April 9, 1865. After the war, he served as Secretary of War (1867-68).

Nomination and Election

Grant was unanimously nominated by the Republicans in 1868. The Republicans supported Black suffrage in the south and a less lenient form of reconstruction than that espoused by Andrew Johnson. Grant was opposed by Democrat Horatio Seymour. In the end, Grant received 53% of the popular vote and 72% of the electoral vote. In 1872, Grant was easily renominated and won over Horace Greeley despite the many scandals that occurred during his administration.

Events and Accomplishments of Ulysses Grant's Presidency

The largest issue of Grant's presidency was Reconstruction. He continued occupying the South with federal troops. His administration fought against states who denied Black people the right to vote. In 1870, the fifteenth amendment was passed providing that no one could be denied the right to vote based on race. Further in 1875, the Civil Rights Act was passed which ensured that Black Americans would have the same right to use inns, transportation, and theaters among other things. However, the law was ruled unconstitutional in 1883.

In 1873, an economic depression occurred that lasted five years. Many were unemployed, and many businesses failed.

Grant's administration was marked by five major scandals.

  • Black Friday - September 24, 1869. Two speculators, Jay Gould and James Fisk, tried to buy up enough gold to corner the gold market while keeping Grant from dumping federal gold on the market. They drove up the price of gold quickly before Grant realized what was going on and was able to add enough gold onto the market to bring the price down. However, many investors and businesses were ruined because of this.
  • Credit Mobilier - 1872. In order to cover up stealing money from the Union Pacific Railroad, officers of the Credit Mobilier company sold stocks cheaply to members of Congress.
  • Grant's Secretary of the Treasury, William A. Richardson gave special agent John D. Sanborn the job of collecting delinquent taxes allowing Sanborn to keep 50% of what he collected.
  • Whiskey Ring - 1875. Many distillers and federal agents were keeping money that was being paid as liquor taxes. Grant called for punishment but protected his own personal secretary.
  • Belknap Bribery - 1876. Grant's Secretary of War, W. W. Belknap was taking money from traders selling at Native American posts.

However, through all of this, Grant still was able to get renominated and reelected to the presidency.

Post-Presidential Period

After Grant retired from the presidency, he and his wife traveled throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa. He then retired to Illinois in 1880. He helped his son by borrowing money to set him up with a friend named Ferdinand Ward in a brokerage firm. When they went bankrupt, Grant lost all his money. He ended up writing his memoirs for money to help his wife before he died on July 23, 1885.

Historical Significance

Grant is considered to be one of the worst presidents in America's history. His time in office was marked by major scandals, and therefore he was not able to accomplish much during his two terms in office.

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Kelly, Martin. "Ulysses Grant - Eighteenth President of the United States." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/ulysses-grant-18th-president-united-states-105375. Kelly, Martin. (2023, April 5). Ulysses Grant - Eighteenth President of the United States. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/ulysses-grant-18th-president-united-states-105375 Kelly, Martin. "Ulysses Grant - Eighteenth President of the United States." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/ulysses-grant-18th-president-united-states-105375 (accessed June 4, 2023).