Ulysses S. Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant; April 27, 1822 – July 23, 1885) was the 18th President of the United States (1869–1877) following his dominant role in the second half of the Civil War. Under Grant, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and effectively ended the war with the surrender of Robert E. Lee's army at Appomattox.
Grant endured a catastrophic surprise attack along the Tennessee River near Shiloh Church, only to redeem his defeat the next day in what was the bloodiest battle in American history up to that point. Grant suffered severe criticism for his lapse at Shiloh, the jealousy of his superior officer, Major General Henry W. Halleck, and renewed whispers about excess drinking. Under pressure to remove Grant, U.S. president Abraham Lincoln demurred, stating, "I can't spare this man; he fights."
In the war there were three great turning-points, namely, the first battle of Bull Run, the effects of which ultimately culminated in the establishment of unity of command; the capture of Fort Donelson, which led to the surrender of Vicksburg, and which evolved into Sherman's Atlanta campaign; lastly, the capture of Wilmington, which led direct to Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House. All three of these, in one way or another, were closely connected with Grant.
Grant's conduct as an ex-president (during the presidencies of Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, and Chester Alan Arthur) served to make him more popular; he was beloved. His heroic fight against a terrible cancer, the continuing magnanimity of his judgements about men formerly his enemies, his survival with grace through financial ruin not of his own making---such things commended him to all. His funeral in New York City, in which southern contingents marched proudly near the front of the procession, was an occasion for an overwhelming outpouring of public gratitude, mourning, affection.
In the spring of 1839 an awkward, stocky, freckle-faced lad of seventeen, by some nicknamed "Useless," because of his "slowness," left his home in a small backwoods town in Ohio for the Military Academy at West Point. A few years passed, and the boy "Useless," after adventures as thrilling as those of any storybook, returned from the Mexican War a brevet captain of infantry, twice promoted for bravery in battle.
The first few years of the war General Grant was frequently attacked or mercilessly criticized by a portion of the public press, probably arising from a want of knowledge of all the facts of the case in hand. His father was worried about it and wanted to defend him, or get others to do so; but he would never engage in newspaper controversy in his own defense, nor permit others to do so if he could help it.
In soliciting the appointment, Congressman Hamer, knowing that his neighbor Grant had a son named "Simpson," confounded his name with that of the eldest boy and made his application in the name of "Ulysses Simpson Grant."...The error could probably have been corrected by appeal to the Secretary of War, but time and trouble would have been involved in the necessary red tape; so the young man accepted the situation, and was henceforth known officially by the new name. After a few years, he dropped Hiram, never a popular name with him, and henceforth was known personally and to history as Ulysses Simpson Grant.
During the second term, scandal rocked the Grant administration. Before the second inauguration came the exposure of Crédit Mobilier, a scheme to siphon off the profits made in building the transcontinental railroad, which soiled both Vice President Colfax and his successor, Henry Wilson. Regardless of the fact that the bribery of congressmen took place under Johnson and involved Democrats also, airing the details in 1872 stung the Grant administration.
On August 28, 1848, Grant married Julia Dent from St. Louis, whose family held slaves. Grant himself owned a slave named William Jones, acquired from his father-in-law. At a time when he could have desperately used the money from the sale of Jones, Grant signed a document that gave him his freedom.
In March 1864, a grateful Abraham Lincoln appointed Grant commander of all the U.S. armies, with the rank of lieutenant general. No soldier since George Washington had held the rank. As commander, Grant worked to constantly occupy Robert E. Lee's rebel army in the East, while Union troops struck at the heart of the South, destroying homes, farms, and factories -- and Southerners' willingness to fight.
Like Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant was elected to the presidency in honor of his heroic deeds on the battlefield, even though he had absolutely no political background. Not only was Grant lacking in political experience, he also had no particular interest in using the powers of the presidency, and was taken advantage of by dishonest associates.