Hiram Ulysses Grant, 1822 - 1885

portrait of Ulysses S. Grant
ca. 1876
Ulysses S. Grant signature

Born: 27 April 1822, Point Pleasant, Ohio
Died: 23 July 1885, Mount McGregor, New York

Born to Pennsylvania natives Jesse Root Grant and Hannah Simpson Grant, the family moved to Georgetown, Ohio the year after he was born. His mother called him "Lys". Congressman Thomas Hamer nominated him to the US Military Academy at West Point, New York, but didn't have the 17-year-old Grant's full name in front of him. Remembering the boy's mother's maiden name he created "Ulysses S. Grant of Ohio" on paper. The initials appealed to the new cadet, his classmates called him "Sam". He was known as a fearless expert horseman, graduating 21st in a class of 39 in 1843. Despite his equestrian skills he was assigned to the Quartermaster Corps. During the Mexican-American War he got close enough to the front lines to be breveted for bravery twice, but was close enough to command to observe the actions of colonels and generals. One of only fifty captains in the post-war army, he abruptly resigned his commission in 1854 and went home to his wife and children on a farm near St Louis, Missouri. Farming and several small business ventures did not pay well and he answered the call for volunteers in 1861 after the Confederacy seceded. Grant's battle record was mixed until he was put in charge of the attack on Vicksburg in the summer of 1862, a campaign that Grant concluded on 4 July 1863 in what was seen as a tactically brilliant effort. Lincoln promoted him to Major General. Grant went to Chattanooga to take charge of relieving the besieged Union forces, he was promoted to Lieutenant General, the first since Washington, then made general-in-chief of the armies. When Congress authorized the rank of General of the Army of the United States, with four stars, President Andrew Johnson promoted Grant to that rank the same day, although they didn't get along that well. Rumors of Grant's drinking were probably overblown by his rivals but held some truth.

He was nominated as the Republican candidate for president in 1868 and became the 18th US president, serving two terms (1869 - 1877). In office, Grant tended to appoint men who had served with him in the Army, without regard to their qualifications or honesty, and there were a number of major scandals during his administration, none of which he benefited from. Grant spent two years on a world tour, triumphantly visiting numerous heads of state. On his return he made an attempt at a third term but the Republicans chose James A. Garfield to run in 1880. The world tour was expensive, and presidents received no pension a the time, so he invested his remaining assets in a Wall Street firm with Ferdinand Ward, who decamped with the assets leaving both the firm and the former president bankrupt. At about the same time, Grant learned he had throat cancer and turned to writing to get his family out of debt and improve his reputation. He wrote several articles related to his Civil War service for The Century Magazine which were well received, and Mark Twain offered him a 75% royalty for his memoirs which are still regarded as one of the best works of its kind ever.

Biography from Wikipedia and the White House

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