Ulysses S. Grant

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Ulysses Grant
Ulysses Grant 1870-1880.jpg
18th President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1869 – March 4, 1877
Vice President
Preceded byAndrew Johnson
Succeeded byRutherford B. Hayes
Commanding General of the United States Army
In office
March 9, 1864 – March 4, 1869
PresidentAbraham Lincoln
Andrew Johnson
Preceded byHenry W. Halleck
Succeeded byWilliam Tecumseh Sherman
Personal details
BornHiram Ulysses Grant
(1822-04-27)April 27, 1822
Point Pleasant, Ohio
DiedJuly 23, 1885(1885-07-23) (aged 63)
Wilton, New York
Resting placeGeneral Grant National Memorial
Upper Manhattan, New York
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Julia Dent
ChildrenFrederick, Ulysses Jr., Nellie, Jesse
Alma materUnited States Military Academy
Occupationpolitician, soldier
SignatureCursive signature in ink
Military service
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branchSeal of the United States Board of War.png United States Army
Years of service1839–1854
RankUS Army General insignia (1866).svg General of the Army
Commands21st Illinois Infantry Regiment
Army of the Tennessee
Military Division of the Mississippi
United States Army
Battles/warsMexican-American War American Civil War
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This article is about the president of the United States. For others with the same name, see Ulysses S. Grant (disambiguation).
"General Grant" redirects here. For other uses, see General Grant (disambiguation).
Ulysses Grant
Ulysses Grant 1870-1880.jpg
18th President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1869 – March 4, 1877
Vice President
Preceded byAndrew Johnson
Succeeded byRutherford B. Hayes
Commanding General of the United States Army
In office
March 9, 1864 – March 4, 1869
PresidentAbraham Lincoln
Andrew Johnson
Preceded byHenry W. Halleck
Succeeded byWilliam Tecumseh Sherman
Personal details
BornHiram Ulysses Grant
(1822-04-27)April 27, 1822
Point Pleasant, Ohio
DiedJuly 23, 1885(1885-07-23) (aged 63)
Wilton, New York
Resting placeGeneral Grant National Memorial
Upper Manhattan, New York
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Julia Dent
ChildrenFrederick, Ulysses Jr., Nellie, Jesse
Alma materUnited States Military Academy
Occupationpolitician, soldier
SignatureCursive signature in ink
Military service
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branchSeal of the United States Board of War.png United States Army
Years of service1839–1854
RankUS Army General insignia (1866).svg General of the Army
Commands21st Illinois Infantry Regiment
Army of the Tennessee
Military Division of the Mississippi
United States Army
Battles/warsMexican-American War American Civil War
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Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant; April 27, 1822 – July 23, 1885) was the 18th President of the United States (1869–1877). As commanding general, Grant led the Union Armies to victory over the Confederacy in the American Civil War, which ended shortly after Robert E. Lee surrendered to him at Appomattox in 1865. After the war, Grant served as commanding general, implementing Congressional Reconstruction, often at odds with President Andrew Johnson. Twice elected president, Grant led the Radical Republicans in their effort to remove the vestiges of Confederate nationalism and slavery, protect African-American citizenship, and defeat the Ku Klux Klan.

Grant graduated in 1843 from the United States Military Academy at West Point and served in the Mexican–American War. When the Civil War began in 1861, he rejoined the Union Army. In 1862, Grant took control of Kentucky and most of Tennessee, and led Union forces to victory in the Battle of Shiloh, earning a reputation as an aggressive commander. Grant incorporated displaced African American slaves into the Union war effort. In July 1863, after a series of coordinated battles, Grant defeated Confederate armies and seized Vicksburg, giving the Union control of the Mississippi River and dividing the Confederacy in two. After victory in the Chattanooga Campaign in late 1863, President Lincoln promoted him to lieutenant general and commander of all the Union Armies. Grant confronted Lee in a series of bloody battles in 1864. The press criticized Grant for losses of men. Lee's army was then trapped at Petersburg, Virginia. During the siege, Grant coordinated a series of devastating campaigns launched by generals William Tecumseh Sherman, Philip Sheridan, and George Henry Thomas in other theaters. Finally, breaking through Lee's trenches, Grant captured Richmond in April 1865. Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox as the Confederacy collapsed. Historians have hailed Grant's military genius and his strategies are featured in the military history textbooks, but a minority contend that he won by brute force rather than superior strategy.[1]

After the Civil War, Grant was Commanding General under President Johnson and led the U.S. Army's supervision of Reconstruction in the former Confederate states. Grant was elected president in 1868 and reelected in 1872. He worked to stabilize the nation during the turbulent Reconstruction period and the contested election of 1876. He enforced civil rights laws and destroyed the Ku Klux Klan. Grant encouraged passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, protecting African-American voting rights. He used the army to build the Republican Party in the South, based on black voters, Northern newcomers ("Carpetbaggers"), and native Southern white supporters ("Scalawags"), and for the first time in American history, African-Americans were elected to Congress and high state offices. While Grant was president, the Republican coalitions in the South fell apart and conservative Democrats regained control of each Southern state. Although Grant's Indian peace policy sought to reduce Indian violence, fighting continued that culminated in George Custer's defeat at the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876. Throughout his presidency, Grant was faced with Congressional investigations into federal corruption, including bribery charges against two of his Cabinet members. Grant's economic policy resulted in deflation and implementation of a gold standard. In foreign policy, Grant sought to increase American trade and influence, while remaining at peace with the world. In 1872 most of the reformers in the Republican Party opposed his reelection and formed the new Liberal Republican Party; Grant was reelected in a landslide. His second term saw the Panic of 1873, gold discovered in the Black Hills, and the Great Sioux War, while conservative white Southerners regained control of Southern state governments and Democrats took control of the federal House of Representatives.

Led by Secretary of State Hamilton Fish, the administration resolved issues with Great Britain and ended bitter wartime tensions. It settled the Alabama Claims whereby the British paid $15 million for the damages done by the Confederate warship Alabama. Grant avoided war with Spain over the Virginius Affair, but his attempted annexation of the Dominican Republic was rejected by Congress. His response to the Panic of 1873 gave some financial relief to New York banking houses, but was ineffective in halting the five-year economic depression that produced high unemployment, low prices, low profits and high rates of bankruptcy. As a result his Republican party was badly defeated in the 1874 elections. In 1880, after returning from a widely praised worldwide tour, he made an unsuccessful bid for a third presidential term. His memoirs, written as he was dying, were a critical and popular success, and his death prompted an outpouring of national mourning. Since he left office, few presidents' reputations have changed as dramatically as his.[2] The late 19th century saw high opinion of his presidency among historians, which shifted to a low opinion for much of the 20th century, before recovering beginning in the 1980s. His critics frequently point to the misadventure of his failed Dominican Republic annexation, his economic management of the nation after the Panic of 1873, and corruption issues under his administration. His admirers frequently point to greater appreciation for his commitment to civil rights, moral courage in his prosecution of the Ku Klux Klan, enforcement of voting rights, and his personal integrity.[3]

Early life and family

Grant's birthplace in Point Pleasant, Ohio

Hiram Ulysses Grant was born in Point Pleasant, Ohio, on April 27, 1822, to Jesse Root Grant, a tanner and businessman, and Hannah (Simpson) Grant.[4] Jesse Grant was a Whig with abolitionist sentiments.[5] In the fall of 1823, the family moved to the village of Georgetown in Brown County, Ohio. Unlike his younger siblings, Grant was neither baptized nor forced to attend church by his Methodist parents; for the rest of his life, he prayed privately and never officially joined any denomination.[6] In his youth, Grant developed an unusual ability to work with, and control, horses and became known as a capable horseman.[7]

At 17, Congressman Thomas L. Hamer nominated Grant for admission to the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, New York. Hamer mistakenly wrote down the name as "Ulysses S. Grant of Ohio", and this became his adopted name. (According to Grant, the S. did not stand for anything, though Hamer had used it to abbreviate his mother's maiden name.)[8] His nickname became "Sam" among army colleagues at the academy since the initials "U.S." also stood for "Uncle Sam". He stood 5 feet 1 inch (1.55 m) and weighed 117 pounds (53 kg) when he entered West Point.[9] Grant later recalled "a military life had no charms for me" and that he had been lax in his studies, but he achieved above-average grades in mathematics and geology.[10] Although he had a quiet nature, he established a few intimate friends at West Point, including Frederick Tracy Dent and Rufus Ingalls.[11] Grant studied under Romantic artist Robert Walter Weir and produced nine surviving artworks. He also established a reputation as a fearless and expert horseman, setting an equestrian high-jump record that stood for almost 25 years. He graduated in 1843, ranking 21st in a class of 39. Grant was glad to leave the Academy and planned to resign his commission after serving the minimum four-year term of duty.[12] Despite his excellent horsemanship, he was not assigned to the cavalry (assignments were determined by class rank, not aptitude), but to the 4th Infantry Regiment. He was made regimental quartermaster, managing supplies and equipment, with the rank of brevet second lieutenant.[13]

Military career, 1843–1854

2nd Lt U.S. Grant in 1843

Grant's first assignment after graduation took him to the Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri, in September 1843.[14] It was the nation's largest military base in the west, commanded by Colonel Stephen W. Kearny. Grant was happy with his new commander, but looked forward to the end of his military service and a possible teaching career.[15] He spent some of his time in Missouri visiting the family of his West Point classmate, Frederick Dent. He became engaged to Dent's sister, Julia in 1844.[15]

Amid rising tensions with Mexico, Grant's unit shifted to Louisiana that year as part of the Army of Observation under Major General Zachary Taylor.[16] When the Mexican–American War broke out in 1846, the Army entered Mexico. Although quartermaster, and not in charge of any company, Grant participated in leading a cavalry charge at the Battle of Resaca de la Palma.[17] The army continued its advance into Mexico. At Monterrey, he demonstrated his equestrian ability, carrying a dispatch through sniper-lined streets while mounted in one stirrup.[18] President James K. Polk, wary of Taylor's growing popularity, divided his army, sending some troops (including Grant's unit) to form a new army under Major General Winfield Scott.[19] Scott's army landed at Veracruz and advanced toward Mexico City. The army met the Mexican forces at the battles of Molino del Rey and Chapultepec outside Mexico City. At Chapultepec, Grant dragged a howitzer into a church steeple to bombard nearby Mexican troops.[20] Scott's army entered the city, and the Mexicans agreed to peace not long after.

In his Memoirs, Grant wrote that he had learned about military leadership by observing the decisions and actions of his commanding officers, and in retrospect he identified his leadership style with Taylor's. At the time, he felt that the war was a wrongful one and believed that the territorial gains from the war were designed to expand slavery. Reflecting on the Mexican-American War, Grant wrote in 1883, "I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day, regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation." He also opined that the Civil War was punishment inflicted on the nation for its aggression in Mexico.[21]

Grant chose to remain in the U.S. military after his mandatory service had expired in 1847. Four years after becoming engaged, Grant married Julia on August 22, 1848.[22] They had four children: Frederick, Ulysses Jr., Ellen, and Jesse.[23] Grant received assignments to several posts over the ensuing six years. His first post-war assignments took him and Julia to Detroit and then to Sackets Harbor, New York, the place where they were happiest.[24] In the spring of 1852, he traveled to Washington, D.C., in a failed attempt to persuade Congress to absolve him of a $1,000 debt to the Army for goods gone astray while in his custody.[25] That same year, his next assignment as quartermaster sent him west to Fort Vancouver in the Oregon Territory, initially landing in San Francisco during the height of the California Gold Rush. Julia could not go with him as she was eight months pregnant with Ulysses Jr.[26] An outbreak of cholera while traveling overland through Panama caused 150 fatalities among the entourage. Grant arranged makeshift transportation and hospital facilities to care for the sick.[27]

Grant was influenced by the military commanding style of Major General Zachary Taylor

Grant's time in the Pacific Northwest followed the Cayuse War where the U.S. military was stationed to keep peace between settlers and Indians. To supplement a military salary inadequate to support his family, Grant attempted but failed at several business ventures.[28] The failures confirmed Jesse Grant's belief that his son had no head for business, frustrating both father and son. In one case, Grant naïvely trusted a business partner who swindled him out of money.[29] He grew unhappy separated from his family, and rumors circulated that he was drinking to excess.[29]

Promoted to captain in the summer of 1853, Grant was assigned to command Company F, 4th Infantry, at Fort Humboldt in California. The commanding officer at Fort Humboldt, brevet Lieutenant Colonel Robert C. Buchanan received reports that Grant became intoxicated off-duty while seated at the pay officer's table. In lieu of a court-martial, Buchanan gave Grant an ultimatum to sign a drafted resignation letter, and he resigned effective July 31, 1854, without explanation and returned to St. Louis.[30] The War Department stated on his record, "Nothing stands against his good name."[31] After Grant's retirement rumors persisted in the regular army of his drinking.[a] Years later, he said, "the vice of intemperance (drunkenness) had not a little to do with my decision to resign."[33] His father, again believing his son's only potential for success would be in the military, tried to get the Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis, to repeal the resignation, to no avail.[34]

Civilian life

"Hardscrabble", the home Grant built in Missouri for his family

At age 32, with no civilian vocation, Grant struggled through seven financially lean years. His father initially offered Grant a place in the Galena, Illinois, branch of the tannery business, on condition that Julia and the children stay with her parents in Missouri or with the Grants in Kentucky. Ulysses and Julia opposed another separation and declined the offer.[35] In 1854, he farmed on his brother-in-law's property near St. Louis, using slaves owned by Julia's father; the farm failed.[35] Two years later, he and his family moved to land on his father-in-law's farm, and built a family home he called "Hardscrabble".[35] Julia hated the rustic house, which she described as an "unattractive cabin".[35] During this time, he acquired a slave from Julia's father, a thirty-five-year-old man named William Jones.[36] Having met with no success farming, the Grants left the farm when their fourth and last child was born in 1858. Grant freed his slave in 1859 instead of selling him, at a time when slaves commanded a high price and Grant needed money badly.[36] For the next year, the family took a small house in St. Louis where he worked with Julia's cousin Harry Boggs as a bill collector, again without success.[37] In 1860, Jesse offered him the tannery job in Galena without conditions, and Grant accepted. The leather shop, "Grant & Perkins", sold harnesses, saddles, and other leather goods, and purchased hides from farmers in the prosperous Galena area. Grant and family moved to a rental house that year.[38]

Grant was not politically active nor did he publicly endorse any candidate before the Civil War.[39] His father-in-law was a prominent Missouri Democrat, which hurt Grant's bid to become county engineer in 1859, while his father was an outspoken Republican in Galena.[40] In the 1856 election, Grant cast his first presidential vote for the Democrat, James Buchanan, later saying he was really voting against John C. Frémont, the first Republican candidate.[39] In 1860, he favored the Democratic presidential candidate Stephen A. Douglas over Abraham Lincoln, and Lincoln over the Southern Democrat, John C. Breckinridge. Lacking the residency requirements in Illinois at the time, he could not vote. By August 1863, after the fall of Vicksburg during the Civil War, Grant's political sympathies fully coincided with the Radical Republicans' aggressive prosecution of the war and emancipation of the slaves.[41]

Civil War

On April 12, 1861, the American Civil War began as Confederate troops attacked Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. Two days later, President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers and a mass meeting was held in Galena to encourage recruitment. Recognized as a military professional, Grant was asked to lead the meeting and ensuing effort. Without any formal rank in the army, Grant helped recruit a company of volunteers and accompanied the regiment to Springfield, the state capital.[42] During this time, Grant quickly perceived that the war would be fought for the most part by inexperienced volunteers and not professional soldiers.[43] Governor Richard Yates offered Grant a position recruiting and training volunteer units, which he accepted, but Grant wanted a field command in the regular Army. He made multiple efforts with contacts (including Major General George B. McClellan) to acquire such a position. Meanwhile, he continued serving at the training camps and made a positive impression on the volunteer Union recruits. With the aid of his advocate in Washington, Illinois congressman Elihu B. Washburne, Grant was formally promoted to Colonel by Governor Yates on June 14, 1861, and put in charge of disciplining the unruly 21st Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Transferred to northern Missouri, Lincoln promoted Grant to Brigadier General, backdated to May 17, 1861, again with Washburne's support.[44] By the end of August 1861, Major General John C. Frémont assigned him command of troops near Cairo, Illinois.[45]

Before the attack on Fort Sumter, Grant had not reacted strongly to Southern secession.[46] The news of the attack came as a shock in Galena, and Grant shared his neighbors' mounting concern about the onset of war.[46] After hearing a speech by his father's attorney, John Aaron Rawlins, Grant found renewed energy and belief in the Union cause.[47] Rawlins later became Grant's aide-de-camp and close friend during the war. Grant recalled with satisfaction that after that first recruitment meeting in Galena, "I never went into our leather store again."[48]

Belmont, Forts Henry and Donelson

Campaigns for Belmont, Fort Henry, and Fort Donelson

Grant's troops first saw action in late 1861 after striking out from their base at Cairo, the strategic point where the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi, and accessible to the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers.[49] Frémont ordered Grant to make "demonstrations" against, but not attack, the Confederate Army at Belmont, across the Mississippi in Missouri.[49] After Lincoln relieved Frémont from command, Grant attacked Belmont taking 3,114 Union troops by boat on November 7, 1861. He initially took the camp, but the reinforced Confederates under Brigadier General Gideon J. Pillow pushed his army back to Cairo. A tactical defeat, the battle nonetheless instilled much-needed confidence in Grant and his volunteers.[50] East of the Mississippi, the Confederates had built Fort Henry (on the Tennessee River) and Fort Donelson (on the Cumberland) to protect their trade and troop movements.[51] Following Belmont, Grant asked Major General Henry Halleck for permission to move against Fort Henry; Halleck agreed on condition that the attack be conducted with oversight by Union Navy Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote. Grant's troops, in close cooperation with Foote's naval forces, defeated General Lloyd Tilghman and captured Fort Henry on February 6, 1862.[52]

Emboldened by Lincoln's call for a general advance of all Union forces, Grant ordered an immediate assault on Fort Donelson, this time without Halleck's permission.[53] On February 15 at nearby Fort Donelson, Grant and Foote met stiff resistance from the Confederate forces under Pillow. Reinforced by 10,000 troops, Grant's army totaled 25,000 troops against 12,000 Confederates. Foote's first approach was repulsed, and the Confederates attempted a breakout, pushing Grant's right flank into disorganized retreat.[54] He rallied his troops, resumed the offensive, retook the Union right, and attacked Pillow's left. Pillow ordered Confederate troops back into the fort and relinquished command to Brigadier General Simon Bolivar Buckner, who surrendered to Grant the next day. The Northern press repeated Grant's terms: No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender.[55] He became a celebrity in the North, now nicknamed "Unconditional Surrender" Grant, and Lincoln promoted him to major-general of volunteers.[56]


The Battle of Shiloh

Grant's capture of Forts Henry and Donelson were the most significant Union victories into the Confederacy the North had yet seen. Encamped on the western side of the Tennessee River, Grant's army, known as the Army of the Tennessee, had increased to 48,894 troops. Grant met with Brigadier General William T. Sherman, and the two readied their troops to attack the Confederate stronghold of roughly equal strength at Corinth, Mississippi.[57] The Confederates organized for the same attack, and moved first at dawn on April 6, 1862, with an attack on the Union Army at the Battle of Shiloh. The goal was to annihilate the western Union army in one massive assault. Over 44,000 Confederate troops, led by Generals Albert Sidney Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard, attacked the five divisions of Grant's army bivouacked nine miles south at Pittsburg Landing. The Confederates struck hard and pushed the Union Army back towards the Tennessee River. At the end of the day, the Union Army was vulnerable and might have been destroyed, had Beauregard's troops not been too exhausted to continue the fight.[58] Avoiding panic, Grant and Sherman rallied their troops for a counterattack the next morning. With reinforcements from Major Generals Don Carlos Buell and Lew Wallace's divisions, Grant drove the Confederates back to the road from Corinth. Although he stopped short of capturing Beauregard's army, Grant was able to stabilize the Army of the Tennessee.[59]

The battle was the costliest of the war to date, with total Union and Confederate casualties of 23,746, and minimal strategic advantage gained by either side. The press criticized Grant for the high cost of the battle and his decision not to entrench, but Lincoln defended the general, saying "I can't spare this man; he fights."[60] Grant later remarked that the carnage at Shiloh had made it clear to him that the Confederacy would only be defeated by complete annihilation of its armies. Halleck transferred command of the Army of the Tennessee to Brigadier General George H. Thomas and promoted Grant to second-in-command of the western armies, effectively removing him from an active field command. Grant considered resigning as a result; Sherman, whose experiences in the military had been similar to Grant's, convinced Grant to stay in the army.[61] During Halleck's sluggish advance on Corinth—covering 19 miles in 30 days—the entire Confederate force there escaped; the 120,000-man Union Army was then broken up. Charles Anderson Dana, an investigative agent for Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, interviewed Grant and related to Lincoln and Stanton that Grant appeared "self-possessed and eager to make war." Lincoln reinstated Grant to his command of the Army of the Tennessee.[62] Shiloh also marked the beginning of Grant's friendship with Sherman; the two would go on to develop a similar philosophy of total war against the Confederate armies and population.[63]


The Battle of Jackson, fought on May 14, 1863, was part of the Vicksburg Campaign.

Determined to take the strategic Confederate stronghold at Vicksburg, Mississippi, on the Mississippi River, Lincoln authorized Major General John A. McClernand to raise an army in his home state of Illinois for the purpose. Grant was frustrated at the lack of direction he received from Washington and aggravated to learn of McClernand's attempt to brush him aside. Besides the Vicksburg campaign, Grant was in charge of the cotton trade in his military district.[64] He had initially ordered that payment of Confederate cotton in his military district be only in U.S. greenbacks rather than gold and silver, but Lincoln revoked that order.[65] Grant believed that the gold and silver exchange for cotton was funding the Confederate war effort.[65] To circumvent Lincoln's veto Grant ordered that cotton brokers receive local permits in addition to licenses issued by Washington.[64] Both Grant and Sherman believed cotton speculators were mostly Jewish.[64] Grant believed that a gold and silver cotton trade existed through enemy lines and that Jews could pass freely into enemy camps.[66] On December 17, 1862 Grant issued General Order No. 11, expelling Jews, as a class, from Grant's military district.[67] The Jewish community and Northern press criticized Grant over his military order.[68] Lincoln demanded the order be revoked, and Grant rescinded it twenty-one days after issuing it. Without admitting fault, Grant believed he had only complied with the instructions sent from Washington. Grant's biographer, Jean Edward Smith, wrote that Grant's order was "one of the most blatant examples of state-sponsored anti-Semitism in American history."[67] Grant later expressed regret for this order; his attitude about Jews was otherwise undeclared.[66]

In December 1862, with Halleck's approval, Grant moved to take Vicksburg by an overland route, aided by Charles Smith Hamilton and James B. McPherson, in a joint effort with a water expedition on the Mississippi led by Major General Sherman. Grant had thus preempted his rival McClernand's plans to take the city with his army. Confederate cavalry raiders under Brigadier General Nathan Bedford Forrest and Major General Earl Van Dorn stalled Grant's advance by disrupting his communications, while the Confederate army led by Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton concentrated and repulsed Sherman's direct approach to Vicksburg at Chickasaw Bayou. McClernand's attempt to advance was equally unsuccessful.[69]

In a second attempt to capture Vicksburg, Grant made a series of unsuccessful movements along water routes. Finally, in April 1863, Grant marched Union troops down the west side of the Mississippi River and crossed east over at Bruinsburg. Grant earlier had ordered two diversionary battles that confused Pemberton and allowed Grant's army to cross the Mississippi. After a series of battles, including the capture of a railroad junction near Jackson, Grant went on to defeat Pemberton at the Battle of Champion Hill. He then assaulted the Vicksburg entrenchments twice and suffered severe losses. After the failed assault, Grant settled in for a siege lasting seven weeks. As the siege began, Grant lapsed into a two-day drinking episode.[70] Pemberton surrendered Vicksburg to Grant on July 4, 1863.[71] During the campaign, Grant assumed responsibility for the African-American slaves in southwestern Tennessee and northern Mississippi displaced by the war.[72] Under the authority of the Confiscation Acts, slaves could be used as unarmed auxiliaries to support the Union Army.[73] On December 17, 1862 Grant put Brigadier General John Eaton in charge of the slaves, who authorized them to work on abandoned Confederate plantations to support the Union war effort.[74] The slaves were freed on January 1, 1863 under Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.[74]

The fall of Vicksburg gave the Union Army control over the Mississippi River and split the Confederacy in two. Grant demonstrated that an indirect assault, coupled with diversionary tactics, was an effective strategy in defeating an entrenched army. Although the success at Vicksburg was a great morale boost for the Union war effort, Grant received much criticism for his decisions and his reported drunkenness. Lincoln again sent Dana to keep a watchful eye on Grant's alleged intemperance; Dana eventually became Grant's devoted ally, and made light of the drinking.[75] The personal rivalry between McClernand and Grant continued after Vicksburg, until Grant removed McClernand from command when he contravened Grant by publishing a military order without permission.[76] To avoid misunderstandings with Lincoln, Grant sent his aide John Rawlins to the White House, explaining why McClerland was dismissed.[77] When Secretary of War Stanton suggested Grant be brought back east to run the Army of the Potomac, Grant refused, writing to Dana that he knew the geography and resources of the West better and he did not want to upset the chain of command in the East.[78]

Chattanooga and promotion

Union troops swarm Missionary Ridge and defeat Bragg's army.

Lincoln assigned Grant command of the newly formed Division of the Mississippi in October 1863, giving Grant charge of the entire western theater of war, save Louisiana. After the Battle of Chickamauga, Confederate General Braxton Bragg forced Major General William Rosecrans's Army of the Cumberland to retreat into Chattanooga, a central railway hub. Bragg's men surrounded the city, trapping the Union army inside. When informed of the situation at Chattanooga, Grant relieved Rosecrans from duty and placed Major General George H. Thomas in charge of the besieged army. To lift the siege and resume the offensive, Grant rode out to Chattanooga and took charge of the desperate situation. Lincoln sent Major General Joseph Hooker and two divisions of the Army of the Potomac to reinforce the Army of the Cumberland, but Confederate forces kept the two armies from meeting. Grant quickly opened a supply line to Chattanooga. Following a plan devised by Major General William Farrar Smith, this "Cracker Line" supplied the Army of the Cumberland with food and weapons.[79]

On November 23, 1863, Grant organized three armies to attack Bragg's troops on Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain. The next day, Sherman and four divisions of the Army of the Tennessee assaulted Bragg's right flank. Thomas and the Army of the Cumberland overtook Confederate trenches at the base of Missionary Ridge, and Hooker's forces captured Lookout Mountain. On November 25, Sherman continued his attack on Bragg's right flank on the northern section of Missionary Ridge. In response to Sherman's assault, Bragg withdrew Confederate troops on the main ridge to reinforce the Confederate right flank. Seeing that Bragg was reinforcing his right flank, Grant ordered Thomas to make a general assault on Missionary Ridge. After a brief delay, the Army of the Cumberland, led by Major General Philip Sheridan and Brigadier General Thomas J. Wood, captured the first Confederate entrenchments. Without further orders, the Army of the Cumberland continued uphill and captured the Confederate's secondary entrenchments on top of Missionary Ridge, forcing the defeated Confederates into disorganized retreat. Although Bragg's army had not been captured, the decisive battle opened Georgia and the heartland of the Confederacy to Union invasion. Lincoln promoted Grant to Lieutenant General, a rank only previously held by George Washington and Winfield Scott, and Grant's fame increased throughout the North.[80]

Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant

Disappointed with Major General George Meade's failure to pursue Lee after the Confederate defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg, Lincoln made Grant commander of all Union Armies in March 1864.[81] Grant assigned the Department of the Mississippi to Sherman, and went east to Washington, D.C., to devise a strategy with Lincoln. After settling Julia into a house in Georgetown, Grant established his headquarters fifty miles away, with Meade's Army of the Potomac in Culpeper, Virginia.[82] Grant and Lincoln devised a strategy of coordinated Union offensives, attacking the rebel armies at the same time to keep the Confederates from shifting reinforcements within their interior lines. Sherman would attack Atlanta, while Meade would lead the Army of the Potomac, with Grant in camp, to attack Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Major General Benjamin Butler was to advance towards Richmond from the south, by way of the James River.[83] Depending on Lee's actions, Grant would join forces with Butler's armies and be fed supplies from the James. Major General Franz Sigel was to capture the railroad line at Lynchburg, move east, and attack from the Blue Ridge Mountains.[84] Grant knew that Lee had limited manpower and that a war of attrition fought on a battlefield without entrenchments would lead to Lee's defeat. Grant was riding a rising tide of popularity, and there was talk that a Union victory early in the year could open his candidacy for the presidency. Grant was aware of the rumors, but had ruled out a political candidacy; the possibility would soon vanish with delays on the battlefield.[85]

Overland Campaign and victory

Sigel's and Butler's efforts sputtered, and Grant was left alone to fight Lee in a series of bloody battles known as the Overland Campaign. Grant crossed the Rapidan River on May 4, 1864, and attacked Lee in the Battle of the Wilderness, a hard-fought three-day battle with many casualties. Rather than retreat as his predecessors had done, Grant flanked Lee's army to the southeast and attempted to wedge the Union Army between Lee and Richmond at Spotsylvania.[86] Lee's army got to Spotsylvania first, and a costly battle ensued, lasting thirteen days. During the battle, Grant attempted to break through Lee's line of defense, resulting in one of the bloodiest assaults during the Civil War, known as the Battle of the Bloody Angle. Unable to break Lee's defenses after repeated attempts, Grant flanked the Confederate army to the southeast again at North Anna, a battle that lasted three days.[87] This time the Confederate Army had a defensive advantage on Grant. Grant then maneuvered the Union Army to Cold Harbor, a vital railroad hub that linked to Richmond, but Lee's men were again able to entrench against the Union assault. During the third day of the thirteen-day battle, Grant led a costly assault on Lee's trenches. As casualty reports became known in the North, heavy criticism fell on Grant, who was castigated "the Butcher" by the Northern press after taking 52,788 casualties in thirty days since crossing the Rapidan. Lee's army suffered 32,907 casualties, and he was less able to replace them.[88] The costly assault at Cold Harbor was the second of two battles in the war that Grant later said he regretted. Unknown to Lee, Grant pulled out of Cold Harbor and moved his army south of the James River, freed Butler from the Bermuda Hundred (where the rebels had surrounded his army,) and attacked Petersburg, Richmond's central railroad hub.[89]

Grant at City Point in 1864 with his wife and son Jesse
Robert E. Lee surrendered to Grant at the Appomattox Court House.

After crossing the James River undetected, Grant and the Army of the Potomac advanced southward to capture Petersburg. Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard was able to defend the city, and Lee's veteran reinforcements soon arrived. The result was a long nine-month siege of Petersburg, stalling the advance. Northern resentment grew as the war dragged on, but an indirect benefit of the Petersburg siege was that Lee was unable to reinforce armies opposing Sherman and Sheridan. During the siege, Sherman took Atlanta, a victory that advanced President Lincoln's reelection. Sheridan was assigned command of the Union Army of the Shenandoah and Grant directed him to "follow the enemy to their death". Lee had sent General Jubal Early up the Shenandoah Valley to attack the federal capital and draw troops away from the Army of the Potomac, but Sheridan defeated Early, ensuring that Washington would not be endangered. Grant then ordered Sheridan's cavalry to destroy vital Confederate supplies in the Shenandoah Valley. When Sheridan reported suffering attacks by irregular Confederate cavalry under John S. Mosby, Grant recommended rounding up their families for imprisonment as hostages at Fort McHenry.[90]

Grant, his forces reduced in number after sending troops north to fend off Early's attack, approved of a plan to blow up part of the enemy trenches from an underground tunnel. The explosion created a crater from which Confederates could easily pick off Union troops below. The 3500 Union casualties outnumbered the Confederates' by three-to-one; although the plan could have been successful if implemented correctly, Grant admitted the tactic had been a "stupendous failure."[91] On August 9, 1864, Grant, who had just arrived at his headquarters in City Point, narrowly escaped death when Confederate spies blew up an ammunition barge moored below the city's bluffs.[92] Rather than fight Lee on a full frontal attack as he had done at Cold Harbor, Grant continued to extend Lee's defenses south and west of Petersburg, to capture vital railroad links.[93] As Grant continued to push the Union advance westward, Lee's lines became overstretched and undermanned. After the Federal army rebuilt the City Point Railroad, Grant was able to use mortars to attack Lee's entrenchments.[94]

Once Sherman reached the East Coast and Thomas dispatched Hood in Tennessee, Union victory appeared certain, and Lincoln attempted to negotiate an end to the war with the Confederates. He enlisted Francis Preston Blair to carry a message to Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Davis and Lincoln each appointed commissioners, but the conference soon stalled. Grant contacted Lincoln, who agreed to personally meet with the commissioners at Fort Monroe. The peace conference that took place near Union-controlled Fort Monroe was ultimately fruitless, but represented Grant's first foray into diplomacy.[95]

In March 1865, while Lincoln met at City Point with Grant, Sherman, and Porter, Union forces finally took Petersburg. They captured Richmond that April. Lee's troops began deserting in large numbers; disease and lack of supplies also diminished the remaining Confederate armies. Lee attempted to link up with the remnants of Joseph E. Johnston's defeated army, but Union cavalry forces led by Sheridan were able to stop the two armies from converging. Lee and his army surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. Grant gave generous terms; Confederate troops surrendered their weapons and allowed to return to their homes with their mounts, on the condition that they would not take up arms against the United States. Within a few weeks, the Civil War was over.[96]

Lincoln's assassination

Painting of four men conferring in a ship's cabin, entitled "The Peacemakers".
Grant (center left) next to Lincoln with General Sherman (far left) and Admiral Porter (right)– The Peacemakers

On April 14, five days after Grant's victory at Appomattox, Lincoln was fatally shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theater and died the next morning. The assassination was part of a conspiracy that targeted a number of government leaders.[97] Grant attended a cabinet meeting that day, and Lincoln had invited Grant and his wife to the theater, but they declined as they had plans to travel to Philadelphia. Many, including Grant himself, thought that Grant had been a target in the plot.[98] Secretary of War Stanton, through Charles Dana, notified Grant of the President's death and summoned him to Washington. The following day, Grant hastily ordered the arrest of paroled Confederate officers. Major General Edward Ord, however, was able to narrow the existing threats in Washington by army intelligence and persuaded Grant to reverse his arrest orders.[99] Attending Lincoln's funeral on April 19, Grant stood alone and wept openly. He said of Lincoln, "He was incontestably the greatest man I have ever known."[100] Regarding the new President, Andrew Johnson, Grant told Julia that he dreaded the change in administrations; he judged Johnson's attitude toward white southerners as one that would "make them unwilling citizens", and initially thought that with Johnson, "Reconstruction has been set back no telling how far."[101]

Later in April, Sherman, without consulting Washington, concluded an armistice agreement with Johnston to effect the latter's surrender. The agreement allowed the existing Confederate state government in North Carolina to remain in power; additionally Sherman affirmed citizens' property rights that included keeping their slaves. Sherman believed the agreement was consistent with Lincoln's recent statements to him at City Point. Stanton and Grant quickly surmised the terms were much too lenient. Stanton even declared so publicly with scorn for Sherman; Grant, concerned that his lead commander's mistake not be mishandled, requested a cabinet meeting to discuss the problem. Grant personally conveyed the rebuke to Sherman and ultimately gained his consent to renegotiate the agreement in accord with the terms set at Appomattox.[101]

Commanding general

Celebrations and honors

Two-story brick house where Grant lived in Galena.
The post-Civil War home of Ulysses S. Grant, in Galena, Illinois

With the war's end the army, with Grant as commander, was the primary enforcer of Congressional Reconstruction of the former Confederate states. Beyond that, Grant was in charge of Indian wars on the western Plains.[102] In May 1865, the Union League of Philadelphia purchased a house for the Grants in that city, but Grant's military work was in Washington. He attempted to commute and return on the weekends, but by October he and Julia moved to Washington.[103] They secured a house in Georgetown Heights, but Grant instructed Elihu Washburne that for political purposes his legal residence remained in Galena, Illinois.[104] That same year, Grant appeared at Cooper Union in New York where the New York Times reported that "... the enhanced and bewildered multitude trembled with extraordinary delight." Further travels that summer took the Grants to Albany, back to Galena, and throughout Illinois and Ohio, with enthusiastic receptions.[105]

Report on condition of South

In November 1865, President Johnson sent Grant on a fact-finding mission to the South. Afterwards, Grant filed a report recommending continuation of a reformed Freedmen's Bureau, which Johnson opposed, but advising against the use of black troops in garrisons, which he believed encouraged an alternative to farm labor.[106] Grant did not believe the people of the devastated South were ready for civilian self-rule, and that both whites and blacks in the South required protection by the federal government.[107] Grant also warned of threats by disaffected poor people, black and white, and recommended that local decision-making be entrusted only to "thinking men of the South" (i.e., men of property).[108] In this respect, Grant's first Reconstruction policy aligned with Johnson's policy of pardoning established southern leaders and restoring them to their positions of power.[109] He joined Johnson in arguing that Congress should allow representatives from the South to take their seats.[110] On July 25, 1866, Congress promoted Grant to the newly created rank of General of the Army of the United States.[111]

Breach with Johnson

Grant and President Andrew Johnson during Johnson's Swing Around the Circle tour. Grant is seated to Johnson's left.

When the Civil War ended, Grant was the most popular man in the country.[112] When Johnson argued a moderate and speedy approach to Reconstruction, the Radical Republican-controlled Congress strongly opposed and refused to admit delegates from the former Confederate states.[113] Over Johnson's vetoes, Congress renewed the Freedman's Bureau and passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866. During the congressional election campaign later that year, Johnson took his case to the people in his "Swing Around the Circle" speaking tour.[114] Johnson pressured Grant to go on the tour; Grant, wishing to appear loyal, agreed. Jealous of Grant's popularity, Johnson sought to capitalize on it by having the general travel with him.[115] Johnson advocated an immediate return of the former Confederate states into the Union without any guarantee of African-American citizenship, and castigated Radical Republican leaders, including Charles Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens.[116] Grant believed that Johnson was purposefully agitating conservative opinion to defy Congressional Reconstruction.[116] Finding himself increasingly at odds with Johnson, Grant confided to his wife that he thought Johnson's speeches were a "national disgrace".[116] Publicly, Grant attempted to appear loyal to Johnson while not alienating Republican legislators essential to his future political career. Grant, believing that Johnson was about to attempt to unilaterally seat Southern Congressmen, ordered that Southern military arsenals be depleted and have the arms shipped to the North, to prevent their capture by Southern state governments.[117]

Clockwise from lower left: Graduated at West Point 1843; Chapultepec 1847; Drilling his Volunteers 1861; Fort Donelson 1862; Shiloh 1862; Vicksburg 1863; Chattanooga 1863; Commander-in-Chief 1864; Lee's Surrender 1865

Conflict between Radicals and Conservatives continued after the 1866 elections. Rejecting Johnson's vision for quick reconciliation with former Confederates, Congress passed the Reconstruction Acts, which divided the southern states into five military districts to protect the freedmen's constitutional and congressional rights. Military district governors were to lead transitional state governments in each district. Grant, who was to select the general to govern each district from a group designated by Johnson, preferred Congress's plan for enforcement of Reconstruction.[118] Grant was optimistic that Reconstruction Acts would help pacify the South.[119] By complying with the Acts and instructing his subordinates to do likewise, Grant further alienated Johnson. When Sheridan removed public officials in Louisiana who impeded Reconstruction, Johnson was displeased and sought Sheridan's removal.[120] Grant recommended a rebuke, but not a dismissal.[121] Throughout the Reconstruction period, Grant and the military protected the rights of more than 1,500 African-Americans elected to political office and overturned the first black codes in 1867.[122]

Johnson's impeachment

The impeachment of Andrew Johnson

President Johnson, for some time, wished to replace Secretary of War Stanton, a Lincoln appointee who sympathized with Congressional Reconstruction. To keep Grant under control as a potential political rival, Johnson asked Grant to take the post. Grant recommended against the move, in light of the Tenure of Office Act, which required Senate approval for cabinet removals. Johnson believed the Act did not apply to officers appointed by the previous president, and he subsequently forced the issue by making Grant an interim appointee during a Senate recess. Grant relented and agreed to accept the post temporarily, lest he be rendered politically irrelevant. Stanton, believing he had Senate protection, vacated the office until the Senate reconvened.[123]

When the Senate reinstated Stanton, Johnson requested that Grant refuse to surrender the office and let the courts resolve the matter. Grant however told Johnson in private that violating the Tenure of Office Act was a federal offense, which could result in a fine or imprisonment. Grant, believing he had no other legal alternatives, returned the office to Stanton. This incurred Johnson's wrath; during a cabinet meeting immediately afterwards, Johnson accused Grant of breaking his promise to remain Secretary of War. Grant disputed that he had ever made such a promise although cabinet members later testified he had done so.[124] On January 14, 1868, newspapers friendly to Johnson published a series of articles to discredit Grant over returning the War Department to Stanton, stating that Grant had been deceptive in the matter.[124] This public humiliation infuriated Grant, who defended himself in a written response to Johnson. When Grant's response became public, it increased his popularity among Radical Republicans and he emerged from the controversy unscathed.[124] Although Grant favored Johnson's impeachment, he took no active role in the impeachment proceedings against Johnson which, in part, centered on Johnson's removal of Stanton. Johnson barely survived, and none of the other Republican leaders directly involved benefited politically in their unsuccessful attempt to remove the president.[125]

1868 presidential campaign

First inauguration of Ulysses S. Grant on the steps of the Capitol on March 4, 1869.

Grant entered the 1868 campaign season with increased popularity among the Radical Republicans following his abandonment of Johnson. The Republicans chose Grant as their presidential candidate on the first ballot at the 1868 Republican National Convention in Chicago, where he faced no significant opposition. In his letter of acceptance to the party, Grant concluded with "Let us have peace," which became his campaign slogan.[126] For vice president, the delegates nominated House Speaker Schuyler Colfax. Grant's General Order No. 11 and antisemitism became an issue during the presidential campaign. Grant sought to distance himself from the order, saying "I have no prejudice against sect or race, but want each individual to be judged by his own merit."[127] As was common at the time, Grant remained at his home in Galena during the campaign,[b] and left most of the active campaigning and speaking on his behalf to his campaign manager William E. Chandler and others.[130]

The Democrats nominated former New York Governor Horatio Seymour. Their campaign focused mainly on ending Reconstruction and returning control of the South to the white planter class, which alienated many War Democrats in the North.[131] The Democrats attacked Reconstruction and the Republican Party's support of African-American rights, while deriding Grant, calling him captain of the "Black Marines".[132] Grant won the election by 300,000 votes out of 5,716,082 votes cast, receiving an electoral college landslide, of 214 votes to Seymour's 80. Elected to public office for the first time, Grant at the age of forty-six was the youngest nineteenth century presidential candidate to take office. Both Democrats and Republicans believed Grant's election was a triumph of conservative principles that included sound money, efficient government, and the restoration of Southern reconstructed states. [133] Grant was the first president elected after the nation had outlawed slavery and granted citizenship to former slaves. Implementation of these new rights was slow to come; in the 1868 election, the black vote counted in only sixteen of the thirty-seven states, nearly all in the South.[134]

Presidency 1869–1877

President Ulysses S. Grant, 1869

Grant's presidency began with a break from tradition, as Johnson declined to ride in Grant's carriage or attend the inauguration at the Capitol. In his inaugural address, Grant advocated the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment and said he would approach Reconstruction "calmly, without prejudice, hate or sectional pride."[135] Grant took an unorthodox approach to his cabinet choices, declining to consult with the Senate and keeping his choices secret until he submitted them for confirmation. [136] In his effort to create national harmony, Grant purposely avoided choosing Republican Party leaders.[137] Out of personal loyalty, Grant appointed his friends Elihu B. Washburne to the State Department and John A. Rawlins as Secretary of War. Washburne served only twelve days before resigning over claims of ill-health; the plan having been designed to give him greater diplomatic clout when Grant appointed him Minister to France. Grant then appointed Hamilton Fish, a conservative New York statesman, as Secretary of State. Grant promoted Sherman to his own former post as Commanding General. Rawlins, however, issued orders that reduced Sherman's authority; after Grant refused to overturn Rawlins's orders, his relationship with Sherman became strained. Rawlins died in office a few months later, and Grant appointed William W. Belknap as his replacement.[138] Belknap and Congress continued to restrict Sherman's military authority.[139]

Grant selected several non-politicians to his cabinet, including Adolph E. Borie and Alexander Turney Stewart, with limited success. Borie served briefly as Secretary of Navy, later replaced by George M. Robeson, while Stewart was prevented from becoming Secretary of Treasury by a 1789 statute and by Senator Charles Sumner's and Senator Roscoe Conkling's opposition to amend the law. In place of Stewart, Grant appointed George S. Boutwell, as Secretary of Treasury. Grant's other cabinet appointments—Jacob D. Cox (Interior), John Creswell (Postmaster General), and Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar (Attorney General)—were well-received and uncontroversial.[140] That summer, at the invitation of wealthy backers, Grant and his family vacationed for the first time in what became known as the "summer capital" and "the resort of presidents", Long Branch, New Jersey.[141] To ensure his family's privacy, Grant barred the general public from entering the White House grounds.[142]

Later Reconstruction and civil rights

White Leaguers attacking the integrated police force and state militia, New Orleans, 1874

Reconstruction of the South continued when Grant took office in March 1869. He lobbied Congress to pass the Fifteenth Amendment, guaranteeing that no state could prevent someone from voting based on race, and believed that its passage would secure freedmen's rights. Grant asked Congress admit representatives from the remaining unrepresented Southern states in conformity with Congressional Reconstruction.[143] Congress responded and drew up legislation that Grant signed, providing that Mississippi, Virginia, and Texas would be represented in Congress after they ratified the Fifteenth Amendment.[143] Grant pressured Congress to draw up legislation that would seat African American state legislators in Georgia, who had been ousted by white conservatives.[144] Congress responded to Grant's message through special legislation, the members were re-seated in the Georgia legislature, and Georgia had to adopt the Fifteenth Amendment to gain representation in Congress.[144] By July 1870, the four remaining reconstructed former Confederate states were represented in the United States Congress.[144]

To enforce the new amendment, Grant relied on the army and the newly created Justice Department. In 1870, Grant signed a bill proposed by Thomas Jenckes of Rhode Island establishing the Department of Justice, to ensure federal laws would be enforced in the South when state courts and prosecutors were reluctant to do so. Where the attorney general had once been only a legal adviser to the president, he now led a cabinet department dedicated to enforcing federal law, including a solicitor general to argue on the government's behalf in court.[145] Under Grant's first attorney general, Ebenezer R. Hoar, the administration was not especially aggressive in prosecuting white Southerners who terrorized their black neighbors, but Hoar's successor, Amos T. Akerman, was more zealous. Alarmed by a rise in terror by the Ku Klux Klan and other groups, Congress investigated. With Grant's encouragement, Congress passed the Enforcement Acts in 1870 and 1871 that expanded federal authority.[146] The Acts made depriving any persons of their civil rights a federal offense and authorized the president to use the military to enforce the laws. In May 1871, Grant ordered federal troops to help marshals in arresting Klansmen. That October, on Akerman's recommendation, Grant suspended habeas corpus in part of South Carolina and sent federal troops to enforce the law there. Through prosecutions by Akerman and his replacement, George Henry Williams, the Klan's power collapsed, and by 1872, elections in the South saw African-Americans voting in record numbers.[147]

That same year, Grant signed the Amnesty Act, which restored political rights to former Confederates. After the collapse of the Klan in 1872, conservative whites formed armed groups such as the Red Shirts in South Carolina and the White League. Unlike the Ku Klux Klan, they were not secret. They used violence and intimidation against African-Americans done to take control from state governments away from Republicans.[148] The Panic of 1873 and the ensuing depression contributed to public fatigue, and the North grew less concerned with reconstructing the South.[149] Grant began to favor a more limited use of troops, lest they create the impression that he was acting as a military dictator; he was also concerned that increased military pressure in the South might cause conservative whites in the North to bolt the Republican Party. In 1874, Grant was able by proclamation to peaceably end the Brooks-Baxter War in Arkansas.[150] However, the same year, in Louisiana Grant sent troops and three warships to New Orleans to stop violence, that included the Colfax Massacre, over the disputed election of Governor William Pitt Kellogg two years earlier.[151] By 1875, Democratic "Redeemer" politicians retook control of all but three Southern states. As violence against black Southerners escalated once more, Edwards Pierrepont (Grant's fourth attorney general) told Governor Adelbert Ames of Mississippi that the people were "tired of the autumnal outbreaks in the South," and declined to directly intervene. Instead, Pierrepont sent an emissary to negotiate a peaceful election.[152] Grant signed an ambitious Civil Rights Act of 1875, which expanded federal law enforcement by prohibiting discrimination on account of race in public lodging, public transportation, and jury service.[153] The law was rarely enforced, however, and it did not stop the rise of white supremacist forces in the South.[154] In the election of 1876, the remaining three Republican governments in the South fell to Redeemers, and the ensuing Compromise of 1877 marked the end of Reconstruction.

Indian policy

Ely S. Parker, appointed by Grant, was the first Native American to serve as Commissioner of Indian Affairs.

Grant's attempts live peacefully with Native Americans marked a radical reversal of what had long been the government's policy of Indian removal. He appointed Ely S. Parker, a Seneca Indian and member of Grant's wartime staff, as Commissioner of Indian Affairs. "My efforts in the future will be directed," Grant said in his second inaugural address, "by a humane course, to bring the aborigines of the country under the benign influences of education and civilization ... Wars of extermination ... are demoralizing and wicked." Grant's "Peace Policy" (also called the "Quaker Policy") aimed to replace entrepreneurs serving as Indian agents with missionaries.[155] In 1869, Grant signed an bill establishing a Board of Indian Commissioners to oversee spending and reduce corruption in the Bureau of Indian Affairs.[156] Two years later, in 1871, Grant signed a bill ending the Indian treaty system; the law now treated individual Native Americans as wards of the federal government, and no longer dealt with the tribes as sovereign entities.[157] Grant wished the Indian tribes be protected on reservations and educated in European-style farming and culture, abandoning their hunter-gatherer way of life.[155] Considered liberal-minded at the time, although unpopular today, the policy would see fulfillment years later in the Dawes Act of 1887. Grant's Peace Policy showed some success in reducing conflict with fewer battles between Indians and whites on the western frontier, but the increased slaughter of the buffalo, encouraged by Grant's subordinates, caused renewed conflict with the Plains Indians in a few years.[158] The Sioux and other Plains tribes accepted the reservation system, but encroachments by whites in search of gold in the Black Hills led to renewed war by the end of Grant's second term.[159] The war ended the growing understanding that had developed between Grant and Sioux Chief Red Cloud.[160]

Under Major Generals Oliver Otis Howard and George Crook, Grant's policy had greater success in the Southwest. Howard, the former head of the Freedmen's Bureau, negotiated peace with the Apache in 1872, convincing their leader, Cochise, to move the tribe to a new reservation, and ending a war started the year before. In Oregon, relations were less peaceful, however, as war with the Modocs erupted in April 1873. The Modocs refused to move to a reservation and killed the local army commander, Major General Edward Canby. Although Grant was upset over Canby's death, he ordered restraint, disregarding Sherman's advice to seek revenge or exterminate the tribe. The Army, led by Sherman, captured, tried, and executed the four Modoc warriors responsible for Canby's murder in October 1873. Grant ordered the rest of the Modoc tribe relocated to the Indian Territory.[161]

During the Great Sioux War, started by discovery of gold in the Black Hills, Grant came into conflict with Colonel George Armstrong Custer after Custer testified in 1876 about corruption in the War Department under Secretary William W. Belknap. Grant ordered Custer arrested for breach of military protocol and barred him from leading an upcoming campaign against the Sioux. Grant later relented and let Custer fight under Brigadier General Alfred Terry.[162] Sioux warriors led by Crazy Horse killed Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, the most famous defeat for the U.S. Army in the Indian wars. Two months later, Grant castigated Custer in the press, saying "I regard Custer's massacre as a sacrifice of troops, brought on by Custer himself, that was wholly unnecessary – wholly unnecessary."[163] Custer's death shocked the nation, while Grant's Peace Policy yielded to militarism; Congress appropriated funds for 2,500 more troops, the Army constructed two more Western forts and took over the Indian agencies, barring Indians from purchasing rifles and ammunition.[162]

Foreign affairs

King Kalākaua of the Kingdom of Hawaii meets Grant at the White House, 1874

Even before Grant became president, expansionists in American politics desired control over Caribbean islands. William H. Seward, Secretary of State under Lincoln, attempted to buy the Danish West Indies from Denmark. Seward began negotiations to purchase the two former European colonies on the island of Hispaniola with the eastern two-thirds, Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic and the French-speaking, western one-third, Haiti; however the early anti-imperialist Republicans in Congress rejected the plan.[164] Grant renewed negotiations to annex the Dominican Republic, led by Orville E. Babcock, a wartime confidant of Grant's.[165] Grant was initially skeptical, but at the urging of the Admiral Porter, who wanted a naval base at Samaná Bay, and Joseph W. Fabens, a New England businessman employed by the Dominican government, Grant examined the matter and became convinced of its wisdom.[166] Grant sent Babcock to consult with Buenaventura Báez, the pro-annexation Dominican president, to see if the proposal was practical; Babcock returned with a draft Treaty of Annexation in December 1869.[166]

Grant believed in peaceful expansion of the nation's borders, and thought acquisition of the majority-black island nation would allow new economic opportunities for African Americans in the United States; while increasing American naval power in the Caribbean.[167] Secretary of State Hamilton Fish dismissed the idea, seeing the island as politically unstable and troublesome.[166] Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts opposed annexation because it would decrease the number of autonomous nations run by Africans in the western hemisphere.[168] He and other senators also objected for another reason—they did not wish to add more blacks to the overall American population.[169] Grant personally lobbied Senators to pass the treaty, going so far as to visit Sumner at his home.[169] Fish added to the effort out of loyalty to the administration, but to no avail; the Senate refused to pass the treaty. Sumner's role in leading the opposition led to political enmity between him and Grant.[170] After the Dominican initiative failed, Grant convinced Fish to stay in the Cabinet and gave him greater authority to run the State Department.[171]

Grant and Fish were more successful in their satisfaction of the Alabama claims, a dispute between Great Britain and the United States. The dispute stemmed from the damage done to American shipping during the Civil War by the five warships and commerce raiders built for the Confederacy in British shipyards including, most famously, the CSS Alabama.[172] The Americans claimed that Britain had violated neutrality by recognition of Confederate belligerency.[173] When the war ended, the United States demanded retribution, which the British refused to pay. Negotiations continued fitfully, a sticking point being the claims of "indirect damages" as opposed to the discussion to the harm directly caused by the five ships.[174] Sumner opposed the third-party negotiated Johnson-Clarendon Convention settlement, that was rejected by the Senate, believing that England should directly pay $2 billion in gold or, alternatively, cede Canada to the United States.[175] Fish convinced Grant that peaceful relations with Britain were more important than acquisition of more territory, and the two nations agreed to negotiate along those lines.[176] A commission in Washington produced a treaty whereby an international tribunal would settle the damage amounts; the British admitted regret, but not fault.[c] The Senate approved the Treaty of Washington, which also settled disputes over fishing rights and maritime boundaries, by a 50–12 vote in 1871.[177]

In 1873, an international crisis occurred in the Caribbean that drew Grant's and Fish's attention, when a Spanish destroyer took captive a merchant ship, Virginius, flying the U.S. flag, carrying war materials and men to aid the Cuban insurrection. Cuban insurgents who owned the Virginius had secretly registered the ship in the United States through an American operative. The passengers and crew, including eight United States citizens, were trying to illegally travel to Cuba to help overthrow the government. Spanish authorities executed the prisoners, and many Americans called for war with Spain. Fish, with Grant's support, worked to reach a peaceful resolution. Spain's President, Emilio Castelar y Ripoll, expressed regret for the tragedy and agreed to decide reparations through arbitration; Spain surrendered the Virginius and paid a cash indemnity of $80,000 to the families of the executed Americans.[178] The administration's diplomacy was also at work in the Pacific as, in December 1874, Grant held a state dinner at the White House for the King of Hawaii, David Kalakaua, who was seeking Hawaiian sugar importation duty-free to the United States.[179] Grant and Fish were able to produce a successful free trade treaty in 1875 with the Kingdom of Hawaii, incorporating the Pacific islands' sugar industry into the United States' economic sphere.[179]

Gold standard and the Gold Ring

Cartoon depicting Grant running from the Treasury to release gold into the market and defeat the Gold Ring

Soon after taking office, Grant took steps to return the nation's currency to a more secure footing. During the Civil War, Congress had authorized the Treasury to issue banknotes that, unlike the rest of the currency, were not backed by gold or silver. The "greenback" notes, as they were known, were necessary to pay the unprecedented bills the government racked up in fighting the war, but they also caused inflation and forced gold-backed money out of circulation; Grant determined to return the national economy to pre-war monetary standards.[180] Many in Congress agreed with Grant, and they passed the Public Credit Act of 1869, which guaranteed that bondholders would be repaid in gold, not greenbacks.[181] Grant charged Treasury Secretary George S. Boutwell with rationalizing the Treasury Department and improving tax collection. To strengthen the dollar, Boutwell, backed by Grant, sold gold from the Treasury each month and bought back high-interest Treasury bonds issued during the war; this had the effect of reducing the deficit, but deflating the currency.[182]

These actions had a large impact on the nation's small gold market, and gold speculators tried to make a profit by anticipating how much gold Boutwell would sell in a given week.[183] Abel Corbin, Grant's brother-in-law, sought to use his connection with the president to gain inside information for himself and his associates, Jay Gould, a Wall Street trader and railroad magnate, and his partner Jim Fisk. This group of collaborators was later called the "Gold Ring."[184] Corbin convinced Grant to appoint Daniel Butterfield as assistant Treasurer, and Gould soon made Butterfield his informant.[185] Meanwhile, Gould and Fisk quietly stockpiled gold. Gould convinced Corbin that a high gold price would be good for the nation's prosperity, and Corbin passed this theory on to Grant. The conspirators believed they had convinced the president, and continued to stockpile gold, hoping to sell into a rising market. After consulting with Alexander Stewart (his erstwhile nominee for Treasury Secretary) in early September, Grant stopped the sale of gold, believing a higher gold price would help Western farmers.[186] By mid-September, however, Grant became suspicious of Corbin, particularly when Corbin tried to drive a wedge between Grant and Boutwell. The gold price continued to rise as the conspirators bought ever more. The rising price began to affect the wider economy, and Grant, seeing that the increase was unnatural, told Boutwell to sell gold, thereby reducing its price.[187] Boutwell did so the next day, on September 22, 1869, later known as Black Friday. The sale of gold from the Treasury defeated Gould's corner on the market as the gold price plummeted, relieving the growing economic tension.[188] Gould and Fisk managed to escape without much harm to themselves.[189] A New York bank collapsed, and trading dried up for months; a general recession did not follow, however, and the economy resumed its post-war recovery.[190]


A Thomas Nast cartoon depicting Grant steering a ship and being challenged by opponents during presidential election of 1872.
Cartoon by Thomas Nast on Grant's opponents in the re-election campaign

Grant's personal reputation suffered from the continued scandals caused by his many corrupt appointees and personal associates. In addition to the Gold Ring, corruption in the New York Customs House added to reformers' negative impressions of the administration. The Crédit Mobilier scandal, where a railroad company bribed many members of Congress, did not involve Grant, but did ensnare Vice President Colfax and added to the general sense of dishonesty in Washington.[191] The Democrats, however, had their own Tammany Hall scandal in New York that politically helped Grant and the Republicans.[191] To placate reformers, Grant encouraged Congress to create the Civil Service Commission in 1871, chaired by reformer George William Curtis, which had the power to propose reforms.[192] Grant accepted and implemented the Civil Service Commission's reform recommendations on January 1, 1872.[193] Congress, however, refused to fund the Civil Service Commission in 1875 or pass legislation to enforce its recommendations.[194] There was further division within the party between the faction most concerned with the plight of the freedmen and that concerned with the growth of industry.[195] During the war, both factions' interests had aligned, and in 1868 both had supported Grant. Since his first election Grant sided with both capital and civil rights interests that alienated some party leaders.[195]

Many of such men bolted in 1872, calling themselves the Liberal Republican Party. Led by Charles Francis Adams of Massachusetts and Senator Carl Schurz of Missouri, they publicly denounced the political patronage system that Sumner called "Grantism" and demanded amnesty for Confederate soldiers. The Liberal Republicans nominated Horace Greeley, another Republican who had come to dislike Grant and his policies.[196] The rest of the Republican Party nominated Grant for reelection, with Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts replacing scandal-ridden Colfax as vice-presidential nominee.[197] The Democrats, seeking to benefit from anti-Grant sentiment, nominated Greeley as well.[198] The fusion effort was unsuccessful, and Grant was easily reelected. The Liberal Republicans were unable to deliver many votes, and Greeley was only successful in areas the Democrats would have carried without him.[199] A strong economy, debt reduction, lowered tariffs, repeal of the income tax, and civil service reforms helped Grant defeat the Liberal Republicans.[193] Grant won 56% of the poplar vote and an Electoral College landslide of 286 to 66.[200][d]

Panic of 1873, the Long Depression, and currency debates

A cartoon depicting Grant after vetoing the Inflation bill.
Grant congratulated for vetoing the "inflation bill" on April 22, 1874. Hamilton Fish, shown behind Grant, supported the veto.

Grant continued to work for a strong dollar. In February 1873, Grant signed into law the Coinage Act of 1873, which effectively ended the legal basis for bimetallism (that is the use of both silver and gold as money), and established the gold standard in practice.[201] The Coinage Act discontinued the standard silver dollar and established the gold dollar as the monetary standard. Critics who wanted more money in circulation to raise prices later denounced the move as the "Crime of 1873" claiming the law caused deflation and helped bankers while hurting farmers.[202]

Grant's second term saw renewed economic turmoil. In September 1873, Jay Cooke & Company, a New York brokerage house collapsed after failing to fully sell a bond issue by Cooke's railroad, the Northern Pacific Railway.[203] The collapse sent ripples through Wall Street, and other banks and brokerages that owned railroad stocks and bonds were also ruined.[203] On September 20, the New York Stock Exchange suspended trading for ten days.[204] Grant, who knew little about finance, traveled to New York to consult leading businessmen and bankers for advice on how to curb the panic, which became known as the Panic of 1873.[205] Grant believed that, as with the collapse of the Gold Ring in 1869, the panic was merely an economic fluctuation that affected bankers and brokers.[206] He responded cautiously, instructing Treasury Secretary William Adams Richardson to buy $10 million in government bonds, thus injecting cash into the system. These purchases curbed the panic on Wall Street, but a five-year industrial depression, later called the Long Depression, nonetheless swept the nation.[205] 89 of the nation's 364 railroads went bankrupt.[207]

GRANT, Ulysses S-President (BEP engraved portrait).jpg

BEP engraved portrait of Grant as President.

After the Panic, Congress debated an inflationary policy to stimulate the economy and passed what became known as the Inflation Bill on April 14, 1874. Many farmers and workingmen favored the bill, which would add $64 million in greenbacks to circulation, but some Eastern bankers opposed it because it would weaken the dollar.[208] Grant unexpectedly vetoed the bill on the grounds that it would destroy the credit of the nation.[209] Grant's veto placed him securely in the conservative faction of the Republican party, and was the beginning of the party's commitment to a strong gold-backed dollar.[209] Grant later pressured Congress for a bill to further strengthen dollar by gradually reducing the number of greenbacks in circulation. After losing the House to the Democrats in the 1874 elections, the lame-duck Republican Congress did so. On January 14, 1875, Grant signed the Specie Payment Resumption Act into law.[209] The Resumption Act required gradual reduction of the number of greenbacks allowed to circulate and declared that specie payment resumption would begin in 1879. Grant appointed Richardson, himself involved in a scandal, to the Court of Claims and appointed Benjamin H. Bristow of Kentucky as his replacement. Bristow also supported Grant's anti-inflationary hard money policy.[209]

Gilded Age corruption and reform

Harper's Weekly cartoon on Bristow's Whiskey Ring investigation

Grant served as president during the Gilded Age, a time when the economy was open to speculation and western expansion that fueled corruption in government offices. Against the harsh public revelation of the railroad bribery scandal, Grant also faced charges of misconduct in nearly all federal departments, especially in the Treasury and Interior departments, engaging his administration in constant conflict between corrupt associates and reformers.[210] Although personally honest with his own money matters, Grant had difficulty in spotting corruption in others.[211] He was protective of associates, whose persecutions he saw as unjust.[212] Grant's military discipline produced a loyalty that shielded associates from attack at the cost of his own reputation, unless evidence of personal misconduct was overwhelming.[212] No person linked any of the scandals together, except possibly Grant's personal secretary, Orville E. Babcock, who indirectly controlled many cabinet departments and delayed investigations.[213] In his first term, in addition to the Gold Ring, Grant had to respond to Congressional investigations into the Collectors Ring at the New York Custom House.[214]

During Grant's second term in office, a congressional investigation exposed and made public corruption in the Treasury Department in the Sanborn incident, where Secretary Richardson hired John D. Sanborn (a friend of Congressman Benjamin Butler, the former Civil War general) as an independent tax collector on a percentage basis, also known as a moiety.[215] Treasury officials were then privately instructed not to press for payment, so that accounts would become delinquent and Sanborn would get paid more when he "discovered" them.[215] The Congressional investigation committee report condemned Secretary Richardson for permitting the aggressive tax collection system implemented by Sanborn but did not formally make any impeachment charges.[216] To prevent future unscrupulous actions, Grant signed the Anti-Moiety Act into law in 1874, abolishing that payment system.[210]

In 1874, on becoming Treasury Secretary, Benjamin H. Bristow began a series of reforms.[217] Finding that millions of dollars in revenue were missing, Bristow discovered what became known as the Whiskey Ring—tax officials taking bribes in exchange for not taxing distillers.[218] Having obtained Grant's first endorsement, "Let no guilty man escape," Bristow moved quickly in 1875 to raid and shut down corrupt distilleries, collapsing the Ring.[219] Bristow obtained 238 indictments, leading to 110 convictions, and restored millions of tax dollars to the Treasury.[219] When Bristow's investigation implicated Babcock as part of the Whiskey Ring, Grant became defensive, believing Babcock was the innocent victim of a witch hunt.[220] While denying immunity to minor Whiskey Ring conspirators in the Midwest, Grant worked to protect Babcock.[219] In 1876, Babcock was found not guilty at a trial in which Grant testified on his behalf through a deposition.[219] After the trial, under public pressure, Grant dismissed Babcock from the White House.[220][e] Grant later pardoned several of the convicted Whiskey Ring members.[219]

The scandals increased as Congress began several investigations into corruption in the administration, the most notable of which regarded profiteering at western trading posts. The scheme involved Secretary of War William Belknap granting concessions for trading posts on western army bases in exchange for a cut of the profits.[222] The accusations led to Belknap's resignation. Even after he resigned from office, the House of Representatives impeached Belknap;[223] he was only saved from conviction in the Senate because many Senators believed their jurisdiction ended when Belknap left office.[223] Congress also investigated and reprimanded Navy Secretary George M. Robeson in 1876 for taking bribes from naval contractors, but he was never formally impeached.[224]

The Civil Service reform initiative had limited success, as Grant's cabinet implemented a merit system that increased qualified candidates and relied less on Congressional patronage.[225] Secretary of Interior Columbus Delano, however, exempted the Interior Department from competitive examinations, and Congress refused to enact permanent Civil Service reform. Delano resigned under pressure from the press, having allowed a spoils system of land and patent frauds and ignored Interior department officials' award of surveying contracts to his son, who got paid without doing any of the contracted work.[226] Grant appointed Zachariah Chandler, who succeeded Delano and cleaned up corruption in the Interior Department.[227] Grant appointed reformers Edwards Pierrepont and Marshall Jewell as Attorney General and Postmaster General, respectively, who supported Bristow's investigations. [228] In 1875, Pierrepont cleaned up corruption among the U.S. Marshals and U.S. Attorneys in the South.[229] Grant suggested other reforms as well, including a proposal that states should offer free public schooling to all children, although he also endorsed the Blaine Amendment, which would have forbidden government aid to schools that have any religious affiliation.[230]

Judicial appointments

Grant appointed Justice Ward Hunt to the Supreme Court, where he voted to uphold Reconstruction laws.

Grant appointed four Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States. In 1869, after Robert C. Grier retired from the bench and Congress's restoration of a ninth seat on the court, Grant filled the first two vacancies.[f][232] Grant first appointed former Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and Attorney General Ebenezer R. Hoar.[231] Neither man would take his seat: Stanton was confirmed, but died before he took office; Hoar was widely disliked in the Senate, which defeated his nomination 24–33.[231] Following a cabinet discussion, Grant submitted two more names to the Senate: William Strong and Joseph P. Bradley. Strong was a former justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania who retired to take up a private practice in Philadelphia. Bradley, a New Jersey lawyer, also had a successful private practice. Both men were railroad lawyers, and their appointment led to accusations that Grant intended them to overturn Hepburn v. Griswold, decided on the same day Grant sent their nominations to the Senate. That case, which was unpopular with business interests, held that the federal debt incurred before 1862 be paid in gold, not greenbacks.[233] Nonetheless, the Senate confirmed both Strong and Bradley and the following year the Supreme Court reversed the Hepburn case.[233]

After Grant's reelection, Justice Samuel Nelson retired from the bench and another Supreme Court seat opened up.[234] Grant nominated Ward Hunt, a New York state judge, to replace him. The Senate confirmed Hunt in 1873 and, like Nelson, Hunt upheld Reconstruction legislation. He served on the court until 1882.[234] In May 1873, Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase died suddenly. After several months, Grant offered the seat to Conkling.[235] Conkling declined, as did Senator Timothy Howe of Wisconsin.[235] Grant unsuccessfully tried to enlist Hamilton Fish for the job and considered nominating Caleb Cushing, as well, before submitting the name of his attorney general, George Henry Williams.[234] The Senate had a lackluster view of Williams's performance at the Justice Department and refused to act on the nomination. Grant stuck to his choice, but after no action Williams asked that his name be withdrawn in January 1874.[234] Fish suggested nominating Hoar again, but Grant instead chose Cushing. Cushing was an eminent lawyer and respected in his field, but emergence of his wartime correspondence with Jefferson Davis doomed his nomination.[234] Grant finally turned to Morrison Waite, a respectable (if little-known) Ohio lawyer who had worked on the Alabama claims arbitration.[236] The Senate unanimously approved the nomination two days later, on January 21, 1874. Although uncontroversial during his tenure on the Court, Waite authored two decisions (United States v. Reese and United States v. Cruikshank) that did much to undermine Reconstruction-era laws that protected the rights of black Americans.[235]

Election of 1876

By 1876, the collected scandals of the last eight years and the Democratic gains in the House led many in the Republican party to repudiate Grant.[237] Bristow was among the leading candidates to replace him, suggesting that a large faction desired an end to "Grantism" and feared that Grant would run for a third term.[238] Ultimately, Grant did not run, but neither was Bristow the nominee, as the convention settled on Governor Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio, a reformer. The Democrats nominated Samuel J. Tilden of New York. Voting irregularities in three Southern states caused the election that year to remain undecided for several months.[239] Grant told Congress to settle the matter through legislation, without blaming either party.[240] Grant mobilized troops in Louisiana and South Carolina, who kept the peace.[241] Grant assured both sides that he would not use the army to force a result, except to curb violence, and agreed that Congress should form an Electoral Commission to decide the matter.[242] The result was the Compromise of 1877: the Electoral Commission ruled that the disputed votes belonged to Hayes, but the last troops were withdrawn from Southern capitals.[243] The Republicans had won, but Reconstruction was over.


Grant is standing in a civilian dress suit holding a top hat after the Civil War.
Ulysses S. Grant, some time in the postbellum period

World tour

After leaving the White House, Grant and his family stayed with friends in New York, Ohio, and Philadelphia for two months, before setting out on a tour of the world.[244] The trip, which would last two years, began in Liverpool in May 1877, where enormous crowds greeted the ex-president and his entourage.[245] Travelling to London, the Grants dined with Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle, and Grant gave several speeches in the city.[246] They next traveled to Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland, before returning to England. The Grants spent a few months with their daughter Nellie, who had married an Englishman and moved to that country several years before. Returning to the continent, Grant and his wife journeyed on to France and Italy, spending Christmas 1877 aboard USS Vandalia, a warship docked in Palermo.[247] After a winter sojourn in the Holy Land, they visited Greece before returning to Italy and a meeting with Pope Leo XIII.[248] Travelling to Spain and then to Germany again, Grant met with Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, and the two men discussed military matters.[249]

After another visit to England and then to Ireland, the Grants left Europe by ship, sailing through the Suez Canal to India. They visited Bombay, Lucknow, Varanasi, and Delhi, being welcomed in each city by the colonial officials.[250] After India, they toured Burma, Siam (where Grant met King Chulalongkorn,) Singapore, and Vietnam.[251] Traveling on to Hong Kong, Grant began to change his mind on the nature of colonization, believing that the British rule was not "purely selfish" but also good for the colonial subjects.[250] Leaving Hong Kong, the Grants entered China proper, seeing the cities of Canton, Shanghai, and Peking. He declined to ask for an interview with the Guangxu Emperor, a child of seven, but did speak with the head of government, Prince Gong, and Li Hongzhang, a leading general.[252] They discussed China's dispute with Japan over the Ryukyu Islands, and Grant agreed to help bring the two sides to agreement.[253] After crossing over to Japan and meeting the Emperor Meiji, Grant convinced China to accept the Japanese annexation of the islands, and the two nations avoided war.[254]

By then the Grants had been gone two years, and were homesick. They crossed the Pacific and landed in San Francisco in September 1879, greeted by cheering crowds.[255] After a visit to Yellowstone National Park, they returned at last to Philadelphia on December 16, 1879.[256] The voyage around the world had captured popular imagination, and Republicans—especially those of the Stalwart faction excluded from the Hayes administration—saw Grant in a new light.[257] The Republican nomination for 1880 was wide open after Hayes, the incumbent President, had forsworn a second term and many Republicans thought that Grant was the man for the job.[257]

Third term attempt

Puck, a Democratic magazine, in 1880 lampooned Grant's support of "rings" of corruption among his associates.

The Stalwarts, led by Grant's old political ally, Roscoe Conkling, saw the ex-president's renewed popularity as a way for their faction to regain power. Opponents denounced his violation of the two-term rule that had been the norm since George Washington. Grant said nothing publicly, but privately he wanted the job and encouraged his men.[258] Elihu B. Washburne urged him to run; Grant demurred, saying he would be happy for the Republicans to win with another candidate, though he preferred James G. Blaine to John Sherman.[259] Even so, Conkling and John A. Logan began to organize delegates in Grant's favor. When the convention convened in Chicago in June, there were more delegates pledged to Grant than to any other candidate, but he was still short of a majority vote to capture the nomination.[259]

At the convention Conkling nominated Grant's name with an elegant speech, the most famous line being: "When asked which state he hails from, our sole reply shall be, he hails from Appomattox and its famous apple tree."[259] With 370 votes needed for nomination, the first ballot had Grant at 304, Blaine at 284, Sherman at 93, and the rest scattered to minor candidates.[260] Subsequent ballots followed, with roughly the same result; neither Grant nor Blaine could win. After thirty-six ballots, Blaine's delegates deserted him and combined with those of other candidates to nominate a compromise candidate: Representative James A. Garfield of Ohio.[261] The 306 votes Grant received on the last ballot was not enough to secure the nomination. A procedural motion made the vote unanimous for Garfield who accepted the nomination. [262]

Grant gave speeches for Garfield, but declined to criticize the Democratic nominee, Winfield Scott Hancock, a general who had served under Grant in the Army of the Potomac.[263] Garfield managed to win the popular vote by a narrow margin, however, he solidly won the Electoral College-214 to 155. After the election, Grant gave Garfield his public support, and pushed him to include Stalwarts in his administration.[264]

Business ventures

Grant's world tour, although successful, was costly. When he returned to America, Grant had depleted most of his savings and needed to earn money and find a new home.[265] George William Childs and Anthony Joseph Drexel, wealthy friends of Grant, bought him a home on Manhattan's Upper East Side.[266] To make an income, Grant, Jay Gould, and former Mexican Finance Secretary Matías Romero chartered the Mexican Southern Railroad, which planned to build a railroad from Oaxaca to Mexico City.[266] At the same time, Grant used his influence to convince Chester A. Arthur, who had succeeded Garfield as president in 1881, to negotiate a free trade treaty with Mexico. Arthur and the Mexican government agreed, but the United States Senate rejected the treaty in 1883.[266] The railroad was similarly unsuccessful, falling into bankruptcy the following year.[266]

At the same time, Grant's son Ulysses Jr. ("Buck") had opened a Wall Street brokerage house with Ferdinand Ward. Regarded as a rising star, Ward, and the firm, Grant & Ward, were initially successful.[267] In 1883, Grant joined the firm and invested $100,000 of his own money.[268] Success attracted more investors, who bought securities through the firm, whereupon Ward used the securities as collateral to borrow money to buy more securities. Grant & Ward pledged that collateral to borrow more money to trade in securities on the firm's own account. The practice—called hypothecation—was legal and accepted; what was illegal was rehypothecation, the practice of pledging the same securities as collateral for multiple loans.[267] Ward, having colluded with the bank involved, did this for many of the firm's assets. If the trades resulted in profit, then there would be no problem; if the trades went bad, however, multiple loans would come due, all backed up by the same collateral. Historians acknowledge that Grant was likely unaware of Ward's tactics, but it is unclear how much Buck Grant knew. In May 1884, enough investments went bad to convince Ward that the firm would soon be bankrupt. Ward told Grant of the impending failure, but suggested that this was a temporary shortfall.[269] Grant approached businessman William Henry Vanderbilt, who gave Grant a personal loan of $150,000.[270] Grant invested the money in the firm, but that was not near enough to save the firm from failure. Essentially penniless, but compelled by a sense of personal honor, Grant repaid what he could with his Civil War mementos and sale or transfer of all other assets.[271] Although the market values did not cover the loan, Vanderbilt insisted the debt was paid in full. The sale of all his assets left Grant financially destitute.[269]

Memoirs and death

Grant working on his memoirs in June 1885, less than a month before his death

Grant had forfeited his military pension when he assumed the presidency, but Congress restored him to the rank of General of the Army with full retirement pay in March 1885.[272] Around the same time, Grant learned that he was suffering from throat cancer.[273][g] To restore his family's income, Grant wrote several articles on his Civil War campaigns for The Century Magazine at $500 each. The articles were well received by critics, and the editor, Robert Underwood Johnson, suggested Grant write a book of memoirs, as Sherman and others had done.[275]

Grant took up the project and asked his former staff officer, Adam Badeau, to help edit his work. Grant's son Fred assisted with references and proofreading. Century offered Grant a book contract with a 10% royalty, but Grant's friend, Mark Twain, made his own offer to Grant for his memoirs, proposing a 75% royalty. Grant ultimately decided on Twain's publishing company, Charles L. Webster and Company.[276] Grant worked diligently on the memoir at his home in New York City, and then from a cottage on the slopes of Mount McGregor, finishing shortly before he died on July 23, 1885.[277] The book, entitled Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, was a success. In the end, Julia Grant received about $450,000, suggesting a royalty of about 30%.[276] The memoir has been highly regarded by the public, military historians, and literary critics.[278] Grant was a shrewd and effective writer, portraying himself in the persona of the honorable Western hero, whose strength lies in his honesty and straightforwardness. He candidly depicted his battles against both the Confederates and internal Army foes.[279] Twain called the Memoirs a "literary masterpiece." In reviewing the favorable literary critique of Grant's book, including the analyses of Matthew Arnold and Edmund Wilson, author Mark Perry called the Memoirs "the most significant work" of American non-fiction.[280]

Grant died on July 23, 1885, at the age of 63.[281] Sheridan, then Commanding General of the Army, ordered a day-long tribute to Grant on all military posts, and President Grover Cleveland ordered a thirty-day nationwide period of mourning. After private services, the military in New York placed Grant's body on a special funeral train and traveled via West Point to New York City, where a quarter of a million people viewed it in the two days before the funeral.[282] Tens of thousands of men, many of them veterans from the Grand Army of the Republic or other veterans' organizations, marched with Grant's casket drawn by two dozen horses to Riverside Park.[282] His pallbearers included Union generals Sherman and Sheridan, Confederate generals Simon Bolivar Buckner and Joseph E. Johnston, Admiral David Dixon Porter, and John A. Logan, the head of the Grand Army.[282] Grant's body was laid to rest in Riverside Park, first in a temporary tomb, and finally in a sarcophagus in a circular atrium at the General Grant National Memorial ("Grant's Tomb"), the largest mausoleum in North America. Attendance at the New York funeral topped 1.5 million.[282] Ceremonies were held in other major cities around the country, and those who eulogized Grant in the press likened him to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.[283]

Historical reputation

Grant's Tomb concrete structure face and dome shown.
General Grant National Memorial, known colloquially as "Grant's Tomb", is the largest mausoleum in North America, and one of the largest in the world.

Few presidents' reputations have changed as dramatically as Grant's.[2] Millions of people turned out for his funeral procession in 1885 and attended the 1897 dedication of his tomb demonstrating that at his death, Grant was popularly seen as "a symbol of the American national identity and memory."[284] At the same time, however, commentators and scholars portrayed his as the most corrupt administration in American history.[285] In the 1930s, biographer William B. Hesseltine noted that Grant's reputation deteriorated because his enemies were better writers than his friends.[286] In 1931, Frederic Paxson and Christian Bach in the Dictionary of American Biography praised Grant's military vision and his execution of that vision in defeating the Confederacy, but of his political career, the authors were less complimentary. Speaking specifically of the scandals, they wrote that "personal scandal has not touched Grant in any plausible form, but it struck so close to him and so frequently as to necessitate the vindication of his honor by admitting his bad taste in the choice of associates."[287] William S. McFeely won the Pulitzer Prize for his critical 1981 biography that also focused on the failure of Grant's presidency to carry out lasting progress and concluded, "[h]e did not rise above limited talents or inspire others to do so in ways that make his administration a credit to American politics."[288] John Y. Simon in 1982 responded to McFeely: "Grant's failure as President ... lies in the failure of the Indian peace policy and the collapse of Reconstruction ... But if Grant tried and failed, who could have succeeded?"[289] Simon praised Grant's first term in office arguing that it should be, "remembered for his staunch enforcement of the rights of freedmen combined with conciliation of former Confederates, for reform in Indian policy and civil service, for successful negotiation of the Alabama Claims, and for delivery of peace and prosperity."[290] According to Simon, the Liberal Republican revolt, the Panic of 1873, and the North's conservative retreat from Reconstruction weakened Grant's second term in office, although his foreign policy remained steady.[290]

Historians have taken a more favorable view since the 1990s, appreciating Grant's protection of African-Americans and his peace policy towards Indians, even though those policies failed.[284] Bruce Catton initiated reassessment of Grant's military career in the 1960s, shifting assessments of Grant as victor by brute force to that of successful and skillful strategist and commander.[291] Grant's reputation rose further with Jean Edward Smith's 2001 biography. Smith argued that the same qualities that made Grant a success as a general carried over to his political life to make him, if not a successful president, than certainly an admirable one.[292] Smith wrote that "the common thread is strength of character—an indomitable will that never flagged in the face of adversity ... Sometimes he blundered badly; often he oversimplified; yet he saw his goals clearly and moved toward them relentlessly."[293] H.W. Brands, in his 2012 book, also praised Grant's skill as a general. Brands writes favorably of Grant's military and political careers, alike, saying:

As commanding general in the Civil War, he had defeated secession and destroyed slavery, secession's cause. As President during Reconstruction he had guided the South back into the Union. By the end of his public life the Union was more secure than at any previous time in the history of the nation. And no one had done more to produce the result than he.[294]

In addition, as Eric Foner wrote, Brands gives "a sympathetic account of Grant's forceful and temporarily successful effort as president to crush the Ku Klux Klan, which had inaugurated a reign of terror against the former slaves."[2]

Grant's reputation, for the most part, remained popular throughout the nation from the end of the Civil War until his death. In 1876, Grant's popularity declined due to Congressional investigations into federal departmental corruption, Belknap's Senate trial, and the defeat of Colonel Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. In 1877, both Democrats and Republicans abroad admired Grant's peaceful handling of the 1876 presidential election crisis that divided the nation.[295] Grant's personal reputation rebounded after leaving office during his popular and well publicized World Tour. [296] In 1884, Grant's personal reputation was under suspicion after the collapse of Grant & Ward, however, this was offset by the immense popularity of his 1885 highly acclaimed Memoirs. Grant's popularity continued to increase in the years after his death, and his tomb became a major pilgrimage destination during the end of the 19th century. With the increasing popularity of the Lost Cause myth and its tendency to romanticize the confederacy early in the 20th century, a more negative view became increasingly common. As his critics had early in the Civil War, his new critics returned to many of the same attacks, that he was a drunk, was reckless, and in light of his presidency, that he was also corrupt. His reputation reached new lows in light of this new viewpoint: he was seen as an unsuccessful president and an unskilled, if lucky, general.[296] As such, by the mid-20th century historians generally ranked his presidency poorly, and minimized his role in winning the Civil War. When this romanticized view of the confederacy faded and was replaced by overt hostility, his reputation too began to recover. Today his military reputation has largely recovered, while views on his presidency continue to recover.[3]

Memorials and Presidential library

Grant has appeared on the United States fifty-dollar bill since 1913.

Grant has several memorials in his honor. In addition to his mausoleum, the General Grant National Memorial in New York, there is the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial at the foot of Capitol Hill on the mall in Washington, D.C. There is the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site near St. Louis and several other sites in Ohio and Illinois associated with his life that are kept in his honor. There are smaller memorials in Chicago's Lincoln Park and Philadelphia's Fairmount Park. Named in his honor are Grant Park as well as a number of counties in western and midwestern states. From 1890 to 1940, the Department of Interior and the National Park Service called part of what is now Kings Canyon National Park, General Grant National Park, named for the General Grant sequoia. Grant has appeared on the front of the United States fifty-dollar bill since 1913, and appears on several stamps.

In May 2012, the Ulysses S. Grant Foundation, on the institute's fiftieth anniversary, selected Mississippi State University as the permanent location for Ulysses S. Grant's Presidential Library.[297] Historian John Y. Simon edited Grant's letters into a 32-volume scholarly edition published by Southern Illinois University Press.[298]

See also


  1. ^ According to biographer McFeely, historians overwhelmingly agree that his drunkenness, although off duty, at the time was a fact, though there are no eyewitness reports extant.[32]
  2. ^ Residents of Galena gave Grant the home in 1865 as thanks for his war service.[128] After his presidential term ended in 1877, Grant visited the home occasionally. Maintenance of the home as a memorial to Grant started in 1904 and continues today.[129]
  3. ^ The international tribunal awarded the United States $15,500,000.
  4. ^ Greeley died after election day but before the day the Electoral College voted, as a result, Greeley's Democratic opponents received his electoral votes.
  5. ^ McFeely, writing in 1981, believed that Grant knew of Babcock's guilt, while Smith, in 2001, believed the evidence against Babcock was circumstantial at best.[221]
  6. ^ Congress had changed the law in 1866 to remove one seat on the Court each time a justice retired, to prevent Andrew Johnson from nominating replacements for them. When Grant took office, there were eight seats on the bench.[231]
  7. ^ Today, medical historians believed he suffered from a T1N1 carcinoma of the tonsillar fossa.[274]


  1. ^ Bonekemper 2004, pp. 271–282.
  2. ^ a b c Foner 2012.
  3. ^ a b Brands 2012b, p. 44.
  4. ^ Smith, pp. 21–22.
  5. ^ Hesseltine, p. 4.
  6. ^ Farina, pp. 13–14; Simpson 2000, pp. 2–3; Longacre, pp. 6–7.
  7. ^ McFeely 1981, pp. 8, 10.
  8. ^ McFeely 1981, p. 12; Smith, pp. 24, 83.
  9. ^ McFeely 1981, p. 13.
  10. ^ McFeely 1981, p. 16
  11. ^ McFeely 1981, p. 20; Longacre, p. 18.
  12. ^ McFeely 1981, pp. 16, 19.
  13. ^ Smith, pp. 26–28; Longacre, p. 24.
  14. ^ Smith, pp. 28–29.
  15. ^ a b Smith, pp. 30–33.
  16. ^ Smith, pp. 35–37.
  17. ^ McFeely 1981, pp. 32–33.
  18. ^ Longacre, pp. 37–42; Brands 2012a, pp. 34–38.
  19. ^ McFeely 1981, pp. 34–35.
  20. ^ McFeely 1981, pp. 36–37.
  21. ^ McFeely 1981, pp. 31, 37.
  22. ^ McFeely 1981, pp. 20, 26.
  23. ^ Smith, p. 73.
  24. ^ McFeely 1981, p. 44.
  25. ^ McFeely 1981, p. 46.
  26. ^ Smith, pp. 76–77.
  27. ^ McFeely 1981, p. 47.
  28. ^ Smith, pp. 81–82.
  29. ^ a b McFeely 1981, pp. 48–49.
  30. ^ Smith, p. 86.
  31. ^ Longacre, pp. 55–58.
  32. ^ McFeely 1981, p. 55.
  33. ^ Smith, pp. 87–88; Lewis, pp. 328–332.
  34. ^ McFeely 1981, p. 57.
  35. ^ a b c d McFeely 1981, pp. 58–60.
  36. ^ a b Smith, pp. 94–95.
  37. ^ McFeely 1981, p. 64.
  38. ^ McFeely 1981, pp. 65–66; Farina, p. 11.
  39. ^ a b McFeely 1981, p. 69.
  40. ^ Brands 2012a, p. 95.
  41. ^ Catton 1968, p. 8.
  42. ^ Brands 2012a, p. 123.
  43. ^ McFeely 1981, p. 80.
  44. ^ Smith, p. 113.
  45. ^ Smith, pp. 117–118.
  46. ^ a b Brands 2012a, p. 121.
  47. ^ McFeely 1981, pp. 73–76, 80; Smith, pp. 107–108; Brands 2012a, p. 121.
  48. ^ McFeely 1981, p. 73.
  49. ^ a b Brands 2012a, p. 151.
  50. ^ McFeely 1981, pp. 92–94.
  51. ^ Smith, pp. 143, 147.
  52. ^ Gott, pp. 97–98; Smith, pp. 141–164.
  53. ^ Smith, pp. 139, 147.
  54. ^ Smith, pp. 141–164; Brands 2012a, pp. 164–165.
  55. ^ Brands 2012a, pp. 164–165.
  56. ^ Smith, pp. 125–134.
  57. ^ McFeely 1981, p. 111.
  58. ^ McFeely 1981, p. 114.
  59. ^ McFeely 1981, p. 115; Smith, pp. 167–205.
  60. ^ Brands 2012a, pp. 186-188.
  61. ^ Brands 2012a, pp. 190–192.
  62. ^ McFeely 1981, pp. 117–121.
  63. ^ Flood, pp. 128–129.
  64. ^ a b c Brands 2012a, p. 217.
  65. ^ a b Brands 2012a, p. 216.
  66. ^ a b Longacre, pp. 159–161.
  67. ^ a b Smith, pp. 225–227.
  68. ^ McFeely 1981, p. 124.
  69. ^ McFeely 1981, pp. 125–126.
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  295. ^ Badeau 1887, p. 250.
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  297. ^ See website
  298. ^ See Catalog. A search engine is at Ulysses S Grant Digital Collections at Mississippi State U


Biographical and political


Primary sources

Papers of Ulysses S. Grant



External links