Life and Career
When Grant’s Tomb was
first constructed, those who visited the monument needed no introduction
to Ulysses S. Grant. This did not remain the case, however. One
essential requirement to be met at Grant’s Tomb today is adequate
education of visitors – a task rendered even more difficult in that
Grant, both as general and as president, has been one of the most
misunderstood figures in American history. The following outline has
been prepared to aid historical interpretation at Grant’s Tomb, but it
can be used as an educational tool in any context that calls for a
general understanding of Ulysses S. Grant and his place in history.
This is a collapsible
outline. When you see a "+" after a selection, click to the
right to reveal the rest of the outline. You can also click at the
"+" to collapse the outline.
The Life and Public
Career of Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885)
- Early years through the start of
the Civil War+
- Birth and early life+
- Ulysses S. Grant was born
in Point Pleasant, Clermont County, Ohio, on April 27,
- Originally named Hiram
- Jesse Root Grant
(1794-1873): developed successful tanning business;
an outspoken, anti-slavery Whig who took a strong
interest in politics.
- Hannah Simpson Grant
(1798-1883): a strong, reserved, religious woman;
some observers believed that her son’s strength of
character and taciturnity were traits inherited from
- Brothers and sisters:
Samuel Simpson (1825-1861), Clara Rachel (1828-1865),
Virginia Paine (“Jennie”) (1832-1913), Orvil Lynch
(1835-1881), and Mary Frances (1839-1905).
- Early years to West Point +
- 1823: the family moved to
Georgetown, Brown County, Ohio.
- 1836-37: Grant attended
the Maysville Seminary in Maysville, Kentucky.
- 1838-39: attended the
Presbyterian Academy in Ripley, Ohio.
- West Point +
- Appointed to the United
States Military Academy at West Point in 1839.+
- By this time, he had
been signing his name as “Ulysses H. Grant.”
- Congressman Thomas
Hamer, who had been acquainted with the Grant
family, mistakenly listed Grant as “Ulysses S.
Grant,” probably assuming that his middle name was
his mother's maiden name, Simpson; Grant didn't
bother to correct the error.
- Grant was generally an
average student, but he excelled in mathematics and
- He established a
record for the high jump on horseback that would
stand for 25 years.
- He attended West Point
with many other cadets who would become both Union
and Confederate officers during the Civil War.
- In 1843, he graduated
from West Point 21st in a class of 39 and was
commissioned a Brevet Second Lieutenant in the 4th
- Early military life+
- 1843-44: stationed at
Jefferson Barracks, near Saint Louis.+
- There he met Julia Boggs
Dent, a sister of Frederick T. Dent (1820-1892), his
roommate at West Point, at White Haven, her family’s
estate (also near Saint Louis). The two began a
- Julia Dent, who was born
in Saint Louis on January 26, 1826, was the daughter of
“Colonel” Frederick Fayette Dent (1786-1873), a
Missouri slaveowner with strong Southern sentiments, and
Ellen Bray Wrenshall Dent (179?-1857).
- Before he was stationed at
Camp Salubrity, Louisiana, in June of 1844, Grant and
Julia Dent became engaged.
- After the annexation of Texas
in 1845, Grant's regiment was sent to Texas, and Grant was
promoted to Second Lieutenant.
- The Mexican War (1846-48)+
- Grant was opposed to the
Mexican War, later calling it “one of the most unjust
ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation,” but
felt at the time he should serve under his flag rather
than resign from the army.
- In later years, he devoted
a good deal of statesmanship to Mexico, striving to keep
their government free from foreign powers and improving
relations between them and the United States. Much of
his concern for Mexico sprang from what he saw as the
injustice of the Mexican War.
- He fought in every major
battle of the war except Buena Vista:+
- Palo Alto (May 8,
- Resaca de la Palma
(May 9, 1846)
- Monterrey (September
- Here Grant
undertook a dangerous volunteer mission to ride
through the bullet-ridden streets for
- Vera Cruz (April 18,
- Cerro Gordo (April 18,
- Churubusco (August 20,
- Molino del Rey
(September 8, 1847)
- Chapultepec (September
- Mexico City (September
- Grant was given the Brevet
(temporary) ranks of First Lieutenant and Captain
respectively for his gallantry at Molino del Rey and the
storming of Chapultepec.
- The United States acquired
2/3 of Mexico as a result of the war.
- Marriage and peacetime army
- Grant married Julia Dent in
Saint Louis on August 22, 1848.
- He was reassigned to duty at
Madison Barracks in Sackets Harbor, New York (November 17,
1848), and his wife accompanied him.
- In 1849, Grant was transferred
to Detroit; he would be transferred back to Sackets Harbor
- Frederick Dent Grant was born
to the Grants on May 30, 1850, in Saint Louis. He would
himself become a Major General in the army and was the
second highest ranking man in the active service at the time
of his death in 1912.
- In 1852, Grant’s regiment
was ordered to the Pacific Coast, and Grant was stationed at
Columbia Barracks in Fort Vancouver in the Oregon
- Grant could not take his
wife and young son with him on the dangerous trip
through the Isthmus of Panama to the Pacific Coast.
- Separated from his family,
Grant was unhappy.
- Ulysses S. Grant, Jr. (d.
1929), was born on July 22, 1852, in Bethel, Ohio, but his
father would not have the chance to meet him until he was
over one and a half years old.
- Grant was promoted to Captain
on the death of a superior in 1853.
- In January 1854, he was
stationed at Fort Humboldt, California. Grant resigned from
the army on April 11 and rejoined his family at White
- While on the Pacific
Coast, Grant found himself unhappy away from his family,
unable to raise money, and ill.
- Popular historical legend
overlooks the broader picture and contends without
sufficient evidence that Grant was forced to resign over
- Evidence regarding Grant’s
habits during this time period is shaky, though evidence
from later in his career does not support the notion
that he was an alcoholic or habitual drinker.
Regardless, historical myth, apparently unable to resist
sensationalism, has cast Grant as a drunkard at the
expense of accuracy. Perhaps the best exploration of the
drinking question is in Charles G. Ellington’s The
Trial of U.S. Grant (1987), which dispels the popular
- Family and business before the
start of the Civil War+
- 1854-1861: Grant made numerous
attempts to support his family but suffered repeated
- In 1855, the Grants moved to
Wish-ton-wish, near Saint Louis, where they had a third
child, Ellen (“Nellie”) Wrenshall Grant (1855-1922).
- In 1856, Grant built a modest
house for his family and named it Hardscrabble; their fourth
child, Jesse Root Grant (d. 1934), was born there in 1858.
- In 1858, Grant gave up farming
and in 1859 entered the real estate business with his wife’s
cousin, Henry Boggs.
- After having little success in
real estate, Grant moved to Galena, Illinois, in 1860, and
worked in his father’s hardware and leather goods store.
- Grant during the Civil War,
- Grant in the West: 1861-1863+
- After Fort Sumter was attacked
(April 12, 1861), President Abraham Lincoln issued a call
for 75,000 volunteers, and Grant rejoined the army on April
- Grant was appointed Colonel of
the 21st Illinois Regiment of Volunteers on June 17.
- Established headquarters in
Cairo, Illinois, in command of the district of southern
Illinois and southeastern Missouri (September 4).+
- Occupied Paducah,
Kentucky, giving the Union a strong foothold in the West
without bloodshed (September 6).
- In his first Civil War battle,
Grant defeated a Confederate force at Belmont, Missouri, and
then withdrew (November 7).
- February 6, 1862: captured
Fort Henry on the Tennessee River.
- Fort Donelson (February
- Along with Fort Henry,
first major Union victory of the war.
- Grant wrote to Confederate
General Simon Bolivar Buckner on February 16, 1862, “No
terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender
can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your
works.” This earned him the nickname “Unconditional
- Surrender of about 13,000
Confederates marked the largest capture of men in the
history of the Western Hemisphere up to that time.
- Named (two-star) Major
General of Volunteers.
- Shiloh (April 6-7):+
- Grant faced General Albert
Sidney Johnston, widely considered at the time the
finest soldier in the Confederate army; Johnston was
killed during the battle and replaced by P.G.T.
- After initially being
attacked and driven back, Grant won a staggering (but
bloody) victory, demonstrating that the war would last
much longer than many initially predicted.
- Victories at Iuka (September
19) and Corinth (October 4) in Mississippi.
- Named commander of the
Department of the Tennessee (October 25).
- The Vicksburg Campaign
(November 2, 1862 - July 4, 1863):+
- One of the most brilliant
displays of generalship in history.
- Vicksburg was considered a
virtually impenetrable fortress and was the largest
obstacle to Union control of the Mississippi, a critical
aim of the war.
- After the seemingly
dormant Campaign of the Bayous, Grant made a daring move
across the Mississippi River with inferior numbers
- Won five battles in 17
days: Port Gibson (May 1), Raymond (May 12), capture of
Jackson (May 14), Champion's Hill (May 16), and Big
Black River Bridge (May 17).
- Two unsuccessful assaults
on Vicksburg (May 19 and May 22).
- Siege of Vicksburg (May 19
- July 4).
- July 4, 1863: Surrender of
Vicksburg to Grant by Confederate General John C.
Pemberton. Largest capture of men and arms in history up
to that point: 30,000 troops (including 15 generals) and
172 cannon surrendered.
- The Confederacy was now
virtually divided in half, and the South had suffered
perhaps its worst strategic blow in the entire war.
- Named commander of the
Military Division of the Mississippi, which placed him in
command of the Western theater of the war (October 16).
- Chattanooga (Tennessee):+
- Victory at Orchard Knob
- Victory at Lookout
Mountain (November 24).
- Victory at Missionary
Ridge (November 25), a position held by the Confederates
and thought to be impregnable, but taken by Grant’s
troops in one of the most remarkable tactical victories
of the war.
- These victories gave the
Union control of Chattanooga, a major east-west railroad
junction, and marked the successful completion of Grant’s
- Grant in the East: 1864-1865+
- Commissioned (three-star)
Lieutenant General March 9, 1864, the first man to hold that
rank since George Washington, and named supreme commander of
the Union armies by President Lincoln (March 12).
- Grant as a modern general:+
- An innovator by nature,
Grant grew as a general during his three years in the
- The lessons he learned
throughout his campaigns contributed to his development
as the first of the world’s truly modern generals.
- The Wilderness Campaign is
often regarded as opening the first full modern campaign
- Grant as
general-in-chief began a new period of Union
- Instead of armies
acting independently in the western and eastern
theaters, with battles individually deciding the
fate of campaigns, Grant coordinated Union armies
throughout the Confederacy, engaging the enemy at
important points simultaneously and continuously.
- Union offensives in
different regions were interdependent upon each
other for ultimate Union success.
- Armies became
principal targets rather than cities.
- Armies were to be
decisively defeated whenever possible, but where
that could not be accomplished, constant force and
attrition would maintain the strategic initiative
and prevent Confederate armies from upsetting Union
efforts in other areas.
- Unlike generals before
him, Grant had a unique understanding of the
relationship between war and politics and applied it
to his strategy.
- The Wilderness Campaign (May 5
- June 17):+
- The Wilderness (May 5-7).+
- Acting as de facto
commander of the Army of the Potomac, Grant faced
Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern
Virginia, for the first time.
- After Grant crossed
the Rapidan River on May 4, the two armies engaged
in heavy, sometimes desperate, fighting, with severe
losses on both sides (17,000 for the Union, 11,000
for the Confederates).
- The battle could be
considered a tactical stalemate but a strategic
victory. Lee failed to halt Grant’s progress
southward, and Grant had taken control of the
strategic initiative. Within three days, he had
brought the Union initiative in the East to greater
heights than it had reached in three years.
- Spotsylvania (May 8-12).+
- Another tactically
indecisive battle marked by heavy fighting but
progress for the Union.
- Battle of the Bloody
Angle (May 11): although he did not break through
Lee’s lines, Grant incurred heavy losses on Lee
(9-10,000) and strategically crippled him.
- Grant declared (May
11), “I...purpose to fight it out on this line if
it takes all summer.”
- Operations on the North
Anna River (May 23-26): Lee withdrew to powerful
entrenchments south of the river, and instead of
pursuing a frontal assault, Grant decided on another
- Cold Harbor (June 1-3):
Grant suffered heavy losses (5-7,000) during a
disastrous June 3 frontal assault.
- Grant's crossing of the
James River (June 15-18): one of the great maneuvers of
the war, Grant moved over 100,000 troops south of the
river before Lee could learn of the movement in time.
- The Petersburg Campaign (June
18, 1864 - April 2, 1865):+
- Grant besieged Lee in
Petersburg, the “breadbasket” of Richmond, the
- Campaign of attrition.+
- Trench warfare.
- Often viewed as a
precursor to World War I.
- Grant captured Fort
Harrison in a surprise attack on September 29.
- Treatment of black
- Grant was a supporter
of the recruitment of black soldiers during the
- Upon learning that
Confederates were enslaving, murdering, and
otherwise brutalizing black prisoners of war, Grant
demanded equal treatment of all captured troops.
- Lee refused, so Grant
refused to engage in further prisoner exchanges,
leading to heavy buildups in prisoner-of-war camps.
- Lee made a failed attack
on Fort Stedman as a last-ditch effort to launch an
offensive (March 25, 1865).
- Battle of Five Forks
(April 1) forced Lee to abandon Petersburg as Grant
broke through his lines.
- Capture of Petersburg
- The Appomattox Campaign (April
2 - April 9, 1865):+
- Capture of Richmond (April
- Victory at Sayler’s
Creek (April 7).
- Lee’s surrender at
Appomattox Court House (April 9).+
- Grant’s generous
terms set the tone for peace: 21,000 prisoners
paroled, officers allowed to keep their sidearms,
and those with horses could keep them for the spring
- The Civil War was
virtually ended and the nation reunited. Surrenders
of other armies followed.
- Grant as General-in-Chief after the
- Andrew Johnson had become
president upon Lincoln's assassination and faced the issue
of restoring the nation.
- A central question involved
the status of former slaves. Johnson’s opposition to civil
rights measures to advance the rights of former slaves led
to a major conflict with Radical Republicans in Congress who
favored full civil equality regardless of race.
- Grant was commissioned the first
full (four-star) General in American history (July 25, 1866).
- Conflict with Radicals in Congress
led to passage of the Tenure of Office Act, which required
Senate approval for the removal of a cabinet member.+
- Convinced that the act, which
clearly undermined his authority, was unconstitutional,
Johnson arguably defied the law by removing Secretary of War
Edwin M. Stanton without Senate approval.
- Johnson appointed Grant
Secretary of War ad interim (August 12, 1867).
- Troubled by Johnson’s
attempts to create the impression that he supported his
course of action, Grant served until 1868 but declined to
become a part of Johnson’s further plans that year.
- Johnson was impeached,
escaping removal by one vote.
- Nomination and election of 1868.+
- Grant was clearly the most
popular figure in the country.
- Although he had had a soldier’s
aversion to politics, Grant became concerned that Johnson’s
Reconstruction policies were detrimental to the country and
had come to support the Radical platform.
- Nominated the Republican
candidate for president (May 21, 1868).
- Declared “Let us have peace,”
later the inscription on his tomb, in his letter of
acceptance upon his nomination for president.
- Elected to his first term as
president, defeating Governor Horatio Seymour of New York
- Presidency (1869-1877)+
- First Term (1869-1873)+
- First inauguration (March 4,
1869): advocated freedom from sectional prejudice,
resumption of specie payments, restoration of the national
credit, healthy national commerce, reform in national policy
toward American Indians leading to their ultimate
citizenship, and ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment.
- Signed Public Credit Act,
providing that government obligations were to be paid in
gold (March 18).
- “Black Friday” financial
panic erupted when Jay Gould and Jim Fisk attempted to
corner the gold market (September 24), but it ended when
Grant ordered the sale of government gold to stabilize the
- Following the expulsion of
black legislators in Georgia, Grant requested that state’s
temporary return to military rule, adding much needed
momentum to efforts to ratify the proposed Fifteenth
- Issued proclamation
celebrating ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment to the
Constitution (March 30, 1870).+
- The Fifteenth Amendment
states that no citizen can be denied the right to vote
based upon race, color, or previous condition of
- In this proclamation,
Grant called the amendment “a measure of grander
importance than any other one act of the kind from the
foundation of our free government to the present day.”
- Signed first Enforcement Act,
which protected the voting rights of blacks (May 31).
- Resisting strong pressure for
U.S. military involvement in the Cuban rebellion, Grant
issued an announcement of strict neutrality (June 13).
- Signed bill creating the
Department of Justice under the Attorney General (June 22);
this marked a major consolidation of the federal government’s
power to enforce civil rights.
- Signed act establishing the
first Civil Service Commission in U.S. history (March 3,
- Grant’s “Quaker” Indian
- Grant signed the Indian
Appropriation Act, which established Indians as national
wards and nullified Indian treaties (March 3).
- A major part of Grant’s
Peace Policy, this act caused the government to
recognize for the first time the need to insure the
welfare of Indians as individuals rather than as tribal
- This was the first step in
years of federal initiatives toward Indian policy reform
that ultimately led to the Indians’ citizenship.
- Under Grant’s program,
educational and medical programs were institutionalized
in the Interior Department, and tons of food, clothing,
and books were donated by churches and relief
organizations to tribes.
- Between 1868 and 1876, the
number of houses on reservations climbed from 7,500 to
56,000; the amount of land under cultivation increased
sixfold; teachers and schools tripled; and Indian
ownership of livestock increased by over fifteen times.
- Issued proclamation against
unlawful combinations in South Carolina (March 24).
- Signed Ku Klux Klan Act, which
enabled the president to suspend habeas corpus to further
enforce the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment rights of
southern blacks (April 20).
- Enacted successful arbitration
of Alabama claims with Great Britain and other lingering
- This controversy centered
around extensive damage caused by the Alabama, a
Confederate warship built in British shipyards, and
other Confederate ships of similar origin during the
- Grant faced strong
pressure throughout the country for war against Great
Britain and failure on the part of the Johnson
adminstration to reach a settlement.
- In his Second Annual
Message, Grant made an international issue of the
dispute and ultimately secured British cooperation in
submitting the matter to its peaceful resolution.
- Grant won approval of the
resulting Treaty of Washington (May 8). This treaty+
- Ended the threat of
war with Britain.
- Secured an
international tribunal that met in Geneva,
Switzerland, to arbitrate the claims. The tribunal
awarded the U.S. $15,500,000 for damages connected
with the Alabama claims.
- Led to the settlement
for the first time in U.S. history of every standing
- Settled disputes over
fishing rights in Canada.
- Established the
principle of international arbitration.+
- This triggered a
movement to seek alternatives to war through
arbitration and to codify international law in
order to mitigate the effects of war.
- A crucial
component of modern peacekeeping efforts, this
would be the motivating principle behind the
Hague Conventions, the League of Nations, the
World Court, and the United Nations.
- John Bassett Moore,
the renowned expert in international law, called
this “the greatest treaty of actual and immediate
arbitration the world had even seen.”
- Prosecution of the Ku Klux
- White supremacist
terrorists made persistent attempts throughout
Reconstruction to suppress the political rights of
former slaves, most notoriously through the Ku Klux Klan
- Grant issued a
proclamation ordering the Ku Klux Klan in South Carolina
to disperse and surrender arms (October 12, 1871).
- Suspended the writ of
habeas corpus in nine South Carolina counties, one of
the boldest displays of peacetime presidential power in
U.S. history (October 17).
- Following this, Grant
would send federal troops to South Carolina and pursue a
prosecution of white supremacist terrorism that would
destroy the Ku Klux Klan by the end of 1872.
- Signed act establishing
Yellowstone as the world’s first national park: this was
the genesis of the national park system (March 1, 1872).
- Signed Amnesty Act, which
restored civil rights to all Southerners except certain
former Confederate leaders (May 22).
- Election of 1872:+
- Much of the election
season was marred by the Credit Mobilier scandal, which
revealed that several congressmen had taken bribes
between 1867 and 1868 during the construction of the
Union Pacific Railroad in exchange for legislation.
- Grant’s strong civil
rights record had forced the Democratic Party for the
first time to accept the finality of the Fourteenth and
Fifteenth Amendments. This “new departure,” however,
did not end their opposition to federal military
intervention in the South during Reconstruction.
- A number of elite
reformers, who considered themselves the “best men”
for positions in government, embraced civil service
reform, and opposed Grant’s Reconstruction policies,
formed the Liberal Republican Party to oppose the
- The Democrats and Liberal
Republicans nominated New York Tribune editor Horace
Greeley for president.
- Grant was reelected by a
landslide (November 5).
- Signed Coinage Act, making
gold the sole monetary standard (February 12, 1873).
- Second Administration (1873-1877)+
- Second Inauguration (March 4,
1873): advocated civil rights legislation for former slaves,
the gold standard, domestic and international commerce,
industrial development, and continued reform of Indian
- Ordered disorderly bands in
Louisiana to disperse (May 22).+
- Louisiana, which had a
small black majority and a fragile government, required
Grant’s military support throughout his term in order
to retain its Republican governors, who were repeatedly
threatened within the state.
- During his second
administration, Grant’s intervention in the South on
behalf of blacks became widely unpopular in both North
and South, largely because of racial prejudice
throughout the nation.
- The Panic of 1873 began with
the failure of Jay Cooke and Company, a major New York
banking firm (September 18).
- Virginius dispute with Spain:+
- The Virginius, a merchant
ship commanded by Captain John Fry, a U.S. citizen, and
flying the American flag, was captured by the Spanish
- Claiming that the vessel
was aiding Cuban rebels, Spanish authorities executed
Fry, 36 of the crew members, and 16 passengers.
- Resisting intense pressure
to declare war on Spain, Grant secured a successful
arbitration of the matter, including an indemnity and
apology from the Spanish government (November 28).
- Authorities later
discovered that the Virginius was owned by Cubans, was
illegally registered, and had no right to fly the
- Vetoed inflation of currency
bill (April 22, 1874).+
- This was perhaps the most
important of Grant’s 93 vetoes (a greater number than
all of his predecessors’ vetoes combined).
- This move began a minor
party realignment by making Republicans the party of “hard
money” and paving the way for the resumption of specie
- Daughter Nellie Grant married
Algernon Sartoris in the White House in one of the largest
Washington social events of the century (May 21).
- Acknowledging the widespread
unpopularity of his southern policy, Grant expressed his
continuing commitment to Reconstruction in his Sixth Annual
Message: “While I remain Executive all the laws of
Congress and the provisions of the Constitution...will be
enforced with rigor....Treat the negro as a citizen and a
voter, as he is and must remain....Then we shall have no
complaint of sectional interference.”
- Ordered disorderly gatherings
in Mississippi to disperse (December 21).+
- Following the mass murder
of blacks in Vicksburg, federal troops restored order
and removed a fraudulently installed Democratic sheriff.
- Due to intimidation during
the election of 1875, Mississippi would become the only
state with a black majority to be seized by a Democratic
(anti-Reconstruction) administration during Grant’s
- Signed Specie Resumption Act
(January 14, 1875).+
- This act would help
stabilize currency by reducing greenbacks in circulation
and by resuming specie (gold) payments starting January
- At the time this act went
into effect, the depression that started with the Panic
of 1873 came to an abrupt end.
- Signed Civil Rights Act (March
- This act prohibited racial
segregation in various modes of public accommodations
and transportation and discrimination in jury selection.
- The most sweeping piece of
civil rights legislation before 1964, this would be
ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1883.
- While Grant saw this as a
stand taken on principle, the law was unpopular and
lamented by many as a move that would hurt the
- Congress would not pass
another civil rights law until 1957.
- The Whiskey Ring, a conspiracy
of whiskey distillers who had been defrauding the government
for years, is uncovered (May 1).+
- With Grant’s support,
Secretary of the Treasury Benjamin Bristow secured over
- After someone hinted that
Orville Babcock, his personal secretary, might be among
the guilty, Grant stated, “Let no guilty man escape if
it can be avoided....No personal consideration should
stand in the way of performing a public duty.”
- Weighing the evidence,
Grant later defended Babcock, who was acquitted of the
questionable charges against him due to a lack of
- Ordered white terrorist “rifle
clubs” in South Carolina to disperse (October 17, 1876).
- Election of 1876.+
- Republican Rutherford B.
Hayes faced Democrat Samuel J. Tilden.
- Grant utilized troops to
protect the rights of black voters in South Carolina and
Louisiana, both of which had black majorities and were
holding gubernatorial elections.+
- Both elections were
disputed, but the Republican candidates would be
- Grant sustained both
governors until the end of his term.
- Presidential electoral crisis
- Louisiana, South Carolina,
Florida, and Oregon all submitted two sets of electoral
returns, one by the Democrats and one by the
Republicans, bringing the presidential election into
- Facing this unprecedented
controversy in which the nation was unsure who (if
either candidate) would be inaugurated in March, a
- Grant supported the
establishment of an electoral commission to decide the
dispute (though playing no role in its deliberations).+
- In a controversial
move, the commission decided that Hayes had won the
electoral votes of all four states, giving him the
presidency by one electoral vote.
- Compromise of 1877:
Democrats agreed to recognize Hayes in exchange for
an assurance by Republicans that the new president
would end intervention in the South.
- Grant was widely credited
with preserving the peace during this crisis and
silently prepared troops to prevent any disruptions.+
- Hayes was peacefully
inaugurated on March 5.
- One of Hayes’ first
actions was the withdrawal of the last remaining
federal troops in the South from South Carolina and
Louisiana, ending Reconstruction.+
- The Republican
regimes of these states soon collapsed, and the
“Solid South” was born.
- With the end of
Reconstruction, the government had repudiated
Grant’s policy, and subsequent decades would
see a new era of disfranchisement and
segregation sweep the South until the
20th-century Civil Rights Movement.
- Later Years+
- Between 1877 and 1879, the Grants
took a trip around the world, covering several countries in
Europe, Africa, and Asia.+
- Greeted by crowds and
dignitaries everywhere, Grant was accorded treatment usually
reserved for kings and emperors.+
- This treatment, which
contrasted with the reception of former presidents Van
Buren and Fillmore on their trips, reflected the
unprecedented respect the U.S. had recently acquired
throughout the world.
- During the trip, several
world leaders consulted Grant on various issues their
- When he returned home, a large
contingent of the Republican Party was eager to nominate him
to a third term as president.
- The election of 1880:+
- The “Stalwart” faction of
the Republican Party, discontent with Hayes and the
abandonment of the South, supported the nomination of Grant
for a third term while the “Half-Breeds,” the “reform”
faction that opposed any resumed intervention in the South,
supported James G. Blaine.
- Grant maintained a strong lead
in the Republican National Convention until the bitterly
divided party settled on a compromise “dark horse”
candidate, Representative James A. Garfield of Ohio, who
narrowly won the election.
- In 1881, Grant moved to 3 East 66
Street in New York City.+
- Became president of the
Mexican Southern Railroad Company and was interested in
encouraging commerce between the two nations.
- Invested the family’s money
in the Wall Street banking firm of Grant and Ward.+
- Grant himself had little
substantive involvement in the firm; his son, Ulysses,
Jr., was the Grant primarily involved.
- The firm would prosper
- Negotiated reciprocal-trade
agreement with Mexico between 1882 and 1883, though the
treaty was not ratified.
- Amid revelations of partner
Ferdinand Ward’s improper speculative tactics (which
backfired), the firm went bankrupt, leaving the Grant family
thousands of dollars in debt.
- Personal Memoirs and death.+
- Approached by admirer Mark
Twain, Grant decided to write his memoirs to help alleviate
his family’s financial loss (1884).
- While writing, Grant
discovered that he had inoperable cancer of the throat,
which doctors attributed to his habit of smoking cigars and
to the stress caused by the collapse of Grant and Ward.+
- He endured great pain
swallowing and eventually would have to sleep sitting
- He continued writing his
memoirs despite the growing agony caused by the cancer.
- On March 3, 1885, President
Chester A. Arthur nominated Grant as (four-star) General on
the retired list.
- In June, Grant was moved to a
cottage owned by Joseph W. Drexel in Mount McGregor, New
York (just north of Saratoga Springs) for health reasons.
- Memoirs were completed
approximately July 19, and Grant died on July 23 at age 63.
- Although Grant died penniless,
the Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant shattered sales records
and besides paying off debts would make the Grant family
- The memoirs are considered
one of the finest works of literature of its kind in
- Often considered among the
greatest military autobiographies ever written, the
memoirs have been compared to Julius Caesar’s
- Julia Grant’s later years.+
- Julia Grant lived 17 more
years in Mount McGregor, New York City, and Washington,
D.C., reserving most of her time for her family, which came
to include great-grandchildren.+
- She became the first First
Lady to write her memoirs, although her manuscript was
not published until 1975.
- She became an open
supporter of the Republican Party, Susan B. Anthony, and
the cause of women’s suffrage.
- Died in Washington, D.C., on
December 14, 1902, aged 76.
reading (with dates of initial publication):
Bruce. Grant Moves South (1960).
Bruce. Grant Takes Command (1969)
Charles G. The Trial of U.S. Grant (1987).
J.F.C. The Generalship of Ulysses S. Grant (1929).
Hamlin. Ulysses S. Grant: His Life and Character (1898).
Richard. Many are the Hearts: The Agony and Triumph of Ulysses
S. Grant (1975).
Julia D. Personal Memoirs of Julia Dent Grant (1975).
Ulysses S. Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant (1885).
Lloyd. Captain Sam Grant (1950).
Horace. Campaigning with Grant (1897).
Frank J. President Grant Reconsidered (1998).
Brooks D. Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph over Adversity, 1822-1865
Jean Edward. Grant (2001).
John Russell. Around the World with General Grant (1879)
a more complete Grant bibliography, click here.
You can also watch a presentation
here on Grant’s historical legacy given by GMA past president Frank
Scaturro to the Montgomery County (Maryland) Civil War Round Table.