Reversal of Fortunes: The Career of Ulysses Grant


Ulysses Grant, A Very Underrated and Important President


Ulysses S. Grant was born in 1822 in Point Pleasant, Ohio, the son of Jesse Root Grant and Hannah Simpson. The Grant family descended from Puritans who migrated to New England from Southwestern England and they gradually made their way to Kentucky and thence to Ohio. Young Ulysses

Jesse was a demanding and boastful man who had great expectations of his son, not the smallest of which was his expectation that Ulysses would work in his father’s tannery. Normally rather taciturn, Ulysses let Jesse know in no uncertain terms that the thought of working in that tannery was repulsive to him, so his father wrote to his Congressman and had his eldest son admitted to West Point instead. Off to Westpoint.

Ulysses ( born Hiram Ulysses Grant) had his name changed through a clerical error, but he kept that name as his own through his West Point career and subsequently for the rest of his life. An avid horseman, he was otherwise a very mediocre student, who was often criticized for the way he dressed. When he left, he figured that he’d serve the four years in the military that he agreed to serve and then he’d leave the army and take a much coveted life of a simple farmer.Desire for honest, hard work abandoned by destiny.” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”> Honest, steadfast, reliable

Raised as a devout Methodist, his religious identity was an enormous part of who he was. Silent and withdrawn, Grant simply wanted to live in peace. Raised as an ardent abolitionist, when he married into the slaveholding Dent family of Missouri, he had to take a lot of emotional guff from both sides. His parents disapproved of what they saw as a flighty, spendthrift wife whose family got their wealth off the sweat of others and his wife, Julia’s, parents disapproved of her marrying a military man from the North. Conflicts abound.

A good natured and financially naïve man, Grant tended to be easily conned out of a lot of money and when he was separated by circumstance from his wife Julia ( first in the Mexican- American War and in later postings), he would turn to alcoholism. This was a problem he recognized and tried to conquer more than once ( he just couldn’t quite beat it)The toughest battles can be the battles of the soul.

When the Civil War finally broke out, Grant was in a fairly desperate situation financially, trying out and failing in several financial ventures. He was finally forced to appeal to his father for help and thus secured a small job in his younger brother’s tannery in Galena, Illinois. The governor of Illinois drafted the former Army captain to lead a volunteer regiment that nobody else was able to train. Grant enforced the required discipline and won the respect of his men, being promoted to brigadier general.

Grant was no slouch, neither was he a coward. He quite willingly led his men into battle and he earned a major victory in 1862 when he captured Forts Henry and Donelson ( both in Tennessee). He earned his nickname, ” Unconditional Surrender.” Grant was promoted to major general, becoming nationally renowned and eventually chosen to succeed the inept General McClellan as General of the Federal Army.

Of course, the press is fickle and after Grant suffered a defeat in Shiloh, Tennessee, he found himself blamed for the debacle. President Lincoln stoutly supported his general with good effect: Grant shortly put the Confederacy on the defensive as he took Vicksburg, Knoxville and all of eastern Tennessee for the North in 1863. Lincoln’s Choice
General Ulysses S. Grant at this time became renowned as a major Union hero and Lincoln transferred him to Washington, D.C. to direct the war effort and to finally defeat Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

Grant joined George Meade’s Army of the Potomac and engaged Lee’s army in spring of 1864 in a campaign known as the Overland Campaign. Grant’s object was to defeat the Confederate Army and capture the Confederate Capital of Richmond, Virginia. Despite the bloody warfare and the loss of men in the Battle of the Wilderness, Grant pressed on and refused to retreat. The battle of the Wilderness became the Battle of the Spotsylvania Courthouse. The Confederates were entrenched and after a period of two weeks, Grant ordered his forces to disengage and to head southeast toward Richmond. Overland Campaign

Right after the carnage of the Battle of Cold Harbor, Grant directed his army to march south of Richmond and commence a siege of Petersburg. This began the final conflict between Confederate and Union forces that culminated in the final retreat of Lee’s army and the latter’s surrender to General Grant at Appomattox in 1865, ending the bloodiest war that was ever waged on United States soil

Grant emerged from the War as a major hero and swept into the U.S. presidency in 1869, grimly determined to sweep away the last remnants of slavery and implement Reconstruction over the conquered territories in the former Confederacy. Unfortunately, the War was Grant’s success story. His presidency wound up being ineffectual and despite his own scrupulous honesty, he was prey to those who held to looser morals than he did A man against the tide, (corruption)..

A cigar chain-smoker for most of his life, by the time he exited the presidency and had another business that failed, he was told by a doctor that he had throat cancer. Trying to settle his debts in a literary way, he wrote his ” Memoirs,” holding on to life until he completed his book and finally died in 1885. Grant was a hero. He was a good and descent man whose soul was devoured by those around him. He took up arms against his fellow Southerners in an effort to do what was right. But, with all corruption, righteousness has nothing to do with it.