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(Hiram) Ulysses Simpson Grant

war military union president

Grant, (Hiram) Ulysses Simpson (1822–85), 18th president of the United States. Grant led the Union forces to victory in the Civil War, but the qualities that made him a military hero did not make him a great president. Although Grant was a man of outstanding personal integrity, his administration was riddled with corruption and mismanagement.

Early life

In 1838 Grant entered the U.S. military academy at West Point. After graduating in 1843, he served in the Mexican War. Following the Mexican surrender, Grant married his fiancée, Julia Dent, but found little to do as a peacetime solider. He began to drink heavily and wandered from job to job, including farming, selling real estate, and working as a clerk in his father's store.

Military leader

The outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 reprieved Grant from failure. His originality in military strategy helped him win the first important Union victories and earned him the nickname Unconditional Surrender Grant. He moved onto greater victories at Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga. In 1864 President Abraham Lincoln gave Grant command of the entire Union army. After a series of bloody battles, Grant received the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House on Apr. 9, 1865. In 1866 Grant was made a full general, the first such appointment since George Washington's. Grant was now a national hero, which made him attractive to the Republican Party. He was nominated as its presidential candidate in 1868 and defeated his Democratic opponent, Horatio Seymour, by a narrow popular majority. Among Grant's supporters were blacks of the South, who were voting for the first time.

President

Grant's first term was marked by quarrels with Congress and setbacks for his policies. His executive appointments were not politically astute, and he filled many posts with personal friends. While Grant's relative leniency to the South helped heal the wounds of war, his administration marked the beginning of a decline in the rights of blacks. In 1872 Grant defeated publisher Horace Greeley to win a second term. Grant's White House soon became enmeshed in scandal. The Crédit Mobilier fraud involved numerous politicians. Some of Grant's close associates were tarnished in a scheme to defraud the collection of internal revenue. His secretary of war resigned to avoid impeachment over corruption. Grant's honesty and ability were unquestioned, but his strong sense of loyalty to his friends only compounded the problems.

Retirement

After leaving office in 1877, Grant settled in New York. In 1884 he was rendered penniless in the collapse of a firm in which he had invested heavily. He grew seriously ill with throat cancer.

Grant wrote his memoirs with the help of Mark Twain, who published them. Grant died shortly after completing the manuscript, but royalties from the book restored his family's security. He was buried with great public mourning in Riverside Park, New York City, where an elaborate mausoleum was dedicated in 1897.

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