18th President of the United States

Born: April 27, 1822 in Point Pleasant, Ohio
Served: March 4, 1869 - March 3, 1877
Died: July 23, 1885 in Mount McGregor, New York
Buried: in General Grant National Memorial in New York City, New York

        Grant was the second dead president I visited (the 1st being John F. Kennedy). I went to the General Grant National Memorial in New York City back in the 80's when it was in very bad shape. It's on Riverside Drive and 122nd street. It was getting so bad, that Grant decendents was threatening to remove the Grant's. I returned there in August of 2001 with three of my nephews (I learned the hard way to be careful where you park - a sweeper ticket). The restoration they have done is incredible. This is due to the Grant Monument Association, who have cleaned up and restored the site. They are still trying to get Congress to authorize money to build a visitor center (with restrooms) and have a 24-hour military guard.

        The memorial is made of granite and white marble and is the largest mausoleum in North America. The interior resembles Napoleon's Tomb in Paris (which I saw in 1997 and have to agree). According to the National Parks Service, approximately 90,000 people from around the country and the world donated a total of over $600,000 towards construction of his tomb, the largest public fundraising effort ever at that time.

        Hiram Ulysses Grant was the eldest son of Jesse Root Grant and Hannah Simpson Grant. Despite not being much of a student, Grant received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. It was here, due to a clerical error, that his name changed to Ulysses Simpson. He graduated in the middle of his class in 1843. His first assignment was to the 4th U.S. Infantry in Missouri where he met his future wife, Julia Dent.

        During the Mexican War, Grant served with distinction, a conflict that he privately deplored as an unjust war to extend slavery. Promoted on Sept. 20, 1845, to full 2d lieutenant, he took part in the battles of Palo Alto and Monterrey under the command of future president, General Zachary "Old Rough and Ready" Taylor. In 1847, his regiment was transferred to General Winfield Scott' army and participated in Veracruz,  Churubusco, Molino del Rey, where he was made 1st lieutenant for his bravery, and Chapultepec.

        After the war, he was put on regular garrison duty. At first it wasn't bad, but when he was assigned to Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River in Washington, things became very boring. He couldn't bring his family which led to a personal depression and to a drinking problem. In 1854, he resigned his commission and returned to Missouri. He worked on a farm he was given that he called "Hard Scrabble". Doing poorly, Grant gave up farming after four years and tried other businesses, including working for his father in Galena, Illinois.

        When the South succeeded in 1861, Grant set about raising a company of Union volunteers in Galena. The Governor of Illinois made him colonel of the 21st Illinois Regiment. On August 7, 1861, President Lincoln appointed Grant a brigadier general of volunteers. In February of 1862, Grant's forces moved on Fort Donelson and Fort Henry, the Confederate positions guarding the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers. Grant captured Fort Henry on February 6 and when the commander of Fort Donelson asked him for his terms of surrender, he replied, "No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender." This earned him the nickname, "Unconditional Surrender" Grant. President Lincoln promoted him to Major General.

        Grant next moved on Corinth, Mississippi which led to the Battle of Shiloh. On April 6, while Grant's army was camped out on the Tennessee River, Confederate forces under General Albert Sydney Johnson surprised them with an attack. His army was driven back to the river. The next day, with new re-inforcements, Grant was able to counter-attack and drive the Confederates back to Corinth. Many people, including his commander, General Henry Halleck (who was jealous of the attention Grant was getting) blamed Grant for being caught off guard. Grant was left in command of the District of West Tennessee, holding a wide territory with few troops.

        Later in October, Grant started what would become the Vicksburg Campaign. On July 4, 1863, after a month long siege, Vicksburg surrendered. This was a decisive victory in that it put the Mississippi River in Union control and cut the western Confederate states off. In November, after the Union Army suffered a terrible defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga, Grant took over, then organized the capture of Chattanooga in Tennessee. Grant was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general commanding all the armies of the United States.

        In 1864, Grant, now in command of all Union forces, ordered simultaneous attacks against Confederate forces. His plan was to wear them down to the point of surrender. In the east, he attacked General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, but was defeated at the Battle of the Wilderness. Unlike Union generals before him, he pressed forward after this defeat. At the Battles of Spotsylvania Court House and Cold Harbor, Grant failed to win battles and was suffering incredible losses. His reputation suffered, but he realized that the Confederacy were losing men that they couldn't replace.

        Grant continued to hit Lee's army through the end of 1864. In November, he moved south of Richmond in an attempt to cut the city off. This led to the 10-month siege of Petersburg. In April of 1865, Grant made his final push and Lee was thrown back. Nine days later, Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House bring the war to an end.

        In the Election of 1868, Grant, now a Republican, easily defeated democrat Horatio Seymour. However, Grant knew nothing of politics, and he entered the presidency with no real understanding of the powers and duties of his office. He made poor choices for his cabinet which would later haunt him. Grant also did not want to use any power over Congress and spent eight years doing very little as president. In 1869, he became an unwitting accomplice in a gold scheme by rich financiers, Jay Gould and James Fisk. However, when he discovered the plot, he took quick and decisive action against it.

        Despite all of the problems with his administration, Grant was still very popular and easily won re-election in 1872. He took 286 of the 349 Electoral votes over Democrat Thomas Hendricks. Grant's second four years in the White House were not happy ones. Scandals started to appear involving many of the men around him, including a number of cabinet members. Grant was not involved in any of the scandals, but people started to see his presidency as a failure. The Republican Party decided not to nominate him for a third term in 1876, instead going with Rutherford B. Hayes, which upset him greatly.

        After leaving the White House in 1877, Grant traveled around the world with his family, where he was treated as the triumphant victor of the Civil War. After two years, Grant returned to the United States hoping to be nominated to a third term in the 1880 Republican Convention. Though he did have more support than anyone else, opposition groups banded together and the party went with James Garfield instead. Grant's political career was now over.

        Grant's post-presidency life was a sad one. He went broke and was forced to sell personal items like his swords and war souvenirs. He became a partner in the brokerage firm of Grant & Ward, but again went bankrupt when his partner swindled the companies money. Finally, Grant came down with throat cancer. In June of 1885, he moved to the upstate New York town of Mount McGregor (near Saratoga, N.Y.). Trying to provide some financial stability to his family, Grant while in great pain and unable to sleep much, wrote his memoirs which where published by Mark Twain. It did bring in money, but he didn't live long enough to enjoy it.

        Before his death, Grant considered three places places to be buried. One was West Point, but since the Military Academy would not allow his wife to be buried with him, he canceled that plan. Another was Galena, Illinois, where he received his first general's commission. They finally decided on a spot overlooking the Hudson River in Manhattan. His was brought there on August 8, 1885, following a exceptionally large funeral. Around 65,000 people marched in his funeral procession. Progress in building the mausoleum was slow (they were also raising funds to build the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty). Congress even threatened to move Grant to Arlington National Cemetery if they couldn't finish it. Eventually, Grant was moved into the General Grant National Memorial when it was completed in 1897. His wife Julia joined him in 1902. They wanted to build one sarcophagus for the both of them, but Julia rejected that idea. She thought that her husband should have his own. So they have twin red granite  sarcophagi (that's the plural for sarcophagus - really) each weighing ten tons.

Here are some websites of interest:

Ulysses S. Grant Birthplace
"Hard Scrabble"- Grant's Farm
United States Military Academy
Fort Donelson National Battlefield (NPS)
Shiloh National Military Park (NPS)
Vicksburg National Military Park (NPS)
Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park (NPS)
Petersburg National Battlefield (NPS)
Appomattox Court House National Historical Park (NPS)
Ulysses S. Grant's Hone in Galena, Illinois
Grant Cottage State Historic Site in Mt. McGregor, N.Y.
U. S. Grant Memorial in Washington, D.C.
General Grant National Memorial in New York City (NPS)
White House Biography of Ulysses S. Grant
The Internet Public Library Biography
The American President Biography
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