Ulysses S. Grant

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Ulysses S. Grant in the 1870s
Signature of Ulysses Grant
The Grant Birthplace in the Historic District at Point Pleasant
Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses Simpson Grant (born April 27, 1822 in Point Pleasant , Ohio as Hiram Ulysses Grant , † July 23, 1885 in Wilton , New York ) was an American general and politician . He was Commander in Chief of the US Army in the Civil War and from 1869 to 1877 the 18th  President of the United States of America .


Ulysses S. Grant was the son and firstborn of six children of the tanner and saddler Jesse Grant (1794–1873) and his wife Hannah, née Simpson (1798–1883). The father achieved modest prosperity through his business. Although Ulysses occasionally worked in the tannery as a child, he expressed his strong displeasure with his father about the job. In his childhood he also developed special skills in riding and dealing with horses.

At the age of 17, at the request of his parents, he was appointed as a cadet at the US Military Academy in West Point , New York. Accidentally, Grant was registered as Ulysses S. Grant at West Point . Grant did not have this mistake corrected and kept the name. Grant denied in later years that the initial was an abbreviation for his mother's maiden name. It was only towards the end of his life that Grant was baptized with the name Ulysses Simpson .

In 1843 he graduated as the 21st of 39 of his class, whereby his strengths, besides drawing, had in the field of mathematical studies. He then hoped to find a job as a lecturer, but was transferred to the army. He also did not get one of the coveted places in the cavalry - despite his talent for horses - he joined the infantry . He was assigned to the 4th Infantry Regiment south of St. Louis , Missouri at the Jefferson Barracks .

From 1846 to 1848 he fought as a young lieutenant in the Mexican-American War and was mentioned twice for his bravery. He was appointed quartermaster and was responsible for the delivery and transport of his regiment in Mexico. This gave him valuable experience in the logistics of war. However, Grant saw nothing glorious in the war in itself. He mourned his comrades lost there and looked at the problems that war leaves behind. But in general he admired Zachary Taylor and his calm, confident army leadership. After the American annexation of Texas in 1845, Taylor was sent with an expeditionary force to the Rio Grande , where hostilities broke out in April 1846. Taylor and his troops resisted the Mexican forces with an inferiority of 1: 4 and led them to victories in three battles.

On August 22, 1848, Grant married Julia Boggs Dent (1826-1902), the sister of a West Point comrade. They had four children: Frederick Dent Grant (1850-1912), Ulysses Simpson Grant, Jr. (1852-1929), Ellen Wrenshall Grant (1855-1922) and Jesse Root Grant (1858-1934).

After his participation in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), which he branded in his memoirs as the most unjust war that a strong against a weak state had ever waged, Grant was promoted to captain . After the war he was transferred to the Oregon Territory and then to California . The related separation from his family bothered him; at that time the first rumors arose that he was an alcoholic . In 1854, Grant left the US Army after being threatened with court martial because of his alcoholism . In the following seven years Grant worked with little success as a surveyor , farmer and real estate agent in St. Louis and finally helped his father and his brothers in their leather shop in Galena , Illinois, from 1860 onwards .

Civil war

Generals Sherman , Grant and Sheridan on 1937 postage stamp

After the Civil War began in 1861, Grant applied to serve as an officer in the Northern Army. The governor of Illinois , Richard Yates , via said the former captain of the existing volunteer 21st Illinois Infantry Regiment. On August 7, 1861, Grant was named Brigadier General of the Volunteers.

Grant achieved his first military success through his campaigns in northern Tennessee . He took the important city of Paducah , Kentucky at the confluence of the Tennessee into the Ohio and defeated General Leonidas Polk on November 7, 1861 at Belmont , Missouri on the Mississippi , on the opposite side of Columbus , Kentucky.

The capture of Paducah paved the way for the later conquest of Fort Henry on Tennessee (February 6, 1862) and Fort Donelson on Cumberland (February 16, 1862). These victories gave the Union its first sense of achievement after its defeat in the First Battle of the Bull Run . Grant was then promoted to major general. His demand for unconditional surrender (unconditional surrender) against the commanding officer of Fort Donelson became famous ; the two words soon became his nickname. In the Battle of Shiloh Grant was surprised on April 6, 1862 by the troops of Southern General Albert S. Johnston near Shiloh (or Pittsburgh Landing) (for which he was sharply criticized); However, he stubbornly defended his position and was finally able to decide the battle in his favor after General Don Carlos Buell had given relief . He was also repeatedly accused of consuming alcohol. However, President Abraham Lincoln had his back to Grant: “I cannot do without this general. He's fighting. ”Grant remained in command of the Tennessee Army .

Grant continued his success in September and October 1862 when he won the battles at Yuka and Corinth . In the fall of 1862, Grant advanced with the Tennessee Army on Vicksburg , Mississippi , the only southern-held place on the Mississippi that blocked the river. He was only able to take Vicksburg after a very long and persistent siege on July 4, 1863, after the southern garrison had surrendered (see also Battle of Vicksburg ). In many cases this - together with the almost simultaneous Battle of Gettysburg  - is viewed as the turning point of the civil war.

On December 17, 1862, Grant issued General Order No. 11 , which ordered all Jews to leave Mississippi, Kentucky and Tennessee within 24 hours. This anti-Semitic expulsion was based on the widespread suspicion that Jews were involved in smuggling with the southern states in the areas mentioned and were fundamentally on their side. The order was the culmination of a series of attempts by Grant to evict the Jews from the area occupied by his troops. The Jews affected sent an embassy to Washington, where they were received by President Lincoln. Subsequently, on January 7, 1863 Grant instructed to withdraw the order immediately. Grant's correspondence before and after this event shows that, unlike African- Americans, he did not question stereotypes about American Jews and, for example, accused them of greed and obsession with money. Although he refused to be an anti-Semite, some of his statements are clearly anti-Semitic.

In the fall of 1863 Grant was appointed Commander in Chief of the Union forces besieged by the Southerners in Chattanooga . Grant initially provided for the replacement of the hapless William S. Rosecrans (who had lost the Battle of Chickamauga ) by General George H. Thomas and managed to break through the ring of siege. At the Battle of Chattanooga, his troops routed the Tennessee Confederate Army from the ridges of Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain. The Confederates evaded as far as Dalton , Georgia . This secured Kentucky and Tennessee. Georgia, on the other hand, as well as the entire southeast of the Secession Area were threatened in their rear.

Ulysses S. Grant in January 1864

After the Battle of Chattanooga, Grant was promoted to lieutenant general for his services . In US history, only George Washington and Winfield Scott have held this military rank to date . On March 17, 1864 he became Commander in Chief of the Army . He passed his previous command in the West to William T. Sherman .

In the Eastern Virginia theater of war , tenacity was once again shown as one of Grant's outstanding qualities. If his predecessors had retreated after losing or inconclusive battles against Robert E. Lee's Northern Virginia Army , he remained on the spot with the Potomac Army and other armies and involved the enemy in continuous fighting. He managed to put the southern states in a permanent defensive position and literally bleed them to death. The offensive from defensive positions successfully used by Lee up to then was no longer possible.

Grant was called a butcher because of his very loss-making strategy in his own ranks , but was able to show increasing military success in the summer of 1864. In just four weeks he lost 44,000 men after crossing the Rapidan, while his opponent Lee lost 25,000. Grant moved closer and closer to Richmond , the capital of the Confederation . After the Battle of the Wilderness , Grant ordered a frontal attack against the Confederate Army defending from the trench systems after unsuccessful evasion maneuvers in the Battle of Cold Harbor . This completely hopeless attack, described by opposing soldiers as murder , was the first “modern battle” and provided a foretaste of the warfare of the First World War . Grant only broke off the battle after his commanding generals refused to launch new waves of attack. Grant later wrote in his memoir: "I always regretted the last attack at Cold Harbor [...] We did not get the slightest advantage in compensation for the heavy losses we suffered."

After Cold Harbor Grant could no longer advance directly to Richmond and had to get involved in the long siege of Petersburg , a strategically important town south of Richmond. When Grant finally managed to break through the Confederate lines in several places in early April 1865, the defensive line of the Northern Virginia Army, which had been in place for a good nine months, collapsed and Lee's army had to withdraw from Petersburg . Within a few days, Richmond had to be evacuated and Lee's troops marched westward, where they were finally released from the Union cavalry under the command of the later Army Commander-in-Chief, Philip Sheridan , who was a close confidante of Grant and had already fought under him in the western theater of war , were obtained. Lee wanted to achieve a pooling of forces and thus the continuation of the war by a union of the Northern Virginia Army with the remnants of the Confederate Western Army under General Johnston. The Potomac Army prevented this and so Grant finally accepted the surrender of the Northern Virginia Army under General Lee on April 9, 1865 at Appomattox Court House in Virginia (see also Appomattox campaign ). After the war he was awarded the from the July 25, 1866 Congress newly created rank of General of the Army of the United States awarded. He remained Commander in Chief of the Army until his candidacy for the presidency.


Republican election poster 1868
Grant's Inauguration Celebrations
President Ulysses S. Grant in the White House, 1869
President Grant (seated, left) with family, photographed by the
Pach Brothers in 1870

At the Convention of the Republican Party in Chicago on May 20, 1868, Grant was elected as a Republican presidential candidate without significant opposition because of his fame as a war hero in the north and the respect he had in the southern states for his honorable treatment of Lee in Appomattox Court House . The election campaign was under the motto “Let us have peace”, which Grant himself had coined in the letter with which he had accepted his nomination. On election day he won with 309,684 votes ahead of a total of 5,716,082 votes counted against the candidate of the Democratic Party , Horatio Seymour , and became the 18th President of the United States. He served from March 4, 1869 to March 4, 1877. Vice President during his first term (1869 to 1873) was Schuyler Colfax , who was replaced in the election of 1872 by Henry Wilson . He died in November 1875, so that the office of Vice President remained vacant for the remainder of Grant's second term, as the legal basis for a subsequent appointment had not yet been created.

Politically, Grant's presidency was marked by the challenges of the Reconstruction , the dangerous escalation of the Alabama question , the danger of war in the course of the Virginia crisis and the economic consequences of the founding crash of 1873. In appointing his cabinet , he tried to keep appearing above the parties, angering Republican leaders who had counted on a ministerial post but were ignored. One of his best ministers is Hamilton Fish , with whom he had some successes in foreign policy, while many other cabinet appointments later turned out to be mediocre. Overall, there was high staff turnover in the cabinet .

His presidency was also marked by corruption scandals of a hitherto unknown extent, which reached into his personal surroundings, even if he was not accused of corruption. Important scandals were the gold speculation by James Fisk and Jay Gould , the tax scandal over the Whiskey Ring , the tax affair of his Treasury Secretary William Adams Richardson and the corruption affair of his Vice President Colfax, the Secretary of War William W. Belknap and the son of the Secretary of the Interior Columbus Delano . Attorney General George H. Williams was also accused of taking advantage of the office and resigned. The United States House Committee on Naval Affairs opened an investigation against the Secretary of the Navy George M. Robeson on suspicion of corruption. With extreme loyalty to those with whom he worked or who had helped him in the past, Grant was reluctant to fire them if they were corrupt or ineffective in office.

At the end of his first term, Grant continued to enjoy a high reputation among the population. Some of the Republicans, however, were disappointed with his policies and split off as the Liberal Republican Party with the top candidate Horace Greeley in the 1872 presidential election campaign . The Liberal Republican Party, which was also supported by the Democrats, wanted, among other things, to end the reconstruction and federal interventions in the southern states. The Democrats joined this electoral list and did not nominate a candidate of their own. Greeley showed himself to be a little gifted campaigner. Because of some changes of position, also in the past during the civil war, the advocacy of protective tariffs and contradicting, sometimes eccentric demands, he was clearly inferior to Grant in popularity among the population. Grant won with 56 percent and secured 286 out of 352 electors. Election day also resulted in clear majorities for the Republicans in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

In 1875, in a letter to the public, Grant renounced another candidacy for president. Since the affairs in his cabinet had damaged his reputation, there was no Republican majority for him. The result of the presidential election in 1876 was controversial between Republicans and Democrats in three southern states. While a 15-member commission from Congress and the Supreme Court decided on this matter and thus on the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes or Samuel J. Tilden , Grant continued the official business and ensured the continuity of the government.

Domestic politics

Grant pursued a policy of reconciliation towards the South, following Lincoln. The union, which had been won again in the civil war, was to be strengthened, the rights of the freed slaves protected and former Confederates kept out of power in the south. In 1870 he succeeded in getting the 15th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States through Congress, which granted former slaves full civil and electoral rights, which the majority of the white population, including in the north, rejected. In April 1871, Grant signed the so-called Enforcement Act of 1871 , also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act , which gave him the right to suspend the validity of the habeas corpus and to impose martial law in states . This was necessary in order to be able to intervene with the US Army against the increasing violent attacks on the now eligible black population in the southern states, especially by the Ku Klux Klan. In October 1871, Grant declared martial law in nine counties of South Carolina . In many of these outbreaks of violence, however, Grant did not make use of this right, also against the background of an increasing aversion in the north to the Reconstruction, especially after the Founders' Crash, and a republican majority that was endangered by it. The corruption rampant in the south and the increasing electoral success of the Democrats also contributed to this. The Civil Rights Act of 1875 he signed gave all citizens equal access to public facilities, regardless of their skin color. Ultimately, Grant failed, on the one hand, to protect the rights of the freed slaves and, on the other, to want to reconcile the white people of the south with the Republicans and the Union.

In his inaugural address , he already recalled the fate of the Indians as the original occupants of America and announced a change of course in Indian policy . They should be brought closer to the whites' way of life in protected reserves and encouraged to farm. Grant appointed Brigadier General Ely Samuel Parker , a Seneca Indian, to head the Bureau of Indian Affairs . Parker was the first Native to assume this role. With the help of the Board of Indian Commissioners , a committee of Congress, the main objective was to combat the widespread corruption in these matters. The board no longer proposed politicians as commissioners, but instead, with Grant's approval, representatives from churches, especially Quakers , and members of the army. These measures did not do justice to the current dynamic, so that the white settlers with state support such as. B. the Homestead Act and protection by the army were able to displace the Indians in the west more and more. The Indians, however, became impoverished in the desolate and lonely reservations. Overall, Grant's Indian policy made little progress on this issue, despite good intentions.

In financial policy, Grant took conservative positions. The large amounts of paper money used to finance the war, the greenbacks or United States Notes , had gained in confidence and thus value through the victory of the Union , but subsequently posed a constant danger of inflation and economic destabilization. Grant aspired hence a return to the gold standard . The entrepreneurs Jay Gould and James Fisk tried to influence the price of gold through Grants' brother-in-law, Abel Corbin, in order to increase its value by holding back the federal reserves, but this was done by means of a sale order on September 24, 1869 by President and Treasury Secretary George Sewall Boutwell was prevented. This led to a rapid drop in the price of gold, known as Black Friday , and damaged the reputation of the incumbent federal government. As a result of the founding row of 1873, Congress passed the Legal Tender Act , also known as the Inflation Bill , to stimulate the economy and increase the money supply , which Grant prevented with a veto in April 1874, despite his initial endorsement , because it affected international creditworthiness the nation was concerned. On January 14, 1875, Grant passed the Specie Payment Resumption Act, which initiated the return to the gold standard and gradually replaced the greenbacks in circulation with silver coins. This decision set the direction of monetary policy in the United States, which was aimed at a hard currency , until the late 19th century . Since then, the Republicans have been able to distinguish themselves as a party of economic conservatism, which is characterized by the rejection of deficit spending , strict discipline in government spending and avoidance of government debt .

Foreign policy

Grant's official portrait in the White House

A first priority in foreign policy, on which Grant worked closely with Secretary of State Fish during both terms, was the Caribbean . In 1868 the Ten Years War broke out in Cuba . Although the American public largely sympathized with the Cuban rebels fighting for their independence from Spain , Grant wanted to keep the US out of this conflict in order to recover from the aftermath of the civil war. Congress failed to pass a resolution to recognize the struggle for independence after the President confirmed his negative position in a message to him. Negotiations with Spain to acquire Cuba were unsuccessful. During the Ten Years' War, the Virginius Crisis broke out between Spain, the United States and the United Kingdom. The trigger was the former blockade breaker USS Virginia , which, renamed Virginius and owned by a US citizen, supplied the rebels in Cuba with weapons and other goods and was captured by the Spanish Navy after shelling in October 1873. The crew, including American and British citizen, was in Santiago de Cuba set and because of piracy before a court martial found. In early November 1873, several dozen of the crew, including the American captain Joseph Fry, were executed. Grant gave the matter top priority in the cabinet, stuck to his course of non-recognition of the Cuban state of war and supported Fish in negotiations with the Spanish minister, Don José Polo de Barnabé. In December 1873 they agreed that the remaining prisoners and the ship would be handed over to the US Navy and that the families of the executed Americans would be compensated by Spain. In return, Grant agreed to investigate whether the Virginius had been authorized to fly under the American trade flag .

At the beginning of his first term, he sent his private secretary Orville E. Babcock to negotiate with Santo Domingo, contrary to the advice of the Foreign Minister . On the one hand, the Dominican Republic was interested in being accepted into the United States, on the other hand, the USA was looking for a base for its naval forces . Grant also saw a settlement area in a new state for the black population of the southern states, who were still exposed to violence and discrimination there. In his opinion, this additional option of emigration strengthened their negotiating position for better working conditions with the white population group in the formerly Confederate states. When the private secretary returned from Santo Domingo with a positive report, Grant sought assistance from Charles Sumner , chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee . Although the President had left the conversation with the impression that he had received approval, Sumner spoke out against the agreement in question for the admission of the Dominican Republic to the United States during the debate in the Senate in 1870, giving Grant the necessary majority in the Senate missed. In a second attempt, he was able to at least get a commission to be set up in the Senate to investigate the situation in Santo Domingo and ultimately recommend joining the Dominican Republic. However, when public opinion clearly turned against this accession, this project disappeared from the Grant Agenda.

During Grant's first term, the Alabama question , which was based on the behavior of the United Kingdom at the time of the Civil War, came to a head. Using the example of Alabama , the kingdom should be held liable for the pirated damage caused by the Confederates. In addition, there were unresolved border issues and fishing rights as a result of the Canadian Confederation and the founding of Dominion Canada to exacerbate the conflict. Fish was able to convince Grant of the importance of relations with London and so a commission of negotiators from the three countries was formed, which met in Washington in 1871 to draw up an agreement. It was decided to refer some points to an international arbitration tribunal . The resulting and quickly adopted by the Senate Washington Treaty of 1872 stipulated that the United Kingdom the United States, 15.5 million  dollars owed. The arbitration proceedings that were carried out earned this form of negotiation international recognition. The agreement significantly improved US-UK relations and is a major achievement of the Grant's presidency.

After the presidency

After his second term in office, Grant traveled the world with his wife for two years, including Europe and Japan . The attempt to run again for the presidential election of 1880 failed. At first Grant was considered one of the more promising candidates for the Republican Party, but ultimately James A. Garfield was nominated. Subsequent attempts to get active in the investment industry resulted in his bankruptcy due to a fraudulent partner. At the suggestion of Mark Twain , Grant finally began writing his memoir, which he was able to complete a week before his death. They became a huge hit with audiences and gave his family financial security.

Grant, who drank up to 20 cigars a day, died of throat cancer on July 23, 1885 in Wilton, New York . He and his wife are buried in Grant's Tomb in New York City , the largest mausoleum in North America.


General Grant National Memorial

See also


  • William S. McFeely: Grant. A biography . WW Norton, New York 1981.
  • John Keegan : The General's Mask. Alexander the Great, Wellington, Grant, Hitler. Quadriga, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-88679-283-8 .
  • Falko Heinz: Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant. The biographies of two generals. American Studies, 2003, ISBN 3-89510-091-9 .
  • Josiah Bunting III: Ulysses S. Grant (= The American Presidents Series . Ed. By Arthur M. Schlesinger , Sean Wilentz . The 18th President). Times Books, New York City 2004, ISBN 978-1-4668-2610-6 .
  • Marie Ellen Kelsey: Ulysses S. Grant: A Bibliography. Westport 2005, ISBN 0-313-28176-9 .
  • Edward G. Longacre: General Ulysses S. Grant. The Soldier and the Man. Da Capo Press, Cambridge, MA 2006.
  • HW Brands : The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace , Doubleday, New York City 2012, ISBN 978-038-553241-9 .
  • Ron Chernow : Grant . Penguin, New York City 2017, ISBN 978-1-5942-0487-6 .

Web links

Commons : Ulysses S. Grant  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Ulysses S. Grant  - Sources and full texts (English)

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Joan Waugh: Ulysses S. Grant. Life Before the Presidency. In: website millercenter.org. University of Virginia , accessed May 20, 2017 .
  2. Brooks D. Simpson: Ulysses S. Grant. S. 11 f., 470, footnote 21.
  3. John Keegan : The American Civil War . Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-499-62831-3 , p. 441 (English: The American Civil War. A Military History . Translated by Hainer Kober).
  4. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/4367/4367-h/4367-h.htm Memoirs Part I, p. 53.
  5. ^ Richard E. Frankel: General Order No. 11 . In: Wolfgang Benz (Hrsg.): Handbuch des Antisemitismus . Vol. 4: Events, Decrees, Controversies. De Gruyter, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-598-24076-8 , pp. 145 f. (accessed via De Gruyter Online).
  6. Brooks Simpson: Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph Over Adversity, 1822-1865. (First edition in 2000 by Houghton Mifflin). Zenith, Minneapolis 2014, ISBN 978-0-7603-4696-9 , p. 164 .
  7. Mark Lardas: Ulysses S. Grant. Osprey Publishing, 2012, ISBN 978-1-84908-733-9 .
  8. a b c d e Joan Waugh: Ulysses S. Grant. Domestic Affairs. In: website millercenter.org. University of Virginia , accessed May 20, 2017 .
  9. ^ Joan Waugh: Ulysses S. Grant. Campaigns and Elections. In: website millercenter.org. University of Virginia , accessed May 20, 2017 .
  10. ^ A b Joan Waugh: Ulysses S. Grant. Life After the Presidency. In: website millercenter.org. University of Virginia , accessed May 20, 2017 .
  11. a b c Joan Waugh: Ulysses S. Grant. Foreign Affairs. In: website millercenter.org. University of Virginia , accessed May 20, 2017 .
  12. Charles Curry Aiken, Joseph Nathan Kane: The American Counties: Origins of County Names, Dates of Creation, Area, and Population Data, 1950-2010 . 6th edition. Scarecrow Press, Lanham 2013, ISBN 978-0-8108-8762-6 , p. Xiv.