Ulysses S. Grant’s rank among American heroes rivaled Lincoln’s while he lived, but after the Civil War general and 18th president died in 1885 his reputation declined.
Grant had experienced great adversity during his life, much of it spent as a failed businessman and an alcoholic who suffered from many illnesses — and after leaving public life that adversity continued until his death.
And even though Grant had led the Union to victory on the battlefield, he was criticized as needlessly sacrificing soldiers in bloody assaults. Then, after becoming president four years after the war’s end, he was faulted for leading an administration rife with corruption.
But after long being regarded by many historians as one of America’s worst presidents, some have recently restored Grant to greatness — not only for victory in the Civil War, but in preserving its result.
“However brilliant Robert E. Lee was as a tactician, Grant surpassed him in grand strategy, crafting the plan that defeated the Confederacy,” Ron Chernow, author of the new biography “Grant,” told IBD. “He was the single most important figure behind the Reconstruction process in the South and presided over the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave blacks the right to vote, and landmark civil rights legislation outlawing discrimination in public accommodation. The imperishable story of Grant’s presidency was his campaign to crush the Ku Klux Klan, which tried to overturn the Civil War’s outcome and restore the prior status quo.”
Grant was born in Point Pleasant, Ohio, in 1822 to a tanner and his wife. As a boy, he developed remarkable skills in handling horses, which would serve him as a soldier.
He was appointed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point despite a lack of enthusiasm for a military career and academics. He graduated as a brevet second lieutenant in 1843, ranked 21 out of 39, but he planned to resign his commission after four years, hoping to become a teacher. At his first assignment in St. Louis, he met Julia Dent and they married, but his family refused to attend the wedding because the Dents owned slaves.
In 1846, Grant fought in the Mexican-American War under major generals Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott, who became his role models. In the course of the war, Grant demonstrated courage and innovative thinking and decided to remain with the Army. But as he was posted around the country, he needed to supplement his military salary and tried several ventures which failed. In 1860,…
Authored by Janine Maureen