Ulysses S. Grant, born Hiram Ulysses Grant, (April 27, 1822 July 23, 1885) was the Commanding General of the United States Army at the end of the American Civil War and later the 18th President of the United States from 1869 to 1877. As Commanding General, Grant worked closely with President Abraham Lincoln to lead the Union Army to victory over the Confederacy in the Civil War. Supported by Congress, Grant implemented Reconstruction, often at odds with President Andrew Johnson. Twice elected president, Grant led the Republicans in their effort to remove the vestiges of Confederate nationalism and slavery, protect African-American citizenship, and support economic prosperity. Although his presidency has often been criticized for multiple administration scandals and for his failure to alleviate the economic depression following the Panic of 1873, he is regarded as a President who performed relatively well in the context of his time and pursued justice for all.
Grant graduated in 1843 from West Point and served in the MexicanAmerican War. After the war, he married Julia Boggs Dent in 1848, and together they had four children. Grant retired from the Army in 1854 and struggled financially in civilian life. When the Civil War began in 1861, he rejoined the U.S. Army and quickly rose through the ranks. In 1862, Grant took control of Kentucky and most of Tennessee, and led Union forces to victory in the Battle of Shiloh, earning a reputation as an aggressive commander. In July 1863, after a series of coordinated battles, Grant defeated Confederate armies and seized Vicksburg, giving the Union control of the Mississippi River and dividing the Confederacy in two. After his victories in the Chattanooga Campaign, Lincoln promoted him to lieutenant general and Commanding General of the Army in March 1864. Grant confronted Robert E. Lee in a series of bloody battles, trapping Lee’s army in their defense of Richmond. Grant coordinated a series of devastating campaigns in other theaters, as well. In April 1865, Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox, effectively ending the war. Historians have hailed Grant’s military genius, and his strategies are featured in military history textbooks, but a minority contend that he won by brute force rather than superior strategy.
After the war, Grant led the army’s supervision of Reconstruction in the former Confederate states. Elected president in 1868, he stabilized the nation during that turbulent period, prosecuted the Ku Klux Klan, using the military and the newly created Department of Justice, bolstering the Republican Party in the South. The Army conducted new elections in the South with universal male suffrage, although many ex-Confederates were unable to vote. Republicans gained majorities in all 11 states, and African Americans were elected to Congress and high state offices. When Blacks in the South came under violent attack from whites Grant tried to protect them by signing three civil rights acts into law. In 1871, Grant created the first Civil Service Commission, to appease reformers. The Democrats and Liberal Republicans united behind Grant’s opponent in the presidential election of 1872, but Grant was reelected by a strong margin. In his second term the Republican coalitions in the South splintered and were defeated as a faction of white Southern “Redeemers” regained control of Southern state governments using violence, voter fraud, and racist appeal. More than any 19th Century president, Grant faced charges of corruption in his administration, including the Whiskey Ring, which he authorized Treasury Secretary Benjamin Bristow to shut down and prosecute. Grant’s Peace Policy with Native Americans was a bold departure, but historians agree that, as with Reconstruction, it ended in failure.
In foreign policy, Grant sought to increase trade and influence while remaining at peace with the world. With Secretary of State Hamilton Fish, he successfully resolved the Alabama claims through the Treaty of Washington with Great Britain. Grant and Fish avoided war with Spain over the Virginius Affair, negotiating a peaceful resolution. Congress rejected Grant’s initiative to annex the Dominican Republic, creating a rift among Republicans. His administration implemented a gold standard and sought to strengthen the dollar. Grant’s immediate response to the Panic of 1873 failed to halt a severe industrial depression that produced high unemployment, deflation, and bankruptcies. Grant left office in 1877 and embarked on a two-year world tour that captured favorable global attention for him and his nation.
In 1880, Grant was unsuccessful in obtaining the Republican presidential nomination for a third term. Facing severe investment reversals and dying of throat cancer, he wrote his memoirs, which proved to be a major critical and financial success. His death in 1885 prompted an outpouring in support of national unity. Historical assessments of Grant’s legacy have varied considerably over the years. His popular reputation focuses on his drinking, which historians agree has been exaggerated and never adversely affected his decisions. Early historical evaluations were very negative about Grant’s presidency. Scholars continue to rank his presidency below the average, but modern appreciation for his support for civil rights has helped improve his standing.
Early life and education
Hiram Ulysses Grant was born in Point Pleasant, Ohio, on April 27, 1822, to Jesse Root Grant, a tanner and merchant, and Hannah Grant (née Simpson). His ancestors Matthew and Priscilla Grant arrived aboard the Mary and John at Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. Grant’s great-grandfather fought in the French and Indian War, and his grandfather, Noah, served in the American Revolution at Bunker Hill. Afterward, Noah settled in Pennsylvania and married Rachel Kelley, the daughter of an Irish pioneer. Their son Jesse (Ulysses’s father) was a Whig Party supporter with abolitionist sentiments.
Jesse Grant moved to Point Pleasant in 1820 and found work as a foreman in a tannery. He soon met his future wife, Hannah, and the two were married on June 24, 1821. Ten months later Hannah gave birth to their first child, a son. At a family gathering several weeks later the boy’s name, Ulysses, was drawn from ballots placed in a hat. Wanting to honor his father-in-law, Jesse declared the boy to be Hiram Ulysses, though he would always refer to him as Ulysses.
In 1823, the family moved to the village of Georgetown, Ohio, where five more siblings were born: Simpson, Clara, Orvil, Jennie, and Mary. At the age of five, young Grant began his formal education, starting at a subscription school and later was enrolled in two private schools. In the winter of 1836-1837, Grant was a student at Maysville Seminary, and in the autumn of 1838 he attended John Rankin‘s academy. In his youth, Grant developed an unusual ability to ride, work with, and control horses. Expressing a strong dislike for the tannery, Grant’s father instead put this ability to use giving Ulysses work driving wagon loads of supplies and transporting people. Unlike his siblings, Grant was not forced to attend church by his Methodist parents. For the rest of his life, he prayed privately and never officially joined any denomination. To others, including late in life, his own son, Grant appeared to be an agnostic. He inherited some of Hannah’s Methodist piety and quiet nature while adopting his father’s Whig political inclinations.
Early military career and personal life
West Point and first assignment
Grant’s father wrote to Representative Thomas L. Hamer requesting that he nominate Ulysses to the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, New York. When a spot opened in March 1839, Hamer nominated the 16-year-old Grant. He mistakenly wrote down “Ulysses S. Grant”, which became Grant’s adopted name. Initially reluctant because of concerns about his academic ability, Grant entered the academy on July 1, 1839, as a cadet and trained there for four years. On Sundays, cadets were required to march to and attend services at the academy’s church, a requirement that Grant disliked. His nickname became “Sam” among army colleagues since the initials “U.S.” also stood for “Uncle Sam“.
As he later recalled it, “a military life had no charms for me”. Grant developed a reputation as an expert horseman and set an equestrian high-jump record that stood for almost 25 years. Seeking relief from military routine, he also studied under Romantic artist Robert Walter Weir and produced nine surviving artworks. He spent more time reading books from the library than his academic texts, frequently reading works by James Fenimore Cooper and others. But within a year Grant reexamined his desire to leave the academy and later wrote, “on the whole I like this place very much”. Quiet by nature, Grant established a few intimate friends among fellow cadets, including Frederick Tracy Dent and James Longstreet. He was inspired both by the Commandant, Captain Charles F. Smith, and by General Winfield Scott, who visited the academy to review the cadets. Grant later wrote of the military life, “there is much to dislike, but more to like.”
Grant graduated on July 1, 1843, ranked 21st in a class of 39, and was promoted to the rank brevet second lieutenant. Glad to leave the academy, he planned to resign his commission after his four-year term of duty. Despite his excellent horsemanship, he was not assigned to the cavalry (assignments were determined by class rank, not aptitude), but to the 4th Infantry Regiment. He served as regimental quartermaster, managing supplies and equipment.
Grant’s first assignment took him to the Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri. Commanded by Colonel Stephen W. Kearny, the barracks was the nation’s largest military base in the west. Grant was happy with his new commander, but looked forward to the end of his military service and a possible teaching career. He spent some of his time in Missouri visiting Dent’s family and became engaged to Dent’s sister, Julia, in 1844. Four years later on August 22, 1848, they were married at Julia’s home in St. Louis. Grant’s abolitionist father Jesse, who disapproved of the Dents owning slaves, refused to attend their wedding, which took place without either of Grant’s parents. Longstreet, a cousin to Julia, was among the groomsmen. At the end of the month, Julia was nevertheless warmly received by Grant’s family in Bethel, Ohio. They had four children: Frederick, Ulysses Jr. (“Buck”), Ellen (“Nellie”), and Jesse. After the wedding, Grant obtained a two-month extension to his leave and returned to St. Louis when he decided, with a wife to support, that he would remain in the army.
Mexican American War
After rising tensions with Mexico following the United States’ annexation of Texas, war broke out in 1846. During the conflict, Grant distinguished himself as a daring and competent soldier. Before the war then President John Tyler had ordered Grant’s unit to Louisiana as part of the Army of Observation under Major General Zachary Taylor. In September 1846 President James K. Polk, unable to provoke Mexico into war at Corpus Christi, Texas, ordered Taylor to march 150 miles south to the Rio Grande, a role of which Grant did not approve. Marching south to Fort Texas, to prevent a Mexican siege, Grant experienced combat for the first time on May 8, 1846, at the Battle of Palo Alto.
While serving as regimental quartermaster, Grant yearned for a combat role; when finally allowed, he led a cavalry charge at the Battle of Resaca de la Palma, demonstrating his equestrian ability at Monterrey by carrying a dispatch through sniper-lined streets while hanging off the side of his horse, keeping the animal between him and the enemy. Before leaving the city he stopped at a house occupied by badly wounded Americans and gave them his assurance that he would send for help. Polk, wary of Taylor’s growing popularity, divided his forces, sending some troops (including Grant’s unit) to form a new army under Major General Winfield Scott. Traveling by sea, Scott’s army landed at Veracruz and advanced toward Mexico City. The army met the Mexican forces at the battles of Molino del Rey and Chapultepec outside Mexico City. For his bravery at Molino del Rey, Grant was brevetted first lieutenant. At San Cosmé, men under Grant’s direction dragged a disassembled howitzer into a church steeple, reassembled it, and bombarded nearby Mexican troops. His bravery and initiative earned him his second brevet promotion to captain. On September 14, 1847, Scott’s army marched into the city, and the Mexicans ceded the vast territory, including California, to the U.S. on February 2, 1848.
During this war, Grant studied the tactics and strategies of Scott and Zachary Taylor, later writing in his memoirs that this is how he learned about military leadership. In retrospect he identified his leadership style with Taylor’s. However, also wrote that the Mexican War was wrong and the territorial gains were designed to expand slavery, stating, “I was bitterly opposed to the measure…and to this day, regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.” He opined that the Civil War was punishment on the nation for its aggression in Mexico. During the war, Grant discovered his “moral courage” and began to consider a career in the army.
Pacific duty and resignation
Grant’s first post-war assignments took him and Julia to Detroit and then to Sackets Harbor, New York. In 1852, Grant was ordered to the Pacific Northwest, traveling the New York-Panama oceanic route. Julia, eight months pregnant with Ulysses Jr., did not accompany him. In Panama, an outbreak of cholera among his fellow travelers caused 150 fatalities; Grant arranged makeshift transportation and hospital facilities and helped nurse the sick. In August, Grant arrived in San Francisco, and his next assignment sent him north to Vancouver Barracks in the Oregon Territory (subsequently Washington Territory in March 1853). To supplement a military salary which was inadequate to support his family, Grant tried and failed at several business ventures, confirming Jesse Grant’s belief that his son had no head for business. Grant assured Julia in a letter that local Native Americans were harmless, while he developed an empathy for the plight of Indians from the “unjust treatment” by white men.
Promoted to captain on August 5, 1853, Grant was assigned to command Company F, 4th Infantry, at the newly constructed Fort Humboldt in California. He arrived at the fort on January 5, 1854, and reported to its commander Lieutenant Colonel Robert C. Buchanan. Grant was bored and depressed about being separated from his wife Julia, and he began to drink. An officer who roomed with Grant said he “fell too much under the influence of liquor to properly perform his duties. Colonel Buchanan demanded he should resign.” Historian Jean Edward Smith says, “The story rings true.” Buchanan gave him the choice to resign or face a court-martial. Grant resigned, effective July 31, 1854, without explanation. Buchanan endorsed Grant’s letter of resignation but did not submit any report that verified the incident. Grant was neither arrested nor faced court martial, while the War Department stated, “Nothing stands against his good name.” Grant said years later, “the vice of intemperance (drunkenness) had not a little to do with my decision to resign.” With no means of support, Grant returned to St. Louis and reunited with his family, uncertain about his future.
Civilian struggles and politics
At age 32, with no civilian vocation, Grant struggled through seven financially lean years. His father offered him a place in the Galena, Illinois, branch of the family’s leather business on condition that Julia and the children stay with her parents in Missouri or with the Grants in Kentucky. Ulysses and Julia opposed another separation and declined the offer. In 1855, Grant farmed on his brother-in-law’s property near St. Louis, using slaves owned by Julia’s father. The farm was not successful and to earn money he sold firewood on St. Louis street corners. Earning only $50 a month, wearing his faded blue army jacket, an unkempt Grant desperately looked for work. The next year, the Grants moved to land on Julia’s father’s farm, and built a home Grant called “Hardscrabble“. Julia disliked the rustic house, which she described as an “unattractive cabin”. The Panic of 1857 devastated farmers, including Grant, who reaching a low ebb financially, pawned his gold watch to pay for Christmas. In 1858, Grant moved his family to Julia’s father’s 850-acre White Haven estate, a plantation that relied on slave labor. To make up losses on his farming, Grant rented out Hardscrabble. That fall, after a bout of malaria, Grant retired from farming.
The same year, Grant acquired a slave, a thirty-five-year-old man named William Jones, from his father-in-law. In March 1859, Grant freed William, worth about $1,500, instead of selling him at a time when he desperately needed money. Grant moved to St. Louis, taking on a partnership with Julia’s cousin Harry Boggs working in real estate business as a bill collector, again without success. In April 1860, Grant and his family left Missouri and moved north to the prosperous Galena area, having accepted a $600 a year position in his father’s tannery business, run by his younger brothers Simpson and Orvil. Jesse’s business produced and sold harnesses, saddles, and other leather goods. In a few months, Ulysses paid off the debts he acquired in Missouri. That winter, Grant traveled west purchase and handle hides. Ulysses and family attended the local Methodist church and he soon established himself as a reputable citizen of Galena.
In the 1856 election, Grant cast his first presidential vote for Democrat James Buchanan, later saying he was really voting against Republican John C. Frémont over concern that his anti-slavery position would lead to southern secession and war. Many considered Grant to be allied politically to his father-in-law, Frederick Dent, a prominent Missouri Democrat. Although Grant was not an abolitionist, neither was he considered a “slavery man”, and could not bring himself to force slaves to do work. In 1859, Grant’s suspected Democratic leanings cost him an appointment to become county engineer. By the 1860 election, Grant was openly Democratic, favoring Democrat Stephen A. Douglas over Abraham Lincoln, and Lincoln over the Southern Democrat, John C. Breckinridge. Lacking the residency requirements in Illinois at the time, he could not vote. After Lincoln was elected, Southern states seceded from the Union forming a Confederacy, seizing federal forts and institutions.
On April 12, 1861, the American Civil War began as Confederate troops attacked Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. Grant wrote to his father in a letter of April 21 that “we have a government and laws and a flag, and they must all be sustained. There are but two parties now, Traitors and Patriots …” Two days after the attack, Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers and a mass meeting was held in Galena to assess the crisis and encourage recruitment. Before the attack, Grant had not reacted strongly to Southern secession. The news came as a shock in Galena, and Grant shared his neighbors’ concern about the war. The captain of the local militia nominated Grant, the only man in town with professional military training, to lead the recruitment effort. A speech by his father’s attorney, John Aaron Rawlins, stirred Grant’s patriotism. Rawlins later became Grant’s aide-de-camp and close friend during the war. Grant recalled with satisfaction that after that first recruitment meeting in Galena, “I never went into our leather store again.”
Grant quickly raised and recruited a company of volunteers, and was given the captaincy, accompanying them to Springfield. He perceived that the war would be fought mostly by volunteers, not career soldiers. Governor Richard Yates offered Grant a militia commission to recruit and train volunteer units, which he accepted, but still wanted a field command. He made several efforts through his professional contacts. Major General George B. McClellan refused to see him, remembering the day in Oregon in 1853 when he saw Grant on a drunken spree. With the aid of his advocate, Representative Elihu B. Washburne of Illinois, Grant was promoted to Colonel on June 14 and charged with disciplining the unruly 21st Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Transferred to northern Missouri, Grant was promoted to Brigadier General, backdated to May 17, 1861.
Control of the Mississippi River was key to victory in the Western theater. Believing Grant was a general of “dogged persistence” and “iron will”, Major General John C. Frémont assigned Grant to command troops on the Mississippi at Cairo, Illinois at the end of August (passing over generals John Pope and Benjamin Prentiss). Frémont dismissed rumors of Grant’s drunkenness years earlier in the regular army, saying there was something about Grant’s manner “that was sufficient to counteract the influence of what they said.” Cairo was a bustling Union military and naval base that was to be used to launch a joint campaign down the Mississippi, Tennessee, and Cumberland Rivers. After the Confederates moved into western Kentucky, with designs on Southern Illinois, Grant, under Frémont’s authority, advanced on Paducah, Kentucky, taking it without a fight, and set up a supply station. Having understood the importance to Lincoln in keeping Kentucky in the Union, Grant assured its citizens, “I have come among you not as your enemy, but as your friend.” On November 1, Frémont ordered Grant to “make demonstrations” against the Confederates on both sides of the Mississippi, but prohibited him from attacking the enemy.
Belmont, Forts Henry and Donelson
On November 1, 1861, Frémont ordered Grant to embark south with his troops from Cairo to attack Confederate soldiers encamped in Belmont, Missouri. Grant, along with Brigadier General John A. McClernand, landed 2,500 men at Hunter’s Point, two miles north of the Confederate base outside Belmont. They took the camp, but the reinforced Confederates under Brigadier Generals Frank Cheatham and Gideon J. Pillow forced a chaotic Union retreat. At first, Grant had wanted to destroy Confederate strongholds at both Belmont, Missouri and Columbus, Kentucky, but Frémont had not given Grant enough troops to do the job. All Grant’s men could do was disrupt the Confederates and fight their way back to their Union boats and escape back to Cairo under Confederate fire from the heavily fortified Confederate stronghold at Columbus, Kentucky. A tactical defeat, the battle gave Grant’s volunteers confidence and experience.
Confederate forces still at Columbus blocked the Union army’s access to the lower Mississippi. Grant, and General James B. McPherson, came up with a plan to bypass Columbus and with a force of 25,000 troops, move against Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and then ten miles east to Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River, with the aid of gunboats, opening both rivers and allowing the Union access further south. Grant presented his plan to Henry Halleck, his new commander under the newly created Department of Missouri. Halleck was considering the same strategy, but rebuffed Grant, believing he needed twice the number of troops. However, after Halleck telegraphed and consulted McClellan about the plan, he finally agreed on condition that the attack be conducted in close cooperation with navy Flag Officer, Andrew H. Foote. After Foote’s gunboats had silenced most of the guns at the fort, Grant’s troops moved in and easily captured Fort Henry on February 6, 1862.
Grant then ordered an immediate assault on nearby Fort Donelson, under the command of John B. Floyd, which dominated the Cumberland River. Unlike Fort Henry, Grant was now going up against a force equal to his. Unaware of the garrison’s strength, Grant’s forces approached the scene over-confident from their easy victory at Fort Henry. Grant, McClernand, and Smith positioned their divisions around the fort. The next day McClernand and Smith launched probing attacks on what they figured were weak spots in the Confederate line, only to retreat with heavy losses. On February 14, Foote’s gunboats arrived and began bombarding the fort, only to be repulsed by the heavy guns at the fort. Foote himself was wounded. Thus far it was a victory for the Confederates, but soon Union reinforcements arrived, giving Grant a total force of over 40,000 men. When Foote regained control of the river, Grant resumed his attack, but a standoff remained. That evening Confederate commander Floyd called a council of war, unsure of his next action. Grant received a dispatch from Foote, requesting that they meet. Grant mounted a horse and rode seven miles over freezing roads and trenches, reaching Smith’s division, instructing him to prepare for the next assault, and rode on and met up with McClernand and Wallace. After exchanging reports he met up with Foote. After they conferred, Foote resumed his bombardment, which signaled the other generals to resume the attack. After a day of battle, Floyd submitted to Grant’s demand for “unconditional and immediate surrender”, and struck his flag. Grant telegraphed Halleck, informing him that Fort Donelson had fallen.
Grant had won the first major victory for the Union, capturing Floyd’s entire rebel army of more than 12,000. Halleck was nevertheless angry that Grant had acted without his authorization and complained to McClellan, accusing Grant of “neglect and inefficiency”. On March 3, Halleck sent a telegram to Washington complaining that he had no communication with Grant for a week. Three days later, Halleck followed up with a postscript claiming “word has just reached me that…Grant has resumed his bad habits (of drinking)”. Lincoln, regardless, promoted Grant to major general of volunteers while the Northern press treated Grant as a hero. Playing off his initials, they took to calling him “Unconditional Surrender Grant”.
Shiloh and aftermath
As the great numbers of troops from the North and South gathered, it was widely assumed in the North that this would be the battle to end the war. Grant, reinstated by Halleck at Lincoln’s and Stanton’s urging, left Fort Henry and traveled by boat up the Tennessee River to rejoin his army with orders to advance with the Army of the Tennessee into Tennessee. Grant’s main Union army was located at Pittsburg Landing, while the Confederates, with 40,000 troops, converged at Corinth. Brigadier General William Tecumseh Sherman assured Grant that his green troops were ready for an attack. Grant agreed and wired Halleck with their assessment. Grant, whose forces numbered 45,000 troops, wanted to attack the Confederates at Corinth, but Halleck ordered him not to attack until Major General Don Carlos Buell arrived with his division of 25,000 troops. Buell marched his troops 140 miles overland delaying his arrival. Meanwhile, Grant prepared for an attack on the Confederate army of roughly equal strength. Instead of preparing defensive fortifications between the Tennessee River and Owl Creek, and clearing fields of fire, they spent most of their time drilling the largely inexperienced troops while Sherman several times dismissed reports of nearby Confederates.
Union inaction gave an opportunity for the Confederate Army to initiate a preemptive attack before Buell arrived. On the morning of April 6, 1862, Grant’s troops were taken by surprise when the Confederates, led by Generals Albert Sidney Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard, struck first “like an Alpine avalanche” near Shiloh church, attacking five divisions of Grant’s army and forcing a confused retreat toward the Tennessee River. Johnston was wounded and died during the engagement and command fell upon Beauregard. One Union line, called the Hornet’s Nest, held the Confederate attack off for several hours, giving Grant time to assemble a seventy-gun artillery line and 20,000 troops near Pittsburg Landing. The Confederates finally broke through the Hornets Nest, capturing a Union division, but Grant’s Last Line held Pittsburg Landing, while the exhausted Confederates, who lacked reinforcements, halted their advance. That evening heavy rain set in while Grant and his staff took cover and huddled around a fire. When asked by McPherson if he was going to retreat, Grant replied, “Retreat? No. I propose to attack them at daylight and whip them.”
Bolstered by 18,000 fresh troops from the divisions of Major Generals Buell and Lew Wallace, Grant counterattacked at dawn the next day, and regained the field, forcing the disorganized and demoralized rebels into a retreat back to Corinth, while thousands deserted. Halleck ordered Grant not to advance more than one day from Pittsburg Landing, in essence, stopping the pursuit of the Confederate Army. Although Grant had won the battle, the situation had not changed much, with the Union in possession of the Pittsburg Landing area and the Confederates once again held up in Corinth. Grant, now realizing that the South was determined to fight and that the war would not be won with one battle, would later write, “Then, indeed, I gave up all idea of saving the Union except by complete conquest.”
Briefly hailed a hero for routing the Confederates, Grant was soon deeply mired in controversy in Shiloh’s aftermath. The Midwest and Northern press castigated Grant for shockingly high casualties, and accused Grant of drunkenness during the battle, contrary to numerous accounts of officers and others that were with him during this time.
Shiloh was the costliest battle in American history to that point and the staggering 23,746 total casualties stunned the nation. However, Grant’s victory at Shiloh ended any chance for the Confederates to prevail in the Mississippi valley or regain its strategic advantage in the West. Overwhelmed by the numbers, Grant ordered the immediate burial of both Union and Confederate dead, denying Beauregard’s request to tend to the Confederate dead.
Halleck arrived from Saint Louis on April 11, took command, and assembled a combined army of about 120,000 men. On April 29, he relieved Grant of field command and replaced him with Major General George Thomas. A cautious Halleck slowly marched his army to take Corinth.. Meanwhile Beauregard pretended to be reinforcing, sent “deserters” to the Union Army with that story, and moved his army out during the night, much to Halleck’s surprise when he finally arrived at Corinth on May 30. Discouraged, Grant considered resigning but Sherman convinced him to stay. At the White House, Lincoln dismissed Grant’s critics, saying “I can’t spare this man; he fights.” Halleck disbanded his combined army and reinstated Grant as field commander of the Army of the Tennessee on July 11.
On September 19, Grant’s army defeated Confederates at the Battle of Iuka, then successfully defended Corinth, inflicting heavy casualties. On October 25, Grant assumed command of the District of the Tennessee. In November, after Lincoln’s preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, Grant ordered units under his command to incorporate slaves into the Union, giving them clothes, shelter and wages for their services.
The Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg, Mississippi blocked the way for complete Union control of the Mississippi River, making its capture vital for the Union War effort. Grant’s Army held western Tennessee with almost 40,000 troops available to fight. Grant was aggravated to learn that Lincoln authorized McClernand to raise a separate army for the purpose. Halleck ordered McClernand to Memphis, and placed him and his troops under Grant’s authority. After Grant’s army captured Holly Springs Grant planned to attack Vicksburg’s front overland while Sherman would attack the fortress from the rear on the Mississippi River. However, Confederate cavalry raids on December 11 and 20 broke Union communications and recaptured Holly Springs, preventing Grant’s and Sherman’s armies from connecting. On December 29, a Confederate army led by Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton repulsed Sherman’s direct approach ascending the bluffs to Vicksburg at Chickasaw Bayou. McClernand reached Sherman’s army, assumed command, and independently of Grant led a campaign that captured Confederate Fort Hindman. During this time Grant incorporated fleeing African American slaves into the Union Army giving them protection and paid employment.
Along with his military responsibilities in the months following Grant’s return to command, he was concerned over an expanding illicit cotton trade in his district. He believed the trade undermined the Union war effort, funded the Confederacy, and prolonged the war, while Union soldiers died in the fields. On December 17, he issued General Order No. 11, expelling “Jews, as a class,” from the district, saying that Jewish merchants were violating trade regulations. Writing in 2012, historian Jonathan D. Sarna said Grant “issued the most notorious anti-Jewish official order in American history.” Historians’ opinions vary on Grant’s motives for issuing the order. Jewish leaders complained to Lincoln while the Northern press criticized Grant. Lincoln demanded the order be revoked and Grant rescinded it within three weeks. When interviewed years after the war, in response to accusations of his General Order being anti-Jewish, Grant explained: “During war times these nice distinctions were disregarded, we had no time to handle things with kid gloves.”
On January 29, 1863, Grant assumed overall command and attempted to advance his army through water-logged terrain to bypass Vicksburg’s guns; which was ineffective. In the process, however, the green Union soldiers were gaining experience. On April 16, Grant ordered Admiral David Dixon Porter‘s gunboats south under fire from the Vicksburg batteries to meet up with his troops who had marched south down the west side of the Mississippi River. Grant ordered diversionary battles, confusing Pemberton and allowing Grant’s army to move east across the Mississippi, landing troops at Bruinsburg. Grant’s army captured Jackson, the state capital. Advancing his army to Vicksburg, Grant defeated Pemberton’s army at the Battle of Champion Hill on May 16, forcing their retreat into Vicksburg. After Grant’s men assaulted the entrenchments twice, suffering severe losses, they settled in for a siege lasting seven weeks. During quiet periods of the campaign Grant would take to drinking on occasion. Pemberton surrendered Vicksburg to Grant on July 4, 1863.
Vicksburg’s fall gave Union forces control of the Mississippi River and split the Confederacy. By that time, Grant’s political sympathies fully coincided with the Radical Republicans‘ aggressive prosecution of the war and emancipation of the slaves. The success at Vicksburg was a morale boost for the Union war effort. The personal rivalry between McClernand and Grant continued after Vicksburg until Grant removed McClernand from command when he contravened Grant by publishing an order without permission. When Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton suggested Grant be brought back east to run the Army of the Potomac, Grant demurred, writing that he knew the geography and resources of the West better and he did not want to upset the chain of command in the East.
Lincoln promoted Grant to major general in the regular army and assigned him command of the newly formed Division of the Mississippi on October 16, 1863, including the Armies of the Ohio, Tennessee, and Cumberland. After the Battle of Chickamauga, the Army of the Cumberland retreated into Chattanooga, where they were trapped. When informed of the situation, Grant put Major General George H. Thomas in charge of the rescue. Taking command, Grant arrived in Chattanooga by horseback, with plans to resupply the city and break the siege. Lincoln also sent Major General Joseph Hooker and two divisions of the Army of the Potomac to assist. Union forces captured Brown’s Ferry and opened a supply line to Bridgeport. On November 23, Grant organized three armies to attack at Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain. Two days later, Hooker’s forces took Lookout Mountain. Grant ordered Thomas and the Army of the Cumberland to advance when Sherman’s army failed to take Missionary Ridge from the northeast. The Army of the Cumberland, led by Major General Philip Sheridan and Brigadier General Thomas J. Wood, charged uphill and captured the Confederate entrenchments at the top, forcing the rebels into retreat. The decisive battle gave the Union control of Tennessee and opened Georgia, the Confederate heartland, to Union invasion.
Promotion, popularity, and master plan
On March 2, 1864, Lincoln promoted Grant to lieutenant general, giving him command of all Union Armies, answering only to the President. Grant assigned Sherman the Division of the Mississippi and traveled to Washington to meet with Lincoln to devise a strategy of total war against the Confederacy. Grant established his headquarters with General George Meade‘s Army of the Potomac in Culpeper, Virginia. Grant developed an overall master plan of five coordinated Union offensives, attacking the rebel armies at the same time to keep the Confederates from shifting reinforcements within their interior lines. Sherman was to pursue Joseph E. Johnston‘s Army of Tennessee, while Meade would lead the Army of the Potomac, with Grant in the field, to attack and destroy Robert E. Lee‘s Army of Northern Virginia. Major General Benjamin Butler was to advance towards Richmond from the south, up the James River, while a joint army-navy operation was to be launched against Mobile, Alabama. If Lee was forced south as expected, Grant would join forces with Butler’s armies and be fed supplies from the James. Major General Franz Sigel was to capture the railroad line at Lynchburg, move east, and attack from the Blue Ridge Mountains.. Grant knew that Lee had limited manpower and that a war of attrition fought on a battlefield without entrenchments would lead to Lee’s defeat.
Grant was now riding a rising tide of popularity, and there was talk that a Union victory early in the year could lead to his candidacy for the presidency. He was aware of the rumors, but had ruled out a political candidacy; the possibility would soon vanish with delays on the battlefield.
The Overland Campaign was a series of battles fought in Virginia during May and June 1864. Sigel’s and Butler’s efforts sputtered, and Grant was left alone to fight Lee. Grant crossed the Rapidan River on May 4, attacking Lee in the Battle of the Wilderness, a three-day battle with many casualties. Rather than retreat as his predecessors had done, Grant flanked Lee’s army to the southeast and attempted to wedge his forces between Lee and Richmond at Spotsylvania Court House. Lee’s army got to Spotsylvania first and a costly battle ensued, lasting thirteen days. Grant attempted to break through Lee’s defenses, resulting in one of the bloodiest assaults of the Civil War, known as the Battle of the Bloody Angle. Unable to break Lee’s lines, Grant again flanked the rebels to the southeast, meeting at North Anna, where a battle lasted three days.
The Confederates had the defensive advantage, and Grant maneuvered his army to Cold Harbor, a vital railroad hub that linked to Richmond, but Lee’s men were again able to entrench against the Union assault. During the third day of the thirteen-day battle, Grant led a costly assault. As casualty reports became known in the North, heavy criticism fell on Grant, who was castigated as “the Butcher” by the Northern press after taking 52,788 casualties in the thirty days since crossing the Rapidan; Lee’s army suffered 32,907 casualties, but he was less able to replace them. The Union assault at Cold Harbor was the second of two battles in the war that Grant later said he regretted (the other being his initial assault on Vicksburg). Undetected by Lee, Grant pulled out of Cold Harbor and moved his army south of the James River, freed Butler from the Bermuda Hundred (where the rebels had surrounded his army), and advanced toward Petersburg, Virginia’s central railroad hub.
After crossing the James, Grant arrived at Petersburg, threatening nearby Richmond. Beauregard defended the city, and Lee’s veteran reinforcements soon arrived, resulting in a nine-month siege. Northern resentment grew as the war dragged on, but Lee was forced to defend Richmond, unable to reinforce other Confederate forces. Sheridan was assigned command of the Union Army of the Shenandoah and Grant directed him to “follow the enemy to their death” and to destroy vital Confederate supplies in the Shenandoah Valley. When Sheridan reported suffering attacks by John S. Mosby‘s irregular Confederate cavalry, Grant recommended rounding up their families for imprisonment as hostages at Fort McHenry.
At Petersburg, Grant approved a plan to blow up part of the enemy trenches from an underground tunnel. The explosion created a crater, into which poorly led Union troops poured. Recovering from the surprise, Confederates surrounded the crater and easily picked off Union troops within it. The Union’s 3500 casualties outnumbered the Confederates’ by three-to-one; although the plan could have been successful if implemented correctly, Grant admitted the tactic had been a “stupendous failure”. Rather than fight Lee in a full frontal attack as he had done at Cold Harbor, Grant continued to extend Lee’s defenses south and west of Petersburg to capture essential railroad links.
After the Federal army rebuilt the City Point Railroad, Grant used mortars to attack Lee’s overstretched forces. In August, Union forces captured Mobile Bay and on September 2, Sherman captured Atlanta while Confederate forces retreated. Both victories, combined with Sheridan’s triumph in the Shenandoah Valley, ensured Lincoln’s reelection in November. Sherman convinced Grant and Lincoln to send his army to march on Savannah and devastate the Confederate heartland. Sherman cut a 60-mile path of destruction of Southern infrastructure unopposed, reached the Atlantic Ocean, and captured Savannah on December 22. On December 16, after much prodding by Grant, the Union Army under Thomas smashed Hood’s Confederate Army at Nashville. It was the beginning of the end for the Confederacy, with Lee’s forces at Petersburg being the only significant obstacle remaining.
Appomattox and victory
By March 1865, Grant had severely weakened Lee’s strength, having extended his lines to 35 miles. Lee’s troops deserted by the thousands due to hunger and the strains of trench warfare. Grant, Sherman, Porter, and Lincoln held a conference to discuss the surrender of Confederate armies and Reconstruction of the South on March 28. On April 2, Union troops took Petersburg and captured an evacuated Richmond the following day. Lee attempted to link up with the remnants of Joseph E. Johnston‘s defeated army, but Sheridan’s cavalry stopped the two armies from converging, cutting them off from their supply trains. Grant and Lee were in communication before he entrusted his aid Orville Babcock to carry his last dispatch to Lee with instructions to escort him to a meeting place of Lee’s choosing. On April 9, Grant and Lee met at Appomattox Court House, Grant extending his hand to Lee. Upon receiving Lee’s dispatch about the proposed meeting Grant was jubilant, but as to the actual meeting Grant later wrote in his memoirs that Lee was “a man of much dignity” and that he felt sad over “the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly…” After briefly discussing their days of old in Mexico, Grant wrote out the terms of surrender, whereupon Lee expressed satisfaction and accepted Grant’s terms. Going beyond his military authority, Grant gave Lee and his men amnesty; Confederates would surrender their weapons and return to their homes. At Lee’s request, Grant also allowed them to keep their horses, all on the condition that they would not take up arms against the United States. Grant ordered his troops to stop all celebration, saying the “war is over; the rebels are our countrymen again.” On April 26, Johnson’s army surrendered to Sherman under the same terms Grant offered to Lee. On May 26, Kirby Smith’s western army surrendered and the Civil War ended.
On April 14, five days after Grant’s victory at Appomattox, he attended a cabinet meeting in Washington. Lincoln invited him and his wife to Ford’s Theater, but they declined as they had plans to travel to Philadelphia. In a conspiracy that targeted several government leaders, Lincoln was fatally shot by John Wilkes Booth at the theater, and died the next morning. Many, including Grant himself, thought that he had been a target in the plot. Stanton notified him of the President’s death and summoned him back to Washington. Attending Lincoln’s funeral on April 19, Grant stood alone and wept openly; he later said Lincoln was “the greatest man I have ever known.” Regarding the new President, Andrew Johnson, Grant told Julia that he dreaded the change in administrations; he judged Johnson’s attitude toward white southerners as one that would “make them unwilling citizens”, and initially thought that with President Johnson, “Reconstruction has been set back no telling how far.”
At the war’s end, Grant remained commander of the army, with duties that included enforcement of Reconstruction in the former Confederate states and supervision of Indian wars on the western Plains. Grant secured a house for his family in Georgetown Heights in 1865, but instructed Elihu Washburne that for political purposes his legal residence remained in Galena, Illinois. That same year, Grant spoke at Cooper Union in New York, where the New York Times reported that “… the entranced and bewildered multitude trembled with extraordinary delight.” Further travels that summer took the Grants to Albany, New York, back to Galena, and throughout Illinois and Ohio, with enthusiastic receptions.
In November 1865, Johnson sent Grant on a fact-finding mission to the South. Grant recommended continuation of a reformed Freedmen’s Bureau, which Johnson opposed, but advised against the use of black troops in garrisons, which he believed encouraged an alternative to farm labor. Grant did not believe the people of the South were ready for self-rule, and that both whites and blacks in the South required protection by the federal government. Concerned four years of war led to a diminished respect for civil authorities, Grant concluded the Army should continue their presence to maintain order. He also warned of threats by disaffected poor people, black and white, and recommended that local decision-making be entrusted only to “thinking men of the South” (i.e., white men of property). In this respect, Grant’s opinion on Reconstruction aligned with Johnson’s policy of restoring former Confederates to their positions of power, arguing that Congress should allow representatives from the South to take their seats. Believing in Confederate amnesty, Grant pressed that former Confederates be reinlisted into the U.S. military. Grant personally intervened on behalf of Robert E. Lee, who had been federally indicted for treason along with other Confederate generals, keeping Lee safe from prosecution, saving the nation from opening up old war wounds. On July 25, 1866, Congress promoted Grant to the newly created rank of General of the Army of the United States.
Breach with Johnson
Johnson favored a lenient approach to Reconstruction, calling for an immediate return of the former Confederate states into the Union without any guarantee of African American civil rights. The Radical Republican-controlled Congress opposed the idea and refused to admit Congressmen from the former Confederate states. Over Johnson’s vetoes, Congress renewed the Freedmen’s Bureau and passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866. During the congressional election campaign later that year, Johnson took his case to the people in his “Swing Around the Circle” speaking tour. Johnson pressured Grant, by then the most popular man in the country, to go on the tour; Grant, wishing to appear loyal, agreed. Enthusiastic cheering for Grant interrupting Johnson’s speeches caused the relationship between Johnson and Grant to cool. Grant believed that Johnson was purposefully agitating conservative opinion to defy Congressional Reconstruction. Finding himself increasingly at odds with Johnson, Grant believed Johnson’s speeches were a “national disgrace”. Publicly, Grant attempted to appear loyal to the President while not alienating Republican legislators essential to his future political career. Concerned that Johnson’s differences with Congress would cause renewed insurrection, he ordered Southern arsenals to ship arms north to prevent their capture by Southern state governments.
Rejecting Johnson’s vision for quick reconciliation with former Confederates, Congress passed three Reconstruction Acts over Johnson’s vetoes, which divided the southern states into five military districts to protect the African Americans elected to political office and freedmen’s rights generally. Military governors were to lead transitional state governments in each district. Grant selected the generals and supported the new law. Grant hoped that Reconstruction Acts would help pacify the South. By complying with the Acts and instructing his subordinates to do likewise, Grant further alienated Johnson. When Sheridan removed public officials in Louisiana who impeded Reconstruction, Johnson was displeased and sought Sheridan’s removal; Grant recommended a rebuke, but not a dismissal. In 1867, Congress passed the third Reconstruction law, which gave Grant oversight over the enforcement of the Reconstruction Acts. The Army conducted new elections for constitutional conventions in the ex-Confederate states. They registered blacks to vote and in many places prevented from voting white men who had supported the Confederacy, as set out in the disenfranchisement clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Johnson wished to replace Secretary of War Stanton, a Lincoln appointee who sympathized with Congressional Reconstruction. To keep Grant under control as a potential political rival, Johnson asked him to take the post. Grant recommended against the move, in light of the Tenure of Office Act, which required Senate approval for cabinet removals. Johnson believed the Act did not apply to officers appointed by the previous president and forced the issue by making Grant an interim appointee on August 12, 1867, during a Senate recess. Grant agreed to accept the post temporarily, and Stanton vacated the office until the Senate reconvened.
When the Senate reinstated Stanton, Johnson told Grant to refuse to surrender the office and let the courts resolve the matter. Grant told Johnson in private that violating the Tenure of Office Act was a federal offense, which could result in a fine or imprisonment. Believing he had no other legal alternatives, Grant returned the office to Stanton on January 14, 1868. This incurred Johnson’s wrath; at a cabinet meeting immediately afterward, Johnson accused Grant of breaking his promise to remain Secretary of War. Grant disputed that he had ever made such a promise although cabinet members later testified he had done so. Newspapers friendly to Johnson published a series of articles to discredit Grant over returning the War Department to Stanton, stating that Grant had been deceptive in the matter. This public insult infuriated Grant, and he defended himself in an angry letter to Johnson, after which the two men were confirmed foes. When Grant’s statement became public, it increased his popularity among Radical Republicans and he emerged from the controversy unscathed. Although Grant favored Johnson’s impeachment, he took no active role in the impeachment proceedings, which were fueled in part by Johnson’s removal of Stanton. Johnson barely survived, and none of the other Republican leaders directly involved benefited politically in their unsuccessful attempt to remove the president.
Election of 1868
Grant was popular among the Radical Republicans following his abandonment of Johnson over the Secretary of War dispute. The Republicans chose Grant as their presidential candidate on the first ballot at the 1868 Republican National Convention in Chicago. Grant received all 650 votes from delegates, with no other candidate being nominated, and upon the announcement was welcomed with a “frenzied enthusiasm”.
In his letter of acceptance, Grant concluded with “Let us have peace”, which became his campaign slogan. For vice president, the delegates nominated House Speaker Schuyler Colfax. Grant’s 1862 General Order No. 11 became an issue during the presidential campaign; he sought to distance himself from the order, saying “I have no prejudice against sect or race, but want each individual to be judged by his own merit.” As President, Grant would atone for 1862’s expulsion of the Jews. Historian Jonathan Sarna argues that Grant became one of the greatest friends of Jews in American history, meeting with them often and appointing them to high office. He was the first president to condemn atrocities against Jews in Europe, thus putting human rights on the American diplomatic agenda. As was expected at the time, Grant returned to his home state and left the active campaigning to his campaign manager, William E. Chandler, and others. The Republican campaign focused on continuing Reconstruction and restoring the public credit.
The Democrats nominated former New York Governor Horatio Seymour. Their campaign focused mainly on ending Reconstruction and returning control of the South to the white planter class, which alienated many War Democrats in the North. The Democrats attacked Republicans’ support of African American rights, while deriding Grant, calling him captain of the “Black Marines”. Democratic orators over and over proclaimed Grant was a drunkard. Grant himself did not take to the stump, allowing Republican spokesmen to identify him with patriotism and with grief for Lincoln’s martyrdom.
Grant won the election by 300,000 votes out of 5,716,082 votes cast, receiving an electoral college landslide, of 214 votes to Seymour’s 80. Grant, at the age of 46 became the youngest president on record. His election was a triumph of principles that included sound money, efficient government, and the restoration of Southern reconstructed states. Grant was the first president elected after the nation had outlawed slavery and granted citizenship to former slaves. Implementation of these new rights was slow to come; in the 1868 election, the black vote counted in only 16 of the 37 states, nearly all in the South. Grant lost Louisiana and Georgia primarily due to Ku Klux Klan violence against African American voters.
On March 4, 1869, Grant was sworn in as the eighteenth President of the United States by Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase. His presidency began with a break from tradition, as Johnson did not attend Grant’s inauguration at the Capitol or ride with him as he departed the White House for the last time. Grant assumed the presidency with reluctance. In an 1869 letter to Sherman he wrote:
I have been forced into it in spite of myself. I could not back down without, as it seems to me, leaving the contest for power for the next four years between mere trading politicians, the elevation of whom, no matter which party won, would lose to us, largely, the results of the costly war which we have gone through.
In his inaugural address, Grant urged the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment and said he would approach Reconstruction “calmly, without prejudice, hate or sectional pride.” He also recommended the “proper treatment” of Native Americans be studied, advocating their civilization and eventual citizenship.
Grant’s unconventional cabinet choices sparked both disappointment and approval. In his effort to create national harmony, he purposely avoided choosing Republican Party leaders, selecting several non-politicians. Grant chose two close friends for important posts: Elihu B. Washburne for Secretary of State and John A. Rawlins as Secretary of War; Washburne was soon appointed minister to France and replaced by conservative New York statesman Hamilton Fish. Rawlins died in office after serving only a few months, replaced by William W. Belknap of Iowa. For Treasury, Grant appointed wealthy New York merchant Alexander T. Stewart, who was found ineligible and replaced by Representative George S. Boutwell, a Massachusetts Radical. Grant’s appointed Philadelphia businessman Adolph E. Borie Secretary of Navy, but Borie soon resigned, having no interest in the department, and he was replaced by a relative unknown, George M. Robeson of New Jersey. Other cabinet appointmentsJacob D. Cox (Interior), John Creswell (Postmaster General), and Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar (Attorney General)were well-received. Grant nominated Sherman his successor as general-in-chief and ordered Sherman be given control over War bureau chiefs and their departments. When Rawlins took over the War Department, he complained to Grant that Sherman was given too much authority. Grant reluctantly revoked his own order, upsetting Sherman and damaging their wartime friendship.
Grant also appointed four Justices to the Supreme Court: William Strong, Joseph P. Bradley, Ward Hunt and Chief Justice Morrison Waite. Hunt voted to uphold Reconstruction laws while Waite and Bradley did much to undermine them. To rectify his controversial General Order # 11 during the Civil War, Grant appointed Jewish leaders to office, including Simon Wolf recorder of deeds in Washington D.C., Edward S. Salomon Governor of the Washington Territory.
Later Reconstruction and civil rights
When Grant’s term began, Republicans controlled most Southern states. Professor Richard Scher states, “The Republican governments, the first of which did not appear until 1868, were propped up by the Republican-dominated federal government, northern Republican money, and the presence of an army of occupation.” Unlike Johnson, Grant’s vision of Reconstruction included federal enforcement of civil rights and spoke out against voter intimidation of Southern blacks. In his message to Congress in 1874, Grant wrote, “Treat the negro as a citizen and a voter, as he is and must remain, and soon parties will be divided, not on the color line, but on principle.” He lobbied Congress to pass the Fifteenth Amendment, guaranteeing that no state could prevent someone from voting based on race, and believed that its passage would secure freedmen’s rights. Grant asked Congress to admit representatives from the remaining unrepresented Southern states in conformity with Congressional Reconstruction; they did so, passing legislation providing that Mississippi, Virginia, and Texas would be represented in Congress after they ratified the Fifteenth Amendment. Grant pressured Congress to draw up legislation that would seat African American state legislators in Georgia, who had been ousted by white conservatives. Congress responded through legislation; the members were re-seated in the Georgia legislature, and Georgia was required to adopt the Fifteenth Amendment to regain representation in Congress. By July 1870, the remaining states were readmitted.
To bolster the new amendment, Grant relied on the army and signed legislation creating the Justice Department, primarily to enforce federal laws in the South. Where the attorney general had once been only a legal adviser to the president, he now led a cabinet department dedicated to enforcing federal law, including a solicitor general to argue on the government’s behalf in court. Under Grant’s first attorney general, Ebenezer R. Hoar, the administration was not especially aggressive in prosecuting white Southerners who terrorized their black neighbors, but Hoar’s successor, Amos T. Akerman, was more zealous.
Congress (with Grant’s encouragement) passed a series of laws, called the Enforcement Acts, from 1870 to 1871. The first was “a criminal code upon the subject of elections”, which outlawed discrimination by state officials on voters based on race, which made depriving African Americans their civil rights a federal offense. It also authorized the President to appoint supervisors over the election, and bring cases to federal court. But it left private criminal acts to be handled by state authorities. Alarmed by a rise in terror by the Ku Klux Klan and other groups against African Americans, Congress enacted a far more sweeping measure, the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which for the first time designated certain crimes as punishable under federal law.
In May 1871, Grant ordered federal troops to help marshals in arresting Klansmen. That October, Grant suspended habeas corpus in part of South Carolina and sent federal troops to enforce the law there. After prosecutions by Akerman and his replacement, George Henry Williams, the Klan’s power collapsed; by 1872, elections in the South saw African Americans voting in record numbers. That same year, Grant signed the Amnesty Act, which restored political rights to former Confederates. Lacking sufficient funding, the Justice Department stopped prosecutions of the Klan in June 1873; civil rights prosecutions continued throughout Grant’s second term but with fewer yearly cases and convictions. Additionally, Grant’s Postmaster General John Creswell, using his patronage powers, integrated the postal system and appointed African American postmasters across the nation.
After the Klan’s decline, a faction of southern conservatives called “Redeemers” formed armed groups, such as the Red Shirts and the White League who openly used violence and intimidation in an attempt to take control of state governments. The Panic of 1873 and the ensuing depression contributed to public fatigue, and the North grew less concerned with Reconstruction. Supreme Court rulings in the Slaughter-House Cases and United States v. Cruikshank restricted federal enforcement of civil rights. Grant began to limit the use of troops to avoid the impression that he was acting as a military dictator; he was also concerned that increased military pressure in the South might cause conservative whites in the North to bolt the Republican Party. In 1874, Grant ended the BrooksBaxter War bringing Reconstruction in Arkansas to a peaceful conclusion; that same year, he sent troops and warships under Major General William H. Emory to New Orleans in the wake of the Colfax Massacre and disputes over the election of Governor William Pitt Kellogg. Emory restored Kellogg to office and the following year the parties reached a compromise allowing Democrats to retain control of the Louisiana House. Grant recalled Sheridan and most of the federal troops from Louisiana.
By 1875, Redeemer Democrats took control of all but three Southern states. As violence against black Southerners escalated once more, Attorney General Edwards Pierrepont told Governor Adelbert Ames of Mississippi that the people were “tired of the autumnal outbreaks in the South”, and declined to intervene directly, instead, sending an emissary to negotiate a peaceful election. Grant told Congress in January 1875 he could not “see with indifference Union men or Republicans ostracized, persecuted, and murdered.” Congress refused to strengthen the laws against violence, but instead passed a sweeping law to guarantee blacks access to public facilities. Grant signed it as the Civil Rights Act of 1875, but enforcement was weak and the Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional in 1883. In October 1876, Grant dispatched troops to South Carolina to aid Republican Governor Daniel Henry Chamberlain. Grant’s successor, Hayes, abandoned the remaining three Republican governments in the South that were supported by the army after the Compromise of 1877, which marked the end of Reconstruction.
Indian peace policy
When Grant took office in 1869, the nation’s policy towards Indians was in chaos, with more than 250,000 Indians being governed by 370 treaties. Grant’s presidency marked a radical reform in Indian policy while he promised in his inaugural address to work toward “the proper treatment of the original occupants of this landthe Indians.” He appointed Ely S. Parker, a Seneca Indian, a member of his wartime staff, as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, the first Native American to serve in this position. With his familiarity of Indian life, Parker became the chief architect of Grant’s Peace Policy. Indian matters were given priority by Congress during Grant’s first months in office. In April, Grant signed a law establishing a Board of Indian Commissioners to oversee spending and reduce corruption in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In 1871, he signed a bill ending the Indian treaty system; the law now treated individual Native Americans as wards of the federal government, and no longer dealt with the tribes as sovereign entities. Grant believed that Indians, given opportunities for education and work, could serve alongside white men. His Peace Policy aimed to replace entrepreneurs serving as Indian agents with missionaries and aimed to protect Indians on reservations and educate them in farming. “My efforts in the future will be directed,” Grant said in his second inaugural address, “by a humane course, to bring the aborigines of the country under the benign influences of education and civilization … Wars of extermination … are demoralizing and wicked.” Grant’s Peace Policy was very humanitarian for its time but disregarded native cultures.
Grant’s policy had greater success in the Southwest. General Howard negotiated peace with the Apache in 1872, convincing their leader, Cochise, to move the tribe to a new reservation, and ending a war started the year before. In Oregon, relations were less peaceful, as war with the Modocs erupted in April 1873. The Modocs refused to move to a reservation and killed the local army commander, Major General Edward Canby. Grant ordered restraint after Canby’s death, disregarding Sherman’s advice to seek revenge or exterminate the tribe. The army captured, tried, and executed the four Modoc warriors responsible for Canby’s murder, and Grant ordered the rest of the Modoc tribe relocated to the Indian Territory.
In 1874, the army defeated the Comanche Indians at the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon. Their villages were burned and horses slaughtered, eventually forcing them to finally settle at the Fort Sill reservation in 1875. Grant pocket-vetoed a bill in 1874 protecting bison and supporting Interior Secretary Columbus Delano, who believed the killing of bison would force Plains Indians to abandon their nomadic lifestyle. The Plains tribes accepted the reservation system, but encounters with prospectors and settlers in search of gold in the Black Hills led to renewed war by the end of Grant’s second term, ending the understanding that had developed between Grant and Sioux Chief Red Cloud. Grant was determined to enforce the treaty using the army if necessary, but after summoning Sheridan to Washington he was reminded that the post-Civil War army was greatly undermanned and spread thin, and that the territory involved was vast, requiring great numbers of soldiers to effectively enforce the treaty. As a result, the treaty was never enforced.
Grant’s peace policy was strained again in 1876 with the continued conflicts with the Plains Indians, leading to the killing of millions of buffalo needed for food and tribal religions. During the Great Sioux War, Sioux warriors led by Crazy Horse killed George Armstrong Custer and his men at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, the army’s most famous defeat in the Indian wars. Later, Grant castigated Custer in the press, saying “I regard Custer’s massacre as a sacrifice of troops, brought on by Custer himself, that was wholly unnecessary wholly unnecessary.” In spite of Grant’s efforts, over 200 battles were fought with the Indians during his presidency.
The most pressing foreign policy concerns when Grant took office were resolving the Alabama claims against Great Britain and whether to recognize Cuban belligerency. The dispute with the United Kingdom stemmed from a complex of grievances centering on attacks on American shipping during the Civil War by the CSS Alabama, a Confederate warship constructed in England. Senator Charles Sumner, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, believed the British had violated American neutrality and demanded reparations. Sumner convinced his fellow Senators to reject the Johnson administration’s proposed settlement, believing that Britain should directly pay $2 billion in gold or, alternatively, cede Canada to the United States. Fish and Boutwell convinced Grant that peaceful relations with Britain were more important than acquisition of territory, and the two nations agreed to negotiate along those lines. To avoid jeopardizing negotiations, Grant refrained from recognizing Cuban rebels who were fighting for independence from Spain, which would have been inconsistent with American objections to the British granting belligerent status to Confederates. A commission in Washington produced a treaty whereby an international tribunal would settle the damage amounts; the British admitted regret, but not fault. The Senate approved the Treaty of Washington, which also settled disputes over fishing rights and maritime boundaries, by a 5012 vote in 1871.
Grant’s success with Britain was undermined by his attempt to annex the Dominican Republic, an independent nation unable to pay its debt. Many Americans believed a Caribbean naval base would establish naval dominance and be useful in protecting shipping from piracy in a potential isthmian canal. Anti-imperialist Republicans had previously rejected a Johnson administration treaty to establish a Samaná Bay naval base. Grant took interest in Dominican annexation and sent his secretary, Orville E. Babcock, there to consult with Buenaventura Báez, the pro-annexation Dominican president. Babcock returned in September 1869 with a draft treaty of annexation, although Fish had not given him any diplomatic authority. Given such authority by Fish, Babcock visited the island nation a second time making a treaty for Dominican annexation and the lease of Samaná Bay. The cabinet discussed the treaties at a meeting on December 21. Fish dismissed annexation, seeing the island as politically unstable. Grant supported it, believing acquisition of the majority-black nation would increase commerce, create a refuge for African Americans, and help to exploit the island’s natural resources. He lobbied Sumner in hopes of influencing him to help with passage of the treaties. Fish added to the effort out of loyalty to Grant, but to no avail; Sumner was set against annexation and on June 30, 1870, the Senate rejected the treaties. A congressional investigation headed by Senator Carl Schurz revealed speculators had promoted the treaties’ passage. Unwilling to admit defeat, Grant convinced Congress to send a commission to investigate. Although the commission approved Grant’s call for annexation in its findings, the Senate remained opposed and Grant was forced to abandon further efforts. Grant retaliated by firing Sumner’s friend and Minister to Great Britain, John Lothrop Motley, while he pressured the Senate to depose Sumner of his chairmanship.
In October 1873, Grant’s neutrality policy was shaken, when a Spanish cruiser captured a merchant ship, Virginius, flying the U.S. flag, carrying war materials and men to aid the Cuban insurrection. Spanish authorities executed the prisoners, including eight American citizens, and many Americans called for war with Spain. Grant ordered the Navy to increase its presence in the Caribbean. Fish, with Grant’s support, worked to reach a peaceful resolution. Spain’s president, Emilio Castelar y Ripoll, expressed regret for the tragedy, surrendered the Virginius and paid a cash indemnity of $80,000 to the families of the executed Americans. Realizing the Navy was susceptible to European naval powers, in June 1874, Secretary Robeson commissioned the reconstruction of five redesigned double-turreted monitor warships.
The administration’s diplomacy was also at work in the Pacific. In December 1874, Grant held a state dinner at the White House for the King of Hawaii, David Kalakaua, who was seeking duty-free sugar importation to the US. Grant and Fish secured a free trade treaty in 1875 with the Kingdom of Hawaii, incorporating the Pacific islands’ sugar industry into the United States’ economic sphere.
Gold standard and the Gold Ring
Soon after taking office, Grant took steps to return the nation’s currency to a more secure footing. During the Civil War, Congress had authorized the Treasury to issue banknotes that, unlike the rest of the currency, were not backed by gold or silver. The “greenback” notes, as they were known, were necessary to pay the unprecedented war debts, but they also caused inflation and forced gold-backed money out of circulation; Grant determined to return the national economy to pre-war monetary standards. On March 18, Grant signed into law the Public Credit Act of 1869 that guaranteed bondholders would be repaid in “coin or its equivalent”; while greenbacks would gradually be redeemed by the Treasury and replaced by notes backed by specie, the act committed the government to full return of the gold standard within ten years. To strengthen the dollar, Treasury Secretary George S. Boutwell, backed by Grant, sold gold from the Treasury bi-weekly and bought back high-interest Treasury bonds issued during the war; this had the effect of reducing the deficit, but deflating the currency. By September 1, Boutwell had reduced the national debt by $50 million.
The efforts undertook to control the gold market and help the national economy set the stage for a major financial scandal.Jay Gould, a Wall Street trader and railroad magnate, and financier Jim Fisk, seeking to drive up the gold price, enlisted the help of another speculator Abel Corbin, Grant’s brother-in-law, who used his connection with the president to get inside information (the collaborators were later known as the “Gold Ring.”) Corbin convinced Grant to appoint a Gould associate, Daniel Butterfield, as Assistant Treasurer, where he could gather information for the Ring. Meanwhile, Gould and Fisk quietly stockpiled gold. Gould convinced Corbin that a high gold price would be good for the nation’s prosperity, and Corbin passed this theory on to Grant, who allowed the Treasury to act accordingly. After consulting in early September with Alexander Stewart (his erstwhile nominee for Treasury Secretary), Grant stopped the sale of gold, believing a higher gold price would help Western farmers.
By mid-September, Grant warned Boutwell to be on his guard as the gold price continued to rise, while the conspirators bought ever more and the rising price affected the wider economy. Grant, seeing that the increase was unnatural, told Boutwell to sell gold, which reduced its price. Boutwell did so the next day, on September 24, 1869, later known as Black Friday. The sale of gold from the Treasury defeated Gould’s scheme as the gold price plummeted, relieving the economic tension. Many brokerage firms collapsed while trade volume and agriculture prices plummeted, causing a mild recession, but by January 1870, the economy resumed its post-war recovery. Gould and Fisk managed to escape without much harm to themselves. A Congressional investigation followed, chaired by James A. Garfield and cleared Grant of wrongdoing, but excoriated Gould and Fisk for their manipulation of the gold market and Corbin for exploiting his personal connection to Grant.
Election of 1872 and second term
Despite his administration’s scandals, Grant continued to be personally popular. His reelection was supported by Frederick Douglas and other prominent abolitionists along with reformers of the Indian question. A growing number of political reformers, however, were disappointed by the Gold Ring, Grant’s support of Reconstruction, and corruption in the New York Customs House. To placate them, Grant created a Civil Service Commission authorized by Congress in 1871. The Commission, chaired by reformer George William Curtis, proposed reformist rules and regulations, which Grant implemented by executive order in April 1872, Congress appropriating funds in May. Congress stopped funding the Commission in December 1875, having refused to pass legislation to implement its recommendations. There was further intraparty division between the faction most concerned with the plight of the freedmen, and the faction concerned with the growth of industry and small government. During the war, both factions’ interests had aligned, and in 1868 both had supported Grant. As the wartime coalition began to fray, Grant’s alignment with the party’s pro-Reconstruction elements alienated party leaders who favored an end to federal intervention in Southern racial issues.
Many of that faction split from the party in 1872, calling themselves the Liberal Republican Party. Led by Charles Francis Adams of Massachusetts and Senator Carl Schurz of Missouri, they denounced the patronage system that Sumner, a Liberal Republican sympathizer, called “Grantism“; opposed a strong federal government; and demanded amnesty for Confederate soldiers. The Liberal Republicans distrusted black suffrage and demanded literacy tests for voting while opposing federal enforcement of equal voting rights in the South. They nominated Horace Greeley, a leading Republican newspaper editor and a fierce enemy of Grant. Democrats, seeking to benefit from anti-Grant sentiment, nominated Greeley as well. The opposition recycled the old themes that Grant was a scandal-ridden crook, a drunkard, an ignoramus, a dictator, and utterly depraved. The regular Republican Party nominated Grant for reelection, with Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts replacing Colfax as vice-presidential nominee. Wilson, viewed as a practical reformer and civil rights advocate, was meant to strengthen the Republican ticket, but the Crédit Mobilier scandal involving a railroad company that bribed many Congressmen ensnared both Colfax and Wilson, but not Grant. To the Liberals’ chagrin, Greeley made Grant’s Southern policy, rather than reform, the main campaign issue. The fusion effort failed and Grant was easily reelected. Liberal Republicans were unable to deliver many votes, and Greeley was only successful in areas the Democrats would have carried without him. A strong economy, debt reduction, lowered tariffs, repeal of the income tax, and civil service reforms helped Grant defeat Greeley. Grant won 56 percent of the popular vote and an Electoral College landslide of 286 to 66. A majority of African Americans in the South voted for Grant, while Democratic opposition remained mostly peaceful. Grant lost in six former slave states that wanted to see an end to Reconstruction.
Grant was sworn in for his second term by Salmon P. Chase on March 4, 1873. In his second inaugural address, he reiterated the problems still facing the nation and focused on what he considered the chief issues of the day: Freedom and fairness for all Americans while emphasizing the benefits of citizenship for freed slaves. He also urged that the American Indian be “made a useful and productive member of society.” Grant concluded his address with the words, “My efforts in the future will be directed towards the restoration of good feelings between the different sections of our common community”. In May of that year Wilson suffered a stroke; never fully recovering, he died in office on November 22, 1875. With Wilson’s loss, Grant relied on Fish’s guidance more than ever.
Panic of 1873 and loss of Congress
Grant continued to work for a strong dollar, signing into law the Coinage Act of 1873, which effectively ended the legal basis for bimetallism (the use of both silver and gold as money), establishing the gold standard in practice. The Coinage Act discontinued the standard silver dollar and established the gold dollar as the sole monetary standard; the result was deflation. Silverites who wanted more money in circulation to raise prices farmers received denounced the move as the “Crime of 1873”, claiming the deflation made debts more burdensome for farmers.
Grant’s second term saw renewed economic turmoil. In September 1873, Jay Cooke & Company, a New York brokerage house, collapsed after it failed to sell all of the bonds issued by Jay Cooke‘s Northern Pacific Railway. The collapse rippled through Wall Street, and other banks and brokerages that owned railroad stocks and bonds were also ruined. On September 20, the New York Stock Exchange suspended trading for ten days. Grant, who knew little about finance, traveled to New York to consult leading businessmen and bankers for advice on how to resolve the crisis, which became known as the Panic of 1873. Grant believed that, as with the collapse of the Gold Ring in 1869, the panic was merely an economic fluctuation that affected bankers and brokers. He instructed the Treasury to buy $10 million in government bonds, injecting cash into the system. The purchases curbed the panic on Wall Street but an industrial depression, later called the Long Depression, nonetheless swept the nation. Many of the nation’s railroads89 out of 364went bankrupt.
Congress hoped inflation would stimulate the economy and passed what became known as the “Inflation Bill” in 1874. Many farmers and workingmen favored the bill, which would have added $64 million in greenbacks to circulation, but some Eastern bankers opposed it because it would have weakened the dollar. Belknap, Williams, and Delano told Grant a veto would hurt Republicans in the November elections. Grant believed the bill would destroy the credit of the nation, and he vetoed it despite their objections. Grant’s veto placed him in the conservative faction of the Republican Party and was the beginning of the party’s commitment to a strong gold-backed dollar. Grant later pressured Congress for a bill to further strengthen the dollar by gradually reducing the number of greenbacks in circulation. When the Democrats gained a majority in the House after the 1874 elections, the lame-duck Republican Congress did so before the Democrats took office. On January 14, 1875, Grant signed the Specie Payment Resumption Act into law, which required gradual reduction of the number of greenbacks allowed to circulate and declared that specie payment (i.e., in gold or silver) would resume in 1879.
Gilded Age corruption and reform
Grant was president during the Gilded Age, a time of massive industrial wealth, railroad speculation, and extravagance that fueled unethical behavior and influence in government offices. As a result, his administration faced charges of financial misconduct more than any 19th-century president. Grant’s trusting nature often mislead him to stubbornly remain loyal to his corrupt cabinet members or appointees. He often saw their prosecutions as unjust and shielded them from attack even at the cost of his own reputation, unless evidence of personal misconduct was overwhelming. No person linked any of the scandals together, except possibly Grant’s personal secretary, Orville E. Babcock, who indirectly controlled many cabinet departments and delayed federal investigations. Grant’s personal reputation remained untarnished, but historians debate how effective he was at halting corruption.
In November 1871, New York Collector and a member of New York Senator Roscoe Conkling‘s political machine, was forced to resign. Murphy, a Grant appointee, had become embroiled in a dispute with another faction of the Republican party over the jobs at his disposal and was investigated by Congress for mismanagement and corruption in office. In December, Grant appointed Chester A. Arthur, another Conkling man, to replace Murphy, and administration of the Customs House steadily improved. On March 3, 1873, Grant signed into law a congressional and presidential salary increase. The unpopular Salary Grab Act was repealed in December, although Grant was allowed to keep his pay raise.
The scandals escalated during Grant’s second term, even reaching into Grant’s inner circle. In 1874, a congressional investigation exposed corruption in the Treasury Department, known as the Sanborn incident. Previously, acting Treasury Secretary William Adams Richardson, hired John B. Sanborn as an independent tax collector on a 50 percent commission basis, known as a moiety. Richardson became Secretary of Treasury in March 1873. Sanborn was given virtual control of the Treasury, and he used excessive intrusive methods of obtaining taxes An 1874 congressional investigation exposed Sanborn‘s malicious profiteering and condemned Richardson for allowing Sanborn to abuse the law but did not attempt impeachment. Richardson resigned when the House motioned his censure and Grant appointed him judge of the Court of Claims. In June 1874, Grant signed the Anti-Moiety Act, abolishing that system.
Grant replaced Richardson as Treasury Secretary with Benjamin H. Bristow, a man known for his honesty, who began a series of reforms in the department, including tightening up the detective force. Discovering that millions of gallons of whiskey escaped taxation, and having Grant’s endorsement to act (“Let no guilty man escape”), Bristow in May 1875 struck at the Whiskey Ring. He ordered federal marshals to seize 32 installations and arrest 350 men; Bristow obtained 176 indictments that led to 110 convictions, and restored $3,150,000 to the Treasury. When Bristow’s investigation implicated Babcock as part of the Whiskey Ring, Grant became defensive. In 1876, a jury acquitted Babcock at a trial influenced by Grant’s deposition in Babcock’s favor. After the trial, Grant dismissed Babcock from the White House. Grant freed some Ring members after a few months in prison, including Ring founder John McDonald after 17 months in jail.
Grant’s Civil Service Commission had limited success. Some cabinet members implemented a merit system that increased the number of qualified candidates and relied less on Congressional patronage. Delano, however, exempted his department from competitive examinations, and Congress refused to enact permanent Civil Service reform.Zachariah Chandler, who succeeded Delano in 1875, reformed the Interior Department and fired corrupt clerks in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The same year, Grant fired Attorney General George Henry Williams after his wife was discovered to be involved in a bribery scandal, and appointed reformer Edwards Pierrepont in his place. Grant suggested other reforms as well, including a proposal that states should offer free public schooling to all children; he also endorsed the Blaine Amendment, which would have forbidden government aid to schools with religious affiliations.
When the Democrats took control of the House in 1875, they launched a series of investigations into corruption in federal departments. The most damaging of these involved Secretary of War William W. Belknap taking quarterly kickbacks from the Fort Sill tradership, which led to his resignation in February 1876. Belknap was impeached and tried by the Senate that summer, but was not convicted. Congress also investigated and reprimanded Navy Secretary Robeson in July 1876 for bribery. In November 1876, Grant apologized to the nation and admitted mistakes in his administration, saying, “ailures have been errors of judgement, not of intent.”
Election of 1876
Even as Grant drew cheers at the opening of the Centennial Exposition in May 1876, the collected scandals of his presidency, the country’s weak economy, and the Democratic gains in the House led many in the Republican party to repudiate him in June. Bristow was among the leading candidates to replace him, suggesting that a large faction desired an end to “Grantism” and feared that Grant would run for a third term. Ultimately, Grant declined to run, but Bristow also failed to capture the nomination, as the convention settled on Governor Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio, a reformer. The Democrats nominated Governor Samuel J. Tilden of New York. Voting irregularities in three Southern states caused the election that year to remain undecided for several months. Grant told Congress to settle the matter through legislation and assured both sides that he would not use the army to force a result, except to curb violence. On January 29, 1877, he signed legislation forming an Electoral Commission to decide the matter. The Commission ruled that the disputed votes belonged to Hayes; to forestall Democratic protests, Republicans agreed to the Compromise of 1877, in which the last troops were withdrawn from Southern capitals. The Republicans had won, but Reconstruction was over. According to biographer Jean Edward Smith, “Grant’s calm visage in the White House reassured the nation.”
|The Grant Cabinet|
|President||Vice President||Henry Wilson||1873-1875|
|Secretary of State||Hamilton Fish||1869-1877|
|Secretary of Treasury||William A. Richardson||1873-1874|
|Lot M. Morrill||1876-1877|
|Secretary of War||1869|
|William W. Belknap||1869-1876|
|J. Donald Cameron||1876-1877|
|Attorney General||Amos T. Akerman||1870-1871|
|Postmaster General||James W. Marshall||1874|
|James N. Tyner||1876-1877|
|Secretary of the Navy||George M. Robeson||1869-1877|
|Secretary of the Interior||Columbus Delano||1870-1875|
World tour and diplomacy
After leaving the White House, Grant and his family stayed with Fish in New York for two months before setting out on a world tour. Preparing for the tour, they arrived in Philadelphia on May 10, 1877, and were honored with celebrations during the week before their departure. On May 16, Grant and Julia left for England aboard the SS Indiana. Their first stop was in Liverpool in May, where enormous crowds greeted the ex-president and his entourage. Grant was lauded as the “Hero of Appomattox” and the Union general who defeated the Confederacy. The Grants dined with Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle, and Grant gave several speeches in London. The Hayes administration, aware of Grant’s popularity in Europe, encouraged him to extend his tour and voyage around the world to strengthen American interests abroad, an unprecedented undertaking for a former President.
After a tour on the continent, the Grants visited Scotland and then spent time in Southampton with their daughter Nellie, who during Grant’s presidency had married an Englishman, Algernon Sartoris, in a White House ceremony. Grant and Julia journeyed to Paris and visited with Léon Gambetta whom Grant considered one of the greatest people he met on the tour. Next they departed for Italy, visiting Naples, Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius. The Grants spent Christmas 1877 aboard USS Vandalia, a warship docked in Palermo. After cruising the Mediterranean, the Grants took a winter sojourn through Egypt and the Holy Land. Next, followed a visit to Constantinople and Greece, before they met with Pope Leo XIII at the Vatican. In 1878, they visited the Netherlands before moving on to Germany, where Grant discussed military matters with Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, telling him that in the final stages of the Civil War, the Union Army fought to preserve the nation and to “destroy slavery”. In Russia, Czar Alexander II asked Grant about the future of the Plains Indians. After touring Spain, the Grants returned to England, via Paris. From England, the Grants left by private ship, sailing into the Mediterranean and stopping at Marseilles, then across to Alexandria visiting Egypt hurriedly and on through the Suez Canal to India.
Grant initially viewed British colonization of India as “purely selfish”, yet upon observation, he acknowledged that the colonial subjects were allowed to prosper. After India, they toured Burma, Siam (where Grant met with King Chulalongkorn), Singapore, and Cochinchina (Vietnam). Leaving Hong Kong, the Grants visited Canton, Shanghai, and Peking, China, where he criticized the autocratic attitude of Westerners toward the Chinese, which he compared to that of antebellum slaveowners. He declined to ask for an interview with the Guangxu Emperor, a child of seven, but did speak with the head of government, Prince Gong, and Li Hongzhang, a leading general. They discussed China’s dispute with Japan over the Ryukyu Islands, and Grant agreed to serve as a mediator. After crossing over to Japan on the USS Richmond and meeting the Emperor Meiji, Grant, keeping his word, tried to convince Japan to make peace with the Chinese; Japan having the superior military, annexed the disputed islands a few weeks after Grant left the country.
Homesick, the Grants left Japan sailing on the City of Tokio escorted by a Japanese man-of-war, crossed the Pacific and landed in San Francisco in September 1879, greeted by cheering crowds. After a visit to Yosemite Valley, they returned at last to Philadelphia on December 16, 1879. Their two-year and seven-month voyage around the world captured the popular imagination, and Republicansespecially those of the Stalwart faction excluded from the Hayes administrationsaw Grant in a new light. The Republican nomination for 1880 was wide open after Hayes forswore a second term and many Republicans thought that Grant was the man for the job.
Third term attempt
Stalwarts, led by Grant’s old political ally, Roscoe Conkling, saw the ex-president’s renewed popularity as a way for their faction to regain power. Opponents called it a violation of the two-term rule that had been the norm since George Washington. Grant said nothing publicly, but he wanted the job and encouraged his men. Washburne urged him to run; Grant demurred, saying he would be happy for the Republicans to win with another candidate, though he preferred James G. Blaine to John Sherman. Even so, Conkling and John A. Logan began to organize delegates in Grant’s favor. When the convention convened in Chicago in June, there were more delegates pledged to Grant than to any other candidate, but he was still short of a majority vote to capture the nomination.
At the convention, Conkling nominated Grant with an elegant speech, the most famous line being: “When asked which state he hails from, our sole reply shall be, he hails from Appomattox and its famous apple tree.” With 370 votes needed for nomination, the first ballot had Grant at 304, Blaine at 284, Sherman at 93, and the rest scattered to minor candidates. Subsequent ballots followed, with roughly the same result; neither Grant nor Blaine could win. After thirty-six ballots, Blaine’s delegates deserted him and combined with those of other candidates to nominate a compromise candidate: Representative James A. Garfield of Ohio. A procedural motion made the vote unanimous for Garfield, who accepted the nomination.
Grant gave speeches for Garfield but declined to criticize the Democratic nominee, Winfield Scott Hancock, a general who had served under him in the Army of the Potomac. Garfield won the election. Grant gave Garfield his public support and pushed him to include Stalwarts in his administration. On July 2, 1881, Garfield was shot by an assassin and died on September 19. On learning of Garfield’s death from a reporter, Grant wept bitterly.
When Grant had returned to America from his costly world tour, he had depleted most of his savings and needed to earn money and find a new home. Wealthy friends bought him a home on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and to make an income, Grant, Jay Gould, and former Mexican Finance Secretary Matías Romero chartered the Mexican Southern Railroad, with plans to build a railroad from Oaxaca to Mexico City. Grant urged Chester A. Arthur, who had succeeded Garfield as president in 1881, to negotiate a free trade treaty with Mexico. Arthur and the Mexican government agreed, but the United States Senate rejected the treaty in 1883. The railroad was similarly unsuccessful, falling into bankruptcy the following year.
At the same time, Grant’s son Ulysses Jr. had opened a Wall Street brokerage house with Ferdinand Ward. Ward was regarded as a rising star and the firm, Grant & Ward, was initially successful. In 1883, Grant joined the firm and invested $100,000 of his own money. To encourage investment, Ward paid investors abnormally high interest, by pledging the company’s securities on multiple loans in a process called rehypothecation. Ward, in collusion with banker James D. Fish, kept secret from bank examiners, retrieved the firm’s securities from the company’s bank vault. When the trades went bad, multiple loans came due, all backed up by the same collateral. Historians agree that Grant was likely unaware of Ward’s intentions, but it is unclear how much Buck Grant knew. In May 1884, enough investments went bad to convince Ward that the firm would soon be bankrupt. Ward told Grant of the impending failure, but assured Grant that this was a temporary shortfall. Grant approached businessman William Henry Vanderbilt, who gave him a personal loan of $150,000. Grant invested the money in the firm, but it was not enough to save it from failure. Essentially penniless, but compelled by a sense of personal honor, he repaid what he could with his Civil War mementos and the sale or transfer of all other assets. Vanderbilt took title to Grant’s home, although he allowed the Grants to continue to reside there, and pledged to donate the souvenirs to the federal government and insisted the debt had been paid in full. Grant was distraught over Ward’s deception and asked privately how he could ever “trust any human being again.” In March 1885, as his health was failing, he testified against both Ward and Fish. Ward was convicted of fraud in October 1885, months after Grant’s death, and served six and a half years in prison.
Memoirs, pension, and death
To restore his family’s income and reputation, Grant wrote several articles on his Civil War campaigns for The Century Magazine at $500 each. The articles were well received by critics, and the editor, Robert Underwood Johnson, suggested that Grant write a book of memoirs, as Sherman and others had done. Grant’s articles would serve as the basis for several chapters.
In the summer of 1884, Grant complained of a sore throat but put off seeing a doctor until late October when he learned it was cancer, possibly caused by his frequent cigar smoking. Grant chose not to reveal the seriousness of his condition to his wife, who soon found out from Grant’s doctor. Before being diagnosed, Grant was invited to a Methodist service for Civil War veterans in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, on August 4, 1884, receiving a standing ovation from more than ten thousand veterans and others; it would be his last public appearance. In March of the following year, the New York Times announced that Grant was dying of cancer and a nationwide public concern for the former president began. Knowing of Grant and Julia’s financial difficulties, Congress sought to honor him and restored him to the rank of General of the Army with full retirement pay (Grant’s assumption of the Presidency in 1869 had required that he resign his commission and forfeit his pension).
Grant was nearly broke and worried constantly about leaving his wife a suitable amount of money to live on. Century magazine offered Grant a book contract with a 10 percent royalty, but Grant’s friend Mark Twain, understanding how bad Grant’s financial condition was, made him an offer for his memoirs which paid an unheard-of 75 percent royalty.. To provide for his family, Grant worked intensely on his memoirs at his home in New York City. His former staff member Adam Badeau assisted him with much of the research, while his son Frederick located documents and did much of the fact checking. Because of the summer heat and humidity, his doctors recommended that he move upstate to a cottage at the top of Mount McGregor, offered by a family friend..
Grant finished his memoir and died only a few days later. Grant’s memoirs treat his early life and time in the MexicanAmerican War briefly and are inclusive of his life up to the end of the Civil War. The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, was a critical and commercial success. Julia Grant received about $450,000 in royalties. Grant’s successful autobiography pioneered a method for ex-presidents and veterans to earn money. The memoir has been highly regarded by the public, military historians, and literary critics. Grant portrayed himself in the persona of the honorable Western hero, whose strength lies in his honesty and straightforwardness. He candidly depicted his battles against both the Confederates and internal army foes. Twain called the Memoirs a “literary masterpiece.” Given over a century of favorable literary analysis, reviewer Mark Perry states that the Memoirs are “the most significant work” of American non-fiction.
After a year-long struggle with cancer, surrounded by his family, Grant died at 8 o’clock in the morning in the Mount McGregor cottage on July 23, 1885, at the age of 63. Sheridan, then Commanding General of the Army, ordered a day-long tribute to Grant on all military posts, and President Grover Cleveland ordered a thirty-day nationwide period of mourning. After private services, the honor guard placed Grant’s body on a special funeral train, which traveled to West Point and New York City. A quarter of a million people viewed it in the two days before the funeral. Tens of thousands of men, many of them veterans from the Grand Army of the Republic marched with Grant’s casket drawn by two dozen horses to Riverside Park in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Upper Manhattan. His pallbearers included Union generals Sherman and Sheridan, Confederate generals Simon Bolivar Buckner and Joseph E. Johnston, Admiral David Dixon Porter, and Senator John A. Logan, the head of the GAR. Following the casket in the seven-mile-long procession were President Cleveland, the two living former presidents Hayes and Arthur, all of the President’s Cabinet, as well as the justices of the Supreme Court.
Grant’s body was laid to rest in Riverside Park, first in a temporary tomb, and thentwelve years later, on April 17, 1897in the General Grant National Memorial, also known as “Grant’s Tomb”, the largest mausoleum in North America. Attendance at the New York funeral topped 1.5 million. Ceremonies were held in other major cities around the country, while Grant was eulogized in the press and likened to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
Many historians and biographers have been intrigued and challenged by contradictions in Grant’s life, and few presidential reputations have shifted as dramatically as his. At his death, Grant was seen as “a symbol of the American national identity and memory”. Soon afterwards, Grant’s reputation fell under severe criticism as national reconciliation took hold among whites throughout the country. Later accounts portrayed his administration as corrupt; as the popularity of the pro-Confederate Lost Cause theory and the Dunning School movement grew early in the 20th century, a more negative view of Grant became common. In 1917, historian Louis Arthur Coolidge, bucked the trend of negativity and said Grant’s “success as President” was “hardly less significant than his success at war.” In 1931, historians Paxson and Bach noted that Grant’s presidency “had some achievements, after all.” In 1934, historian Robert R. McCormick said Grant’s military triumps were neglected due in part to the “malicious and deliberate design” of Lost Cause veterans and writers. In the 1950s, historians Bruce Catton and T. Harry Williams began a reassessment of Grant’s military career, shifting the analysis of Grant as victor by brute force to that of successful, skillful, modern strategist and commander.William S. McFeely won the Pulitzer Prize for his critical 1981 biography that credited Grant’s initial presidential efforts on civil rights, but lamented his failure to carry out lasting progress.
In the years since, historians’ opinions of Grant’s presidency improved, appreciating Grant’s reconstruction efforts and peace policy towards Indians, even when they fell short. In 2016, Ronald C. White continued this trend with a biography that historian T. J. Stiles said, “solidifies the positive image amassed in recent decades, blotting out the caricature of a military butcher and political incompetent engraved in national memory by Jim Crow era historians.”In the 21st century Grant’s reputation among historians has improved markedly.
Memorials and presidential library
Several memorials honor Grant. In addition to his mausoleum Grant’s Tomb in New York City there is the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial at the foot of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Created by sculptor Henry Merwin Shrady and architect Edward Pearce Casey, and dedicated in 1922, which overlooks the Capitol Reflecting Pool. In 2015, restoration work began, which is expected to be completed before the bicentennial of Grant’s birth in 2022.
The Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site near St. Louis, and several other sites in Ohio and Illinois memorialize Grant’s life. There are smaller memorials in Chicago’s Lincoln Park and Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. Named in his honor are Grant Park, as well as several counties in western and midwestern states. On June 3, 1891, a bronze statue of Grant by Danish sculptor Johannes Gelert was dedicated at Grant Park in Galena, Illinois. From 1890 to 1940, part of what is now Kings Canyon National Park was called General Grant National Park, named for the General Grant sequoia.
In May 2012, the Ulysses S. Grant Foundation, on the institute’s fiftieth anniversary, selected Mississippi State University as the permanent location for Ulysses S. Grant’s presidential library. Historian John Y. Simon edited Grant’s letters into a 32-volume scholarly edition published by Southern Illinois University Press.
Grant has appeared on the front of the United States fifty-dollar bill since 1913. In 1921, the Ulysses S. Grant Centenary Association was founded with the goal of coordinating special observances and erecting monuments in recognition of Grant’s historical role. The venture was financed by the minting of 10,000 gold dollars (depicted below) and 250,000 half dollars. The coins were minted and issued in 1922, commemorating the 100th anniversary of Grant’s birth. Grant has also appeared on several U.S. postage stamps, the first one issued in 1890, five years after his death.