Jesse Grant moves his family to Georgetown, Brown County, Ohio. Here their oldest son receives his earliest education.
Ulysses attends the school of Richeson and Rand at Maysville, Kentucky.
Ulysses attends the Presbyterian academy at Ripley, Ohio.
On March 3, 1839, Ulysses is appointed to West Point.
Ulysses arrives at West Point on May 29 and discovers that the congressman who appointed him, in doubt about his name, has used his middle name first and has used his mother's maiden name (Simpson) for a middle name. In time, Ulysses will accept U. S. Grant as his true name, insisting that his middle initial stands for "nothing."
After graduating from West Point ranked 21 in a class of 39 in June, Grant learns that he is assigned to duty, beginning September 30, with the Fourth U. S. Infantry at Jefferson Barracks, just outside St. Louis, Missouri. His rank, established automatically by his West Point graduation, will be brevet second lieutenant.
Grant had often visited the Dent family farm, White Haven, south of St. Louis. Frederick Dent had been Grant's West Point roommate. In February, Fred's sister, Julia Dent, returns from St. Louis. "After that I do not know but my visits became more frequent; they certainly did become more enjoyable."
While on a visit to his parents in Ohio, Grant learns that his regiment has been ordered to Louisiana. When he returns to White Haven, Julia agrees to marry him.
Grant arrives at the camp of the Fourth Infantry near Natchitoches, Louisiana. "There was no intimation given that the removal of the 3d and 4th regiments of infantry to the western border of Louisiana was occasioned in any way by the prospective annexation of Texas, but it was generally understood that such was the case."
Grant obtains leave for 20 days. He travels to St. Louis to see Julia, and to gain her parents' consent to an engagement. Colonel Dent doubts that Grant can support a family on a lieutenant's pay, but he likes Grant and cannot deny his daughter's obvious determination.
The Fourth Infantry is sent to New Orleans to await orders.
Grant sails from New Orleans, bound for Corpus Christi on the Nueces River in Texas. Soon, Grant is promoted to full second lieutenant.
The land between the Nueces and Rio Grande Rivers is claimed by both the United States and Mexico.
Grant begins to march across the disputed territory. General Zachary Taylor's force reaches the Rio Grande on March 28. Small clashes between U. S. and Mexican units lead to a Mexican declaration of war on April 23. "Even if the annexation itself could be justified, the manner in which the subsequent war was forced upon Mexico cannot . . . The Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican war. Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions."
Taylor wins the battle of Palo Alto as Grant finds himself under fire for the first time. "You want to know what my feelings were on the field of battle! I do not know that I felt any peculiar sensation. War seems much less terrible to persons engaged in it than to those who read of the battles... During that night I believe all slept as soundly on the ground at Palo Alto as if they had been in a palace. For my own part I don't think I even dreamed of battles."
Taylor begins to move toward Monterey. Grant is detailed as regimental quartermaster.
During the battle of Monterey, Quartermaster Grant is expected to remain behind the lines. Without orders, he rides to the front and charges with his regiment. Grant now replaces the regimental adjutant.
Heavy fighting continues in Monterey through September 23rd. Short of ammunition, General Garland asks for a volunteer to carry a message to General Twiggs through streets occupied by Mexican forces. Grant runs the gauntlet, riding on the side of his horse with one foot hooked on the cantle of the saddle and an arm around the neck of his horse.
Grant's Fourth Infantry is ordered to leave General Taylor's force and join that of General Winfield Scott. The troops retrace their route across Mexico to Camp Page on the Gulf.
Grant participates in the assault on Molino del Rey.
During the assault on San Cosme Garita, outside Mexico City, on September 13, Grant orders a howitzer placed in a church belfry where it can be fired effectively. This comes to the favorable attention of General Worth. During the night, civic officials of Mexico City ask for surrender terms.
The occupation of Mexico ends for Grant as Worth's division marches out of Mexico City. Grant's transport will sail from Vera Cruz on July 16.
The Fourth Regiment lands at Pascagoula, Mississippi. As soon as another officer is assigned to the quartermaster's duties, Grant hurries on leave to White Haven.
Grant and Julia Dent are married.
Grant reports at Detroit, Michigan. He learns that he has been assigned to duty at the dreary outpost of Madison Barracks at Sackett's Harbor, New York, on Lake Ontario. By spring of the following year, Grant has obtained a transfer to Detroit.
Julia and Ulysses Grant's first child, Frederick Dent Grant, is born.
Grant spends a full year at Sackett's Harbor. Then the Fourth Infantry is ordered to the Pacific Coast. Grant says goodbye to his wife and son, who will be staying with his parents, and reports at Governor's Island, New York, for embarkation on the steamer Ohio.
The Ohio anchors off Aspinwall (now Colon) on the isthmus of Panama. The trip across steamy and deadly Panama begins.
While Ulysses is still in transit, his and Julia's second child, Ulysses S. Grant Jr., whom they call Buck, is born.
Grant arrives at Fort Vancouver, Oregon (later Washington) Territory. Prices are inflated on the Pacific Coast, and Grant's attempts to supplement his captain's pay are unsuccessful. Discouraged and unhappy about the long separation from his family, which now includes the second son he has never seen, and with no prospect of reunion, Grant finds consolation in drink, as fellow officers will later recall. He begins to consider resigning.
Grant receives notice that he has been promoted to captain as of August 5, to take the place of an officer who had died, along with orders to report at Fort Humboldt, California.
Grant receives his official commission as captain and writes his resignation from the army the same day. On June 2, the resignation is accepted by Secretary of War Jefferson Davis.
After living for nearly a year at White Haven with Julia's parents, the Grant family moves to Wish-ton-wish, another farm on the Dent estate. Here their third child, Ellen Grant, whom they call Nellie, is born on July 4.
The Grant family moves into its own home, built largely by Grant alone. Almost every farm in the neighborhood has a name, often a pretentious one; Grant calls his Hardscrabble.
Grant casts his only presidential ballot prior to the time he is himself elected. The nation is deeply divided over the issue of slavery. "It was evident to my mind that the election of a Republican President in 1856 meant the secession of all the Slave States, and rebellion. Under these circumstances I preferred the success of a candidate whose election would prevent or postpone secession, to seeing the country plunged into a war the end of which no man could foretell. With a Democrat elected by the unanimous vote of the Slave States, there could be no pretext for secession for four years. I very much hoped that the passions of the people would subside in that time, and the catastrophe be averted altogether; if it was not, I believed the country would be better prepared to receive the shock and to resist it. I therefore voted for James Buchanan for President."
Grant pawns his watch, presumably to buy Christmas gifts for his family. The Panic of 1857 has withered crop prices. Only a few weeks later, February 6, 1858, the fourth Grant child, Jesse Root Grant Jr., is born.
Grant rents out his Hardscrabble farm and himself rents White Haven from his father-in-law. Following another poor season, plagued by poor health, he enters the real estate business in St. Louis.
Grant moves into a back room in St. Louis rented from his business partner, while his family temporarily remains at White Haven. In March, his family joins him in a rented cottage in St. Louis.
Despite the financial troubles of the Grant family, there is one remedy Grant refuses to consider. He sets free his slave, William Jones, who had come to him through his wife's family.
Grant submits his application for the position of County Engineer of St. Louis. Although qualified, Grant will be passed over by politicians who prefer a Republican.
After many years of financial disappointment in Missouri, Grant turns to his father for help. He takes a clerkship in a leather goods store owned by his father and operated by his brothers Orvil and Simpson in Galena, Illinois.
The Republicans of Galena, supporters of Abraham Lincoln, hold a victory celebration in the Grant store. Grant helps his Republican brother Orvil serve oysters and liquor. Grant has not lived in Illinois long enough to be eligible to vote, and is apparently undecided about the merits of Lincoln and his opponent, Stephen Douglas.
The local Republican congressman, Elihu B. Washburne, favorably impressed by Grant, arranges for him to preside over a public meeting held in Galena to respond to Lincoln's call for troops after war breaks out between the North and the South at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. Grant drills the company of Jo Daviess Guards raised at the meeting, but declines the captaincy. Instead he travels to Springfield, Illinois to offer his services to Governor Richard Yates. Grant finds temporary employment as a clerk in the adjutant's office.
Grant is appointed mustering officer. It is a temporary job which ends within two weeks.
While Grant is in St. Louis seeking a commission, he witnesses the disorder following the capture of Camp Jackson by Unionists under Nathaniel Lyon and Frank Blair.
Grant finishes his mustering and returns to Galena. Two days later he writes to Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas: "I feel myself competant to command a Regiment if the President, in his judgement, should see fit to entrust one to me." The letter is never answered.
Grant visits the headquarters of General George B. McClellan in Cincinnati, seeking a staff appointment. McClellan does not receive him.
Grant returns to Springfield and accepts Governor Yates' offer of the colonelcy of the Seventh District Regiment, an unruly group which has driven its first colonel into retirement.
Grant boards a streetcar in Springfield to ride out to his regiment at Camp Yates.
Following patriotic oratory from two Illinois Democratic congressmen, John A. Logan and John A. McClernand, 603 members of the regiment volunteer to enter the U. S. service as the Twenty-First Illinois.
The Twenty-First Illinois begins its first march on July 3 from Springfield to Quincy, Illinois, on the Mississippi River.
Grant is ordered to proceed from the Salt River against Colonel Thomas Harris, some 25 miles south at Florida, Missouri. "As we approached the brow of the hill from which it was expected we could see Harris' camp, and possibly find his men ready formed to meet us, my heart kept getting higher and higher until it felt to me as though it was in my throat. I would have given anything then to have been back in Illinois, but I had not the moral courage to halt and consider what to do; I kept right on. When we reached a point from which the valley below was in full view I halted. The place where Harris had been encamped a few days before was still there and the marks of a recent encampment were plainly visible, but the troops were gone. My heart resumed its place. It occurred to me at once that Harris had been as much afraid of me as I had been of him. This was a view of the question I had never taken before; but it was one I never forgot afterwards." Grant's regiment is soon located at Mexico, Missouri.
President Lincoln appoints Grant a brigadier general of volunteers following the recommendations of a caucus of Illinois congressmen. Grant is now in command at Ironton, Missouri.
As Grant prepares to move against the enemy, General Benjamin M. Prentiss arrives to claim command, wrongfully asserting that he outranks Grant. Without prolonged argument, Grant departs for St. Louis, where General John C. Frémont reassigns him to Jefferson City.
Replaced by General Jefferson C. Davis at Jefferson City, Grant again returns to St. Louis. This time he is given command of all troops in southeast Missouri (August 28), with headquarters temporarily at Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
Grant establishes headquarters at Cairo, Illinois. On September 3, Confederate General Leonidas Polk had violated the self-proclaimed neutrality of Kentucky by occupying Columbus. News reaches Grant on September 5. Grant then occupies Paducah (September 6). His quick action prevents the Confederates from consolidating their defense line in Kentucky.
Grant leads his troops to Belmont, Missouri, across the Mississippi River from Columbus, Kentucky, in a diversionary movement to prevent Confederate reinforcement of General Sterling Price. The Union troops overrun a Confederate camp and begin to celebrate victory. Then the Confederates return with a superior force. Grant's men scramble for their transports, and the general himself barely escapes death or capture.
Dissatisfied with the use of his force solely for defensive and diversionary purposes, Grant asks Major General Halleck, now in command in the West, for permission to begin a campaign on the Tennessee River. On February 1, he gets it.
Grant's forces advance from Cairo.
Naval forces under Flag-Officer Andrew H. Foote capture Fort Henry in Tennessee. Grant's forces are on their way in the combined operation. The victory is one of maneuver rather than battle, for almost all of the Confederates have been withdrawn to Fort Donelson, about 11 miles away on the Cumberland River. The following day, Grant makes a reconnaissance to within one mile of Donelson. "I intend to keep the ball moving as lively as possible," he writes his sister.
Although Halleck prefers to have Grant consolidate his position, Grant begins to move his troops towards Fort Donelson. They arrive the following day, and General John A. McClernand leads his division in a reckless premature assault on the Donelson lines. The next day (February 14), Grant watches an assault on Donelson by the gunboats of Foote's flotilla which is equally unsuccessful. The Confederates are now emboldened to make an assault of their own (February 15) aiming to break out of the siege, which has temporary success, but then the Confederates are forced back to their lines. "I heard some of the men say that the enemy had come out with knapsacks, and haversacks filled with rations. They seemed to think this indicated a determination on his part to stay out and fight just as long as the provisions held out. I turned to Colonel J. D. Webster, of my staff, who was with me, and said: 'Some of our men are pretty badly demoralized, but the enemy must be more so, for he has attempted to force his way out, but has fallen back: the one who attacks first now will be victorious and the enemy will have to be in a hurry if he gets ahead of me." Grant's men advance immediately.
During the night, Confederate Generals John Floyd and Gideon Pillow flee from Fort Donelson. Nathan Bedford Forrest saves his cavalry. General Simon B. Buckner, now in command, requests an armistice to arrange terms of surrender. To this, Grant responds: "Yours of this date proposing Armistice, and appointment of Commissioners, to settle terms of Capitulation is just received. No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works." The surrender of Donelson destroys the entire Confederate line in the middle theatre of war. It confirms the loss of Kentucky and the imminent threat to Tennessee. As the first major Union victory of the war, it touches off great celebrations in the North, in the course of which Grant's words provoke as much enthusiasm as the victory itself. The happy coincidence of the phrase with his initials earns him the nickname, "Unconditional Surrender Grant."
Lincoln signs the papers for Grant's promotion to major general of volunteers.
Halleck orders Grant to turn his forces over to General C. F. Smith. Due to telegraph failures, Halleck believes that Grant is failing to obey orders to report to his superior. On March 13, Grant is restored to command. On March 17, he resumes his Tennessee River campaign, beginning to mass his troops at Pittsburg Landing for a thrust against the vital rail center at Corinth, Mississippi, some 20 miles away.
Confederate forces under Albert Sidney Johnston and P. G. T. Beauregard attack the Union position at Shiloh Church, near Pittsburg Landing. Grant is breakfasting some miles away at Savannah, preparing to meet additional troops scheduled to arrive with General Don Carlos Buell, when he hears the firing and hurries to the front. A stubborn defense of an area known as the Hornets' Nest by General Benjamin M. Prentiss wins valuable time for Grant, but by the end of the day, his army has been pushed back to the river. "During the night rain fell in torrents and our troops were exposed to the storm without shelter. I made my headquarters under a tree a few hundred yards back from the river bank. My ankle was so much swollen from the fall of my horse the Friday night preceding, and the bruise was so painful, that I could get no rest. The drenching rain would have precluded the possibility of sleep without this additional cause. Some time after midnight, growing restive under the storm and the continuous pain, I moved back to the log-house under the bank. This had been taken as a hospital, and all night wounded men were being brought in, their wounds dressed, a leg or an arm amputated as the case might require, and everything being done to save life or alleviate suffering. The sight was more unendurable than encountering the enemy's fire, and I returned to my tree in the rain."
Aided by reinforcements brought by Buell, Grant is able to drive the Confederates from the field. It has been a costly victory for the North, and there are angry public reactions in the North to the great loss of life and the lack of preparation for a Confederate attack. "Shiloh was the severest battle fought at the West during the war, and but few in the East equalled it for hard, determined fighting. I saw an open field, in our possession on the second day, over which the Confederates had made repeated charges the day before, so covered with dead that it would have been possible to walk across the clearing, in any direction, stepping on dead bodies, without a foot touching the ground."
General Halleck takes personal command of the army, and very slowly moves against Corinth. Grant serves unhappily as second in command. Corinth is occupied on May 30; the Confederates have decided to evacuate. Disgusted by Halleck's unwillingness to engage the enemy, Grant considers resigning. General William T. Sherman persuades him to remain.
Grant leaves Halleck at Corinth to establish separate headquarters as district commander at Memphis.
Halleck is ordered to Washington to serve as general-in-chief. Grant is ordered to Corinth to take command of the army, and arrives on July 15.
Confederate General Braxton Bragg orders General Sterling Price to prevent Grant from sending reinforcements to General Don Carlos Buell. Grant sends troops under William S. Rosecrans and E. O. C. Ord to drive Price from Iuka, Mississippi, before he can be reinforced by General Earl Van Dorn or go east to join Bragg. Rosecrans encounters the enemy, and although the battle is inconclusive, the Confederates retreat.
While Grant is at Jackson, Tennessee, Van Dorn attacks Rosecrans at Corinth. Grant sends reinforcements as soon as he learns of the attack, but Rosecrans repels the assault before they arrive, and Van Dorn withdraws with his army largely intact.
Grant is assigned the Department of Tennessee and reinforced. On November 2, he begins a campaign with Vicksburg, Mississippi as its objective.
Union forces occupy Holly Springs in northern Mississippi, where Grant establishes a supply base for the advancing army.
In an effort to crush the sordid and unpatriotic trade between Northern merchants and rebels, Grant issues General Orders No. 11 expelling all Jews from the Department of Tennessee. Grant's motivation for issuing this order remains a subject of controversy. Vigorous protests in Washington result in official revocation.
While Grant is at Oxford, Mississippi, Van Dorn captures Holly Springs and destroys the supplies. By December 23, Grant is back at Holly Springs, and decides to move headquarters to Memphis. He now gives up his overland drive on Vicksburg.
In the meantime, General Sherman has left Memphis without knowledge of the destruction at Holly Springs. Moving down the Mississippi and picking up reinforcements at Helena, Arkansas, he makes an unsuccessful assault on Vicksburg along Chickasaw Bayou.
General John A. McClernand arrives at the mouth of the Yazoo River and takes over command of the forces near Vicksburg from Sherman. McClernand has been intriguing for command of the Mississippi River expedition and can not be prevented from exercising command unless Grant takes personal control.
Grant assesses McClernand. "I visited McClernand and his command at Napoleon. It was here made evident to me that both the army and navy were so distrustful of McClernand's fitness to command that, while they would do all they could to insure success, this distrust was an element of weakness. It would have been criminal to send troops under these circumstances into such danger."
Grant takes personal command of the Vicksburg expedition, over McClernand's protests, at Young's Point on the Mississippi, north of Vicksburg.
Sherman had discovered that Vicksburg was inaccessible from the north. Grant now tries to bring land and naval forces south of Vicksburg without passing the town's formidable gun batteries. Beginning in January, Sherman's men had worked on a canal on the peninsula opposite Vicksburg; in March, it is abandoned because of low water. A more ambitious canal at Duckport is also abandoned because of low water. General James B. McPherson's corps work on a circuitous route through Lake Providence, Louisiana, but it is finally abandoned because of its impracticability. An attempt is made to move through the Yazoo Pass, 325 miles north of Vicksburg, to use the Tallahatchie and Yazoo Rivers, but Confederates halt the Union gunboats at Fort Pemberton. While trying to use a route through Steele's Bayou, Acting Rear Admiral Porter's fleet barely escape capture. Grant now realizes he will have to abandon all of these routes around Vicksburg.
Porter runs his fleet successfully south past the Vicksburg batteries. Six supply transports follow on April 22. Troops march overland west of the river to below Vicksburg.
After a naval bombardment of Grand Gulf, south of Vicksburg, Grant decides against an attempt to land his men there. Instead, McClernand's command is landed some miles below at Bruinsburg (April 30). "When this was effected I felt a degree of relief scarcely ever equalled since. Vicksburg was not yet taken it is true, nor were its defenders demoralized by any of our previous moves. I was now in the enemy's country, with a vast river and the stronghold of Vicksburg between me and my base of supplies. But I was on dry ground on the same side of the river with the enemy. All the campaigns, labors, hardships and exposures from the month of December previous to this time that had been made and endured, were for the accomplishment of this one object."
Grant's victory at the battle of Port Gibson gives the Union forces a firm footing in Mississippi and compels the abandonment of the fortifications at Grand Gulf (May 3). Grant now begins moving inland, brings up more troops, and prepares to attack Pemberton's army in the Vicksburg area.
McPherson's corps wins a victory at Raymond. Now Grant decides to strike for the interior and the state capital at Jackson. If he had moved immediately against Vicksburg from the south, he might have won the position without capturing Pemberton's army. He prefers to surround Vicksburg and win both. He also wants to avoid the danger of being trapped between two rebel armies: one at Vicksburg, and another coming from the east under Joseph E. Johnston.
Union forces capture Jackson, Mississippi, after some fighting. Now Grant turns back towards Vicksburg, winning the battle of Champion's Hill on May 16. The Confederates cross the Big Black River after another fight on the following day, and on May 18, Grant completes the encirclement of Vicksburg.
An assault on the lines at Vicksburg moves the Union lines slightly forward. Another assault on May 22 does less good and costs many lives. Grant now decides upon a siege.
Grant relieves McClernand of command for improperly issuing a congratulatory order to his troops without obtaining headquarters approval. The bombastic document has extolled McClernand's troops at the expense of other troops and other commanders.
Grant learns that the Confederate army under J. E. Johnston has crossed the Big Black River and is possibly preparing an attack to save the Vicksburg garrison. But before the attack comes, Vicksburg will fall.
Union forces explode a mine under the Confederate line, but are unsuccessful in breaking through. Another mine, exploded July 1, is similarly unproductive. The major pressure on the Confederates comes through the exhaustion of supplies.
Pemberton sends a message to Grant requesting terms of surrender. Grant answers, as he had at Fort Donelson, that his only terms are unconditional surrender.
Vicksburg surrenders. The garrison marches out and stacks arms. Grant immediately provides food for the starving soldiers and civilians. After the fall of Port Hudson on July 9, the entire Mississippi River is in Union hands. The loss of Vicksburg coupled with the battle at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania marks a turning point in the war. Grant is now promoted to major general in the regular army. "If the Vicksburg campaign meant anything, in a military point of view, it was that there are no fixed laws of war which are not subject to the conditions of the country, the climate, and the habits of the people. The laws of successful war in one generation would insure defeat in another."
Grant travels to New Orleans to confer with General Nathaniel Banks. While there, he receives painful injuries when his horse falls.
Halleck tells Grant to send all available troops to the aid of Rosecrans near Chattanooga. Grant's own preference is for an expedition to Mobile. On September 19-20, a defeat at Chickamauga forces Rosecrans back into Chattanooga, where he is virtually besieged by Bragg.
As Grant travels by train from Cairo to Louisville, Secretary of War Stanton boards the train at Indianapolis with orders giving Grant command of the Military Division of the Mississippi, embracing the Departments of the Ohio, Cumberland, and Tennessee. In addition, Grant is given permission to replace Rosecrans with George H. Thomas.
Grant enters Chattanooga. By October 28, Union forces have opened a precarious supply route, called the cracker line, to prevent starvation.
Battle of Chattanooga. On the first day, Grant puts his men in position and drives the Confederates from Orchard Knob. On the second, Hooker leads his men up Lookout Mountain. Then, on November 25, Union forces assault the main Confederate position on Missionary Ridge. "The Confederates were strongly intrenched on the crest of the ridge in front of us, and had a second line half-way down and another at the base. Our men drove the troops in front of the lower line of rifle-pits so rapidly, and followed them so closely, that rebel and Union troops went over the first line of works almost at the same time. Many rebels were captured and sent to the rear under the fire of their own friends higher up the hill. Those that were not captured retreated, and were pursued. The retreating hordes being between friends and pursuers caused the enemy to fire high to avoid killing their own men. In fact, on that occasion the Union soldier nearest the enemy was in the safest position." Years later, Grant was asked if the Confederates had failed because they believed their position impregnable. With a twinkle in his eye, Grant replied, "Well, it was impregnable."
With Chattanooga now safe, Grant sends troops to Knoxville, where General Ambrose Burnside is besieged by Confederate General James Longstreet. The Confederates withdraw on December 3-4 before Grant's force arrives.
The bill to restore the rank of lieutenant general becomes a law. It has been passed with the understanding that Grant will receive the promotion. On March 1, Lincoln submits Grant's nomination, which is confirmed the following day. On March 3, Grant is ordered to Washington to receive his commission. By this time, there is speculation about a political career for Grant. In a letter to his father on February 20, Grant had written: "All I want is to be left alone to fight this war out; fight all rebel opposition and restore a happy Union in the shortest possible time."
Lincoln and Grant meet for the first time. In the evening, Grant is guest of honor at a White House reception. When word spreads through the large crowd that the general has arrived, there is so much confusion that Grant has to stand on a sofa so that all can see him. On the following day, Lincoln presents the commission with a short speech of four sentences. As usual, Grant can be even more concise. "Mr. President, I accept the commission, with gratitude for the high honor conferred. With the aid of the noble armies that have fought in so many fields for our common country, it will be my earnest endeavor not to disappoint your expectations. I feel the full weight of the responsibilities now devolving on me; and I know that if they are met, it will be due to those armies, and, above all, to the favor of that Providence which leads both nations and men."
Grant is assigned to command all armies of the United States. He decides to make his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac. First, however, he makes a quick trip to Nashville to confer with Sherman, who is given Grant's former command on March 18. By March 23, Grant is back in Washington.
Grant gives orders for the movement of the Army of the Potomac. On May 4, the army crosses the Rapidan River in Virginia.
The Army of the Potomac meets Confederate commander Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia while crossing an area known as the Wilderness. The Confederates have an excellent position, and Union advances are purchased with great loss of life.
The Wilderness campaign is succeeded by bloody battles at Spotsylvania, Virginia. During the fighting at Spotsylvania, Grant informs Halleck of his intention "to fight it out on this line if it takes all Summer."
Grant begins to move to his left again. On May 23, Winfield Scott Hancock's corps capture a bridge over the North Anna River. Lee, however, has placed his force so effectively on the south bank of the river that Grant chooses not to bring on a general engagement. He slips to his left again, and crosses the Pamunkey River on May 27. The road to the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia now leads past Cold Harbor, Virginia.
Union assaults are made upon a strong Confederate position at Cold Harbor. The loss to the North is severe, and, unlike earlier battles, does nothing to improve the Union position. "I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made."
Grant's army crosses the James River on pontoon bridges, heading towards Petersburg. Unable to break the Confederate line in frontal attack, Grant has steadily slipped to his left and now has his lines southeast of Richmond. On the following day, Union forces make the first assault on Petersburg, Virginia. The battle of Petersburg gradually settles into a siege.
In an effort to crack the Confederate line a huge mine is exploded, but the Federal assault after the blast fails, in the Battle of the Crater. There will be no more major battles in 1864. Instead, Grant exerts relentless pressure on the overextended Confederate lines near Petersburg. By August, Grant can see the end. "The rebels have now in their ranks their last man. The little boys and old men are guarding prisoners, guarding rail-road bridges and forming a good part of their garrisons for intrenched positions. A man lost by them can not be replaced."
Grant replaces General David Hunter in the Shenandoah Valley with General Philip Sheridan, who is given orders to harass the enemy constantly and destroy supplies.
Grant seizes the Weldon Railroad, a vital supply line for Lee's army.
A similar attempt upon the South Side Railroad is unsuccessful. The siege of Petersburg continues, but neither side can do much more than hold its position through the winter.
Lee fails in his effort to break the Union line at Fort Stedman. On the same day, Lincoln lands from the River Queen at City Point for a series of conferences with Grant.
Grant sends Sheridan around the right end of Lee's line in order to force Lee to retreat. Sheridan's victory April 1 at Five Forks forces Lee to abandon Petersburg and Richmond two days later. Lee makes one last, desperate effort to collect his forces at Amelia Court House and join Joseph E. Johnston in North Carolina. Sheridan quickly blocks Lee's road, and the Army of Northern Virginia is virtually surrounded.
Lee's effort to avoid encirclement leads to his defeat at Sayler's Creek.
Grant writes to Lee: "The results of the last week must convince you of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia in this struggle."
After discovering that escape will be impossible, Lee arranges to meet Grant at Appomattox, Virginia. "I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse." The two generals meet in the parlor of the McLean House, Lee in an immaculate new uniform, Grant informally dressed with only shoulder straps to show rank. "We soon fell into a conversation about old army times . . . Our conversation grew so pleasant that I almost forgot the object of our meeting." Finally, Grant writes a letter embodying his terms and Lee writes one accepting them.
Grant meets with the Cabinet to discuss Lee's surrender and the future of the South. Lincoln invites the Grants to join him at the theatre that evening. Grant replies that he is anxious to visit his children at Burlington, New Jersey. Thus Grant eludes the plan of John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators to assassinate him along with Lincoln.
After Lincoln dies, Vice President Andrew Johnson is sworn in as the nation's 17th president.
Grant arrives at Sherman's headquarters in North Carolina in an effort to eliminate the bitterness caused by Sherman's surrender terms to General Joseph E. Johnston. In attempting to end all Confederate resistance east of the Mississippi, Sherman's agreement has gone beyond what Grant conceded to Lee at Appomattox and raises cries in the North that Sherman is settling terms of peace.
After touring the nation and receiving praise everywhere for his leadership in the war, Grant moves with his family into a house on I Street in Washington.
Grant tours the South at the request of President Johnson, and is greeted with surprising friendliness. His report recommends a lenient Reconstruction policy.
Congress establishes a new rank, general of the armies of the United States, to which Grant is immediately appointed.
President Johnson leaves for a political tour, though the ostensible purpose is the dedication of the Stephen A. Douglas monument in Chicago. Grant goes along reluctantly. When the heckling of the crowd at various stops prompts Johnson into angry and undignified responses, Grant loses sympathy with the President.
President Andrew Johnson informs Grant that he intends to remove Secretary of War Stanton from office. Stanton, a holdover from the Lincoln administration, has been a consistent opponent of the President and stands close to the radical Republicans who dominate Congress. Stanton has refused to resign and Congress has supported him through the Tenure of Office Act (March 2), which requires the consent of Congress to removals. At the same time, Congress has weakened the President's control of the army through the Command of the Army Act, which requires that all military orders of the President have the approval of the general of the army (Grant). Johnson believes the Tenure of Office Act is unconstitutional, and hopes to defeat the effort to force Stanton upon him by employing the popular Grant. On August 11, Grant agrees to take over the War Department temporarily, and on the following day Johnson orders him to do so.
Grant resigns his position as Secretary of War ad interim after Congress reassembles and insists upon the reinstatement of Stanton. Johnson believes that Grant has betrayed him; Grant now openly breaks with Johnson.
Andrew Johnson becomes the first president to be impeached by Congress. He avoids conviction and retains his office by a single vote.
The Republican National Convention at Chicago nominates Grant for President and Schuyler Colfax of Indiana for Vice President.
Grant concludes his letter of acceptance with "Let us have peace." The words became a Republican slogan.
The Democrats nominate Horatio Seymour, former Governor of New York, for President, and Francis P. Blair, Jr., formerly one of Grant's commanders, for Vice President.
Grant is elected President, winning the electoral votes of 26 of 34 states and an electoral college majority of 214-80 over his Democratic opponent. But the popular majority is only 306,000 in a total vote of 5,715,000. Newly enfranchised black men in the South cast 700,000 votes, generally at the bidding of their Republican protectors.
Grant is inaugurated President. In his inaugural address, he says: "The responsibilities of the position I feel, but accept them without fear. The office has come to me unsought; I commence its duties untrammeled. I bring to it a conscious desire and determination to fill it to the best of my ability to the satisfaction of the people." His Cabinet list, prepared without consultation, is generally considered weak. A. T. Stewart, a prominent New York merchant, is named Secretary of the Treasury even though his business interests make him ineligible. When Grant learns of the law, he asks Congress to change it, but soon finds that this is unlikely. On March 9, he withdraws Stewart's nomination and two days later nominates George Boutwell of Massachusetts. This causes further complications since Massachusetts is already represented in the Cabinet through Attorney General E. R. Hoar. E. B. Washburne is given a courtesy appointment as Secretary of State, which ends soon with his appointment as Minister to France. He is succeeded in the State Department by Hamilton Fish of New York. The Chief of Staff, John A. Rawlins, becomes Secretary of War although he is dying, because Grant wants to honor a faithful friend. Adolph E. Borie, a wealthy and congenial Philadelphian, briefly holds the post of Secretary of the Navy; Jacob D. Cox, an able Ohio reformer, is Secretary of the Interior; John A. J. Creswell, a Maryland lawyer, is Postmaster General.
Grant signs his first law, an Act to Strengthen the Public Credit, pledging the government to redeem in gold the greenback currency issued during the Civil War. Grant thus quickly places himself with the financial conservatives of the day.
The day will forever be known as Black Friday on the New York gold exchange as Jay Gould and Jim Fisk attempt to corner the available gold supply. In an effort to prevent the government from selling gold to break the corner, the conspirators have enlisted Abel Rathbone Corbin, Grant's brother-in-law. Corbin believes he has misled Grant into cooperation, but Grant approves a government gold sale which restores prevailing prices.
Grant submits to the Senate a treaty of annexation with Santo Domingo. He believes that Santo Domingo offers an attractive field for American investment and a solution to the race problem. Under Grant's plan, freed slaves will be able to relocate to the Caribbean island (the Dominican Republic today). The treaty is reported adversely by the Foreign Relations Committee, headed by Charles Sumner, who speaks bitterly against it. Although Grant forces support from his Cabinet Attorney General E. R. Hoar, who opposes annexation, and ultimately has Sumner deposed from the chairmanship of the Foreign Relations committee (March 9, 1871), he is unable to get the treaty confirmed by the Senate.
Grant appoints George William Curtis to head the first Civil Service Commission established by Congress. Because Congress fails to make an appropriation and ignores Curtis's recommendations, nothing will come of this venture.
The Treaty of Washington, negotiated by Hamilton Fish, provides for the settlement by an international tribunal of American claims against England resulting from the wartime activities of the British-built Confederate raider Alabama. The tribunal eventually will award $15,500,000 to the United States in a well-balanced decision which leaves no rancor in either country.
Meeting of the Liberal Republican Convention at Cincinnati. Leaders of the group include many prominent Republicans unhappy about vindictive Reconstruction policies and corruption in government, which they call Grantism. Although many attractive presidential nominees are available, Horace Greeley receives the nomination. Greeley's earlier radicalism, high tariff views, and well-known eccentricity repels many who oppose Grant. The Democrats, on July 9, also nominate Greeley.
Grant signs an amnesty bill he had advocated. Although the final legislation is less generous than Grant wants, now only a few hundred former Confederates are excluded from political privileges.
The Republican Convention meets at Philadelphia and renominates Grant on the first ballot (June 6).
The New York Sun charges that Vice President Colfax, Vice-Presidential nominee Henry Wilson, James Garfield, and other prominent politicians are involved in the operations of the Credit Mobilier, a corporation established by the promoters of the Union Pacific railroad to siphon off the profits of construction. Ultimately, two congressmen will be censured for their part in the swindle and many other politicians will be damaged in reputation.
Grant is reelected with an electoral college majority of 286-66, and a popular majority of 763,000.
Grant is inaugurated for a second term. In his second inaugural, Grant says: "I acknowledge before this assemblage, representing, as it does, every section of our country, the obligation I am under to my countrymen for the great honor they have conferred on me by returning me to the highest office within their gift, and the further obligation resting on me to render to them the best services within my power. This I promise, looking forward with the greatest anxiety to the day when I shall be released from responsibilities that at times are almost overwhelming, and from which I have scarcely had a respite since the eventful firing upon Fort Sumter, in April, 1861, to the present day . . . I have been the subject of abuse and slander scarcely ever equaled in political history, which to-day I feel that I can afford to disregard in view of your verdict, which I gratefully accept as my vindication."
The panic of 1873 begins with the failure of the firm of Jay Cooke, spreads to the stock exchange, and eventually leads to widespread unemployment.
Grant vetoes a bill to increase the amount of legal tender currency. Grant's strong stand against inflation leads to a bill (June 20, 1874) limiting the amount of legal tender currency and providing for its retirement.
A group of corrupt officials and businessmen known as the Whisky Ring is exposed by the Saint Louis Democrat. An investigation ordered by Secretary of the Treasury Benjamin H. Bristow ultimately compromises important Grant appointees and General Orville E. Babcock, Grant's private secretary. Upon first hearing of the scandals, Grant had ordered: "Let no guilty man escape." Later, Grant's testimony influences a jury to acquit Babcock.
Grant writes a public letter announcing that he will not be a candidate for a third term.
On the same day Secretary of War William W. Belknap is impeached on charges of accepting bribes from Indian agents, President Grant accepts his resignation. Since Belknap is no longer a government official, the Senate holds that it has no authority to convict him.
In his last message to Congress, Grant surveys his years in the White House. "It was my fortune, or misfortune, to be called to the office of Chief Executive without any previous political training. From the age of 17 I had never even witnessed the excitement attending a Presidential campaign but twice antecedent to my own candidacy, and at but one of them was I eligible as a voter.
"Under such circumstances it is but reasonable to suppose that errors of judgment must have occurred. Even had they not, differences of opinion between the Executive, bound by an oath to the strict performance of his duties, and writers and debaters must have arisen. It is not necessarily evidence of blunder on the part of the Executive because there are these differences of views. Mistakes have been made, as all can see and I admit, but it seems to me oftener in the selections made of the assistants appointed to aid in carrying out the various duties of administering the Government--in nearly every case selected without a personal acquaintance with the appointee, but upon recommendations of the representatives chosen directly by the people. It is impossible, where so many trusts are to be allotted, that the right parties should be chosen in every instance. History shows that no Administration from the time of Washington to the present has been free from these mistakes. But I leave comparisons to history, claiming only that I have acted in every instance from a conscientious desire to do what was right, constitutional, within the law, and for the very best interests of the whole people. Failures have been errors of judgment, not of intent."
Following a bitterly disputed presidential contest between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden, in which both candidates claim victory, Hayes is declared president. Grant retires from the White House.
The Grant family sails from Philadelphia on a trip around the world.
Grant returns from his trip, during which he has been honored in many countries and has done much to improve relations with the United States.
The Republican National Convention meets in Chicago. The delegates are almost evenly divided between the followers of James G. Blaine and the stalwarts led by Senator Roscoe Conkling of New York. The latter favors the renomination of Grant, and he receives a plurality of votes on the first ballot. When the convention ends, after 36 ballots, in the nomination of James A. Garfield, 306 delegates are still voting for Grant. Although election in 1880 would have broken the third term tradition, Grant had written: "I can not decline if the nomination is tendered without seeking on my part."
The Grants, Ulysses Jr. and his new wife tour Mexico with Don Matias Romero, the former Mexican minister in Washington. Grant has become president of Jay Gould's Mexican Southern Railroad. Genuinely fond of the Mexican people ever since the Mexican War, Grant believes their best interests lie in commercial expansion. Now he urges a railroad link between Mexico and the United States.
Grant buys a home, a brownstone at 3 East 66th Street, New York City.
President Chester A. Arthur appoints Grant to negotiate a commercial treaty with Mexico. The Mexicans name Romero as his counterpart. Both nations eventually reject the resultant treaty because it has been drawn up by close personal friends.
Returning from a visit, Grant slips on the ice in front of his home in New York City. While still confined to bed in January, Grant develops pleurisy.
The firm of Grant and Ward collapses. Ulysses Grant Jr. had been lured by a remarkable swindler, Ferdinand Ward, into a partnership supported by his father and other relatives. General Grant had even been induced to borrow money from W. H. Vanderbilt to aid the firm. Grant had believed himself in comfortable financial circumstances; now, with Grant and Ward's collapse, he discovers that he has nothing and owes substantial sums. In order to support his family, Grant begins to write articles on his battles for the Century magazine. In June he decides to write his memoirs.
As Grant dictates to his secretary, he begins to feel a pain in his throat which soon makes eating almost impossible. He learns he is afflicted with a fatal cancer.
Grant signs a contract with his friend Mark Twain to publish his "Memoirs."
As an act of respect, Grant is placed on the list of retired generals. The Grants are very much in need of the money this will bring.
The first volume of Grant's memoirs goes to press. Prepared as Grant is dying, only the first part has been dictated, since Grant can no longer speak without pain as the cancer grows in his throat. The latter parts are scrawled in pencil on a tablet and transcribed by former staff officer Adam Badeau and Grant's oldest son, Frederick. In a note to one of his doctors, Grant writes: "If I live long enough I will become a sort of specialist in the use of certain medicines if not in the treatment of disease. It seems that one man's destiny in this world is quite as much a mystery as it is likely to be in the next. I never thought of acquiring rank in the profession I was educated for; yet it came with two grades higher prefixed to the rank of General officer for me. I certainly never had either ambition or taste for political life; yet I was twice president of the United States. If any one had suggested the idea of my becoming an author, as they frequently did, I was not sure whether they were making sport of me or not. I have now written a book which is in the hands of the manufacturers. I ask that you keep these notes very private lest I become an authority on the treatment of diseases. I have already too many trades to be proficient in any."
To avoid the summer heat, the Grant family moves to a cottage at Mount McGregor, New York, in the Adirondacks.
Grant dies at the cottage at Mount McGregor.
Funeral services for Grant are held at Mount McGregor. At the same time, a memorial service is held in London's Westminster Abbey. Following the funeral ceremonies, the coffin is carried by special train to Albany and displayed in the state Capitol. The following day, the coffin is taken to City Hall in New York City.
Three Presidents of the United States attend the burial services, and Union and Confederate Generals ride together in carriages. New York City has offered ground in any of its public parks for the tomb, and although the family is originally inclined to choose a location in Central Park, they finally settle upon Riverside Park. The coffin is placed in a hastily constructed temporary tomb.
The Memoirs are published. Sales are so successful that by February 27, 1886, the publishers give Mrs. Grant a check for $200,000. Total profits to the Grant family will reach an estimated $450,000.
Ground is broken for Grant's tomb. The task of raising the necessary $600,000 has taken considerable time, as will the construction of the tomb.
The tomb is dedicated on what would have been Grant's 75th birthday. The coffin had been privately transferred 10 days earlier.
Julia Grant dies, and is buried with her husband, as both had earnestly requested.
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