Military Wiki
Ulysses Grant
18th President of the United States

In office
March 4, 1869 – March 4, 1877
Vice President Schuyler Colfax (1869–1873)
Henry Wilson (1873–1875)
None (1875–1877)
Preceded by Andrew Johnson
Succeeded by Rutherford B. Hayes
Commanding General of the United States Army

In office
March 9, 1864 – March 4, 1869
President Abraham Lincoln
Andrew Johnson
Preceded by Henry W. Halleck
Succeeded by William Tecumseh Sherman
Personal details
Born Hiram Ulysses Grant
(1822-04-27)April 27, 1822
Point Pleasant, Ohio
Died July 23, 1885(1885-07-23) (aged 63)
Wilton, New York
Resting place General Grant National Memorial
Upper Manhattan, New York
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Julia Dent
Children Frederick, Ulysses Jr., Nellie, Jesse
Alma mater United States Military Academy
Profession Soldier
Religion Methodism
Signature Cursive signature in ink
Military service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1839–1854
Rank US Army General insignia (1866).svg General of the Army
Commands 21st Illinois Infantry Regiment
Army of the Tennessee
Military Division of the Mississippi
United States Army
Battles/wars Mexican-American War

American Civil War

Ulysses S. Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant; April 27, 1822 – July 23, 1885) was the 18th president of the United States (1869–1877) following his success as a commander in the American Civil War. Under Grant, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military; the war, and secession, ended with the surrender of Robert E. Lee's army at Appomattox. As president, he led the Radical Republicans in their effort to eliminate vestiges of Confederate nationalism and slavery, protect African American citizenship, and defeat the Ku Klux Klan. In foreign policy, Grant sought to increase American trade and influence while remaining at peace with the world. His reputation was marred by his defense of corrupt appointees, and by the United States' first industrial age economic depression (called the Panic of 1873) that dominated his second term. Although his Republican Party split in 1872 with reformers denouncing him, Grant was easily reelected. By 1875 the conservative white Southern opposition regained control of every state in the South and as Grant left the White House in March 1877 his policies were being undone.

A career soldier, Grant graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and served in the Mexican–American War. When the Civil War began in 1861, Grant rejoined the Union army. In 1862, he was promoted to major general and successfully took control of Kentucky and most of Tennessee. Grant then led Union forces to victory after initial setbacks in the Battle of Shiloh, earning a reputation as an aggressive commander. In July 1863, Grant defeated Confederate armies and seized Vicksburg, giving the Union control of the Mississippi River and dividing the Confederacy in two. After the Battle of Chattanooga in late 1863, President Abraham Lincoln promoted Grant to lieutenant general and commander of all of the Union armies. As commander, Grant confronted Robert E. Lee in a series of bloody battles in 1864, which ended with Grant trapping Lee at Petersburg, Virginia. During the siege, Grant coordinated a series of devastating campaigns launched by generals William Tecumseh Sherman, Philip Sheridan, and George Henry Thomas in other theaters. Finally breaking through Lee's trenches, the Union Army captured Richmond in April 1865. Lee surrendered his depleted forces to Grant at Appomattox as the Confederacy collapsed. Most historians have hailed Grant's military genius, despite losses of men.[1]

After the war, Grant served two terms as president and worked to stabilize the nation after the Civil War and during the turbulent Reconstruction period that followed. He enforced civil rights laws and fought Ku Klux Klan violence. Grant encouraged passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, giving protection for African-American voting rights. He used the army to build the Republican Party in the South, based on black voters, Northern newcomers ("Carpetbaggers") and native white supporters ("Scalawags"). As a result, African-Americans were represented in the Congress for the first time in American history in 1870. Although there were some gains in political and civil rights by African Americans in the early 1870s, by the time Grant left office in 1877, conservatives in the South had regained control of state governments, while most blacks lost their political power for nearly a century. Reformers praised Grant's Indian peace policy that reduced Indian violence and created the Board of Indian Commissioners. .[2] In the long run, however, even his supporters agree that most of his policies were unsuccessful. Grant's reputation fell as the economy plunged into a deep economic depression, called the Panic of 1873. After the Democrats gained control of the House in 1875, Grant had to respond to a series of Congressional investigations into bribery charges of two cabinet members. Grant had to respond to Congressional investigations into financial corruption charges of all federal departments.[3]

Grant's foreign policy, led by Secretary of State Hamilton Fish, settled the Alabama Claims with Britain and avoided war with Spain over the Virginius Affair, but his attempted annexation of the Dominican Republic failed. Grant's response to the Panic of 1873 gave some financial relief to New York banking houses, but was ineffective in stopping the five-year industrial depression that followed. After leaving office, Grant embarked on a two-year world tour that included many enthusiastic receptions. In 1880, he made an unsuccessful bid for a third presidential term. However, his memoirs, written as he was dying, were a critical and popular success. His death prompted an outpouring of national mourning. Historians have, until recently, ranked Grant as nearly the worst president, focusing on scandals of corrupt appointees and the unstable economy.[4] While still below average, his reputation among scholars has significantly improved in recent years because of greater appreciation for his commitment to civil rights, moral courage in his prosecution of the Ku Klux Klan, and enforcement of voting rights.[5]

Early life and family

2nd Lt U.S. Grant in 1843

Hiram Ulysses Grant was born in Point Pleasant, Ohio on April 27, 1822, to Jesse Root Grant, a tanner and businessman, and Hannah (Simpson) Grant.[6] Jesse Grant was a Whig in politics with abolitionist sentiments.[7] In the fall of 1823, the family moved to the village of Georgetown in Brown County, Ohio. Raised in a Methodist family devoid of religious pretentiousness, Grant prayed privately and was not an official member of the church.[8] Unlike his younger siblings, Grant was neither disciplined, baptized, nor forced to attend church by his parents.[9] One of his biographers suggests that Grant inherited a degree of introversion from his reserved, even "uncommonly detached" mother (she never took occasion to visit the White House during her son's presidency).[10] Grant developed an unusual ability to work with, and control, horses in his charge, and became known as a capable horseman.[11]

When Grant was 17, Congressman Thomas L. Hamer nominated him for a position at the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, New York. Hamer mistakenly wrote down the name as "Ulysses S. Grant of Ohio." At West Point, he adopted this name with a middle initial only. His nickname became "Sam" among army colleagues at the academy, since the initials "U.S." also stood for "Uncle Sam". The "S", according to Grant, did not stand for anything, though Hamer had used it to abbreviate his mother's maiden name.[12] The influence of Grant's family brought about the appointment to West Point, while Grant himself later recalled "a military life had no charms for me".[13] Grant stood 5 feet 1 inches and weighed 117 lbs when he entered West Point.[14] Grant later said that he was lax in his studies, but he achieved above average grades in mathematics and geology.[15] Although Grant had a quiet nature, he established a few intimate friends at West Point, including Frederick Tracy Dent and Rufus Ingalls.[16] While not excelling scholastically, Grant studied under Romantic artist Robert Walter Weir and produced nine surviving artworks.[15] He also established a reputation as a fearless and expert horseman, setting an equestrian high-jump record that stood almost 25 years.[15] He graduated in 1843, ranking 21st in a class of 39. Grant was glad to leave West Point and planned to resign his commission after serving the minimum term of obligated duty.[17] Despite his excellent horsemanship, he was not assigned to the cavalry, as assignments were determined by class rank, not aptitude.[15] Grant was instead assigned as a regimental quartermaster, managing supplies and equipment in the 4th Infantry Regiment, with the rank of brevet second lieutenant.[18]

Military career, 1843–1854

Grant's first assignment after graduation took him to the Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri in September 1843.[19] It was the nation's largest military bastion in the West, commanded by Colonel Stephen W. Kearny. Grant was happy with his new commander, but still looked forward to the end of his military service and a possible teaching career.[20] Grant spent some of his time in Missouri visiting the family of his West Point classmate, Frederick Dent, and getting to know Dent's sister, Julia; the two became secretly engaged in 1844.[20]

Rising tensions with Mexico saw Grant's unit shifted to Louisiana that year as a part of the Army of Observation under Major General Zachary Taylor.[21] When the Mexican–American War broke out in 1846, the Army entered Mexico. Not content with his responsibilities as a quartermaster, Grant made his way to the front lines to engage in the battle, and participated as a de facto cavalryman at the Battle of Resaca de la Palma.[22] The army continued its advance into Mexico. At Monterrey, Grant demonstrated his equestrian ability, carrying a dispatch through sniper-lined streets on horseback while mounted in one stirrup.[23] President James K. Polk, wary of Taylor's growing popularity, divided his army, sending some troops (including Grant's unit) to form a new army under Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott.[24] Scott's army landed at Veracruz and advanced toward Mexico City. The army met the Mexican forces at battles of Molino del Rey and Chapultepec outside Mexico City. At Chapultepec, Grant dragged a howitzer into a church steeple to bombard nearby Mexican troops.[25] Scott's army was soon into the city, and the Mexicans agreed to peace not long after.

In his memoirs, Grant later wrote that he had learned about military leadership by observing the decisions and actions of his commanding officers, and in retrospect identified himself with Taylor's style. At the time he felt that the war was a wrongful one and believed that territorial gains were designed to spread slavery throughout the nation; writing in 1883, Grant said "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 also opined that the later Civil War was inflicted on the nation as punishment for its aggression in Mexico.[26]

On August 22, 1848, after a four-year engagement, Grant and Julia were married.[27] They would have four children: Frederick Dent Grant; Ulysses S. "Buck" Grant, Jr.; Ellen Wrenshall "Nellie" Grant; and Jesse Root Grant.[28] Grant was assigned to several different posts over the ensuing six years. His first post-war assignments took him and Julia to Detroit and Sackets Harbor, New York, the location that made them the happiest.[29] In the spring of 1852, he traveled in to Washington, D.C. in a failed attempt to prevail upon the Congress to rescind an order that he, in his capacity as quartermaster, reimburse the military $1000 in losses incurred on his watch, for which he bore no personal guilt.[30] He was sent west to Fort Vancouver in the Oregon Territory in 1852, initially landing in San Francisco during the height of the California Gold Rush. Julia could not accompany him as she was eight months pregnant with their second child.[31] The journey proved to be an ordeal due to transportation disruptions and an outbreak of cholera within the entourage while traveling overland through Panama. Grant made use of his organizational skills, arranging makeshift transportation and hospital facilities to take care of the sick. There were 150 fatalities including Grant's long-time friend John H. Gore.[32] After Grant arrived in San Francisco he traveled to Fort Vancouver, continuing his service as quartermaster.

To supplement a military salary inadequate to support his family, Grant, assuming his work as quartermaster so equipped him, attempted but failed at several business ventures.[33] The business failures in the West confirmed Jesse Grant's belief that his son had no head for business, creating frustration for both father and son. In one case, Grant had even naively allowed himself to be swindled by a partner.[34] These failures, along with the separation from his family, made for quite an unhappy soldier, husband and son. Rumors began to circulate that Grant was drinking in excess.[34]

In the summer of 1853, Grant was promoted to captain, one of only fifty on active duty, and assigned to command Company F, 4th Infantry, at Fort Humboldt, on the northwest California coast. Without explanation, he shortly thereafter resigned from the army on July 31, 1854. The commanding officer at Fort Humboldt, brevet Lieutenant Colonel Robert C. Buchanan, a strict disciplinarian, had reports that Grant was intoxicated off duty while seated at the pay officer's table. Buchanan had previously warned Grant several times to stop his drinking. In lieu of a court-martial, Buchanan gave Grant an ultimatum to sign a drafted resignation letter. Grant resigned; the War Department stated on his record, "Nothing stands against his good name."[35] Rumors, however, persisted in the regular army of Grant's intemperance. According to biographer McFeely, historians overwhelmingly agree that his intemperance at the time was a fact, though there are no eyewitness reports extant.[36] Two of Grant's lieutenants corroborated this story and Buchanan confirmed it to another officer in a conversation during the Civil War. [37] Years later, Grant said, "the vice of intemperance had not a little to do with my decision to resign."[37] Grant's father, again believing his son's only potential for success to be in the military, tried to get the Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis to rescind the resignation, to no avail.[38]

Civilian life

"Hardscrabble" home Grant built in Missouri for his family. Photo: 1891

At age 32, with no civilian vocation, Grant struggled through seven financially lean years. His father, Jesse, initially offered Grant a position in the Galena, Illinois branch of the tannery business, on condition that Julia and the children, for economic reasons, stay with her parents in Missouri, or the Grants in Kentucky. Ulysses and Julia were adamantly opposed to another separation, and declined the offer.[39] In 1854, Grant farmed on his brother-in-law's property near St. Louis, using slaves owned by Julia's father, but it did not succeed.[39] Two years later, Grant and family moved to a section of his father-in-law's farm and, to give his family a home, built a house he called "Hardscrabble".[39] Julia hated the rustic house, which she described as an "unattractive cabin".[39] During this time, Grant also acquired a slave from Julia's father, a thirty-five-year-old man named William Jones.[40] Having met with no success farming, the Grants left the farm when their fourth and final child was born in 1858. Grant freed his slave in 1859 instead of selling him, at a time when slaves commanded a high price and Grant needed money badly.[40] For the next year, the family took a small house in St. Louis where he worked, again without success, with Julia's cousin Harry Boggs, as a bill collector.[41] In 1860 Jesse offered him the job in his tannery in Galena, Illinois, without condition, which Ulysses accepted. The leather shop, "Grant & Perkins", sold harnesses, saddles, and other leather goods and purchased hides from farmers in the prosperous Galena area. He moved his family to a house in Galena that year.[42]

Julia Dent Grant in 1868

Grant was not politically active and never endorsed any candidate before the Civil War.[43] His father-in-law was a prominent Democrat in Missouri, a factor that helped derail Grant's bid to become county engineer in 1859, while his father was an outspoken Republican in Galena.[44] In the 1856 election, Grant cast his first presidential vote for the Democrat, James Buchanan, saying he was really voting against John C. Frémont, the Republican.[43] In 1860, he favored the Democratic presidential candidate 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. By August 1863, during the Civil War, after the fall of Vicksburg, Grant's political sympathies fully coincided with the Radical Republicans' aggressive prosecution of the war and for the abolition of slavery.[45]

Civil War

On April 13, 1861, the American Civil War began as Confederate troops attacked Union Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina forcing its surrender. Two days later, Lincoln put out a call for 75,000 volunteers. A mass meeting was called in Galena to encourage recruitment. Recognized as the sole military professional in the area, Grant was asked to lead the meeting and ensuing effort. He proceeded to help recruit a company of volunteers and accompanied it to Springfield, the capital of Illinois. Illinois Governor Richard Yates offered Grant a position recruiting and training volunteer units, which he accepted, but Grant wanted a field command in the regular Army. He made multiple efforts with contacts (including Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan) to acquire such a position with no success. Meanwhile, Grant continued serving at the training camps and made a positive impression on the volunteer Union recruits. With the aid of his advocate in Washington, Elihu B. Washburne, Grant was promoted to Colonel by Governor Richard Yates on June 14, 1861, and put in charge of the unruly 21st Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Transferred to northern Missouri, Grant was promoted by President Lincoln to Brigadier General, supported by Congressman Washburn, backdated to May 17, 1861.[46] By the end of August 1861, Grant was given charge of the southern Illinois, District of Cairo, by Maj. Gen John C. Fremont, an outside Lincoln appointment, who viewed Grant as "a man of dogged persistence, and iron will." Grant's own demeanor had changed immediately at the outset of the war; with renewed energies and confidence.[47] He later recalled with apparent satisfaction that after that first recruitment meeting in Galena, 'I never went into our leather store again..."[48] During this time Grant quickly perceived that the war would be fought for the most part by volunteers, and not professional soldiers.[49]

Forts Henry and Donelson

Campaigns for Belmont, Fort Henry and Fort Donelson

Grant's troops first saw action in late 1861, starting out from his base at Cairo, Illinois, the strategic point where the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi River and near the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers.[50] The Confederate army was stationed in Columbus, Kentucky under Maj. Gen. Leonidas Polk. Maj. Gen. John C. Frémont ordered Grant to make "demonstrations", not including attack, against the Confederate Army at Belmont.[50] After Lincoln relieved Frémont from command, Grant attacked Fort Belmont taking 3,114 Union troops by boat on November 7, 1861. He initially took the fort, but his army was later pushed back to Cairo by the reinforced Confederates under Brig. Gen. Gideon J. Pillow. A tactical defeat, the battle nonetheless instilled much needed confidence in Grant and his volunteers.[51] Following Belmont, Grant asked Maj. Gen. Henry Halleck for permission to move against Fort Henry on the Tennessee River; Halleck agreed on condition that the attack be conducted with oversight by Union Navy Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote. Grant's troops, in close cooperation with Foote's naval forces successfully captured Fort Henry on February 6, 1862, and nearby Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River on February 16.[52] Fort Henry, undermanned by Confederates and nearly submerged from flood waters, was taken over with few losses.[53] However, at Fort Donelson, Grant and Foote encountered stiffer resistance from the Confederate forces under Pillow. Grant's initial 15,000 troops were joined by 10,000 reinforcements, against 12,000 Confederate troops at Fort Donelson. Foote's initial approach by Union naval ships were repulsed by Donelson's guns. The Confederates, who were surrounded by Grant's army attempted a break out, pushing Grant's right flank into disorganized retreat eastward on the Nashville road.[54] Grant rallied his troops, resumed the offensive, retook the Union right and attacked Pillow's left. Pillow ordered Confederate troops back into the fort, relinquished command to Brig. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner who surrendered to Grant the next day. Grant's terms were repeated across the North: "No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted."[54] Grant became a celebrity in the North, now nicknamed "Unconditional Surrender" Grant. With these victories, President Abraham Lincoln promoted Grant to major general of volunteers.[55]


Grant's advance at Forts Henry and Donelson was the most significant advance into the Confederacy to date. His army, known as the Army of the Tennessee, had increased to 48,894 men and was encamped on the western side of the Tennessee River. Grant met with Brig. Gen. William T. Sherman, and they prepared to attack the Confederate stronghold of equal numbers at Corinth, Mississippi.[56] The Confederates had the same thing in mind, and moved first at dawn on April 6, 1862, with a full attack on the Union Army at the Battle of Shiloh. The objective was to annihilate the western Union offensive in one massive assault. Over 44,000 Confederate troops, led by Generals Albert Sidney Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard, attacked the five divisions of Grant's army bivouacked nine miles south at Pittsburg Landing. Aware of the impending Confederate attack, Union troops sounded the alarm and readied for battle. The Confederates struck hard and pushed the Union Army back towards the Tennessee River. At the end of the day, the Union Army was vulnerable, and might have been destroyed had Beauregard's troops not been too exhausted to continue the fight.[57] Avoiding panic, Grant and Sherman rallied their troops for a counterattack the next morning. With reinforcement troops from Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell and Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace's missing division, Grant succeeded in driving the Confederates back to the road from Corinth. Although he stopped short of capturing Beauregard's army, Grant was able to stabilize the Army of the Tennessee.[58]

The battle was the costliest of the war to date, with aggregate Union and Confederate casualties of 23,746, and minimal strategic advantage gained by either side. Nevertheless, Grant received high praise from many corners. He later remarked that the carnage at Shiloh had made it clear to him that the Confederacy would only be defeated by complete annihilation of its armies. Grant was criticized for his decision to keep the Union Army bivouacked rather than entrenched.[59] Halleck transferred command of the Army of the Tennessee to Brig. Gen. George H. Thomas and "promoted" Grant to the hollow position of second-in-command of all the armies of the west. As a result, Grant was again on the verge of resigning until Sherman paid a visit to his camp.[60] Sherman, whose experiences in the military had been similar to Grant's, convinced Grant to remain in the army. During Halleck's sluggish advance on Corinth—covering 19 miles in 30 days—the entire Confederate force there escaped; the 120,000-man Union Army was then broken up. Charles A. Dana, an investigative agent for Secretary of War Edwin Stanton at the time, interviewed Grant and related to Lincoln and Stanton that Grant appeared "self-possessed and eager to make war." Lincoln reinstated Grant to his command of the Army of the Tennessee.[61]


The Battle of Jackson, fought on 14 May 1863, in Jackson, Mississippi, was part of the Vicksburg Campaign.

Lincoln was determined to take the strategic Confederate stronghold at Vicksburg, Mississippi, on the Mississippi River and authorized Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand to raise an army in his home state of Illinois for the purpose. Grant was very frustrated at the lack of direction he was receiving to move forward from his station in Memphis, and more aggravated to learn of this apparent effort to brush him aside. According to biographer William S. McFeely, this discontent may have been responsible for Grant's ill-considered issuance of General Orders No. 11 on December 17, 1862. This order expelled Jews, as a class, from Grant's military district, in reaction to illicit activities of overly aggressive cotton traders in the Union camps, who Grant believed were interfering with military operations.[62] Lincoln demanded the order be revoked, and Grant rescinded it twenty-one days after issuance. Without admitting fault, Grant believed he had only complied with the instructions sent from Washington. According to another Grant biographer, Jean E. Smith, it was "one of the most blatant examples of state-sponsored anti-Semitism in American history."[63] Grant had believed that gold, along with cotton, was being smuggled through enemy lines and that Jews could pass freely into enemy camps.[64] Grant later expressed regret for this order in 1868; his attitude concerning Jews was otherwise undeclared.[64]

In December 1862, with Halleck's approval, Grant moved to take Vicksburg by an overland route, aided by Charles Hamilton and James McPherson, in combination with a water expedition on the Mississippi led by Maj. Gen. Sherman. Grant had thus pre-empted his rival McClernand's move. Confederate cavalry raiders Brig. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn stalled Grant's advance by disrupting his communications, while the Confederate army led by Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton concentrated and repulsed Sherman's direct approach at Chickasaw Bayou. McClernand afterwards attempted to salvage Sherman's effort to no avail, so at the end of the first day neither Grant nor McClernand had succeeded.[65]

During the second attempt to capture Vicksburg, Grant made a series of unsuccessful and criticized movements along bayou and canal water routes. Finally, in April 1863, Grant marched Union troops down the west side of the Mississippi River and crossed east over at Bruinsburg using Rear Adm. David Porter's ships. Grant previously had ordered two diversion battles that confused Pemberton and allowed Grant's army to cross the Mississippi. After a series of battles, including the capture of a railroad junction near Jackson, Grant went on to defeat Pemberton at the Battle of Champion Hill. Grant then assaulted the Vicksburg fortress twice, and suffered serious losses. After the failed assault, Grant settled in for a siege lasting seven weeks. As the siege began, Grant lapsed into a two-day drinking episode.[66] Pemberton surrendered Vicksburg to Grant on July 4, 1863.[67] During the campaign, Grant assumed responsibility for refugee-contraband slaves who were displaced by the war and vulnerable to Confederate marauders; Lincoln had authorized their recruitment into the Union Army. Grant put the refugees under the protection of Brig. Gen. John Eaton who authorized them to work on abandoned Confederate plantations to support the war effort. The effort was the precursor to the Freedman's Bureau during later Reconstruction.

The fall of Vicksburg gave the Union control over the entire Mississippi and split the Confederacy in two. Grant demonstrated that an indirect assault coupled with diversionary tactics was highly effective strategy in defeating an entrenched army. Although the success at Vicksburg was a great morale boost for the Union war effort, Grant received much criticism for his decisions and his reported drunkenness. Lincoln again sent Dana to keep a watchful eye on Grant's alleged intemperance; Dana eventually became Grant's devoted ally, and made light of the drinking.[68] The personal rivalry between McClernand and Grant continued over Vicksburg, but ended when Grant removed McClernand from command after he issued, and arranged the publication of, a military order in contravention of Grant.

Chattanooga and promotion

Union troops swarm Missionary Ridge and defeat Bragg's army.

Lincoln put Grant in command of the newly formed Division of the Mississippi in October 1863, giving Grant charge of the entire western theater of war, except for Louisiana. After the Battle of Chickamauga, Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg forced Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans's Army of the Cumberland to retreat into Chattanooga, a central railway hub, surrounded the city and trapped the Union army inside. Only Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas and the XIV Corps kept the Army of the Cumberland from complete defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga. When informed of the ominous situation at Chattanooga, Grant relieved Rosecrans from duty and placed Thomas in charge of the besieged Army of the Cumberland. To stop the siege and go on the attack, Grant, personally rode out to Chattanooga and took charge of the desperate situation. Lincoln sent Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker and two divisions of the Army of the Potomac to reinforce the Army of the Cumberland, however, the Confederates kept the two armies from meeting. Grant's first action was to open up a supply line to the Army of the Cumberland trapped in Chattanooga. Following a plan devised by Maj. Gen. William F. Smith, a "Cracker Line" was formed with Hooker's Army of the Potomac on Lookout Mountain and supplied the Army of the Cumberland with food and weapons.[69]

On November 23, 1863, Grant organized three armies to attack Bragg's troops on Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain. The next day, Sherman and four divisions of the Army of the Tennessee assaulted Bragg's right flank. Thomas and the Army of the Cumberland overtook Confederate picket trenches at the base of Missionary Ridge. Hooker's forces took Lookout Mountain and captured 1,064 prisoners. On November 25, Sherman continued his attack on Bragg's right flank on the northern section of Missionary Ridge. In response to Sherman's assault Bragg withdrew Confederate troops on the main ridge to reinforce the Confederate right flank. Seeing that Bragg was reinforcing his right flank, Grant ordered Thomas to make a general assault on Missionary Ridge. After a brief delay, the Army of the Cumberland, led by Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan and Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Wood, captured the first Confederate entrenchments. Without further orders, the Army of the Cumberland continued up hill and captured the Confederate's secondary entrenchments on top of Missionary Ridge; forcing the defeated Confederates into disorganized retreat. Although Bragg's army had not been captured, the decisive battle opened Georgia and the heartland of the Confederacy to Union invasion. Grant's fame increased and he was promoted to Lieutenant General, a position that had previously been given only to George Washington and Winfield Scott.[70]

Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant

Disappointed with Maj. Gen. George Meade's failure to pursue Lee after the Confederate defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg, Lincoln made Grant commander of all Union armies in March 1864.[71] Grant gave the Department of the Mississippi to Sherman, and went east to Washington, D.C., to devise a strategy with Lincoln. After settling Julia into a house in Georgetown, Grant established his headquarters fifty miles away, near Meade's Army of the Potomac in Culpeper, Virginia.[72] The Union strategy of a comprehensive effort to bring about a speedy victory for the Union consisted of coordinated Union offensives, attacking the rebel armies at the same time to keep the Confederates from shifting reinforcements within southern interior lines. Maj. Gen. Sherman would attack Atlanta and Georgia, while Maj. Gen. Meade would lead the Army of the Potomac, with Grant in camp, to attack Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler was to attack and advance towards Richmond from the south, going up the James River.[73] Depending on Lee's actions, Grant would join forces with Butler's armies and be fed supplies from the James River. Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel was to capture the railroad line at Lynchburg, move east, and attack from the Blue Ridge Mountains.[74] Grant was riding a rising tide of popularity, and there were discussions in some corners that a Union victory early in the year could open the possibility of his candidacy for the presidency. Grant was aware of it, but had ruled it out in discussions with Lincoln; in any case, the possibility would soon vanish with delays on the battlefield.[75]

Overland Campaign and victory

Sigel's and Butler's efforts sputtered and Grant was left alone to fight Lee in a series of bloody battles of attrition known as the Overland Campaign. After taking the month of April 1864 to assemble and ready the Army of the Potomac, Grant crossed the Rapidan River on May 4 and attacked Lee in the Wilderness, a hard-fought 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 the Union Army between Lee and Richmond at Spotsylvania.[76] Lee's army got to Spotsylvania first and a costly battle began that lasted thirteen days. During the battle, Grant attempted to break through Lee's line of defense at the Mule Shoe, which resulted in one of the bloodiest assaults during the Civil War, known as The Battle of the Bloody Angle. Unable to break Lee's line of defense after repeated attempts, Grant flanked Lee to the southeast east again at North Anna, a battle that lasted three days.[77] This time the Confederate Army had a superior defensive advantage on Grant. Grant then maneuvered the Union Army to Cold Harbor, a vital railroad hub that was linked to Richmond, but Lee's men were able to entrench against the Union assault. During the third day of the thirteen-day battle, Grant led a costly assault on Lee's trenches. As news spread in the North, heavy criticism fell on Grant, who was called "the Butcher", having taken 52,788 casualties in thirty days since crossing the Rapidan.[78] Lee suffered 32,907 Confederate casualties, and was less able to replace them.[78] When the two armies had fought to a stalemate, the generals took three days to reach a truce, so that the dead and dying could be removed from the battlefield.[79] The costly June 3 assault at Cold Harbor was the second of two battles in the war which Grant later distinctly regretted.[80] Unknown to Lee, Grant pulled out of Cold Harbor and moved his army south of the James River, freed Maj. Gen. Butler from the Bermuda Hundred, and attacked Petersburg, Richmond's central railroad hub.[74]

Grant at City Point in 1864 with his wife and son Jesse

Robert E. Lee surrendered to Grant at the Appomatox Court House.

After Grant and the Army of the Potomac had crossed the James River undetected and rescued Maj. Gen. Butler from the Bermuda Hundred, Grant advanced the army southward to capture Petersburg. Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard, in charge of Petersburg, was able to defend the city and Lee's veteran reinforcements arrived. Grant forced Lee into a long nine-month siege of Petersburg and the war effort stalled.[81] Northern resentment grew as the war dragged on, but an indirect benefit of the Petersburg siege was found in preventing Lee from reinforcing armies to oppose Sherman and Sheridan.[82] During the siege, Sherman was able to take Atlanta, a victory that advanced President Lincoln's reelection. Maj. Gen. Sheridan was given command of the Union Army of the Shenandoah and directed to "follow the enemy to their death".[83] Lee had sent General Jubal Early up the Shenandoah Valley to attack the federal capital and draw troops away from the Army of the Potomac, but Sheridan defeated Early, saving Washington from capture. Grant then ordered Sheridan's cavalry to destroy vital Confederate supply farms in the Shenandoah Valley. When Sheridan reported suffering attacks by irregular Confederate cavalry under John S. Mosby, Grant recommended rounding up their families for imprisonment as hostages at Ft. McHenry.[83]

Grant attempted to blow up part of Lee's Petersburg trenches from an underground tunnel, but the explosion created a crater from which Confederates could easily pick off Union troops below. The 3500 Union casualties outnumbered the Confederates' by three-to-one; Grant admitted the tactic had been a "stupendous failure."[84] On August 9, 1864, Grant, who had just arrived at his headquarters in City Point, narrowly escaped death when Confederate spies blew up an ammunition barge moored below the city's bluffs.[85] As the war slowly progressed, Grant continued to extend Lee's entrenchment defenses southwest of Petersburg, in an effort to capture vital railroad links. By August 21, the Union had captured the Weldon Railroad. As Grant continued to push the Union advance westward towards the South Side Railroad, Lee's entrenchment lines became overstretched and undermanned. After the Federal army rebuilt the City Point Railroad, Grant was able to use mortars to attack Lee's entrenchments.

Once Sherman reached the East Coast and Thomas dispatched Hood in Tennessee, Union victory appeared certain, and Lincoln resolved to attempt a negotiated end to the war with the Confederates. He enlisted Francis Preston Blair to carry a message to Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Davis and Lincoln each appointed commissioners, but the conference soon stalled. Grant contacted Lincoln, who agreed to personally meet with the commissioners at Fort Monroe. The peace conference was ultimately fruitless, but Grant had shown his willingness and ability to assume a diplomatic role beyond his normal military posture.[86]

In March 1865, while Lincoln met at City Point with Grant, Sherman, and Porter, Union forces finally took Petersburg and captured Richmond in April. Lee's troops began deserting in large numbers; disease and lack of supplies also weakened Lee's forces.[87] Lee attempted to link up with the remnants of Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston's defeated army; however, Union cavalry forces led by Sheridan were able to stop the two armies from converging. Lee and his army surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. Grant gave generous terms; Confederate troops surrendered their weapons and were allowed to return to their homes, with their mounts, on the condition that they would not take up arms against the United States. Within a few weeks the Civil War was over.[88]

Lincoln's assassination

On April 14, five days after Grant's victory at Appomattox, Lincoln was fatally shot by John Wilkes Booth and died the next morning. The assassination was part of a conspiracy that targeted a number of government leaders.[89] Grant attended a cabinet meeting that day, and Lincoln had invited Grant and his wife to the theater, but they declined, as they had plans to travel to Philadelphia. Many, including Grant, thought him to have been a target in the plot; an unknown assailant allegedly failed in an attempt to break into Grant's railroad car.[90] Stanton, through Dana, notified Grant of the President's death and summoned him to Washington. For security purposes a scapegoat engine preceded Grant's train on the return trip. The following day Grant hastily ordered arrests of paroled Confederate officers. Maj. Gen. Edward Ord, however, was able to narrow the existing threats in Washington through the use of army intelligence and persuaded Grant to reverse his arrest orders.[91] Attending Lincoln's funeral on April 19, Grant stood alone and wept openly. He said of Lincoln, "He was incontestably the greatest man I have ever known."[92] Regarding the new president, Andrew Johnson, Grant commented to 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 Johnson, "Reconstruction has been set back no telling how far."[93]

Later in April, Sherman, without consulting Washington, concluded an agreement with Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston to effect the latter's surrender, believing it to be consistent with Lincoln's recent statements to him at City Point. Stanton and Grant quickly surmised the terms were much too lenient. Stanton even declared so publicly with scorn for Sherman; Grant, concerned that his lead commander's mistake not be mishandled, requested a cabinet meeting to discuss the problem, and offered to personally deliver the message of repudiation to Sherman. Grant handled the matter adroitly and made the most of their friendship, conveying the message to Sherman and ultimately getting his consent to renegotiate the agreement in accordance with the terms at Appomattox.[93]

Peacetime general

Celebrations and honors

Two-story brick house where Grant lived in Galena.

The post-Civil War home of Ulysses S. Grant, in Galena, Illinois.

In May 1865, the Union League of Philadelphia purchased the Grants a house in that city, but Grant's work was in Washington. He attempted to commute for a time and return on the weekends, but he and Julia moved to Washington that October.[94] They secured a place in Georgetown Heights, while Grant instructed his Washburne that, politically, his legal residence remained in Galena, Illinois.[95] That year, Grant appeared at Cooper Union in New York; the New York Times described the reception for the war hero: "...the enhanced and bewildered multitude trembled with extraordinary delight."[96] Further travels that summer, with repeated enthusiastic receptions, took the Grants to Albany and back to Galena and throughout Illinois and Ohio. On July 25, 1866, Congress promoted Grant to the newly created rank of General of the Army of the United States.[97]

Grant was the most popular man in the country.[98] When Johnson argued with Congress over Reconstruction, he took his case to the people with his "swing around the circle." Johnson sought to capitalize on Grant's popularity by having the general travel with him.[98] Grant, wishing to appear loyal, agreed to accompany Johnson; however he confided in his wife that he thought Johnson's speeches were a "national disgrace". Grant continued his efforts to appear loyal while not alienating Republican legislators essential to his future.[99] At the same time, Johnson also suspected Grant to be a potential candidate in the 1868 presidential election, and decided to replace Secretary of War Stanton with Grant or Sherman. Grant discussed the matter with Sherman and convinced him to avoid the politically troubled president.[99]

Congressional reconstruction

Clockwise from lower left: Graduated at West Point 1843; Chapultepec 1847; Drilling his Volunteers 1861; Fort Donelson 1862; Shiloh 1862; Vicksburg 1863; Chattanooga 1863; Commander-in-Chief 1864; Lee's Surrender 1865

After the speaking tour, Johnson sent Grant on a fact-finding mission to the South, after which he filed a report recommending continuation of a reformed Freedman's Bureau, that Johnson opposed, but against the use of black troops in garrisons that he believed were encouraging an alternative to farm labor.[100] Grant did not believe the people of the devastated South were ready for self-rule and required further U.S. military occupation.[101] Grant stated that both whites and blacks in the South required the protection of the U.S. federal government.[101] Grant 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., men of property.)[102] In this respect, Grant's initial Reconstruction policy aligned with Johnson's policy of pardoning established southern leaders and restoring them to their positions of power.[103] He joined Johnson in arguing that Congress should allow congressional representatives from the South to be seated.[104]

In 1866, an intraparty fight arose in Maryland that threatened to devolve into a riot. John Lee Chapman, the Radical mayor of Baltimore, had been elected in 1862 in an election in which the police commissioners had allegedly turned Conservative voters away from the polls.[105] Four years later, Maryland's governor, Thomas Swann, a Johnson supporter, threatened to remove the commissioners and appoint his own, which Radicals believed would result in their own disenfranchisement. Grant was reluctant to send federal troops into a loyal state; instead he traveled to the city himself as a private citizen and arranged a settlement that would allow both groups' poll watchers to ensure fair elections.[105]

The Baltimore tumult was just the prelude for the conflict between Radicals and Conservatives over the Reconstruction of the South. Rejecting Johnson's vision for quick reconciliation with former Confederates, Congress passed the Reconstruction Acts, divided the southern states into five military districts run by the army to ensure that freedmen's constitutional and congressional rights were protected. Transitional state governments in each district were to be led by military governors general. Grant, who was to select the general to govern each district, preferred Congress's plan for enforcement of Reconstruction.[106] Grant was optimistic Reconstruction Acts would help pacify the South.[107] He carried out his duty under the Acts and instructed the generals to do likewise, further alienating Johnson; when Sheridan removed public officials in Louisiana who impeded Reconstruction, Johnson was especially displeased and sought Sheridan's removal.[108] Grant stayed the middle course, and recommended a rebuke but not a dismissal.[109] Throughout the Reconstruction period, more than 1,500 African Americans were elected to political office, while Grant and the military protected their rights by overturning the first black codes in 1867.[110]

Mexico and Canada

Grant, as commanding general, immediately had to contend with Maximilian of Mexico and the French army that had taken over Mexico with the help of Napoleon III. Most Americans felt this to be a violation of the Monroe Doctrine. Johnson told Grant to put military pressure on the French to leave Mexico by sending 50,000 troops to the Texas border under Sheridan. Grant told Sheridan to do whatever he could, within the bounds of neutrality, to force Maximilian's abdicatation and get the French Army to leave Mexico. Sheridan sent Benito Juárez, the ousted leader of Mexico, 60,000 rifles.[111] In a cabinet meeting, Johnson suggested Grant be assigned to the Mexican frontier as a way of removing him from the political mainstream. Grant immediately recognized the nature of this proposal, and refused. As a compromise Grant sent Sherman (now promoted to Lieutenant General) in his place.[112] By 1866, the French Army completely withdrew from Mexico; Maximilian was executed by Juárez in 1867.[113]

After the Civil War, thousands of Irish veterans joined the Fenian Brotherhood with the intention of invading and holding Canada hostage in exchange for Irish independence. In June 1866, Johnson sent Grant to Buffalo, New York, to assess the situation. He ordered the Canadian border closed to prevent Fenian soldiers from crossing over at Fort Erie and that more weapons be confiscated. In June 1866, the United States Army arrested 700 Fenian troops at Buffalo and the Fenians gave up on their attempt to invade Canada.[114]

Johnson's impeachment

The impeachment of Andrew Johnson.

Johnson had for some time wished to replace Stanton, who sympathized with Congressional Reconstruction, as Secretary of War and asked Grant to take the post in an effort to keep Grant under his control as a potential political rival. Grant's reply was a recommendation against the move, in light of the Tenure of Office Act which required Senate approval of any removal of a cabinet appointment. Johnson forced the issue by making it an interim appointment during a Senate recess. Grant relented and agreed to accept the post temporarily, lest he be rendered irrelevant politically.[115] Later when the Senate reinstated Stanton, Johnson requested Grant refuse to surrender the office to Stanton and let the courts resolve the matter. Instead, Grant stepped aside and incurred Johnson's wrath during a cabinet meeting immediately afterwards for allegedly breaking a promise not to do so. Grant disputed that he had ever made such a promise.[116] Johnson's true frustration was with Grant's taking the Radicals' side. On January 14, 1868, newspapers friendly to Johnson published a series of articles in an attempt to discredit Grant over returning the War Department to Stanton, stating Grant had been deceptive in the matter.[116] Grant defended himself in a written response to the President, which became public; Grant thereby increased his national popularity and emerged from the controversy unscathed.[116] He also took no role apart from subsequent impeachment proceedings against Johnson; none of the principals in the matter benefited from it.[117]

1868 presidential campaign

A Thomas Nast cartoon depicting Grant steering a ship and being challenged by opponents during presidential election of 1872.

Cartoon by Thomas Nast on Grant's opponents in the re-election campaign

Grant's abandonment of Johnson in the Stanton matter increased his popularity with the Radical Republicans. John Weiss Forney, editor of the Washington Daily Chronicle, took up the effort for Grant's nomination, with Grant's approval.[118] Grant was chosen as the Republican presidential candidate on the first ballot at the 1868 Republican National Convention in Chicago. He faced no significant opposition. In his letter of acceptance to the party, Grant concluded with "Let us have peace," which became his campaign slogan.[118] For vice president, the delegates nominated House Speaker Schuyler Colfax. As was common practice at the time, Grant remained at home in Galena during the campaign, and left most of the active campaigning and speaking on his behalf to his campaign manager William E. Chandler and others.[119] Grant's General Orders No. 11 and antisemitism became an issue during the 1868 1868. In a letter, published after the election, Grant sought to unequivocally distance himself from General Orders No. 11. Grant repudiated his order, saying "I have no prejudice against sect or race, but want each individual to be judged by his own merit."[120]

The Democrats nominated former New York Governor Horatio Seymour. The Democrats' 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.[121] In the general election of that year, Grant won by 300,000 votes out of 5,716,082 votes cast. Grant received an electoral college landslide, getting 214 votes to Seymour's 80. When he assumed the presidency, Grant had never before held elected office and, at the age of forty-six, was the youngest person elected president to date. Grant was the first president elected after the nation had outlawed slavery and given citizenship to former slaves. Implementation of these new rights was slow to come; in the 1868 election, the black vote counted in only sixteen of the thirty-seven states.[122]

Presidency 1869–1877

President Ulysses S. Grant
Brady 1869

Breaking a long tradition, Johnson declined to ride in Grant's carriage or attend Grant's inauguration at the Capitol, remaining at the White House to sign last-minute bills into law. Grant took an unorthodox approach to his cabinet choices, declining to consult with the Senate and keeping his choices secret until he submitted them for confirmation.[123] Grant first appointed his old friend, Elihu B. Washburne to the State Department. Washburne served twelve days in office then, in an apparently agreed-upon arrangement, resigned due to "sickness", and was appointed Minister to France.[124] Grant then appointed Hamilton Fish, a conservative New York statesman, Secretary of State. His relationship with Fish grew out of a strong friendship between the two men's wives.[125] Grant selected several non-politicians to his cabinet including Adolph E. Borie and A.T. Stewart, with limited success. Borie served briefly as Secretary of Navy, replaced by George M. Robeson, while Stewart was lawfully prevented from becoming Secretary of Treasury by a 1789 statute and by Senator Charles Sumner's and Senator Roscoe Conkling's opposition to amend the law.[126] In place of Stewart, Grant appointed George S. Boutwell, known for his integrity, as Secretary of Treasury.[126] Grant's other cabinet appointments, Jacob D. Cox (Interior), John Creswell (Postmaster General), and Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar (Attorney General), were well-received and uncontroversial.[127]

Later Reconstruction and civil rights

White Leaguers attacking the integrated police force and state militia, New Orleans, 1874

Reconstruction of the South continued as Grant took office in 1869. By 1870, the four remaining former Confederate states were successfully restored into the United States.[128] He lobbied Congress to pass the Fifteenth Amendment, guaranteeing that no state could prevent someone from voting based on his race, and believed that its passage would secure the freedmen's rights.[129] To enforce the new amendment, Grant relied on the army and the newly created Justice Department. In 1870, Grant signed a bill proposed by Thomas Jenckes of Rhode Island establishing the Department of Justice, to see that federal laws were enforced in the South when state courts and prosecutors were reluctant to do so. 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 assist him.[130] Under Grant's first attorney general, Ebenezer R. Hoar, the administratation was not especially aggressive in prosecuting white Southerners who terrorized their black neighbors, but Hoar's successor, Amos T. Akerman, was more zealous.[131] Alarmed by this rise in terror by the Ku Klux Klan and other groups, Congress investigated. With Grant's encouragement, they passed the Enforcement Acts in 1870 and 1871.[131] The Acts made it a federal offense to deprive any person of his civil rights and allowed the president to use the army to enforce the laws.[130] In May 1871, Grant ordered federal troops to assist marshals in arresting Klansmen.[132] That October, on Akerman's recommendation, Grant suspended habeas corpus in part of South Carolina and sent federal troops to enforce the law there.[132] The Klan's power collapsed, and by 1872, the elections in the South saw African Americans voting in record numbers.[132] This would be the last national election that African Americans had full voting rights in the South for nearly a century.[133] That same year, Grant signed the Amnesty Act, which restored political rights to former Confederates. Growing scandals in Washington, some involving members of Grant's administration, took more of the public's attention than the plight of the freedmen. After the collapse of the Klan in 1872, conservative whites formed armed groups (such as the Red Shirts in South Carolina and the White League). Unlike the KKK they were not secret. They used violence and intimidation against African Americans in order to take control from the state governments away from the Republicans.[134] Grant replaced Akerman with George Henry Williams, who was soon embroiled in his own scandal.[135] By 1873, the economic panic and ensuing depression contributed to public fatigue and the North grew less concerned with reconstructing the South.[136] Grant began to favor more limited use of troops, lest they create the impression that he was acting as a military dictator; he was also concerned that increased military pressure in the South might cause white supremacists in the North to bolt from the Republican Party.[137] By 1875, Democratic "Redeemer" politicians retook control of all but three Southern states. As violence against black Southerners escalated once more, Edwards Pierrepont (Grant's fourth attorney general) told Governor Adelbert Ames of Mississippi that the people were "tired of the autumnal outbreaks in the South," and declined to intervene.[137] Grant signed the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which expanded federal law enforcement by prohibiting discrimination on account of race in public accommodations, public transportation, and prohibited exclusion from jury service.[138] The law was mostly symbolic, rarely enforced, and did not stop the rise of white supremacist forces in the South.[138] In the election of 1876, the remaining three Republican governments in the South fell to Redeemers and the ensuing Compromise of 1877 marked the end of Reconstruction. The nation was at peace, but Reconstruction was finished.[139]

Indian policy

Grant's staff. L to R: Ely S. Parker, Adam Badeau, Grant, Orville E. Babcock, Horace Porter. Parker was the first Native American to be appointed Commissioner of Indian Affairs.

Grant's attempts to provide justice to Native Americans marked a radical reversal of what had long been the government's policy of Indian removal. He appointed Ely S. Parker, a Seneca Indian and member of Grant's wartime staff, as Commissioner of Indian Affairs. "My efforts in the future will be directed," Grant told Congress, "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" (also called the "Quaker Policy") aimed to replace entrepreneurs serving as Indian agents with missionaries.[140] In 1869, Grant signed an Indian appropriations bill that established a ten-man Board of Indian Commissioners to oversee spending and reduce corruption in the Bureau of Indian Affairs.[141] Two years later, in 1871, Grant signed an Indian appropriations bill that ending the Indian treaty system; the law now treated individual Native Americans as wards of the federal government, rather than dealing with the tribes as sovereign entities.[142] Grant wished the tribes to be protected on reservations and educated in European-style farming and culture, abandoning their hunter-gatherer way of life.[140] While unpopular today, the Peace Policy was considered liberal-minded in its day, and would see its fulfillment years later in the Dawes Act of 1887. The Policy showed some success in reducing conflict with fewer battles between Indians and whites on the western frontier, but the increased slaughter of the buffalo, encouraged by Grant's subordinates, caused renewed conflict with the Plains Indians in a few years.[143] The Sioux and other Plains Indian tribes accepted the reservation system, but encroachments by whites in search of gold in the Black Hills led to renewed war by the end of Grant's second term.[144] The war ended the growing understanding that had developed between Grant and Sioux Chief Red Cloud.[145]

Under Major Generals Oliver Otis Howard and George Crook, Grant's policy had greater success in the Southwest. Howard, the former head of the Freedman's Bureau, negotiated peace with the Apache in 1872, convincing their leader, Cochise, to move the tribe to a new reservation, ending a war started the year before.[146] In Oregon, relations were less peaceful, however, 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.[141] Although Grant was upset over Canby's death, he ordered restraint from seeking revenge or exterminating the tribe, as Sherman wished.[141] Four Modoc warriors were captured, tried for Canby's murder, sentenced to death, and hanged in October 1873. The remainder of the tribe was sent to Indian Territory.[141]

Foreign affairs

Grant with family at their cottage in Long Branch, New Jersey, 1870

Even before Grant became president, an annexationist faction in American politics desired control over the Caribbean islands. William H. Seward, Secretary of State under Lincoln and Johnson, having bought Alaska from the Russians and attempted to buy the Danish West Indies from the Danes, began negotiations to purchase the Dominican Republic.[147] These negotiations continued under Grant, led by Orville E. Babcock, a confidant who had served on Grant's staff during the Civil War.[147] Grant was initially skeptical, but the urging of the Admiral Porter, who wanted a naval base at Samaná Bay, and Joseph W. Fabens, a New England businessman employed by the Dominican government, Grant examined the matter and became convinced of its wisdom.[148] Grant sent Babcock to consult with Buenaventura Báez, the pro-annexation Dominican president, to see if the proposal was practical; Babcock returned with a draft treaty of annexation in December 1869.[148] Grant believed in peaceful expansion of the nation's borders, and thought the majority-black island would allow new economic opportunities for freedmen. The acquisition, according to Grant, would ease race relations in the South, clear slavery from Brazil and Cuba, and would increase American naval power in the Caribbean.[149] Secretary of State Hamilton Fish dismissed the idea, seeing the island as politically unstable and troublesome.[148] In the Senate, Charles Sumner opposed annexation because it would reduce the number of autonomous nations run by Africans in the western hemisphere. Other senators objected for the opposite reason—they did not wish to add more blacks to the American population.[150] Grant personally lobbied Senators to pass the treaty, going so far as to visit Sumner at his home.[150] Fish added to the effort out of loyalty to the administration, but to no avail; the Senate refused to pass the treaty. Sumner's role in leading the opposition led to unending political enmity between him and Grant[151]

Grant and Fish were more successful in their satisfaction of the Alabama claims, a dispute between Great Britain and the United States. The dispute stemmed from the damage done to American shipping during the Civil War by five ships build for the Confederacy in British shipyards including, most famously, CSS Alabama.[152] When the war ended, the United States demanded retribution, which the British refused to pay. Negotiations continued fitfully, a sticking point being the claims of "indirect damages" as opposed to the discussion to the harm directly caused by the five ships.[153] Again, Sumner was opposed, believing that the United States should seek a $2 billion reward payable in gold or, alternatively, by the cession of Canada.[154] Fish convinced Grant that peaceful relations were Britain were more important than acquisition of more territory, and the two nations agreed to negotiate along those lines.[155] A commission met in Washington produced a treaty whereby an international tribunal would settle the damage amounts; the British admitted regret, rather than fault.[lower-alpha 1] The Senate approved the Treaty of Washington, which also settled disputes over fishing rights and maritime boundaries, by a 50–12 vote in 1871.[156]

Secretary of State Hamilton Fish

The Grant administration's attention was drawn to the Caribbean again in 1873, a merchant ship, Virginius, carrying war materials and men to aid the Cuban insurrection, was taken captive by a Spanish warship. Virginius was registered in the United States, but secretly owned by Cuban insurgents. The passengers and crew, including eight United States citizens, were trying to illegally get into Cuba to help overthrow the government. The Spanish executed them, and many Americans called for war with Spain. Fish, with Grant's support, worked to reach a diplomatic solution rather than war. Grant kept the Virginius incident at the top of his weekly cabinet meetings agenda and kept his policy of non-recognition of Cuban belligerency.[157] Spain's president, Emilio Castelar y Ripoll expressed regret for the tragedy and agreed to determine reparations through arbitration; Spain surrendered the Virginius and paid a cash indemnity of $80,000 to the families of the executed Americans.[158]

In December 1874, Grant held a state dinner at the White House for the King of Hawaii, David Kalakaua, who was seeking the importation of Hawaiian sugar duty-free to the United States.[159] Grant and Fish were able to produce a successful free trade treaty in 1875 with the Kingdom of Hawaii, incorporating the Pacific islands' sugar industry into the United States' economy sphere.[159]

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 bills the government racked up in fighting the war, but they also caused inflation and forced gold-backed money out of circulation; Grant was determined to return to pre-war monetary standards.[160] Many in Congress agreed with Grant, and they quickly passed the Public Credit Act of 1869, which guaranteed that bondholders would be repaid in gold, not greenbacks.[161] Grant charged Treasury Secretary George S. Boutwell rationalizing the treasury Department and improving tax collection. As gold built up in the Treasury, Boutwell also worked to strengthen the dollar by buying up high-interest bonds issued during the war, thereby reducing the federal deficit.[161]

These actions had a large impact on the nation's small gold market, and gold speculators tried to make a profit by anticipating how much gold Boutwell would sell in a given week.[162] Abel Corbin, Grant's brother-in-law, sought to use his connection with the president to gain inside information for himself and his associates, Jay Gould, a Wall Street trader and railroad magnate, and his partner Jim Fisk (later called the "Gold Ring.")[163] Corbin convinced Grant to appoint Daniel Butterfield as assistant Treasurer, and Gould soon made Butterfield his informant.[164] Meanwhile, Gould and Fisk began to quietly stockpile gold. Gould convince Corbin that a high gold price would make the nation prosperous, and Corbin passed the theory on to Grant.[163] The conspirators believed they had convinced the president, and continued to stockpile gold, hoping to sell into a rising market.[165] Grant soon became suspicious of Corbin, however, when Corbin tried to drive a wedge between Grant and Boutwell.[166] The gold price continued to rise as the conspirators bought ever more.[166] The rising price began to affect the wider economy and Grant, seeing that the increase was unnatural, told Boutwell to sell gold, thereby reducing its price.[167] He did so the next day, September 22, 1869 ("Black Friday.") The sale of gold from the Treasury defeated Gould's corner on the market as the gold price plummeted, relieving the growing economic tension.[168] Gould and Fisk managed to escape without much harm to themselves.[169] A New York bank collapsed and trading dried up for months, but a general recession did not follow and the economy resumed its post-war recovery.[170]


Horace Greeley, Grant's opponent in the 1872 presidential election

Grant's personal reputation suffered from the continued scandals caused by many corrupt appointees and personal associates. In addition to the Gold Ring, corruption in the New York Customs House added to reformers negative impressions of the administration. The Crédit Mobilier scandal, in which a railroad company bribed many members of Congress, did not involve Grant, but did ensnare Vice President Colfax and added to the general sense of dishonesty in Washington. Grant attempted some reforms in his frist term, encouraging Congress to create the Civil Service Commission in 1871, but the commission's only power was to propose reforms, which Congress later rejected.[171] There was further division within the party between the faction most concerned with the plight of the freedmen and that concerned with the growth of industry.[172] During the war, both factions' interests aligned and in 1868 both had supported Grant. Since then his election, both felt alienated by Grant, especially the faction concerned with advancing the interest of black Americans.[172]

Many of such men bolted in 1872, calling themselves the Liberal Republicans. Led by Charles Francis Adams of Massachusetts and Senator Carl Schurz of Missouri, they publicly denounced the political patronage system that Sumner called "Grantism" and demanded amnesty for Confederate soldiers. The Liberal Republicans nominated Horace Greeley, another Republican who had come to dislike Grant and his policies.[173] The rest of the Republican Party nominated Grant for reelection with Henry Wilson of Massachusetts replacing Colfax as vice-presidential nominee.[174] The Democrats, seeking to combine anti-Grant sentiment, quickly nominated Greeley as well.[175] The fusion effort was unsuccessful, and Grant was easily reelected. The Liberal Republicans were unable to deliver many votes, and Greeley was only successful in areas the Democrats would have carried without him.[176] Grant won 56% of the poplar vote and an Electoral College landslide of 286 to 66.[177][lower-alpha 2]

Panic of 1873 and currency debates

A Thomas Nast cartoon depicting President Grant after vetoing the Inflation bill.

Political cartoon by Thomas Nast: Grant congratulated for vetoing the "inflation bill" on April 22, 1874.

The beginning of Grant's second term saw renewed economic turmoil. In September 1873, Jay Cooke & Company, a New York brokerage house, failed to fully sell a bond issue by Cooke's railroad, the Northern Pacific Railway, and collapsed as a result.[178] The collapse sent ripples through Wall Street and other banks and brokerages that owned railroad stocks and bonds found themselves ruined as well.[178] On September 20, the New York Stock Exchange suspended for ten days.[179] Grant, who knew little about finance, traveled to New York to consult leading businessmen and bankers for advice on how to curb the panic, which became known as the Panic of 1873.[180] 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.[181] He responded cautiously, instructing Treasury Secretary William Adams Richardson to purchase $10 million in government bonds, thus injecting cash into the system. These purchases curbed the panic on Wall Street, but a five-year industrial depression, later called the Long Depression nonetheless swept the nation.[180] Eighty-nine of the nation's 364 railroads went bankrupt.[182]

After the Panic, Congress debated an inflationary policy to stimulate the economy and passed what became known as the Inflation Bill on April 14, 1874. Many farmers and workingmen favored the bill, which would add $64 million in greenbacks to circulation, but some Eastern bankers opposed it because it would weaken the dollar.[183] Grant unexpectedly vetoed the bill on the grounds that it would destroy the credit of the nation.[184] Grant's veto placed him securely in the conservative faction of the Republican party, and was the beginning of the party's commitment to a strong gold-backed dollar.[184] Grant later pressured Congress for an bill to further strengthen dollar by gradually reducing the number of greenbacks in circulation. After losing the House to the Democrats in the 1874 elections, the lame-duck Republican Congress did so. On January 14, 1875, Grant signed the Specie Payment Resumption Act into law.[184] The Resumption Act required gradual reduction of the maximum value of greenbacks allowed to circulate and declared the resumption of specie payment on January 1, 1879. At the same time, Grant replaced Richardson, who was involved in the a political scandal, with Benjamin H. Bristow of Kentucky, who supported Grant's anti-inflationary hard money policy.[184]

Gilded Age corruption and reform

President Grant and family pose in an informal portrait outside. Grant is seated to the left and his wife Julia is seated to the right. Their son Jesse is standing between them.

Grant with his wife, Julia, and son, Jesse, in 1872

Grant served as president during the Gilded Age, a time when the economy was open to speculation and western expansion that fueled corruption in government offices. He had to respond to charges of misconduct in nearly all federal departments.[185] The administration fluctuated between the forces of corruption and the forces of reform. Although personally honest with his own money matters, Grant had difficulty in spotting corrupt individuals.[186] Grant was protective of associates, whose persecutions he saw as unjust.[187] Grant's military training was to shield associates from attack at the expense of his own reputation, unless evidence of personal misconduct was overwhelming.[187]

Besides the Gold Ring in 1869, the most infamous scandal was the Whiskey Ring, in which tax officials took bribes in exchange for not taxing distillers.[188] More corruption in the Treasury Department was made public in the Sanborn incident, in which John D. Sanborn (a friend of Congressman Benjamin Butler, the erstwhile Civil War general) was hired as an independent tax collector on a percentage basis (also known as a moiety.)[189] Treasury officials were then instructed not to press for payment, so that accounts would become delinquent and Sanborn would get paid more when he "discovered" them.[189] The Treasury scandals forced Treasury Secretary William Adams Richardson from office, and led to the appointment of his replacement, Benjamin Bristow, in 1874.[188] To prevent future unscrupulousness like Sanborn's, Grant signed the Anti-Moiety Act into law in 1874, abolishing the troublesome payment system.[185] Bristow, more than any other official in the administration, worked to clean up the expanding corruption. Another scandal, regarding western trading posts, was the subject of Congressional investigation. The scheme involved Secretary of War William Belknap selling concessions for trading posts on western army bases in exchange for a cut of the profits.[190] The accusations led to Belknap's resignation. Even after he resigned from office, the House of Representatives impeached Belknap.[191] He was only saved from conviction in the Senate because many Senators believed their jurisdiction ended when Belknap left office.[191]

With the exception of Grant's personal secretary, Orville E. Babcock, who indirectly controlled many cabinet departments and was able to delay investigations by reformers, the scandals were unrelated to each other.[192] Initially, Grant endorsed Bristow's investigations, saying "Let no guilty man escape if it can be avoided;" however, after Bristow discovered that Babcock was involved, Grant became defensive, believing that Babcock was the innocent victim of a witch hunt.[193] Babcock was found not guilty at a trial in which Grant testified on his behalf, but was not allowed to continue working for the president.[193][lower-alpha 3] Shortly before leaving office, Grant pardoned William O. Avery and William McKee, who were convicted in connection with the Whiskey Ring, after they had served six months of their two-year sentences.

There were other scandals, as well. Grant's Secretary of Navy George M. Robeson was investigated and reprimanded by Congress in 1876 for taking bribes, including the purchase of a vacation home, from naval contractors.[195] Because there was no direct evidence of cash payments, Congress did not make formal charges of impeachment against Robeson.[195] Columbus Delano, his Interior Secretary, allowed land frauds and ignored Interior department officials' award of surveying contracts to his son, who was paid without doing any of the contracted work.[196]

Some of Grant's cabinet members took significant steps to reform and curb corruption their departments. To help Bristow's investigations, Grant appointed reformers Edwards Pierrepont and Marshall Jewell as Attorney General and Postmaster General, respectively.[197] Secretary of Interior Zachariah Chandler succeeded Delano and cleaned up the corruption in that had taken place under his predecessor.[187] In 1875, Pierrepont cleaned up corruption among the U.S. Marshal and U.S. Attorney departments in the South.[198] Some of Grant's cabinet officials, including Fish and Jewell, instituted civil service reform in their departments.[199] Grant suggested other reforms, as well, including the idea that each state should provide free public schooling to all children, although he also endorsed the Blaine Amendment, which would have forbidden government aid to schools that have any religious affiliation.[200]

Judicial appointments

After several other men turned down the job or were rejected by the Senate, Grant successfully nominated Morrison Waite Chief Justice of the United States in 1874.

Grant appointed four Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States. The first two vacancies occurred in 1869 with the retirement of Robert C. Grier and Congress's restoration of a ninth seat on the Court.[lower-alpha 4][202] Grant appointed former Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and Attorney General Ebenezer R. Hoar.[201] Neither man would take his seat: Stanton was confirmed, but died before he took office; Hoar was widely disliked in the Senate, which defeated his nomination 24–33.[201] Following a cabinet discussion, Grant submitted two more names to the Senate: William Strong and Joseph P. Bradley. Strong was a former justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania who retired to take up a private practice in Philadelphia. Bradley, a New Jersey lawyer, also had a successful private practice. Both men were railroad lawyers, and their appointment led to accusations that Grant intended them to overturn the case of Hepburn v. Griswold, which had been decided the same day they were nominated. That case, which was unpopular with business interests, held that the federal debt incurred before 1862 must be paid in gold, not greenbanks.[203] Nonetheless, both Strong and Bradley were confirmed and the following year Hepburn was indeed reversed.[203]

After Grant's reelection, another Supreme Court seat opened up with the retirement of Justice Samuel Nelson.[204] Grant nominated Ward Hunt, a New York state judge and friend of Senator Roscoe Conkling, to replace him. Hunt was confirmed in 1873 and, like Nelson, upheld Reconstruction legislation. He served on the court until 1882.[204] In May 1873, Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase died suddenly. Grant waited several months before offering the seat to Conkling in November.[205] Conkling declined, as did Senator Timothy Howe of Wisconsin.[205] Grant unsuccessfully tried to enlist Hamilton Fish for the job and considered nominating Caleb Cushing, as well, before submitting the name of his attorney general, George Henry Williams.[204] The Senate had a dim view of Williams's performance at the Justice Department and refused to act on the nomination. Grant stuck to his choice, but after no action Williams asked that his name be withdrawn in January 1874.[204] Fish suggested nominating Hoar again, but Grant instead chose Cushing. Cushing was an eminent lawyer and respected in his field, but the emergence of his wartime correspondence with Jefferson Davis doomed his nomination.[204] Grant finally turned to Morrison Waite, a respectable (if little-known) Ohio lawyer who had worked on the Alabama claims arbitration.[206] Waite was unanimously approved two days later, on January 21, 1874. Waite was an uncontroversial nominee, but in his time on the Court he authored two of the decisions (United States v. Reese and United States v. Cruikshank) that did the most to undermine Reconstruction-era laws for the protection of black Americans.[205]


Grant is standing in a civilian dress suit holding a top hat after the Civil War.

Ulysses S. Grant sometime in the postbellum period

In 1876, the collected scandals of the last eight years led many in the Republican party to repudiate Grant.[207] 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.[207] Ultimately, Grant did not run, but neither was Bristow the nominee, as the convention settled on Governor Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio, a reformer. The Democrats nominated Samuel J. Tilden of New York, and the election that year was undecided for several months, due to voting irregularities in three Southern states.[208] Grant assured both sides that he would not use the army to force a result, and agreed to the formation of an Electoral Commission to decide the matter.[209] The result was the Compromise of 1877: Hayes was elected, but the last troops would be withdrawn from Southern capitals.[210] The Republicans had won, but Reconstruction was over.

World tour

Leaving the White House, Grant and family stayed with friends in New York, Ohio, and Philadelphia for two months before setting out on a tour of the world.[211] The trip, which would last two years, began in Liverpool in May 1877 where enormous crowds greeted the ex-president and his entourage.[212] Travelling to London, the Grants dined with Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle and Grant gave several speeches in the city.[213] They next traveled to Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland before returning to England. The Grants spent a few months with their daughter, Nellie, who had married an Englishman and moved to that country several years before. Returning to the continent, Grant and his wife journeyed on to France and Italy, spending Christmas 1877 aboard USS Vandalia, a warship docked in Palermo.[214] After a winter sojourn in the Holy Land, they visited Greece before returning to Italy and a meeting with Pope Leo XIII.[215] Travelling to Spain and then to Germany again, Grant met with Chancellor Otto von Bismarck; the two men discussed military matters.[216]

After another visit to England and then to Ireland, the Grants left Europe by ship, sailing through the Suez Canal to India. They visited Bombay, Lucknow, Varanasi, and Delhi, being welcomed in each city by the colonial officials.[217] After India, it was on to Burma, Siam (where Grant met King Chulalongkorn,) Singapore, and Vietnam.[218] Traveling on to Hong Kong, Grant began to change his mind on the nature of colonization, believing that the British rule was not "purely selfish" but also good for the colonial subjects.[217] Leaving Hong Kong, the Grants entered China proper, seeing the cities of Canton, Shanghai, and Peking. He declined to request 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.[219] They discussed China's dispute with Japan over the Ryukyu Islands, and Grant agreed to help bring the two sides to agreement.[220] After crossing over to Japan and meeting the Emperor Meiji, Grant convinced China to acquiesce in Japanese annexation of the islands, and the two nations avoided war.[221]

By then the Grants had been gone two years, and were homesick. They crossed the Pacific and landed in San Francisco in September 1879, greeted by cheering crowds.[222] After a visit to Yellowstone National Park, they returned at last to Philadelphia on December 16, 1879.[223] The two-and-a-half-year voyage around the world had captured popular imagination, and Republicans—especially those of the new Stalwart faction, who had excluded from the Hayes administration—saw Grant in a new light.[224] With Hayes having forsworn a second term when he was elected, the nomination for 1880 was wide open, and many thought that Grant was the man for the job.[224]

Third term attempt

Puck, a Democratic magazine, in 1880 lampooned Grant's support of "rings" of corruption among his associates.

The 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 prominence. Grant said nothing publicly, but privately he wanted the job and encouraged his men.[225] Elihu B. Washburne wrote to Grant in February 1880, urging 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.[226] 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 pledge to Grant than to any other candidate, but he was short of a majority.[226]

Grant's popularity was high, but fading. Washburne conjectured that had Grant stayed abroad longer, the wave of adulation that greeted him on his return might have carried him all the way back to the White House.[227] Conkling placed Grant's name in nomination with an elegant speech, his 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."[226] 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.[227] Subsequent ballots followed, with roughly the same result; neither Grant nor Blaine could win.[228] 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.[228] Grant received 306 votes on the final ballot, his supporters staying committed to their man to the bitter end.[229] Logan moved that the nomination be made unanimous, and it was, but those 306 Stalwarts were immortalized in Republican myth.[229]

Grant accepted his defeat, even claiming to be relieved at the result.[228] He gave speeches for Garfield, but declined to criticize the Democratic nominee, Winfield Scott Hancock, a general who had served under Grant in the Army of the Potomac.[230] Garfield was elected by a narrow popular margin, but a solid Electoral College vote—214 to 155.[230] After the election, Grant gave Garfield his public support, but also pushed him to include Stalwarts in his administration.[231]

Grant & Ward

Grant's world tour, although successful, was costly. When he returned to America, Grant had depleted most of his savings and needed to earn money.[232] To that end, Grant, Jay Gould, and former Mexican Finance Secretary Matías Romero chartered the Mexican Southern Railroad, which planned to build a railroad from Oaxaca to Mexico City.[233] At the same time, Grant used his influence to convince 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.[233] The railroad was similarly unsuccessful, falling into bankruptcy the following year.[233]

At the same time, Grant's son Ulysses Jr. ("Buck") 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.[234] In 1883, Grant joined the firm and invested $100,000 of his own money.[235] The firm's success attracted more investors, who bought securities through them, then used the securities as collateral to borrow money to buy more securities. Grant & Ward then pledged that collateral to borrow more money to trade in securities on the firm's own account. The practice–called hypothecation–was legal and accepted; what was illegal was rehypothecation, the practice of pledging the same securities as collateral for multiple loans.[234] Ward, with the collusion of the bank involved, did this for many of the firm's assets. If the trades resulted in profit, then there would be no problem; if they went bad, however, multiple loans would come due, all backed up by the same collateral. Historians acknowledge that Grant was likely unaware of Ward's tactics, 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 bankrupted. He told Grant of the impending failure, but suggested that it was a temporary shortfall.[236] Grant approached businessman William Henry Vanderbilt, who gave Grant a personal loan of $150,000.[237] Grant invested the money in the firm, but it was not enough to save the firm from failure. Essentially penniless, but compelled by a sense of personal honor, Grant repaid Vanderbilt with his Civil War mementos. Although the market value did not cover the loan, Vanderbilt insisted it was paid in full. The matter left Grant financially destitute.[236]

Memoirs and death

Grant working on his memoirs in 1885

Grant had forfeited his military pension when he assumed the presidency, but Congress restored him to the rank of General of the Army with full retirement pay in March 1885.[238] Around the same time, Grant learned that he was suffering from esophageal cancer.[239][lower-alpha 5] To restore his family's income, 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 Grant write a book of memoirs, as Sherman and others had successfully done.[241]

Grant took up the project and asked his former staff officer, Adam Badeau, to review his work. Grant's son Fred assisted with references and proofreading. Century offered Grant a book contract with a 10% royalty, but Grant's friend, Mark Twain, made his own offer to Grant for his memoirs, proposing a 75% royalty. Grant ultimately decided on Twain's publishing company, Charles L. Webster and Co.[242] Grant worked diligently on the memoir from a cottage on the slopes of Mount McGregor, finishing shortly before he died on July 23, 1885.[243] The book, entitled Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, was a success. In the end, Julia Grant received about $450,000, suggesting a royalty of about 30%.[242] The memoir has been highly regarded by the general public, military historians and literary critics.[244] Grant was a shrewd and effective writer, portraying himself in the persona of the honorable Western hero, whose strength lies in his honesty and straightforwardness. He candidly depicts his battles against both the Confederates and internal Army foes.[245] Twain called the Memoirs a "literary masterpiece", and others including Matthew Arnold and Edmund Wilson agree; it may be the "single most important" and influential work of American non-fiction.[246]

Grant died on July 23, 1885, at the age of 63.[247] Sheridan, by now 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 in Mount McGregor and lying in state in the New York State Capitol at Albany, Grant's body was placed on a funeral train and traveled via West Point to New York City, where a quarter of a million people viewed in the two days prior to the funeral.[248] Tens of thousands of men, many of them veterans from the Grand Army of the Republic or other veterans’ organizations marched with Grant's casket as it was drawn by two dozen horses to Riverside Park.[248] His pallbearers included Union generals Sherman and Sheridan, Confederate generals Simon Bolivar Buckner and Joseph E. Johnston, Admiral David Dixon Porter and John A. Logan, the head of the GAR.[248] His body was laid to rest in Riverside Park, first in a temporary tomb and finally in a sarcophagus in a circular atrium at the General Grant National Memorial ("Grant's Tomb"), the largest mausoleum in North America. Attendance at the New York funeral topped 1.5 million.[248] Ceremonies were held in other major cities around the country, and those who eulogized Grant in the press likened him to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.[249]


Grant's Tomb concrete structure face and dome shown.

General Grant National Memorial, known colloquially as "Grant's Tomb", is the largest mausoleum in North America, and one of the largest in the world.

Historical reputation

Few presidents' reputations have changed as dramatically as Grant's.[250] After his death, Grant was popularly seen as "a symbol of the American national identity and memory."[251] Millions of people turned out for his funeral procession in 1885 and attended the 1897 dedication of his tomb.[251] At the same time, however, scholars portrayed his as the most corrupt administration in American history.[252] Northerners who desired national reconciliation distorted Grant's reputation, regarding the Union and Confederate causes on equal moral terms.[253] In the 1930s biographer William B. Hesseltine, noted that Grant's reputation worsened because ""his enemies wrote better than his friends."[254] In 1931, the Dictionary of American Biography praised Grant's military vision and his execution of that vision in defeating the Confederacy, but of his political career, the authors were less complimentary.[255] Speaking specifically of the scandals, they wrote that "personal scandal has not touched Grant in any plausible form, but it struck so close to him and so frequently as to necessitate the vindication of his honor by admitting his bad taste in the choice of associates."[256] William S. McFeely won the Pulitzer Prize for his negative 1981 biography that concluded, "He did not rise above limited talents or inspire others to do so in ways that make his administration a credit to American politics."[257]

Since 1990, historians have since taken a more favorable view, appreciating his protection of African Americans during Reconstruction, and his peace policy towards American Indians, even though those policies failed.[251] Bruce Catton began the reassessment of Grant's military career in the 1960s, shifting the consensus from Grant as victor by brute force to that of a successful and skillful commander.[258] John Y. Simon wrote of McFeely's assessment, "Grant's failure as President ... lies in the failure of the Indian peace policy and the collapse of Reconstruction.... But if Grant tried and failed, who could have succeeded?"[259]

The reconstruction of Grant's reputation continued with Jean Edward Smith's 2001 biography. Smith argued that the same qualities that made Grant a success as a general carried over to his political life to make him, if not a successful president, than certainly an admirable one.[260] Smith wrote that "the common thread is strength of character—an indomitable will that never flagged in the face of adversity.... Sometimes he blundered badly; often he oversimplified; yet he saw his goals clearly and moved toward them relentlessly."[261] H.W. Brands continued Grant's rehabilitation in his 2012 book, The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace. In addition to praising Grant's skill as a general, Brands's book, as Eric Foner wrote in a review, gives "a sympathetic account of Grant’s forceful and temporarily successful effort as president to crush the Ku Klux Klan, which had inaugurated a reign of terror against the former slaves."[250] Brands write favorably of Grant's military and political careers, alike, saying:

As commanding general in the Civil War, he had defeated secession and destroyed slavery, secession's cause. As President during Reconstruction he had guided the South back into the Union. By the end of his public life the Union was more secure than at any previous time in the history of the nation. And no one had done more to produce the result than he.[262]

Memorials and library

Grant has appeared on the United States fifty-dollar bill since 1913.

Grant has a number of memorials in his honor, including the General Grant National Memorial in New York and the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial in Washington. There are smaller memorials in Chicago's Lincoln Park and Philadelphia's Fairmount Park. Grant Park is named in his honor, as are a number of counties in western and midwestern states. From 1890 to 1940, a portion of what is now Kings Canyon National Park was called General Grant National Park, named for the General Grant sequoia. He has appeared on the front of the United States fifty-dollar bill since 1913, and also appears on several stamps. In early 2010, the Ohio Historical Society proposed Grant as a finalist in a statewide vote for inclusion in Statuary Hall at the United States Capitol, but Grant was defeated by Thomas Edison in a statewide vote.[263]

In May 2012, on the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Ulysses S. Grant Foundation, Mississippi State University was selected as the permanent location for Ulysses S. Grant's Presidential Library. President Grant's artifacts are to remain permanently at the Mitchell Memorial Library on the MSU campus. The MSU library cataloged and cross-referenced 15,000 linear feet of material. Grant's letters have been divided into 31 volumes while a 32nd volume is due to be released.[264]

See also


  1. The international tribunal awarded the United States $15,500,000.
  2. Greeley died after election day but before the day the Electoral College voted, so his votes were scattered among four other Democrats.
  3. McFeely, writing in 1981, believed that Grant knew Babcock was guilty, while Smith, in 2001, believed the evidence was circumstantial at best.[194]
  4. Congress had changed the law in 1866 to eliminate one seat on the Court each time a justice retired, to prevent Andrew Johnson from nominating replacements for them. When Grant took office, there were eight seats on the bench.[201]
  5. Today, medical historians believed he suffered from a T1N1 carcinoma of the tonsillar fossa.[240]


  1. Bonekemper 2004, pp. 271–82.
  2. Brands, p. 501; Smith, p. 525.
  3. McFeely 1974, p. 134.
  4. Brands 2012b, p. 44; Murray & Blessing, p. 55.
  5. Brands 2012b, p. 44.
  6. Smith, pp. 21–22.
  7. Hesseltine, p. 4.
  8. Farina, pp. 13–14; Simpson 2000, pp. 2–3.
  9. Longacre, pp. 6–7.
  10. McFeely 1981, p. 8.
  11. McFeely 1981, p. 10.
  12. McFeely 1981, p. 12; Smith, pp. 24, 83.
  13. McFeely 1981, p. 16.
  14. McFeely 1981, p. 13.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Smith, pp. 26–28.
  16. McFeely 1981, p. 20; Longacre, p. 18.
  17. McFeely 1981, pp. 16, 19.
  18. Smith, pp. 26–28; Longacre, p. 24.
  19. Smith, pp. 28–29.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Smith, pp. 30–33.
  21. Smith, pp. 35–37.
  22. McFeely 1981, pp. 32–33.
  23. Longacre, pp. 37–42; Brands 2012a, pp. 34–38.
  24. McFeely 1981, pp. 34–35.
  25. McFeely 1981, pp. 36–37.
  26. McFeely 1981, pp. 31, 37.
  27. McFeely 1981, pp. 20, 26.
  28. Smith, p. 73.
  29. McFeely 1981, p. 44.
  30. McFeely 1981, p. 46.
  31. Smith, pp. 76–77.
  32. McFeely 1981, p. 47.
  33. Smith, pp. 81–82.
  34. 34.0 34.1 McFeely 1981, pp. 48–49.
  35. Longacre, pp. 55–58.
  36. McFeely 1981, p. 55.
  37. 37.0 37.1 Smith, pp. 87–88; Lewis, pp. 328–332.
  38. McFeely 1981, p. 57.
  39. 39.0 39.1 39.2 39.3 McFeely 1981, pp. 58–60.
  40. 40.0 40.1 Smith, pp. 94–95.
  41. McFeely 1981, p. 64.
  42. McFeely 1981, pp. 65–66.
  43. 43.0 43.1 McFeely 1981, p. 69.
  44. Brands 2012a, p. 95.
  45. Catton 1968, p. 8.
  46. Smith, p. 113.
  47. McFeely 1981, pp. 73–76, 80; Smith, pp. 107–108.
  48. McFeely 1981, p. 73.
  49. McFeely 1981, p. 80.
  50. 50.0 50.1 Brands 2012a, p. 151.
  51. McFeely 1981, pp. 92–94.
  52. Smith, pp. 141–164.
  53. Whyte, pp. 18–39.
  54. 54.0 54.1 Brands 2012a, pp. 164–165.
  55. Smith, pp. 125–34.
  56. McFeely 1981, p. 111.
  57. McFeely 1981, p. 114.
  58. McFeely 1981, p. 115; Smith, pp. 167–205.
  59. Brands 2012a, pp. 186–187.
  60. Brands 2012a, pp. 190–192.
  61. McFeely 1981, pp. 117–21.
  62. McFeely 1981, pp. 123–24.
  63. Smith, pp. 225–27.
  64. 64.0 64.1 Longacre, pp. 159–61.
  65. McFeely 1981, pp. 125–26.
  66. McFeely 1981, pp. 132–35.
  67. McFeely 1981, pp. 122–138; Smith, pp. 206–257.
  68. McFeely 1981, pp. 128, 135.
  69. McFeely 1981, pp. 139–51; Smith, pp. 262–71.
  70. Smith, pp. 258–281.
  71. McFeely 1981, p. 148.
  72. McFeely 1981, p. 156.
  73. McFeely 1981, p. 157.
  74. 74.0 74.1 McFeely 1981, pp. 157–175; Smith, pp. 313–39, 343–68.
  75. McFeely 1981, pp. 162–63.
  76. McFeely 1981, p. 165.
  77. McFeely 1981, p. 169.
  78. 78.0 78.1 Bonekemper 2011, pp. 41–42.
  79. McFeely 1981, p. 171.
  80. McFeely 1981, p. 173.
  81. McFeely 1981, p. 178.
  82. McFeely 1981, p. 186.
  83. 83.0 83.1 McFeely 1981, p. 181.
  84. McFeely 1981, p. 179; Smith, pp. 369–95.
  85. Catton, p. 349.
  86. McFeely 1981, pp. 198–210.
  87. McFeely 1981, p. 212.
  88. McFeely 1981, pp. 219–20.
  89. McFeely 1981, p. 224.
  90. Brands 2012a, pp. 375–376.
  91. McFeely 1981, p. 225.
  92. Smith, pp. 409–412.
  93. 93.0 93.1 McFeely 1981, p. 227–229.
  94. Smith, p. 419.
  95. McFeely 1981, pp. 232–33.
  96. McFeely 1981, p. 234.
  97. Smith, p. 434n.
  98. 98.0 98.1 Smith, pp. 369–397.
  99. 99.0 99.1 McFeely 1981, pp. 242–251.
  100. Brands 2012a, p. 390; Smith, p. 420; McFeely 1981, pp. 238–241.
  101. 101.0 101.1 Brands 2012a, p. 390.
  102. McFeely 1981, pp. 238, 240.
  103. McFeely 1981, p. 240; Smith, p. 420.
  104. McFeely 1981, pp. 240-241.
  105. 105.0 105.1 McFeely 1981, pp. 254–256.
  106. Smith, pp. 432–433.
  107. Smith, pp. 434–435.
  108. Smith, pp. 436–439.
  109. McFeely 1981, pp. 259–261.
  110. Smith, pp. 421, 433.
  111. Smith, p. 421n.
  112. McFeely 1981, p. 257.
  113. Smith, p. 415.
  114. Smith, pp. 508–509; Hesseltine, pp. 229–230.
  115. McFeely 1981, pp. 262–64.
  116. 116.0 116.1 116.2 Smith, pp. 448–451.
  117. McFeely 1981, p. 275.
  118. 118.0 118.1 McFeely 1981, pp. 264–267.
  119. McFeely 1981, pp. 282–284.
  120. Smith, pp. 459–460.
  121. Smith, pp. 468–469.
  122. McFeely 1981, p. 284.
  123. McFeely 1981, p. 286; Smith, pp. 465–66.
  124. Smith, pp. 470–71.
  125. McFeely 1981, p. 296.
  126. 126.0 126.1 Smith, pp. 470–472.
  127. Smith, pp. 469–470.
  128. Badeau, p. 256.
  129. Smith, p. 543.
  130. 130.0 130.1 Smith, pp. 544–545.
  131. 131.0 131.1 McFeely 1981, pp. 368–369.
  132. 132.0 132.1 132.2 Smith, p. 547.
  133. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (Winter 2009/2010), No. 66, p 27
  134. Rable, pp. 144-86.
  135. McFeely 1981, pp. 391–392.
  136. Smith, pp. 552–553.
  137. 137.0 137.1 McFeely 1981, pp. 420–22.
  138. 138.0 138.1 McFeely 1981, pp. 418–19.
  139. Badeau 1887, p. 256.
  140. 140.0 140.1 McFeely 1981, pp. 308–309; Brands 2012a, p. 502.
  141. 141.0 141.1 141.2 141.3 Smith, p. 535.
  142. Waltmann, p. 327.
  143. Smith, pp. 536–38; Brands 2012a, pp. 501–503.
  144. Brands 2012a, p. 501.
  145. Brands 2012a, pp. 501–503; McFeely 1981, pp. 436–437.
  146. Smith, p. 532.
  147. 147.0 147.1 McFeely 1981, pp. 336–338.
  148. 148.0 148.1 148.2 Smith, pp. 500–502.
  149. Brands 2012a, pp. 455-456.
  150. 150.0 150.1 McFeely 1981, pp. 339–341.
  151. McFeely 1981, pp. 349–352.
  152. McFeely 1981, pp. 334–336.
  153. McFeely 1981, pp. 352–354.
  154. Smith, p. 508.
  155. Smith, pp. 509–511.
  156. Smith, pp. 512–515.
  157. Bradford, pp. 57, 59, 93.
  158. Nevins, pp. 667-94.
  159. 159.0 159.1 Kreiser, p. 19.
  160. McFeely 1981, p. 279.
  161. 161.0 161.1 Smith, pp. 480–481.
  162. Smith, p. 482.
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  164. McFeely 1981, pp. 323–324.
  165. Brands 2012a, pp. 440–443.
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  167. Smith, pp. 488–489.
  168. Brands 2012a, pp. 445, 636.
  169. Smith, p. 490.
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  171. Smith, pp. 589–590.
  172. 172.0 172.1 Brands 2012a, pp. 488–489.
  173. Brands 2012a, p. 494.
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  175. Brands 2012a, p. 495.
  176. McFeely 1981, p. 384.
  177. Brands 2012a, p. 499.
  178. 178.0 178.1 Brands 2012a, p. 517.
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  219. Brands 2012a, pp. 591–592.
  220. Brands 2012a, pp. 593–594.
  221. Smith, pp. 612n–613n.
  222. Smith, p. 613.
  223. McFeely 1981, p. 477.
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  238. Smith, pp. 625.
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  240. Renehan & Lowry, pp. 377–383.
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Biographical and political


  • Badeau, Adam (1881CITEREFBadeau_1881). Military History of Ulysses S. Grant, from April 1861, to April 1865. New York: D. Appleton. 
  • Ballard, Michael B. (2013CITEREFBallard). Grant at Vicksburg: The General and the Siege. Southern Illinois University Press. 
  • Bearss, Edwin C. (1991). The Vicksburg Campaign. Dayton, Ohio: Morningside. ISBN 0-89029-308-2CITEREFBearss. 
  • Catton, Bruce (1954 CITEREFCatton_1954). U.S. Grant and the American Military Tradition. Boston: Little, Brown. 
  • Catton, Bruce (1960). Grant Moves South. Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-13207-1CITEREFCatton_1960. 
  • Catton, Bruce (1968). Grant Takes Command. Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-13210-1CITEREFCatton_1968. 
  • Farina, William (2007). Ulysses S. Grant, 1861–1864: His Rise from Obscurity to Military Greatness. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co. ISBN 978-0-7864-2977-6 CITEREFFarina. 
  • Fuller, Maj. Gen. J. F. C. (1957). Grant and Lee, a Study in Personality and Generalship. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-13400-5 CITEREFFuller. 
  • Korda, Michael (2004 CITEREFKorda). Ulysses S. Grant: The Unlikely Hero. New York: Atlas Books/HarperCollins. 
  • Korn, Bertram W. (1951 CITEREFKorn). American Jewry and the Civil War. New York: Jewish Publication Society of America. 
  • Lewis, Lloyd (1950). Captain Sam Grant. Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-52348-8 CITEREFLewis. 
  • McWhiney, Grady (1995CITEREFMcWhitney). Battle in the Wilderness: Grant Meets Lee. Fort Worth, Texas: Ryan Place Publishers. 
  • McDonough, James Lee (1977 CITEREFMcDonough_1977). Shiloh: In Hell Before Night. Knoxville, Tennessee: University of Tennessee Press. 
  • McDonough, James Lee (1984CITEREFMcDonough_1984). Chattanooga: A Death Grip on the Confederacy. Knoxville, Tennessee: University of Tennessee Press. 
  • McPherson, James M. (1988). Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-503863-0 CITEREFMcPherson. 
  • Maney, R. Wayne (1994 CITEREFManey). Marching to Cold Harbor. Victory and Failure, 1864. Shippensburg, Pennsylvania: White Mane Pub. Co.. 
  • Matter, William D. (1988 CITEREFMatter). If It Takes All Summer: The Battle of Spotsylvania. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press. 
  • Miers, Earl Schenck (1955 CITEREFMiers). The Web of Victory: Grant at Vicksburg. New York: Knopf. 
  • Mosier, John (2006). Grant. New York: Palgrave MacMillan. ISBN 1-4039-7136-6 CITEREFMosier. 
  • Rhea, Gordon C. (1994). The Battle of the Wilderness May 5–6, 1864. Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 0-8071-1873-7. 
  • Rhea, Gordon C. The Battles for Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern May 7–12, 1864. Louisiana State University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-8071-2136-3.
  • Rhea, Gordon C. To the North Anna River: Grant and Lee, May 13–25, 1864. Louisiana State University Press, 2000. ISBN 0-8071-2535-0.
  • Rhea, Gordon C., Cold Harbor: Grant and Lee, May 26 – June 3, 1864. Louisiana State University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8071-2803-1.
  • Schenker, Carl R., Jr. "Ulysses in His Tent: Halleck, Grant, Sherman, and 'The Turning Point of the War'". Civil War History (June 2010), vol. 56, no. 2, p. 175.
  • Simpson, Brooks D. "After Shiloh: Grant, Sherman, and Survival". The Shiloh Campaign. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2009.
  • Steere, Edward. The Wilderness Campaign. Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Co., 1960.
  • Walsh, George. "Whip the Rebellion": Ulysses S. Grant's Rise to Command (2005) 480pp ISBN 0-7653-0527-5; popular narrative
  • Williams, Kenneth P. Lincoln Finds a General: A Military Study of the Civil War. New York, Macmillan, 1959 (volume 5).
  • Williams, T. Harry, McClellan, Sherman and Grant. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1962.
  • Woodworth, Steven E. Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861 – 1865. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. ISBN 0-375-41218-2.

Primary sources


External links

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