Salute to President Ulysses Simpson Grant (1869-1877)
Happy Presidents’ Day
Hiram Ulysses Grant was born in small home overlooking the Ohio River just east of Cincinnati, Ohio on April 27, 1822. Though he was a hard working lad on his parents’ farm, he was generally unmotivated as a student. When he wasn’t working the farm, he enjoyed fishing, swimming, riding a horse to visit his grandparents in the next county, and ice skating and sleigh riding in the winter.
His father provided the career direction he needed, obtaining an appointment for him in the Academy at West Point. Young Grant went reluctantly as he thought he was not capable of successfully completing the appointment to West Point.
His study habits did not change at West Point. In his memoirs he wrote that at West Point he was near the top of his class, if you turned the grading list upside down. It was there that he came to know and respect many of the men he would fight with and against during the War Between the States (aka the Civil War). In fact, when he married his sweetheart from Missouri, Julia Dent, his best man was a future officer for the Confederate States of America, General James Longstreet.
During the Civil War Grant had a knack for leading his men to successfully take ground, capture a fort, or chase an enemy force off. He was not one to wait for the enemy to move. He believed that the officers leading the Confederate forces were smarter than he. So, his strategy became to attack immediately to prevent them from developing a good plan to beat him and his men. This was opposite to the “let’s wait and see what the enemy does” and the “I need more men before I attack” approaches of the other Union generals. The men serving under him appreciated the opportunity to get to the business of winning the War rather than wallowing in camp.
His knack for winning battles earned him promotion upon promotion until President Abraham Lincoln (16th President) appointed him head of the Union Army. Many tried to tarnish the reputation of Grant by complaining of his drinking to President Lincoln. Lincoln responded by instructing them to find out what General Grant was drinking and to order a case for each of the other generals.
His success in leading the Union Army against the Confederacy continued through the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse even though his wife Julia was held a prison of war by the Confederacy.
After the War, in 1868, Grant was convinced to run for the office of president, and he did so. He became the 18th President of the United States. During his term the South was in Reconstruction. During that time he ordered that Federal civil rights and voting rights laws be enforced and that Ku Klux Klan members be prosecuted.
In 1885 he died from throat cancer which was probably brought on by his heavy cigar smoking. Prior to his death he wrote his memoirs, The Memoirs of U.S. Grant, in hopes that the proceeds from its sale could provide means for his wife after his death.
In closing, U. S. Grant was a man of little ambition or concern for his own glory. As a military leader and as President he demonstrated his love for his family, his Country, the men in his Army, and even his enemies. He knew that his contribution to freeing the slaves, re-uniting the Nation, and reconstructing the South were from the gracious hand of Divine Providence.
Here are some quotes from President Grant:
“My later experience has taught me two lessons: first, that things are seen plainer after the events have occurred; second, that the most confident critics are generally those who know the least about the matter criticized.”
(After the death of the man who granted him the appointment to West Point): “[These] are mentioned to show how little men control their own destiny.”
After Lee’s Surrender at Appomattox Courthouse: “I thought this would be about the last battle of the war — I sincerely hoped so; and I said further I took it that most of the men in the ranks were small farmers. The whole country had been so raided by the two armies that it was doubtful whether they would be able to put in a crop to carry themselves and their families through the next winter without the aid of the horses they were then riding. The United States did not want them and I would, therefore, instruct the officers I left behind to receive the paroles of his troops to let every man of the Confederate army who claimed to own a horse or mule take the animal to his home. Lee remarked again that this would have a happy effect.”
“The war is over — the rebels are our countrymen again.”
During his world tour after his presidency: “Labor disgraces no man; unfortunately you occasionally find men disgrace labor.”
This week we salute General & President U.S. Grant for his service to our Country.