Ulysses S. Grant biography





1822-1885.

President Lincoln, when asked to name the greatest of American generals, unhesitatingly replied, "U.S. Grant." The calm determination which made Grant remain before Vicksburg for months without even mildly resenting the ridicule which was being heaped upon him, and the firm resolution that never failed to carry out a project once fixed upon, only partly explains the great success and remarkable career of Grant as a warrior. Many of his biographers have given credit to these qualities alone, but even a cursory glance at his achievements cannot fail to demonstrate that, in addition to courage and unfaltering persistency, he was endowed with such far-reaching judgment and skill both in the planning and execution of great projects as cannot be said to have been surpassed by any of the most notable commanders of the world. From obscure and unpromising boyhood he advanced by merit alone to an eminence attained by but few American citizens. Through it all he remained the same modest, unassuming character as when he worked in his youth in his father's tannery. In every difficulty and under the most discouraging and perilous conditions that imperturbable calm, which was a characteristic of the man, was never broken. There is no instance recorded in which Grant ever showed anger, nor has there ever been any denial of the assertion that he never used a profane word. His accomplishments as a soldier in meeting and overcoming obstacles of apparently insurmountable proportions is little short of marvellous. In addition to other qualities which made him great as a soldier, was the confidence and loyalty which he inspired in his troops by his own example. He was quick to see a fault, but quicker to pardon offence. He never forgot to thank his soldiers for the part they had taken in bringing about victory, and his addresses to his troops read like the stirring addresses of Napoleon. The grateful nation which he had served remembered and honored him both before and after his death. Twice he was chosen President of the United States, and was offered a third term. Congress created for him a rank of distinction which no other American ever received, and when his brilliant career ended a whole nation bent with grief. His name and fame will live long after the magnificent marble tomb in which he sleeps has crumbled and become a thing of the past.

In the disastrous campaign of the Wilderness Grant had lost nearly 60,000 men and had thus far accomplished nothing. The losses of Lee, it is asserted, did not exceed 10,000. But Grant was now beginning to make himself felt in the vicinity of Petersburg and Richmond, and through the fall and winter his operations were every-where meeting with flattering success. March 24, 1865, the final great movement began. On April 2d Petersburg fell. It was the last straw, and Lee at once advised the Confederate President to evacuate Richmond. In the mean time the fighting in front of that city had reached its limits. The Confederates could no longer continue the struggle to save the Capital. On the morning of April 3d the advance of the Federal army entered the city and the Stars and Stripes was hoisted over the Capitol, while Grant continued to press after the conquered foe. The pursuit continued until the 9th, when Lee found himself practically hemmed in on all sides at Appomattox. On that morning he requested an interview regarding terms of surrender, which Grant had two days previously advised him to do. The two great soldiers met and clasped hands in the house of Wilmer McLean at Appomattox. They had served together in the Mexican War, and remembered each other. Grant sat down and wrote out the terms of surrender, and Lee, after reading the document and discussing the details to some extent, signed the agreement. To all intents and purposes this ended the war. It was followed April 26th by the surrender of Johnston to Sherman. Mobile had fallen April 11th, and the other Southern armies surrendered gradually, the last being on May 26th. Grant visited Washington, where a grand review, the most imposing this country has ever witnessed, was held. In New York, Chicago, and every place where Grant appeared he met with great and spontaneous ovations, not the least of them being the town of Galena, Ill., which was the point from which he had started for the war. Numerous swords were presented to him, and gifts of every description were showered upon him by States, municipalities, and private individuals who admired his skill and success. In July, 1866, Congress created the title of General, never before in existence in America, and conferred it upon Grant. In 1868 Grant was nominated for President and elected by the almost unanimous vote of the nation. After serving his first term he was re-elected. During his service as President, Grant proved himself no less a statesman than he had been a warrior. A third term as President was offered him, but he firmly refused to accept it. He now had the opportunity to gratify a desire which had clung to him from youth, to see the Old World and its wonders. He set sail from Philadelphia May 17, 1877, accompanied by Mrs. Grant and his youngest son. He visited nearly every country upon the earth, and was everywhere accorded the highest honors. His return to the United States was the signal for another series of ovations such as has been accorded to few citizens of this nation. Early in the year 1884, General Grant began to be troubled with the illness which proved his last. It was cancer of the tongue, and from the first there was no hope that he could be cured. His closing days were given up to preparing his autobiography, in which he wished to be strictly accurate in the smallest matters.

Facing the last enemy, the gallant soldier remained as undismayed as had been his habit on the field of battle. He died peacefully on the morning of Thursday, July 23, 1885. His death was felt the world over, and expressions of regret and sympathy came from every quarter of the globe. His mortal remains lie under a magnificent monument in Riverside Park in the city of New York. Cut into the enduring marble of his tomb are the memorable words he uttered at the first convention which nominated him for the Presidency: "Let us have peace."





Return to The Great Republic by the Master Historians (Vol 3)