Ulysses S. Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant; April 27, 1822 â" July 23, 1885) was the 18th President of the United States (1869â"77). As Commanding General, Grant worked closely with President Abraham Lincoln to lead the Union Army to victory over the Confederacy in the American Civil War. He implemented Congressional Reconstruction, often at odds with Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson. Twice elected president, Grant led the Republicans in their effort to remove the vestiges of Confederate nationalism and slavery, protect African-American citizenship, and support economic prosperity nationwide. His presidency has often come under criticism for tolerating corruption and in his second term leading the nation into a severe economic depression.
Grant graduated in 1843 from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and retired after serving in the Mexicanâ"American War. When the Civil War began in 1861, he rejoined the U.S. Army. In 1862, Grant took control of Kentucky and most of Tennessee, and led Union forces to victory in the Battle of Shiloh, earning a reputation as an aggressive commander. He incorporated displaced African American slaves into the Union war effort. In July 1863, after a series of coordinated battles, Grant defeated Confederate armies and seized Vicksburg, giving the Union control of the Mississippi River and dividing the Confederacy in two. After his victories in the Chattanooga Campaign, Lincoln promoted him to lieutenant-general and Commanding General of the United States. Grant confronted Robert E. Lee in a series of bloody battles in 1864, trapping Lee's army in their defense of Richmond. Grant coordinated a series of devastating campaigns in other theaters. Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox ended the war. Historians have hailed Grant's military genius, and his strategies are featured in military history textbooks, but a minority contend that he won by brute force rather than superior strategy.
After the Civil War, Grant led the army's supervision of Reconstruction in the former Confederate states. Elected president in 1868 and reelected in 1872, Grant stabilized the nation during the turbulent Reconstruction period, prosecuted the Ku Klux Klan, and enforced civil and voting rights laws using the army and the Department of Justice. He used the army to build the Republican Party in the South, based on black voters, Northern newcomers ("carpetbaggers"), and native Southern white supporters ("scalawags"). After the disenfranchisement of some former Confederates, Republicans gained majorities and African Americans were elected to Congress and high state offices. In his second term, the Republican coalitions in the South splintered and were defeated one by one as redeemers (conservative whites) regained control using coercion and violence. Grant's Indian peace policy initially reduced frontier violence, but is best known for the Great Sioux War of 1876, where George Custer and his regiment were killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Throughout his presidency, Grant faced congressional investigations into corruption in executive agencies, including bribery charges against two of his Cabinet members. Grant's administration implemented a gold standard and sought to strengthen the dollar.
In foreign policy, Grant sought to increase American trade and influence, while remaining at peace with the world. His administration successfully resolved the Alabama Claims with Great Britain, ending wartime tensions. Grant avoided war with Spain over the Virginius Affair, but Congress rejected his attempted annexation of the Dominican Republic. His response to the Panic of 1873 gave some financial relief to New York banking houses, but was ineffective in halting the five-year economic depression that produced high unemployment, low prices, low profits, and bankruptcies. Leaving office in 1877, he embarked on a widely praised world tour lasting over two years.
In 1880, Grant was unsuccessful in obtaining a Republican nomination for a third term. Facing severe investment reversals and dying of throat cancer, he completed his memoirs, which proved a major critical and financial success. His death in 1885 prompted an outpouring of national unity. Historians' evaluations were negative about his presidency before recovering somewhat beginning in the 1980s. The consensus among them rates his presidency below average. Grant's critics take a negative view of his economic mismanagement and his failed Dominican Republic annexation treaty, while admirers emphasize his concern for Native Americans and enforcement of civil and voting rights.
Hiram Ulysses Grant was born in Point Pleasant, Ohio, on April 27, 1822, to Jesse Root Grant, a tanner, and Hannah (nÃ©e Simpson) Grant. His ancestors Matthew and Priscilla Grant arrived aboard the Mary and John at Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. Grant's great-grandfather fought in the French and Indian War, and his grandfather served in the American Revolution at Bunker Hill. Grant's father was a Whig Party supporter with abolitionist sentiments. In 1823, the family moved to the village of Georgetown in Brown County, Ohio, where five more siblings were born: Simpson, Clara, Orvil, Jennie, and Mary. Young Grant regularly attended school. While hating the tannery, he chose work on his father's farm. Unlike his siblings, Grant was not forced to attend church by his Methodist parents; for the rest of his life, he prayed privately and never officially joined any denomination. Observers, including his own son, thought he was an agnostic. In his youth, Grant developed an unusual ability to work with and control horses. As a general he rode the strongest and most challenging horse available, and was sometimes injured in riding.
When Grant was 17, Congressman Thomas L. Hamer nominated him to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. Hamer mistakenly wrote down the name as "Ulysses S. Grant of Ohio", and this became his adopted name. His nickname became "Sam" among army colleagues at the academy since the initials "U.S." also stood for "Uncle Sam". As he later recalled it, "a military life had no charms for me"; he was lax in his studies, but he achieved above-average grades in mathematics and geology. Quiet by nature, he established a few intimate friends, including Frederick Tracy Dent and Rufus Ingalls. Grant developed a reputation as a fearless and expert horseman, setting an equestrian high-jump record that stood for almost 25 years. He also studied under Romantic artist Robert Walter Weir and produced nine surviving artworks. He graduated in 1843, ranking 21st in a class of 39. Glad to leave the academy, his plan was to resign his commission after his four-year term of duty. Despite his excellent horsemanship, he was not assigned to the cavalry (assignments were determined by class rank, not aptitude), but to the 4th Infantry Regiment. He was made regimental quartermaster, managing supplies and equipment, with the rank of brevet second lieutenant.
Military career and personal life
Grant's first assignment after graduation took him to the Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri. It was the nation's largest military base in the west, commanded by Colonel Stephen W. Kearny. Grant was happy with his new commander, but looked forward to the end of his military service and a possible teaching career. He spent some of his time in Missouri visiting the family of his West Point classmate, Frederick Tracy Dent; he became engaged to Dent's sister, Julia, in 1844.
Amid rising tensions with Mexico, Grant's unit shifted to Louisiana as part of the Army of Observation under Major General Zachary Taylor. When the Mexicanâ"American War broke out in 1846, the Army entered Mexico. Although a quartermaster, Grant led a cavalry charge at the Battle of Resaca de la Palma. At Monterrey he demonstrated his equestrian ability, by volunteering to carry a dispatch through sniper-lined streets while hanging off the side of his horse, keeping the animal between him and the enemy. President James K. Polk, wary of Taylor's growing popularity, divided his forces, sending some troops (including Grant's unit) to form a new army under Major General Winfield Scott. Scott's army landed at Veracruz and advanced toward Mexico City. The army met the Mexican forces at the battles of Molino del Rey and Chapultepec outside Mexico City. Grant was a quartermaster in charge of supplies and did not have a combat role, but he yearned for one and finally was allowed to take part in dangerous missions. At Chapultepec, men under Grant's direction dragged a disassembled howitzer into a church steeple, reassembled it, and bombarded nearby Mexican troops. His bravery and initiative earned him brevet promotions; he became a temporary captain while his permanent rank was lieutenant. Scott's army entered the city, and the Mexicans agreed to peace soon afterward.
During this war Grant studied the tactics and strategies of Scott and others, often second guessing their moves beforehand. In his Memoirs, he wrote that this is how he learned about military leadership, and in retrospect identified his leadership style with Taylor's. Even so, he believed that the Mexican war was wrongful and that the territorial gains from the war were designed to expand slavery. Grant reflected in 1883, "I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day, regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation." He opined that the Civil War was punishment inflicted on the nation for its aggression in Mexico.
Grant's mandatory service expired during the war, but he chose to remain a soldier. Four years after becoming engaged, he married Julia on August 22, 1848, with future adversary James Longstreet as his best man. They had four children: Frederick, Ulysses Jr. ("Buck"), Ellen ("Nellie"), and Jesse. Grant's first post-war assignments took him and Julia to Detroit and then to Sackets Harbor, New York. In 1852, Grant's next assignment sent him west to Fort Vancouver in the Oregon Territory. Julia, who was eight months pregnant with Ulysses Jr., did not accompany him. While traveling overland through Panama, an outbreak of cholera among his fellow travelers caused 150 fatalities; Grant arranged makeshift transportation and hospital facilities to care for the sick. He debarked in San Francisco during the height of the California Gold Rush.
Grant's time in the Pacific Northwest followed the Cayuse War; the army was stationed there to keep peace between settlers and Indians. To supplement a military salary which was inadequate to support his family, Grant tried and failed at several business ventures, confirming Jesse Grant's belief that his son had no head for business. He was unhappy being separated from his family, and rumors circulated that he was drinking to excess.
Promoted to captain in the summer of 1853, Grant was assigned to command Company F, 4th Infantry, at Fort Humboldt in California. The commanding officer at Fort Humboldt, Lieutenant Colonel Robert C. Buchanan, received reports that Grant became intoxicated off-duty while seated at the pay officer's table. In lieu of a court-martial, Buchanan gave Grant an ultimatum to resign; he did so, effective July 31, 1854, without explanation and returned to St. Louis. The War Department stated on his record, "Nothing stands against his good name." After Grant's retirement, rumors persisted in the regular army of his drinking. Years later, he said, "the vice of intemperance (drunkenness) had not a little to do with my decision to resign."
At age 32, with no civilian vocation, Grant struggled through seven financially lean years. His father initially offered him a place in the Galena, Illinois, branch of the tannery business, on condition that Julia and the children stay with her parents in Missouri or with the Grants in Kentucky. Ulysses and Julia opposed another separation and declined the offer. In 1855, Grant farmed on his brother-in-law's property near St. Louis, using slaves owned by Julia's father. The farm was not successful and to earn money he sold firewood on St. Louis street corners. The next year, the Grants moved to land on Julia's father's farm, and built a home Grant called "Hardscrabble". Julia hated the rustic house, which she described as an "unattractive cabin". In 1857, Grant acquired a slave, a thirty-five-year-old man named William Jones, from his father-in-law. The Panic of 1857 devastated farmers, including Grant, who was forced to rent out Hardscrabble the following year.
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. For the next year, the family took a small house in St. Louis where he worked with Julia's cousin Harry Boggs as a bill collector, again without success. In 1860, Jesse offered him the tannery job in Galena without conditions, and Grant accepted. The leather shop, "Grant & Perkins", sold harnesses, saddles, and other leather goods, and purchased hides from farmers in the prosperous Galena area. Grant and family moved to a rental house that year.
Grant was not politically active before the Civil War. His father-in-law was a prominent Missouri Democrat, which hurt Grant's bid to become county engineer in 1859, while his father was an outspoken Republican in Galena. In the 1856 election, Grant cast his first presidential vote for the Democrat, James Buchanan, later saying he was really voting against John C. FrÃ©mont, the first Republican candidate, over concern that FrÃ©mont's anti-slavery position would motivate southern states to secede. In 1860, he favored Democrat Stephen A. Douglas over Abraham Lincoln, and Lincoln over the Southern Democrat, John C. Breckinridge. Lacking the residency requirements in Illinois at the time, he could not vote.
On April 12, 1861, the American Civil War began as Confederate troops attacked Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. Two days later, President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers and a mass meeting was held in Galena to encourage recruitment. Recognized as a military professional, Grant was asked to lead the ensuing effort. Before the attack on Fort Sumter, Grant had not reacted strongly to Southern secession. The news of the attack came as a shock in Galena, and Grant shared his neighbors' mounting concern about the onset of war. After hearing a speech by his father's attorney, John Aaron Rawlins, Grant found renewed energy in the Union cause. Rawlins later became Grant's aide-de-camp and close friend during the war. Grant recalled with satisfaction that after that first recruitment meeting in Galena, "I never went into our leather store again."
Without any formal rank in the army, Grant helped recruit a company of volunteers and accompanied the regiment to Springfield, the state capital. During this time, Grant quickly perceived that the war would be fought for the most part by volunteers and not career soldiers. Governor Richard Yates offered Grant a position recruiting and training volunteer units, which he accepted, but he still wanted a field command in the regular army. He made several efforts through contacts (including Major General George B. McClellan) to acquire such a position. McClellan refused to meet him, remembering Grant's earlier reputation for drinking while stationed in California. Meanwhile, he continued serving at the training camps and made a positive impression on the volunteer Union recruits.
With the aid of his advocate in Washington, Illinois congressman Elihu B. Washburne, Grant was formally promoted to Colonel on June 14, 1861, and put in charge of disciplining the unruly 21st Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment. To restore discipline, Grant had one troublemaker bound and gagged to a post for being drunk and disorderly. Transferred to northern Missouri, Grant was promoted by Lincoln to Brigadier General, backdated to May 17, 1861, again with Washburne's support. Believing Grant was a general of "dogged persistence" and "iron will", Major General John C. FrÃ©mont assigned Grant command of troops near Cairo, Illinois by the end of August 1861. Under FrÃ©mont's authority Grant advanced into Paducah and took the town without a fight.
Belmont, Forts Henry and Donelson
On November 7, 1861 Grant and his troops crossed the Mississippi to attack Confederate soldiers encamped in Belmont, Missouri. They took the camp, but the reinforced Confederates under Brigadier General Gideon J. Pillow forced a retreat to Cairo. A tactical defeat, the battle nonetheless gave Grant and his volunteers confidence and experience. After Belmont, Grant asked his new commander Henry Halleck (Lincoln had relieved FrÃ©mont of command) for permission to move against Fort Henry in Tennessee, which would open the Tennessee River to Union gunboats; Halleck agreed on condition that the attack be conducted in coordination with navy Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote. Grant's troops, in close cooperation with Foote's naval forces captured Fort Henry on February 6, 1862. Emboldened by Lincoln's call for a general advance of all Union forces, Grant ordered an immediate assault on nearby Fort Donelson, which dominated the Cumberland River (this time without Halleck's permission). On February 15, Grant and Foote met stiff resistance from Confederate forces under Pillow. Reinforced by 10,000 troops, Grant's army totaled 25,000 troops against 12,000 Confederates. Foote's first approach was repulsed, and the Confederates attempted a breakout, pushing Grant's right flank into disorganized retreat. Grant rallied his troops, resumed the offensive, retook the Union right, and attacked Pillow's left. Pillow ordered Confederate troops back into the fort and relinquished command to Brigadier General Simon Bolivar Buckner, who the next day acceded to Grant's demand for his "unconditional and immediate surrender." Lincoln promoted Grant to major-general of volunteers while the Northern press treated Grant as a hero. Playing off his initials, they took to calling him "Unconditional Surrender Grant".
Encamped on the western bank of the Tennessee River, Grant's army, known as the Army of the Tennessee, now numbered nearly 50,000 troops prepared to attack a Confederate army of roughly equal strength at Corinth, Mississippi, a vital railroad junction. The Confederates, led by Generals Albert Sidney Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard, struck first on April 6, 1862, attacking the five divisions of Grant's army bivouacked at Pittsburg Landing, near Shiloh. Grant's troops were taken by surprise and fell back before the Confederate onslaught. At day's end, the Confederates captured one Union division. The remaining Union army was vulnerable and might have been destroyed, but the Confederates halted due to exhaustion, confusion and a lack of reinforcements. At dawn, Grant counterattacked, now bolstered by 20,000 fresh troops from the divisions of Major Generals Don Carlos Buell and Lew Wallace. The Confederates were forced to retreat back to Corinth. Grant was criticized for failing to entrench and for high casualties on the first day of battle; as a result, Halleck removed Grant from active command of his army. Discouraged and disappointed, Grant considered resigning his commission, but Brigadier General William Tecumseh Sherman, one of Grant's division commanders, convinced him to stay. The battle was the costliest in American history to that point, with total casualties of 23,746. Lincoln overruled Grant's critics, saying "I can't spare this man; he fights," and reinstated Grant as field commander of the Army of the Tennessee after his troops took Corinth. On September 19, 1862 Grant's forces defeated Confederates at the Battle of Iuka, then successfully defended Corinth, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. In November 1862, after Lincoln's preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, Grant ordered units under his command to incorporate contraband African American slaves into the Union war effort, giving them clothes, shelter, and wages for their services.
In addition to commanding troops in the field and planning campaigns, Grant was charge with overseeing trade in his district. Speculators followed Grant's army creating transportation and discipline problems. Grant believed Jewish merchants were trading with the enemy, "violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department" while Union soldiers died in the fields. On December 17, 1862, he issued General Order No. 11, expelling Jews, as a class, from the area. After the Jewish community and Northern press criticized Grant over his order, Lincoln demanded it be revoked. Twenty-one days later, Grant rescinded the order, and the controversy subsided. Grant narrowly escaped censure over the order in the House, but was exhonerated in the Senate. Realizing his blunder, he apologized and was later interviewed by Jewish leaders during the election of 1868 where he again expressed remorse. One Grant biographer, Jean Edward Smith, stated that his order was "one of the most blatant examples of state-sponsored anti-Semitism in American history."
Located on the high bluffs of the Mississippi River, Vicksburg, Mississippi was the last obstacle to Union control of that river; both Lincoln and Grant saw it as the key to victory in the West and were determined to take the rebel stronghold. Grant was aggravated to learn that Lincoln authorized Major General John A. McClernand to raise a separate army for the purpose. Halleck ordered McClernand to Memphis, and placed him under Grant's authority. In December 1862, Grant moved to take Vicksburg by an overland route, with a joint water expedition on the Mississippi led by Sherman. Confederate cavalry raiders stalled the advance by capturing his supply depot, while the Confederate army led by Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton concentrated and repulsed Sherman's direct approach to Vicksburg at Chickasaw Bayou. McClernand's advance was equally unsuccessful. Grant then attempted a series of maneuvers through the water-logged terrain to bypass Vicksburg's guns; these also proved ineffective. On April 16, 1863, Grant ordered Admiral David Porter's Union gunboats south under fire from the Vicksburg batteries to meet up with his Union troops who had marched south down the west side of the Mississippi River. Grant ordered diversionary battles, confusing Pemberton and allowing Grant's army to cross east over the Mississippi, landing troops at Bruinsburg. Continuing east, he captured Jackson, the state capital and a railroad supply center. At the Battle of Champion Hill, Pemberton's army was defeated, and forced to retreat into Vicksburg. After Grant's men assaulted the Vicksburg entrenchments twice, suffering severe losses, they settled in for a siege lasting seven weeks. Pemberton surrendered Vicksburg to Grant on July 4, 1863.
The fall of Vicksburg gave Union forces control over the Mississippi River and split the Confederacy in two. By that time, Grant's political sympathies fully coincided with the Radical Republicans' aggressive prosecution of the war and emancipation of the slaves. Although the success at Vicksburg was a great morale boost for the Union war effort, Grant received criticism for his decisions and his reported drunkenness. The personal rivalry between McClernand and Grant continued after Vicksburg, until Grant removed McClernand from command when he contravened Grant by publishing an order without permission. When Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton suggested Grant be brought back east to run the Army of the Potomac, Grant demurred, writing that he knew the geography and resources of the West better and he did not want to upset the chain of command in the East.
Chattanooga and promotion
Lincoln commissioned Grant a major general in the regular army and assigned him command of the newly formed Division of the Mississippi in October 1863, including the Armies of the Ohio, Tennessee, and Cumberland. After the Battle of Chickamauga, the Army of the Cumberland retreated into Chattanooga, where they were trapped. When informed of the situation, Grant put Major General George H. Thomas in charge of the besieged army. Taking command, Grant arrived in Chattanooga by horseback, devising plans to resupply the city and break the siege. Lincoln also sent Major General Joseph Hooker and two divisions of the Army of the Potomac to assist. Union forces captured Brown's Ferry and opened a supply line to Bridgeport. On November 23, 1863, Grant organized three armies to attack at Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain. Two days later in the early morning, Hooker's forces successfully took Lookout Mountain. Grant ordered Thomas and the Army of the Cumberland to advance when Sherman's army failed to take Missionary Ridge from the northeast. The Army of the Cumberland, led by Major General Philip Sheridan and Brigadier General Thomas J. Wood, charged uphill and captured the Confederate entrenchments on top of the ridge, forcing the rebels into disorganized retreat. The decisive battle gave the Union control of Tennessee and opened Georgia, the heartland of the Confederacy, to Union invasion.
On March 3, 1864 Lincoln promoted Grant to Lieutenant General, giving him command of all Union Armies. Grant assigned Sherman the Division of the Mississippi and traveled east to Washington D.C., meeting with Lincoln to devise a strategy of total war against the Confederacy. After settling Julia into a house in Georgetown, Grant established his headquarters with Meade's Army of the Potomac in Culpeper, Virginia. He devised a strategy of coordinated Union offensives, attacking the rebel armies at the same time to keep the Confederates from shifting reinforcements within their interior lines. Sherman would attack Atlanta, while Meade would lead the Army of the Potomac, with Grant in camp, to attack Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Major General Benjamin Butler was to advance towards Richmond from the south, up the James River. If Lee was forced south as expected, Grant would join forces with Butler's armies and be fed supplies from the James. Major General Franz Sigel was to capture the railroad line at Lynchburg, move east, and attack from the Blue Ridge Mountains. Grant knew that Lee had limited manpower and that a war of attrition fought on a battlefield without entrenchments would lead to Lee's defeat.
Grant was now riding a rising tide of popularity, and there was talk that a Union victory early in the year could lead to his candidacy for the presidency. Grant was aware of the rumors, but had ruled out a political candidacy; the possibility would soon vanish with delays on the battlefield.
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 known as the Overland Campaign. Grant crossed the Rapidan River on May 4, 1864, and attacked Lee in the Battle of 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 his forces between Lee and Richmond at Spotsylvania Court House. Lee's army got to Spotsylvania first, and a costly battle ensued, lasting thirteen days. During the battle, Grant attempted to break through Lee's line of defense, resulting in one of the bloodiest assaults of the Civil War, known as the Battle of the Bloody Angle. Unable to break Lee's defenses, Grant again flanked the Confederate army to the southeast, meeting at North Anna, where a battle lasted three days. The Confederates had the defensive advantage, and Grant maneuvered his army to Cold Harbor, a vital railroad hub that linked to Richmond, but Lee's men were again able to entrench against the Union assault. During the third day of the thirteen-day battle, Grant led a costly assault on Lee's trenches. As casualty reports became known in the North, heavy criticism fell on Grant, who was castigated as "the Butcher" by the Northern press after taking 52,788 casualties in the thirty days since crossing the Rapidan. Lee's army suffered only 32,907 casualties, but he was less able to replace them. The costly assault at Cold Harbor was the second of two battles in the war that Grant later said he regretted (the other being his initial assault on the fortifications around Vicksburg). Without being detected by Lee, Grant pulled out of Cold Harbor and moved his army south of the James River, freed Butler from the Bermuda Hundred (where the rebels had surrounded his army), and advanced toward Petersburg, Richmond's central railroad hub.
After crossing the James River undetected, Grant and the Army of the Potomac arrived at Petersburg. Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard was able to defend the city, and Lee's veteran reinforcements soon arrived. The result was a nine-month-long siege of Petersburg, stalling the advance. Northern resentment grew as the war dragged on, but an indirect benefit of the Petersburg siege was that Lee was unable to reinforce armies opposing Sherman and Sheridan. During the siege, Sherman took Atlanta, a victory that advanced President Lincoln's reelection. Sheridan was assigned command of the Union Army of the Shenandoah and Grant directed him to "follow the enemy to their death". 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, ensuring that Washington would not be endangered. Grant then ordered Sheridan's cavalry to destroy vital Confederate supplies 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 Fort McHenry.
Grant approved of a plan to blow up part of the enemy trenches from an underground tunnel. The explosion created a crater, into which poorly-led Union troops poured. Recovering from the surprise, Confederates surrounded the crater and easily picked off Union troops within it. The Union's 3500 casualties outnumbered the Confederates' by three-to-one; although the plan could have been successful if implemented correctly, Grant admitted the tactic had been a "stupendous failure". 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 in the James River. Rather than fight Lee in a full frontal attack as he had done at Cold Harbor, Grant continued to extend Lee's defenses south and west of Petersburg, to capture vital railroad links. As Grant continued to push the Union advance westward, Lee's 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 John Bell Hood's forces in Tennessee, Union victory appeared certain, and Lincoln attempted negotiations. 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 that took place near Union-controlled Fort Monroe was ultimately fruitless, but represented Grant's first foray into diplomacy.
In late March 1865, Grant's forces finally took Petersburg, then captured Richmond that April. Grant, Sherman, Admiral Porter and Lincoln held a conference on the River Queen to discuss Reconstruction of the South. Lee's troops began deserting in large numbers; disease and lack of supplies also diminished the remaining Confederates. Lee attempted to link up with the remnants of Joseph E. Johnston's defeated army, but 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.
On April 14, five days after Grant's victory at Appomattox, he attended a cabinet meeting in Washington. Lincoln invited him and his wife to Ford's Theater, but they declined as they had plans to travel to Philadelphia. In a conspiracy that targeted several government leaders, Lincoln was fatally shot by John Wilkes Booth at the theater, and died the next morning. Many, including Grant himself, thought that he had been a target in the plot. Secretary of War Stanton notified him of the President's death and summoned him back to Washington. Attending Lincoln's funeral on April 19, Grant stood alone and wept openly; he later said Lincoln was "the greatest man I have ever known." Regarding the new President, Andrew Johnson, Grant told Julia that he dreaded the change in administrations; he judged Johnson's attitude toward white southerners as one that would "make them unwilling citizens", and initially thought that with President Johnson, "Reconstruction has been set back no telling how far."
Transition to peacetime
At the war's end, Grant remained commander of the army, with duties that included enforcement of Reconstruction in the former Confederate states and supervision of Indian wars on the western Plains. Grant secured a house for his family in Georgetown Heights in 1865, but instructed Elihu Washburne that for political purposes his legal residence remained in Galena, Illinois. That same year, Grant spoke at Cooper Union in New York, where the New York Times reported that "...Â the enhanced and bewildered multitude trembled with extraordinary delight." Further travels that summer took the Grants to Albany, back to Galena, and throughout Illinois and Ohio, with enthusiastic receptions.
In November 1865, Johnson sent Grant on a fact-finding mission to the South. Afterwards, Grant recommended continuation of a reformed Freedmen's Bureau, which Johnson opposed, but advising against the use of black troops in garrisons, which he believed encouraged an alternative to farm labor. Grant did not believe the people of the devastated South were ready for civilian self-rule, and that both whites and blacks in the South required protection by the federal government. He also warned of threats by disaffected poor people, black and white, and recommended that local decision-making be entrusted only to "thinking men of the South" (i.e., men of property). In this respect, Grant's opinion on Reconstruction aligned with Johnson's policy of pardoning established southern leaders and restoring them to their positions of power. He joined Johnson in arguing that Congress should allow representatives from the South to take their seats. On July 25, 1866, Congress promoted Grant to the newly created rank of General of the Army of the United States.
Breach with Johnson
Johnson favored a lenient approach to Reconstruction, calling for an immediate return of the former Confederate states into the Union without any guarantee of African American citizenship. The Radical Republican-controlled Congress opposed the idea and refused to admit Congressmen from the former Confederate states. Over Johnson's vetoes, Congress renewed the Freedman's Bureau and passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866. During the congressional election campaign later that year, Johnson took his case to the people in his "Swing Around the Circle" speaking tour. Johnson pressured Grant, by then the most popular man in the country, to go on the tour; Grant, wishing to appear loyal, agreed. Grant believed that Johnson was purposefully agitating conservative opinion to defy Congressional Reconstruction. Finding himself increasingly at odds with Johnson, Grant confided to his wife that he thought the President's speeches were a "national disgrace". Publicly, Grant attempted to appear loyal to Johnson while not alienating Republican legislators essential to his future political career. Concerned that Johnson's differences with Congress would cause renewed insurrection in the South, he ordered Southern arsenals to ship arms north to prevent their capture by Southern state governments.
Conflict between radicals and conservatives continued after the 1866 congressional elections. Rejecting Johnson's vision for quick reconciliation with former Confederates, Congress passed the Reconstruction Acts, which divided the southern states into five military districts to protect the freedman's constitutional and congressional rights. Military district governors were to lead transitional state governments in each district. Grant, who was to select the general to govern each district from a group designated by Johnson, preferred Congress's plan for enforcement of Reconstruction. Grant was optimistic that Reconstruction Acts would help pacify the South. By complying with the Acts and instructing his subordinates to do likewise, Grant further alienated Johnson. When Sheridan removed public officials in Louisiana who impeded Reconstruction, Johnson was displeased and sought Sheridan's removal. Grant recommended a rebuke, but not a dismissal. Throughout the Reconstruction period, Grant and the military protected the rights of more than 1,500 African Americans elected to political office and overturned the first black codes in 1867.
Johnson wished to replace Stanton, a Lincoln appointee who sympathized with Congressional Reconstruction. To keep Grant under control as a potential political rival, Johnson asked him to take the post. Grant recommended against the move, in light of the Tenure of Office Act, which required Senate approval for cabinet removals. Johnson believed the Act did not apply to officers appointed by the previous president, and forced the issue by making Grant an interim appointee during a Senate recess. Grant agreed to accept the post temporarily, and Stanton vacated the office until the Senate reconvened.
When the Senate reinstated Stanton, Johnson told Grant to refuse to surrender the office and let the courts resolve the matter. Grant told Johnson in private that violating the Tenure of Office Act was a federal offense, which could result in a fine or imprisonment. Believing he had no other legal alternatives, Grant returned the office to Stanton. This incurred Johnson's wrath; at a cabinet meeting immediately afterwards, Johnson accused Grant of breaking his promise to remain Secretary of War. Grant disputed that he had ever made such a promise although cabinet members later testified he had done so. Newspapers friendly to Johnson published a series of articles to discredit Grant over returning the War Department to Stanton, stating that Grant had been deceptive in the matter. This public insult infuriated Grant, and he defended himself in an angry letter to Johnson, after which the two men were confirmed foes. When Grant's statement became public, it increased his popularity among Radical Republicans and he emerged from the controversy unscathed. Although Grant favored Johnson's impeachment, he took no active role in the impeachment proceedings against Johnson, which were fueled in part by Johnson's removal of Stanton. Johnson barely survived, and none of the other Republican leaders directly involved benefited politically in their unsuccessful attempt to remove the president.
Election of 1868
Grant entered the 1868 campaign season with increased popularity among the Radical Republicans following his abandonment of Johnson. The Republicans chose Grant as their presidential candidate on the first ballot at the 1868 Republican National Convention in Chicago. In his letter of acceptance to the party, Grant concluded with "Let us have peace", which became his campaign slogan. For vice president, the delegates nominated House Speaker Schuyler Colfax. Grant's General Order No. 11 became an issue during the presidential campaign; he sought to distance himself from the order, saying "I have no prejudice against sect or race, but want each individual to be judged by his own merit." As was expected at the time, Grant returned to his home state and left the active campaigning and speaking on his behalf to his campaign manager William E. Chandler and others. The Republican campaign focused on continuing Reconstruction and restoring the public credit.
The Democrats nominated former New York Governor Horatio Seymour. Their campaign focused mainly on ending Reconstruction and returning control of the South to the white planter class, which alienated many War Democrats in the North. The Democrats attacked Reconstruction and the Republican Party's support of African American rights, while deriding Grant, calling him captain of the "Black Marines". Grant won the election by 300,000 votes out of 5,716,082 votes cast, receiving an electoral college landslide, of 214 votes to Seymour's 80. Grant, at the age of 46 was (at the time) the youngest president ever elected. His election was a triumph of conservative principles that included sound money, efficient government, and the restoration of Southern reconstructed states. Grant was the first president elected after the nation had outlawed slavery and granted citizenship to former slaves. Implementation of these new rights was slow to come; in the 1868 election, the black vote counted in only 16 of the 37 states, nearly all in the South. Grant lost Louisiana and Georgia primarily due to Ku Klux Klan violence against African American voters. During the election there was a noticeably large number of black citizens in Washington.
On March 4, 1869, Grant was sworn in as the eighteenth President of the United States by Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase. His presidency began with a break from tradition, as Johnson did not attend Grant's inauguration at the Capitol or ride with him as he departed the White House for the last time. In his inaugural address, Grant urged the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment and said he would approach Reconstruction "calmly, without prejudice, hate or sectional pride." 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. In his effort to create national harmony, Grant purposely avoided choosing Republican Party leaders. Grant appointed his wartime comrade John A. Rawlins as Secretary of War and Hamilton Fish, a conservative New York statesman, as Secretary of State. Sherman earned promotion to Commanding General, but his relationship with Grant became strained when the President took Rawlins's side when the Secretary of War sought to limit Sherman's authority. Rawlins died in office a few months later, and Grant appointed William W. Belknap as his replacement.
Grant selected several non-politicians to his cabinet, including Adolph E. Borie and Alexander Turney Stewart, with limited success. Borie served briefly as Secretary of the Navy, later replaced by George M. Robeson, while Stewart was prevented from becoming Secretary of the Treasury by a 1789 statute that barred businessmen from the position (Senators Charles Sumner and Roscoe Conkling opposed amending the law.) In place of Stewart, Grant appointed Massachusetts Representative George S. Boutwell, a radical, as Treasury Secretary. Grant's other cabinet appointmentsâ"Jacob D. Cox (Interior), John Creswell (Postmaster General), and Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar (Attorney General)â"were well-received and uncontroversial. Grant also appointed four Justices to the Supreme Court: William Strong, Joseph P. Bradley, Ward Hunt and Chief Justice Morrison Waite. Hunt voted to uphold Reconstruction laws while Waite did much to undermine them.
Later Reconstruction and civil rights
Reconstruction of the South continued as Grant took office in March 1869. Grant, unlike his predecessor, advocated systematic federal enforcement of fundamental civil rights regardless of race. He lobbied Congress to pass the Fifteenth Amendment, guaranteeing that no state could prevent someone from voting based on race, and believed that its passage would secure freedmen's rights. Grant asked Congress to admit representatives from the remaining unrepresented Southern states in conformity with Congressional Reconstruction; they did so, passing legislation providing that Mississippi, Virginia, and Texas would be represented in Congress after they ratified the Fifteenth Amendment. Grant pressured Congress to draw up legislation that would seat African American state legislators in Georgia, who had been ousted by white conservatives. Congress responded to Grant's message through special legislation, the members were re-seated in the Georgia legislature, and Georgia was required to adopt the Fifteenth Amendment to gain representation in Congress. By July 1870, the four remaining states were readmitted.
To enforce the new amendment, Grant relied on the army, as well as the Justice Department, created in 1870 to enforce federal laws in the South. Where the attorney general had once been only a legal adviser to the president, he now led a cabinet department dedicated to enforcing federal law, including a solicitor general to argue on the government's behalf in court. Under Grant's first attorney general, Ebenezer R. Hoar, the administration was not especially aggressive in prosecuting white Southerners who terrorized their black neighbors, but Hoar's successor, Amos T. Akerman, was more zealous. Alarmed by a rise in terror by the Ku Klux Klan and other groups, Congress (with Grant's encouragement) passed Enforcement Acts in 1870 and 1871, which made depriving anyone of their civil rights a federal offense and authorized the president to use the military to enforce the laws. In May 1871, Grant ordered federal troops to help marshals in arresting Klansmen. That October, on Akerman's recommendation, Grant suspended habeas corpus in part of South Carolina and sent federal troops to enforce the law there. After prosecutions by Akerman and his replacement, George Henry Williams, the Klan's power collapsed; by 1872, elections in the South saw African Americans voting in record numbers. That same year, Grant signed the Amnesty Act, which restored political rights to former Confederates. Lacking sufficient funding, the Justice Department stopped prosecutions of the Klan in June 1873, and Grant offered the Klan clemency in exchange for peace.
After the Klan's decline, other conservative whites formed armed groups, such as the Red Shirts and the White League who openly used violence and intimidation to take control of state governments. The Panic of 1873 and the ensuing depression contributed to public fatigue, and the North grew less concerned with Reconstruction. Supreme Court rulings in the Slaughter-House Cases (1873) and United States v. Cruikshank (1875) restricted federal enforcement of civil rights. Grant began to favor limiting the use of troops, to avoid the impression that he was acting as a military dictator; he was also concerned that increased military pressure in the South might cause conservative whites in the North to bolt the Republican Party. In 1874, Grant by proclamation ended the Brooksâ"Baxter War bringing Reconstruction in Arkansas to a peaceful conclusion, but that same year, he sent troops and warships under Major General William H. Emory to New Orleans in the wake of the Colfax Massacre and disputes over the election of Governor William Pitt Kellogg. Emory peacefully restored Kellogg to office and the following year the parties reached a compromise allowing Democrats to retain control of the Louisiana House. Under public pressure Grant recalled General Sheridan and most of the federal troops from Louisiana.
By 1875, Democratic "Redeemer" politicians took 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 directly, instead, sending an emissary to negotiate a peaceful election. Grant signed an ambitious Civil Rights Act of 1875, which expanded federal law enforcement by prohibiting discrimination on account of race in public lodging, public transportation, and jury service. The law was rarely enforced, however, and did not stop the rise of white supremacist forces in the South. In October 1876, Grant sent troops to South Carolina to aid Republican Governor Daniel Chamberlain. Even so, the remaining three Republican governments in the South fell to Redeemers after the 1876 presidential election, and the ensuing Compromise of 1877 marked the end of Reconstruction.
Indian peace policy
Grant's attempts to live peacefully with Native Americans marked a radical reversal of what had since the 1830s been the government's policy of Indian removal. He appointed Ely S. Parker, a Seneca Indian and member of his wartime staff, as Commissioner of Indian Affairs. "My efforts in the future will be directed," Grant said in his second inaugural address, "by a humane course, to bring the aborigines of the country under the benign influences of education and civilizationÂ ... Wars of exterminationÂ ... are demoralizing and wicked." Grant's "Peace Policy" aimed to replace entrepreneurs serving as Indian agents with missionaries. In 1869, Grant signed a law establishing a Board of Indian Commissioners to oversee spending and reduce corruption in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Two years later, he signed a bill ending the Indian treaty system; the law now treated individual Native Americans as wards of the federal government, and no longer dealt with the tribes as sovereign entities. Grant wished for Indian tribes to be protected on reservations and educated in European-style farming and culture, abandoning their hunter-gatherer way of life. Although, as biographer Jean Edward Smith wrote, Grant's peace policy was "remarkably progressive and humanitarian" for its time, it ultimately disregarded native cultures, something modern Americans see "as a grave error."
The peace policy showed some success in reducing battles between Indians and whites on the western frontier, but the increased slaughter of the buffalo, encouraged by Grant's subordinates, led to conflict with the Plains Indians. The Sioux and other Plains 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, ending the understanding that had developed between Grant and Sioux Chief Red Cloud. Under Major Generals Oliver Otis Howard and George Crook, Grant's policy had greater success in the Southwest. Howard, the former head of the Freedmen's Bureau, negotiated peace with the Apache in 1872, convincing their leader, Cochise, to move the tribe to a new reservation, and ending a war started the year before. In Oregon, relations were less peaceful, as war with the Modocs erupted in April 1873. The Modocs refused to move to a reservation and killed the local army commander, Major General Edward Canby. Although Grant was upset over Canby's death, he ordered restraint, disregarding Sherman's advice to seek revenge or exterminate the tribe. The army captured, tried, and executed the four Modoc warriors responsible for Canby's murder in October 1873. Grant ordered the rest of the Modoc tribe relocated to the Indian Territory.
During the Great Sioux War, fueled by the discovery of gold in the Black Hills, Grant came into conflict with Colonel George Armstrong Custer after Custer testified in 1876 about corruption in the War Department. Grant ordered Custer arrested for breach of military protocol and barred him from leading an upcoming campaign against the Sioux. Grant later relented and let Custer fight under Brigadier General Alfred Terry. Sioux warriors led by Crazy Horse killed Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, the army's most famous defeat in the Indian wars. Two months later, Grant castigated Custer in the press, saying "I regard Custer's massacre as a sacrifice of troops, brought on by Custer himself, that was wholly unnecessary â" wholly unnecessary." Custer's death shocked the nation, leading Congress to appropriate funds for more troops, two more Western forts and barred Indians from purchasing weapons.
Even before Grant became president, expansionists in American politics desired control over Caribbean islands. Andrew Johnson had recommended annexation but the early anti-imperialist Republicans in Congress rejected the plan. Grant renewed negotiations to annex the Dominican Republic, led by Orville E. Babcock, a wartime confidant. Grant was initially skeptical, but at the urging of Admiral Porter, who wanted a naval base at SamanÃ¡ Bay, and Joseph W. Fabens, a New England businessman employed by the Dominican government, Grant became convinced of the plan's merit. He sent Babcock to consult with Buenaventura BÃ¡ez, the pro-annexation Dominican president. Babcock returned with a draft treaty of annexation in December 1869.
Grant believed in peaceful expansion of the nation's borders, and thought acquisition of the majority-black island nation would allow new economic opportunities for African Americans in the United States while increasing American naval power in the Caribbean. Secretary of State Hamilton Fish dismissed the idea, seeing the island as politically unstable and troublesome. Grant personally lobbied Senators to pass the treaty, going so far as to visit Sumner at his home. 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 political enmity between him and Grant. After the Dominican initiative failed, Grant convinced Fish to stay in the cabinet and gave him greater authority to run the State Department. Unwilling to admit defeat, Grant lobbied Congress to send a commission to the West Indies to investigate, including Frederick Douglass. Douglass approved of annexation, but Congress remained opposed.
Grant and Fish were more successful in their resolution of the Alabama claims. This dispute between Great Britain and the United States stemmed from the damage done to American shipping during the Civil War by the five ships built for the Confederacy in British shipyards including, most famously, the CSS Alabama. The Americans claimed that Britain had violated neutrality by building ships for the Confederate Navy. When the war ended, the United States demanded restitution, which the British refused to pay. Negotiations continued fitfully, a sticking point being the claims of "indirect damages" on top of the harm directly caused by the five ships. Sumner opposed the Johnson administration's proposed settlement, which had been rejected by the Senate, believing that Britain should directly pay $2 billion in gold or, alternatively, cede Canada to the United States. Fish convinced Grant that peaceful relations with Britain were more important than acquisition of more territory, and the two nations agreed to negotiate along those lines. A commission in Washington produced a treaty whereby an international tribunal would settle the damage amounts; the British admitted regret, but not fault. The Senate approved the Treaty of Washington, which also settled disputes over fishing rights and maritime boundaries, by a 50â"12 vote in 1871.
In 1873, a Spanish cruiser took captive a merchant ship, Virginius, flying the U.S. flag, carrying war materials and men to aid the Cuban insurrection. The passengers and crew, including eight American citizens, were illegally traveling to Cuba to help overthrow the government. Spanish authorities executed the prisoners, and many Americans called for war with Spain. Fish, with Grant's support, worked to reach a peaceful resolution. Spain's President, Emilio Castelar y Ripoll, expressed regret for the tragedy and agreed to decide reparations through arbitration; Spain surrendered the Virginius and paid a cash indemnity of $80,000 to the families of the executed Americans. In June 1874, Grant's Secretary of the Navy, George M. Robeson, commissioned the reconstruction of five redesigned double-turreted monitor warships to compete with the superior Spanish Navy. The administration's diplomacy was also at work in the Pacific as, in December 1874, Grant held a state dinner at the White House for the King of Hawaii, David Kalakaua, who was seeking duty-free sugar importation to the United States. 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' economic sphere.
Gold standard and the Gold Ring
Soon after taking office, Grant took steps to return the nation's currency to a more secure footing. During the Civil War, Congress had authorized the Treasury to issue banknotes that, unlike the rest of the currency, were not backed by gold or silver. The "greenback" notes, as they were known, were necessary to pay the unprecedented war debts, but they also caused inflation and forced gold-backed money out of circulation; Grant determined to return the national economy to pre-war monetary standards. Many in Congress agreed, and they passed the Public Credit Act of 1869, which guaranteed that bondholders would be repaid in gold, not greenbacks. To strengthen the dollar, Treasury Secretary George S. Boutwell, backed by Grant, sold gold from the Treasury each month and bought back high-interest Treasury bonds issued during the war; this had the effect of reducing the deficit, but deflating the currency.
These actions had a large impact on the nation's small gold market. Abel Corbin, Grant's brother-in-law, used his connection with the president to gain inside information for himself and his associates: Jay Gould, a Wall Street trader and railroad magnate, and Jim Fisk (the collaborators were later known as the "Gold Ring.") Corbin convinced Grant to appoint a Gould associate as assistant Treasurer, where he could gather information for the Ring. Meanwhile, Gould and Fisk quietly stockpiled gold. Gould convinced Corbin that a high gold price would be good for the nation's prosperity, and Corbin passed this theory on to Grant, who appeared to be convinced. After consulting with Alexander Stewart (his erstwhile nominee for Treasury Secretary) in early September, Grant stopped the sale of gold, believing a higher gold price would help Western farmers. By mid-September, however, Grant became suspicious of Corbin. The gold price continued to rise as the conspirators bought ever more, and the rising price affected the wider economy. Grant, seeing that the increase was unnatural, told Boutwell to sell gold, thereby reducing its price. Boutwell did so the next day, on September 22, 1869, later known as Black Friday. The sale of gold from the Treasury defeated Gould's scheme as the gold price plummeted, relieving the growing economic tension. Gould and Fisk managed to escape without much harm to themselves. Many brokerage firms collapsed while trade volume and agriculture prices plummeted, causing a mild recession, but by January 1870, the economy resumed its post-war recovery.
Election of 1872
Despite his administration's many scandals, Grant continued to be personally popular. A growing number of reformers, however, were disappointed by Grant's support of Reconstruction, the Gold Ring, and corruption in the New York Customs House. The CrÃ©dit Mobilier scandal, in which a railroad company bribed many members of Congress in 1868, did not involve Grant, but did ensnare Vice President Colfax and added to the general sense of dishonesty in Washington. To placate reformers, Grant created a Civil Service Commission authorized by Congress in 1871. The Commission, chaired by reformer George William Curtis, proposed certain reform rules and regulations, which Grant implemented by executive order in April 1872. Congress refused to fund the Civil Service Commission in 1875 or pass legislation to implement its recommendations. 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. During the war, both factions' interests had aligned, and in 1868 both had supported Grant. As the wartime coalition began to fray, Grant's alignment with the party's pro-Reconstruction elements alienated party leaders who favored an end to federal intervention in Southern racial issues.
Many of that faction split from the party in 1872, calling themselves the Liberal Republican Party. Led by Charles Francis Adams of Massachusetts and Senator Carl Schurz of Missouri, they 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. The rest of the Republican Party nominated Grant for reelection, with Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts replacing Colfax as vice-presidential nominee. The Democrats, seeking to benefit from anti-Grant sentiment, nominated Greeley as well. To the Liberals' chagrin, Greeley made Grant's Southern policy, rather than reform, the main campaign issue. The fusion effort failed and Grant was easily reelected. The Liberal Republicans were unable to deliver many votes, and Greeley was only successful in areas the Democrats would have carried without him. A strong economy, debt reduction, lowered tariffs, repeal of the income tax, and civil service reforms helped Grant defeat the Liberal Republicans. Grant won 56 percent of the popular vote and an Electoral College landslide of 286 to 66. A majority of African Americans in the South voted for Grant, while Democratic opposition remained mostly peaceful.
Panic of 1873, the Long Depression, and currency debates
As his first term was ending, Grant continued to work for a strong dollar, signing into law the Coinage Act of 1873, which effectively ended the legal basis for bimetallism (the use of both silver and gold as money), and established the gold standard in practice. The Coinage Act discontinued the standard silver dollar and established the gold dollar as the sole monetary standard. Critics who wanted more money in circulation to facilitate easier credit later denounced the move as the "Crime of 1873", claiming the law caused deflation and helped bankers while hurting farmers.
Grant's second term saw renewed economic turmoil. In September 1873, Jay Cooke & Company, a New York brokerage house, collapsed after it failed to sell all of the bonds issued by Cooke's Northern Pacific Railway. The collapse sent ripples through Wall Street, and other banks and brokerages that owned railroad stocks and bonds were also ruined. On September 20, the New York Stock Exchange suspended trading for ten days. Grant, who knew little about finance, traveled to New York to consult leading businessmen and bankers for advice on how to resolve the crisis, which became known as the Panic of 1873. Grant believed that, as with the collapse of the Gold Ring in 1869, the panic was merely an economic fluctuation that affected bankers and brokers. He responded cautiously, instructing the treasury to buy $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. Many of the nation's railroadsâ"89 out of 364â"went bankrupt.
Congress hoped inflation would stimulate the economy and passed what became known as the Inflation Bill in 1874. Many farmers and workingmen favored the bill, which would have added $64 million in greenbacks to circulation, but some Eastern bankers opposed it because it would have weakened the dollar. Grant unexpectedly vetoed the bill, saying that it would destroy the credit of the nation. Grant's veto, supported by Fish, 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. Grant later pressured Congress for a bill to further strengthen the 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. The Resumption Act required gradual reduction of the amount of greenbacks allowed to circulate and declared that specie payment (i.e., in gold or silver) would resume in 1879.
Gilded Age corruption and reform
Grant 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. Against the harsh public revelation of the Credit Mobilier of America scandal, Grant faced charges of misconduct in nearly all federal departments, engaging his administration in constant conflict between corrupt associates and reformers. Although personally honest with his own money matters, Grant had difficulty in spotting corruption in others. He was protective of associates, whose prosecutions he saw as unjust and shielded associates from attack at the cost of his own reputation, unless evidence of personal misconduct was overwhelming. No person linked any of the scandals together, except possibly Grant's personal secretary, Orville E. Babcock, who indirectly controlled many cabinet departments and delayed investigations.
In Grant's second term, a congressional investigation exposed corruption in the Treasury Department in the Sanborn incident, in which Secretary William Richardson hired John Sanborn (a friend of Congressman Benjamin Butler) as an independent tax collector on a percentage basis, also known as a moiety. Treasury officials were then privately instructed not to press for payment, so that accounts would become delinquent and Sanborn would get paid more when he "discovered" them. The congressional committee report condemned Richardson for permitting the aggressive tax collection system Sanborn used, but did not attempt impeachment. To prevent future fraud, Congress passed the Anti-Moiety Act, which Grant signed into law in 1874, abolishing that payment system.
In 1874, on becoming Treasury Secretary, Benjamin H. Bristow began a series of reforms. Finding that millions of dollars in revenue were missing. Having obtained Grant's endorsement in advance ("Let no guilty man escape"), Bristow obtained 238 indictments, leading to 110 convictions, and restored millions of tax dollars to the Treasury. When Bristow's investigation implicated Babcock as part of the Whiskey Ring, Grant became defensive, believing Babcock was the innocent victim of a witch hunt. While denying immunity to minor Whiskey Ring conspirators, Grant worked to protect Babcock. In 1876, Babcock was found not guilty at a trial in which Grant testified on his behalf through a deposition. After the trial, under public pressure, Grant dismissed Babcock from the White House. Grant later pardoned several Ring members.
As the scandals increased, Congress, with the House now under Democratic control, began several investigations into corruption in the administration, the most notable of which dealt with profiteering at western trading posts. involving Secretary of War William W. Belknap which led to his resignation. Congress also investigated and reprimanded Navy Secretary George M. Robeson in 1876 for receiving bribes.
Grant's Civil Service Commission reforms had limited success, as his cabinet implemented a merit system that increased the number of qualified candidates and relied less on Congressional patronage. Interior Secretary Columbus Delano, however, exempted his department from competitive examinations, and Congress refused to enact permanent Civil Service reform. Zachariah Chandler, who succeeded Delano, cleaned up corruption in the Interior Department. Grant appointed reformers Edwards Pierrepont and Marshall Jewell as Attorney General and Postmaster General, respectively, who supported Bristow's investigations. In 1875, Pierrepont cleaned up corruption among the United States Attorneys and Marshals in the South. Grant suggested other reforms as well, including a proposal that states should offer free public schooling to all children; he also endorsed the Blaine Amendment, which would have forbidden government aid to schools with religious affiliations.
Election of 1876
Even as Grant drew cheers at the Centennial Exposition in 1876, the collected scandals of the last eight years, the country's weak economy, and the Democratic gains in the House led many in the Republican party to repudiate him. Bristow was among the leading candidates to replace him, suggesting that a large faction desired an end to "Grantism" and feared that Grant would run for a third term. Ultimately, Grant did not run, but Bristow was not the nominee either, as the convention settled on Governor Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio, a reformer. The Democrats nominated Governor Samuel J. Tilden of New York. Voting irregularities in three Southern states caused the election that year to remain undecided for several months. Grant told Congress to settle the matter through legislation and assured both sides that he would not use the army to force a result, except to curb violence. Congress formed an Electoral Commission to decide the matter. The result was the Compromise of 1877: the Electoral Commission ruled that the disputed votes belonged to Hayes, but the last troops were withdrawn from Southern capitals. The Republicans had won, but Reconstruction was over.
After leaving the White House, Grant and his family stayed with friends for two months, before setting out on a world tour. The trip, which would last two years, began in Liverpool in May 1877, where enormous crowds greeted the ex-president and his entourage. The Grants dined with Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle, and Grant gave several speeches in London. After a tour on the continent, the Grants spent a few months with their daughter Nellie, who had married an Englishman and moved to that country several years before. Grant and his wife journeyed to France and Italy, spending Christmas 1877 aboard USS Vandalia, a warship docked in Palermo. A winter sojourn in the Holy Land followed, and they visited Greece before returning to Italy and a meeting with Pope Leo XIII. They toured Spain before moving on to Germany, where Grant discussed military matters with Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, telling him that in final stages of the Civil War, the Union Army fought to preserve the nation and to "destroy slavery".
The Grants left from England by ship, sailing through the Suez Canal to India. They visited cities throughout the Raj, welcomed by colonial officials. After India, they toured Burma, Siam (where Grant met with King Chulalongkorn), Singapore, and Cochinchina (Vietnam). Traveling on to Hong Kong, Grant began to change his mind on the nature of colonization, believing that British rule was not "purely selfish" but also good for the colonial subjects. Leaving Hong Kong, the Grants visited the cities of Canton, Shanghai, and Peking, China. He declined to ask for an interview with the Guangxu Emperor, a child of seven, but did speak with the head of government, Prince Gong, and Li Hongzhang, a leading general. They discussed China's dispute with Japan over the Ryukyu Islands, and Grant agreed to help bring the two sides to agreement. After crossing over to Japan and meeting the Emperor Meiji, Grant convinced China to accept the Japanese annexation of the islands, and the two nations avoided war.
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. After a visit to Yosemite Valley, they returned at last to Philadelphia on December 16, 1879. The voyage around the world had captured popular imagination, and Republicansâ"especially those of the Stalwart faction excluded from the Hayes administrationâ"saw Grant in a new light. The Republican nomination for 1880 was wide open after Hayes forswore a second term and many Republicans thought that Grant was the man for the job.
Third term attempt
Stalwarts, led by Grant's old political ally, Roscoe Conkling, saw the ex-president's renewed popularity as a way for their faction to regain power. Opponents denounced the idea as a violation of the two-term rule that had been the norm since George Washington. Grant said nothing publicly, but he wanted the job and encouraged his men. Elihu B. Washburne urged him to run; Grant demurred, saying he would be happy for the Republicans to win with another candidate, though he preferred James G. Blaine to John Sherman. Even so, Conkling and John A. Logan began to organize delegates in Grant's favor. When the convention convened in Chicago in June, there were more delegates pledged to Grant than to any other candidate, but he was still short of a majority vote to capture the nomination.
At the convention, Conkling nominated Grant with an elegant speech, the most famous line being: "When asked which state he hails from, our sole reply shall be, he hails from Appomattox and its famous apple tree." With 370 votes needed for nomination, the first ballot had Grant at 304, Blaine at 284, Sherman at 93, and the rest scattered to minor candidates. Subsequent ballots followed, with roughly the same result; neither Grant nor Blaine could win. After thirty-six ballots, Blaine's delegates deserted him and combined with those of other candidates to nominate a compromise candidate: Representative James A. Garfield of Ohio. The 306 votes Grant received on the last ballot was not enough to secure the nomination. A procedural motion made the vote unanimous for Garfield, who accepted the nomination.
Grant gave speeches for Garfield, but declined to criticize the Democratic nominee, Winfield Scott Hancock, a general who had served under him in the Army of the Potomac. Garfield won the popular vote by a narrow margin, but solidly won the Electoral Collegeâ"214 to 155. After the election, Grant gave Garfield his public support, and pushed him to include Stalwarts in his administration.
Grant's world tour had been costly. When he returned to America, Grant had depleted most of his savings and needed to earn money and find a new home. Wealthy friends bought him a home on Manhattan's Upper East Side, and to make an income, Grant, Jay Gould, and former Mexican Finance Secretary MatÃas Romero chartered the Mexican Southern Railroad, with plans to build a railroad from Oaxaca to Mexico City. Grant urged Chester A. Arthur, who had succeeded Garfield as president in 1881, to negotiate a free trade treaty with Mexico. Arthur and the Mexican government agreed, but the United States Senate rejected the treaty in 1883. The railroad was similarly unsuccessful, falling into bankruptcy the following year.
At the same time, Grant's son Ulysses Jr. had opened a Wall Street brokerage house with Ferdinand Ward. Regarded as a rising star, Ward, and the firm, Grant & Ward, were initially successful. In 1883, Grant joined the firm and invested $100,000 of his own money. Investors bought securities through the firm, and Ward used the securities as collateral to borrow money to buy more securities. Grant & Ward pledged that collateral to borrow more money to trade in securities on the firm's own account. The practiceâ"called hypothecationâ"was legal and accepted; what was illegal was rehypothecation, the practice of pledging the same securities as collateral for multiple loans. Ward, having colluded with the bank involved, did this for many of the firm's assets. When the trades went bad, multiple loans came due, all backed up by the same collateral. Historians agree that Grant was likely unaware of Ward's 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 bankrupt. Ward told Grant of the impending failure, but suggested that this was a temporary shortfall. Grant approached businessman William Henry Vanderbilt, who gave him a personal loan of $150,000. Grant invested the money in the firm, but it was not enough to save the firm from failure. Essentially penniless, but compelled by a sense of personal honor, he repaid what he could with his Civil War mementos and the sale or transfer of all other assets. Although the proceeds did not cover the loan, Vanderbilt insisted the debt had been paid in full. Grant was left destitute.
Memoirs and death
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 that Grant write a book of memoirs, as Sherman and others had done. Grant's articles would serve as the basis for several chapters.
In the summer of 1884, Grant complained of a soreness in his throat, but put off seeing a doctor until late October where he finally learned it was throat cancer. Before being diagnosed, Grant was invited to a Methodist service for Civil War veterans in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, on August 4, 1884, receiving a standing ovation from more than ten thousand veterans and others; it would be his last public appearance. In March of the following year, the New York Times finally announced that Grant was dying of cancer and a nationwide public concern for the former president began. Later, Grant, who had forfeited his military pension when he assumed the presidency, was honored by his friends and the Congress when he was restored to the rank of General of the Army with full retirement pay.
Despite his debilitating illness, Grant worked diligently on his memoirs at his home in New York City, and then from a cottage on the slopes of Mount McGregor, finishing only days before he died. Grant asked his former staff officer, Adam Badeau, to help edit his work. Grant's son Fred assisted with references and proofreading. Century magazine offered Grant a book contract with a 10 percent royalty, but Grant accepted a better offer from his friend, Mark Twain, who proposed a 75 percent royalty. His memoir ends with the Civil War, and does not cover the post-war years, including his presidency.
The book, Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, was a critical and commercial success. In the end, Julia Grant received about $450,000 in royalties. The memoir has been highly regarded by the public, military historians, and literary critics. Grant portrayed himself in the persona of the honorable Western hero, whose strength lies in his honesty and straightforwardness. He candidly depicted his battles against both the Confederates and internal army foes. Twain called the Memoirs a "literary masterpiece." Given over a century of favorable literary analysis, reviewer Mark Perry states that the Memoirs are "the most significant work" of American non-fiction.
In the days preceding his death, Grant's wife, Julia, all of his children, and three grandchildren were present. After a year-long struggle with the cancer, Grant died at 8 o'clock in the morning in the Mount McGregor cottage on July 23, 1885, at the age of 63. Sheridan, then Commanding General of the Army, ordered a day-long tribute to Grant on all military posts, and President Grover Cleveland ordered a thirty-day nationwide period of mourning. After private services, the honor guard placed Grant's body on a special funeral train, which traveled to West Point and New York City. A quarter of a million people viewed it in the two days before the funeral. Tens of thousands of men, many of them veterans from the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) or other veterans' organizations, marched with Grant's casket drawn by two dozen horses to Riverside Park in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. His pallbearers included Union generals Sherman and Sheridan, Confederate generals Simon Bolivar Buckner and Joseph E. Johnston, Admiral David Dixon Porter, and Senator John A. Logan, the head of the GAR.
Grant's body was laid to rest in Riverside Park, first in a temporary tomb, and thenâ"twelve years later, on April 17, 1897â"in the General Grant National Memorial, also known as "Grant's Tomb". The tomb is the largest mausoleum in North America. Attendance at the New York funeral topped 1.5 million. Ceremonies were held in other major cities around the country, and those who eulogized Grant in the press likened him to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
Few presidents' reputations have changed as dramatically as Grant's. Popular in much of the nation as he rose to prominence in the Civil War, Grant's popularity declined with congressional investigations into corruption in his administration and Custer's defeat at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. In 1877, both Democrats and Republicans admired Grant's peaceful handling of the electoral crisis that divided the nation. Grant's reputation soared during his well-publicized world tour.
At his death, Grant was seen as "a symbol of the American national identity and memory", when millions turned out for his funeral procession in 1885 and attended the 1897 dedication of his tomb. Grant's popularity increased in the years immediately after his death. At the same time, commentators and scholars portrayed his administration as the most corrupt in American history. As the popularity of the pro-Confederate Lost Cause movement increased early in the 20th century, a more negative view became increasingly common. As they had early in the Civil War, Grant's new critics charged that he was a reckless drunk, and in light of his presidency, that he was also corrupt. In the 1930s, biographer William B. Hesseltine noted that Grant's reputation deteriorated because his enemies were better writers than his friends. In 1931, Frederic Paxson and Christian Bach in 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. 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."
Views of Grant reached new lows as he was seen as an unsuccessful president and an unskilled, if lucky, general. Bruce Catton and T. Harry Williams began the reassessment of Grant's military career in the 1960s, shifting the analysis of Grant as victor by brute force to that of successful and skillful strategist and commander. Even for scholars focused on the plight of former slaves and Indians, Grant left a problematic legacy and, with changing attitudes toward warfare after the end of the Vietnam War, Grant's military reputation suffered again. William S. McFeely won the Pulitzer Prize for his critical 1981 biography that focused on the failure of Grant's presidency to carry out lasting progress and concluded that "he did not rise above limited talents or inspire others to do so in ways that make his administration a credit to American politics." John Y. Simon in 1982 responded to McFeely: "Grant's failure as PresidentÂ ... lies in the failure of the Indian peace policy and the collapse of ReconstructionÂ ... But if Grant tried and failed, who could have succeeded?" Simon praised Grant's first term in office, arguing that it should be "remembered for his staunch enforcement of the rights of freedmen combined with conciliation of former Confederates, for reform in Indian policy and civil service, for successful negotiation of the Alabama Claims, and for delivery of peace and prosperity." According to Simon, the Liberal Republican revolt, the Panic of 1873, and the North's conservative retreat from Reconstruction weakened Grant's second term in office, although his foreign policy remained steady.
Historians' views have grown more favorable since the 1990s, appreciating Grant's protection of African Americans and his peace policy towards Indians, even where those policies failed. Grant's reputation rose further 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, then certainly an admirable one. Smith wrote that "the common thread is strength of characterâ"an indomitable will that never flagged in the face of adversityÂ ... Sometimes he blundered badly; often he oversimplified; yet he saw his goals clearly and moved toward them relentlessly." Brooks Simpson continued the trend in the first of two volumes on Grant in 2000, although the work was far from a hagiography. H. W. Brands, in his more uniformly positive 2012 book, wrote 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.
As Eric Foner wrote, Brands gave "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." Foner adds that by 1875 Grant had given up rescuing the blacks, saying the public was tired of them, concluding that "Grant's unwillingness to act reflected the broader Northern retreat from Reconstruction and its ideal of racial equality."
Besides civil rights, issues of environmental protection have also attracted historiographical attention. Historian Joan Waugh, in her generally favorable book, says Grant appreciated the beauty of the West, and in 1872 signed the law establishing the countryâs first national park at Yellowstone. However, she argues:
. . . he approved of projects that took great swaths of land and opened them to timber, cattle, land speculators, and millions of settlers . . . the idea of preserving the regionâs environment and concerns about industrial pollution were of much less importance to Grant . . .
Throughout the 20th century, historians ranked his presidency near the bottom. In the 21st century, his military reputation is strong, while experts rank his presidential achievements well below average.
Memorials and presidential library
Several memorials honor Grant. In addition to his mausoleum, the General Grant National Memorial in New York, there are the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial at the foot of Capitol Hill on the mall in Washington, D.C., the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site near St. Louis, and several other sites in Ohio and Illinois that honor his life. There are smaller memorials in Chicago's Lincoln Park and Philadelphia's Fairmount Park. Named in his honor are Grant Park as well as several counties in western and midwestern states. From 1890 to 1940, part of what is now Kings Canyon National Park was called General Grant National Park, named for the General Grant sequoia. Grant has appeared on the front of the United States fifty-dollar bill since 1913, and appears on several stamps.
In May 2012, the Ulysses S. Grant Foundation, on the institute's fiftieth anniversary, selected Mississippi State University as the permanent location for Ulysses S. Grant's presidential library. Historian John Y. Simon edited Grant's letters into a 32-volume scholarly edition published by Southern Illinois University Press.
- List of American Civil War battles
- List of American Civil War generals
- White House biography
- Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library
- Ulysses S. Grant: A Resource Guide â" Library of Congress
- Essays on Ulysses S. Grant, each member of his cabinet and First Lady from the Miller Center of Public Affairs
- Ulysses S. Grant at C-SPAN's American Presidents: Life Portraits
- Works by Ulysses S. Grant at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Ulysses S. Grant at Internet Archive
- Works by Ulysses S. Grant at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)