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Biography of Ulysses S. Grant


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GENERAL ULYSSES SIMPSON GRANT, eldest child of Jesse R. and Hannah Simpson Grant, was born at Point Pleasant, Clermont County, Ohio, April 27, 1822. He was the eldest of a considerable family of children, and as his parents were in humble circumstances his early advantages of education were somewhat limited. Through the influence of the member of Congress from his father's district young Grant received in 1839 an appointment to the West Point Military Academy, and there was laid the foundation of that career which made him one of the most famed men in the world's history. Grant was a diligent student, but not a brilliant one. He was well behaved, quiet, and methodical, but nothing in his career as a student merited special attention. When Grant left West Point he was appointed a Brevet Second Lieutenant and assinged to the Fourth Infantry. In 1846 he went with his regiment to Mexico. He was promoted in 1847 to First Lieutenant for gallant and meritorious conduct in the battle of Molino del Rey, and in September of the same year was breveted a Captain for service at Chepultepec. When the Mexican war ended Captain Grant returned with his regiment. He was stationed for a time at Detroit and then at Sackett's Harbor. While on duty at the last mentioned place he married Miss Julia T. Dent, daughter of Frederick T. Dent, of St. Louis, and sister of one of his classmates. From that time until the breaking out of the rebellion his life was singularly uneventful. For nearly three years he did garrison and other undistinguished service in California and Oregon. In 1854 he resigned his commission as captain in the army. For several years he lived with his family on a small farm near St. Louis, and in 1859 he went to Galena, Ill., where he engaged in the leather store of his father. In this position he was found when the Civil War began in 1861. He promptly offered his services to the government and was appointed colonel of the 1st Illinois regiment. On the 7th of August he was commissioned a brigadier-general and assigned to the command of the forces at Cairo. He won his first victory at Belmont, Mo., on Nov. 7th, 1861, defeating a Confederate force of considerable strength. In Feb. 1862 he moved with 15,000 men, on Fort Henry, on the Tennessee river. The fort surrendered Feb. 6th, its reduction being mainly the work of the fleet of gunboats under Commodore Foote. Grant now marched against Fort Donelson on the Cumberland river. This stronghold he attacked on Feb. 14th, and after a severe struggle the Union forces carried a portion of the fortification, and were in a position where they could in all probability capture the fort the following day.

Early the next morning, Buckner, the Confederate commander, addressed a grandiloquent and diplomatic note to Grant, suggesting commissioners to arrange an armistice and possible terms of surrender. Buckner's letter bore an absurd look of chivalry, which, under the circumstances, seemed amusing to Grant. He replied simply, "There is no need of commissioners. The only terms are unconditional surrender. I propose to move immediately upon your works."

There was a quiet ring in these determined words that caught the North. The surrender following in a few hours gave peculiar emphasis to the utterance, and Grant's name flashed over the country as the hero of the hour. He was at once regarded as the coming man. U.S. Grant, "United States Grant," "Unconditional Snrrender Grant," were the pet terms applied to him. His old acquaintances of the Military Academy and in Mexico began to prick up their ears. Grant's nickname at the academy was "Sam," based upon his initials - "Uncle Sam." Lee asked: "Is that the "Sam" Grant that was in the Fourth at Chepultepec?" He was told it was the same. "I remember him," said Lee. "A very quiet fellow, but he seemed to have a good deal in him, and I"m afraid he's got it yet." Buckner surrendered to Grant that day thirteen thousand men, three thousand horses, seventeen siege guns, forty-eight field pieces, and eighteen thousand stand of arms. It was at the time the most decisive victory of the war. Congress at once made Grant a Major General of volunteers, and the President enlarged his command and gave him new and greater responsibilities. Grant's next great contest was at Shiloh. His army numbering 33,000 men were encamped near Pittsburg Landing, or Shiloh, awaiting reinforcements under General Buel. Another division of 5,000 men under General Lew Wallace lay at Crumps Landing, but did not arrive in time to take part in the first day's battle. The Confederates determined to strike Grant before Buel's arrival. They accordingly moved up quietly from Corinth, 40,000 strong and at daybreak, April 6th, attacked the Federal encampment with a suddennesss and force which were overpowering. The battle which followed had in some respects no parallel during the war. Of the five divisions of Grant's army engaged, Grant himself says, that "three were entirely raw, and many of them had only received their arms on the way from their states to the field. Many of them had arrived but a day or two before, and were hardly able to load their muskets according to the manual. "They were entirely without entrenchments, were not expecting an immediate attack, and rushed from their tents into line of battle at the sound of the enemies guns. The battle raged all day. The Union forces were driven back, fighting desperately at every step, and at night the Federal line was more than a mile in the rear of where it was in the morning; yet it was intact, and Grant determined to take the initiative in the morning. Buel arrived that night bringing 20,000 fresh troops. The battle was renewed on the 7th and the Confederates were driven from the field. General Grant says of this battle "Shiloh was the most severe battle fought at the West during the war, and but few in the East equalled it for hard, determined fighting. I saw an open field in our possession the second day, so covered with dead that it would have been possible to walk across the clearing in any direction, stepping on dead bodies without a foot touching the ground."

Grant's next achievement was the capture of Vicksburg. His campaign against this stronghold was inaugurated in the Spring of 1863. He first tried to reach it from the line of the Yazoo river, but it proved to be impregnable from that direction. Grant then determined to run the fleet past the enemies guns, march his army down the opposite side of the river, then cross and attack the city from the rear. This bold and hazardous undertaking was successfully accomplished. Crossing the Mississippi at Bruinsburg he cut loose from his base of supplies and marched into the interior. He attacked and defeated General Joseph E. Johnson at Jackson, May 14th; then turning against Pemberton, defeated him at Champion Hills May 16th, and again at Black River Bridge on the 17th. Pemberton now withdrew within the defenses of Vicksburg and the city was rapidly invested by the Union forces. Pemberton held out until July 4th, when he surrendered to Grant with thirty thousand prisoners, two hundred and fifty cannon, and sixty thousand stand of arms. The material and strategic results were the most important of the war, up to that date. Grant was now made a major general in the regular army, and was placed in command of all the western armies. He hastened to Chattanooga, where the army under Rosecrans, which had suffered defeat at Chickamauga, was in imminent danger of starvation or capture.

On the 23rd, 24th, and 25th of November, he fought the battles of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. These victories overthrew the last hostile force west of the Alleghanies, and opened the way for the national armies into Georgia.

The remarkable series of successes which Grant had now achieved pointed him out as the appropriate leader of the national armies. In February, 1864, he was called to the command of the armies of the United States, with the rank of lieutenant-general, which had been created for him by Congress.

He now pepared to confront aggressively every force of the enemy so that no Confederate army could in any emergency, or by any possibility, support another. He sent Sherman into Georgia, directed Sigel to penetrate the Valley of Virginia, and Butler to threaten Richmond by way of the James; while he in person took the field against the army of Northern Virginia under Lee. He fought his way from the Rapidan in the tremendous battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna and Cold Harbor, after each of which he advanced while the enemy withdrew, until he reached the James. Crossing the James, he sat down to the final contest before Petersburg. The Confederates were gallant and stubborn, and held their lines against Grant's repeated assaults. The government advised him to abandon the attempt, and the country grew impatient and at times discouraged; but Grant never wavered, and the siege went on. Meantime Sherman had fought his way to Atlanta, which he captured, and later marched to the sea at Savannah. Thomas annihilated Hood's army at Nashville, Sheridan won repeated victories in the valley; and all the while Lee was held at Petersburg, unable to reinforce any other Confederate force, no matter how threatened or assailed. At length Grant broke through the Confederate lines, captured Richmond, hotly pursued Lee, and received the surrender of his army at Appomattox, on the 9th ot April, 1865. The assassination of President Lincoln quickly followed, and Grant was left the most prominent figure in the life of the nation. Honors were showered upon him by a grateful public. In 1868 he was chosen President of the United States, and in 1872, he was re-elected to the same office.

After the close of his administration, General Grant spent two years in foreign travel, during which he visited all the principal nations of Europe and completed the circuit of the globe. The fame of his military triumphs, and his position as the twice chosen president of the republic, gained for him such a reception in all the principal cities of the world, and in the royal courts of all nations, as was never before accorded to any American. After his return to America, a purse of $250,000 was presented to him by his friends in recognition of his eminent services to his country. In the Spring of 1880 a large and influential part of the republican party sought his nomination to the presidency once more; but the movement was defeated, not from any abatement in the admiration and confidence of the people, but from an unwillingness to bestow the office upon any man, however eminent or worthy for two terms. Grant now settled down to private life and it was hoped that the remainder of his life would be passed in ease. But through his lack of business experience, and undue confidence in his friends he was involved in financial ruin. With indomitable courage the old hero now turned to his pen as a means of support, writing his "Personal Memoirs." Meantime he was fatally stricken with a cancer at the base of the tongue. Under pressure of public sympathy for him, congress tardily came to his aid by placing him on the retired list with rank and pay of General. For six months, while the disease advanced steadily to the end, he held resolutely to his literary task, completing the "Memoirs" in two volumes a few days before his death, which occurred July 23rd. 1885.