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Ulysses S. Grant

Free «Ulysses S. Grant» Essay Sample


Ulysses S. Grant is an American statesperson, a military leader, and a general. He became the President of the United States from the Republican Party. During the Civil War, Grant was the Chief of the Army of the North. In the military history, Ulysses Simpson Grant is known for the fact that he had played a decisive role in the victory of the federalist army over the confederates in the Civil War. At the same time, he showed himself as a talented strategist and tactician, a reliable ally of US President Abraham Lincoln, and one of the most outstanding political leaders in American history. As an impressive army General, Ulysses S. Grant led the Union army to its success over the Confederacy in the American Civil War. Furthermore, he became the 18th president of the USA and his legacy is primarily unblemished and passed onto over the generations. The purpose of the paper is to study the military achievements of Ulysses S. Grant and his presidency.

The Way of an Officer

Ulysses S. Grant was born on April 27, 1822, in Point Pleasant, Ohio (Perret, 2009). The future American president was born in a family of a leather dresser. Obviously, Ulysses’ father saw great importance in his son’s education. Robert Broadwater (2012) states that “Jesse Grant saw to it that young Ulysses received a proper education by sending a boy to a number of tuition schools in the area” (p. 7). After changing several schools, the father decided that his son should make a military career. Grant was admitted to the elite US Army West Point in 1839 (Bonekemper, 2010). However, Edward Bonekemper (2010) notes that “Rather than looking forward, Ulysses was apprehensive about the appointment” (p. 2). Regardless of the fact that Grant had been admitted to the military school, it was done at the insistence of his father since the young boy did not bear the sight of blood, hunting, and swearing in his youth. Another key thing to remember is that by mistake, Simpson, the maiden name of Ulysses’ mother was recorded as his middle name. Grant decided to leave the name; thus, he became Ulysses S. Grant. In 1843, he graduated from the academy with the rank of the second lieutenant (Perret, 2009). Researchers have suggested that Grant began his career without any fascination in the military service (Perret, 2009). After the graduation, he began serving in the fourth Infantry Regiment of the United States. At that time, the war against Mexico started. Even though Grant considered it unfair, he was forced to participate in it. He distinguished himself in the battle with the Mexicans in Monterrey (Broadwater, 2012). Significantly, Grant was praised by the commander of the American army. Later, Grant’s infantry regiment participated in the landing operation in the port of Veracruz on the Gulf Coast, which became a turning point in the US-Mexican War. Grant successfully commanded his foot soldiers in the battles with the Mexicans at Cerro Gordo and Chapultepec (Broadwater, 2012). Importantly, after the capture of Mexico City by the US Army, Ulysses S. Grant, who had excellent performance during the war, was prematurely promoted to the rank of the captain.

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In 1848, Ulysses S. Grant married Julia Dent from St. Louis, Missouri (Perret, 2009). His regiment often changed locations, and in September 1853, it was transferred to California (Perret, 2009). At this time, Grant lived separately from his wife and children because a financial situation did not allow him to relocate the family. Without the support of his family, Grant drowned his boredom and discontent in alcohol. His propensity for depression could also promote the habit of drinking. After numerous warnings of his superiors, in the summer of 1854, Grant resigned and returned to his family in St. Louis, where his wife owned a small farm (Perret, 2009). In 1860, he moved with his family to Illinois and joined his father’s business that was managed by two of his brothers (Perret, 2009).

The Finest Hour

In view of the fact that his wife’s family had slaves, when the war for separation started, Ulysses S. Grant considered his duty to fight on the side of the troops of the Union for the unity of the country and the abolition of slavery. As a colonel, he entered the 21st regiment of volunteers from Illinois (Bonekemper, 2010). Since the beginning of the Civil War, he managed to get an appointment of the commander of Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment (Bonekemper, 2010). From the beginning of the war, Grant pointed to the differences between the civil war and the war against an external enemy. According to Grant, in the civil war, each operation should be planned and implemented in terms of its possible consequences for future reunification of the country and people. It should be mentioned that Ulysses S. Grant acted so well that in two months, he was promoted to the brigadier general and command of the military forces northerners in the southeastern district of Missouri. The brigadier general Ulysses S. Grant received his first victory over the southerners in the battle of Belmont (Bonekemper, 2010). Having about 3,000 people under his command, he defeated more than 5,000 troops of the confederates (Bonekemper, 2010). Losses of the latter were almost twice as much as the federal ones. This victory significantly weakened the strength and position of the southerners in the western part of Missouri.


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In February 1862, Ulysses S. Grant captured well-fortified Confederate forts – Fort Henry and Fort Donelson (Bonekemper, 2010). The northerners’ military commander headed a combined land-river expedition numbering 25,000 people (Bonekemper, 2010). The expedition aimed to destroy the Confederate defensive line established by General Joseph Johnson. Admiral Andrew Foote commanded the river squadron of armored gunboats to Tennessee. In conducting these two major operations, General Ulysses S. Grant skillfully organized the interaction forces of the army and river flotilla to Tennessee (Bonekemper, 2010). This fact allowed him to issue the ultimatum of unconditional surrender to Major General John Floyd, the commander of Fort Donelson (Bonekemper, 2010). Grant stated that there could be no conditions except for the immediate and unconditional surrender. Nevertheless, offers of the southerners for the armistice were rejected. After some reflections, the commander of the garrison had to accept such conditions, even though the garrison of the fort had good opportunities to fight under siege. The besieged successfully withstood attacks of armored river gunboats of the northerners and made a sortie from the fort almost breaking through the siege ring. The losses of southerners along with prisoners amounted to more than 16,000 people, and northerners – about 2,000 people (Bonekemper, 2010). These two great victories glorified Ulysses Simpson in the Union army at the beginning of the Civil War.

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In the spring of 1862, Ulysses S. Grant received the rank of Major General (Bonekemper, 2010). He enjoyed the favor of President Abraham Lincoln, and he was appointed the commander of the Army of Tennessee. It should be noted that it was one of the most powerful armed forces in the North. In April 1862, his troops successfully repulsed the attack the Confederate Army under the command of General Joseph Johnson, who suddenly attacked the northerners’ positions at Shiloh in Tennessee (Bonekemper, 2010). Grant managed to unravel the Johnson’s intentions and impose his will in the battle. After the victory at Shiloh, the Tennessee Army launched an offensive through the valley of the Mississippi River (Bonekemper, 2010). Although the confederate troops had quantity superiority and convenient positions for defense, the northerners defeated them in several battles.

Working closely with the river flotilla of the northerners on the Mississippi, the army of Tennessee stubbornly moved its way to the south – to the city of Vicksburg. The Federalists had to contend with dashing raids of the cavalry division of the confederate General Nathan Forrest (Bonekemper, 2010). In Vicksburg, large enemy forces under the command of General John Pemberton were stationed. In June 1863, the city was besieged by the northerners from land and the river (Bonekemper, 2010). The blockade fighting and shelling of fortifications began. The river flotilla of the northerners achieved dominance in the middle reaches of the Mississippi river. The commander of the army of the northerners built a blockade ring in such a way that the southerners were isolated from their main forces, so the blocked garrison could not receive any help. Constant artillery attacks from the land and from the river demoralized people in the garrison because the besieged had lost the counter battery at the very beginning of the siege. Upon learning that General Grant was preparing for the final assault, General Pemberton surrendered. During this operation, the army of northerners passed 330 kilometers in 19 days, providing themselves with food at the expense of requisitions, and received victory in five battles, not counting the large number of small skirmishes with the confederates (Bonekemper, 2010).

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After the surrender of Vicksburg garrison, the northerners established complete control over the vast valley of the Mississippi River with its communications and river port cities. Furthermore, the confederation of South American states geographically became actually divided into two parts, the communication between which was interrupted by the fighting. This fact threatened the very existence of the Confederation and its ability to continue the war. Significantly, this victory glorified General Grant in the camp of the northerners and provided him with good career prospects. He was given command of the so-called division of the Mississippi, and he achieved great success in the Civil War by determined offensive actions removing the siege of Chattanooga (Bonekemper, 2010). The besieging troops of the confederates quickly retreated without getting involved in a great battlefield. Ulysses S. Grant began to pursue the enemy, not allowing Southerners to gain a foothold in new positions.

The Civil War was close to its logical conclusion. It was associated with the fact that the South with its economic, military, and political potential could not gain victory over the developed North. For three years, President Abraham Lincoln had tried to find the military commander among numerous generals who would be able to finish the protracted war victoriously. Eventually, the choice of the head of state fell on a successful and resolute General Ulysses S. Grant. In March 1864, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Ulysses Simpson Grant the commander of all government armies who fought against the forces of the Confederacy and advanced him to the lieutenant general (Bonekemper, 2010). All federal military forces between the Mississippi River and the Allegheny Mountains were subordinated to Grant. President Lincoln stated that he needed this man, as Grant knew how to fight (Bonekemper, 2010). The new Chief of the Federalists in the West immediately took over the general management of military operations (Bonekemper, 2010). President Abraham Lincoln gave Grant enormous powers but required only one thing from him – the complete victory of the North in the Civil War. Realizing that the combat capability of the southerners reduced day by day, Ulysses S. Grant led a frankly protracted war. It was well-organized tactics.

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In fact, Ulysses Grant put the plan Anaconda into practice (Bonekemper, 2010). Earlier, the plan was proposed to the US government by General Scott (Bonekemper, 2010). However, at that time, this plan was not adopted in Washington for various reasons. Nevertheless, the idea was approved by the high command of the army of the North. The Commander in Chief ordered the troops under the command of General William Sherman to attack one of the largest cities of the Confederation – Atlanta (Bonekemper, 2010). General Philip Sheridan was ordered to neutralize a large force of the confederates concentrated in the Shenandoah Valley with the active actions. Thus, the Confederate Army troops were divided. They were deprived of interaction and they could not come to each other’s rescue.

Notably, Grant’s first major operation was the siege of Chattanooga in Tennessee. In November 1863, the Battle of Lookout Mountain, or the Chattanooga Battle, took place, with about 60,000 people under the command of General Grant taking part (Bonekemper, 2010). His army was superior to the southerners in half. The first day of the battle did not bring the northerners notable successes. However, on the second day, they completely routed the army of the southerners. It lost nearly 13,000 people – mostly prisoners of war and missing in action, 40 artillery guns and 7,000 guns (Bonekemper, 2010). The losses of the winners constituted about 8,000 people (Bonekemper, 2010). The victory in the battle of Chattanooga allowed the Army of the Federalist to start new offensive actions in the South.

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Ulysses S. Grant’s army together the army of General George Meade moved to Richmond against the Virginia army of General Lee (Bonekemper, 2010). Lee was considered the best general of the Confederation of the Southern States. In the case of defeating him, the northerners could count on a speedy completion of the Civil War. Several bloody battles did not give a decisive advantage to the government forces. Moreover, both armies suffered great losses (Bonekemper, 2010). Nevertheless, the northerners regularly received reinforcements, because their manpower reserves were larger. In addition, they did not experience major difficulties with ammunition and weapons in contrast to their opponents. Although the Virginia Army led by General Lee fought on equal terms with the northerners, it gradually began to lose the initiative in military operations. Later, Grant decided to start the systematic siege of the city of Petersburg, Georgia and seize the railroad south of the city. The siege lasted until April 1, 1865. On that day, the victory of the northerners at Five Forks forced General Lee to retreat from Petersburg (Bonekemper, 2010).

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The Civil War in the United States was almost over. Finally, General Lee realized that his army was unable to resist a strong enemy. April 9, 1865, he announced the surrender of the Virginia Army (Bonekemper, 2010). For the Southerners, the news was a fatal blow. Their Confederation was deprived of its main military force and, in effect, ceased to exist as a state entity. Thus, the unity of the United States damaged during the Civil War was restored. However, US President Abraham Lincoln did not fully enjoy the victory. 14 April, he was mortally wounded in the theater with a pistol shot performed by an actor John Booth, a supporter of the southerners (Bonekemper, 2010).

The military operations in the south of the United States after the surrender of the Virginia Army ended in a few weeks (Bonekemper, 2010). In a solemn ceremony, US Congress appropriated the rank of the full general to Ulysses Simpson Grant. It was the second assignment of this military rank in the country’s history. The first time it was awarded in 1799 (Bonekemper, 2010). In 1867, Ulysses S. Grant was given the post of Minister of War in the government of Johnson (Bonekemper, 2010).


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Years of Presidency

The war brought Grant recognition and fame. His popularity attracted the attention of the politicians from the Republican Party. Grant’s break with President Johnson at the beginning of 1868, whom he chided in the fact that his policy threatened the unity of the state, made him the presidential candidate from the Republicans. Politicians believed that Ulysses S. Grant could achieve success (Haugen, 2005). He seemed like an appropriate candidate for the post of the president. Despite the fact that Grant’s political interest was evaluated during the war and he received much experience on the post of the Minister of War, critics blamed him for the absence of required sensitivity and political competence necessary for the highest position of the state (Haugen, 2005).

At that time, Ulysses S. Grant was not a member of the Republican Party. Nevertheless, he accepted the nomination for the post of the president. He saw an opportunity to save a military victory by restoration the political unity of the United States and vouch for all citizens of the country for equal civil rights. In the book Ulysses S. Grant: Union General and U.S. President, it is stated that “The states in the South had been severely damaged by the Civil War and needed to be rebuild” (Haugen, 2005, p. 11). Grant promoted the program based on the reestablishment of the South, the economic recovery of the southern states with the help of the financial policy, and suffrage for the freed slaves. This program helped him win the election. He received 214 votes in the Electoral College versus 80 votes for Democrat Horatio Seymour (Haugen, 2005).

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Grant’s presidency did not bring him much success. Fiscal policy and foreign policy cleverly laid by the permanent Secretary of State Hamilton Fish can be attributed to the achievement of the new administration (Perret, 2009). The reconstruction of the South was incomplete. Moreover, Grant’s administration was engaged into several scandals and allegations of corruption. However, people did not doubt in the integrity and incorruptibility of the President. ‘Black Friday’ on September 24, 1869, scams of Credit Mobilier in 1872, and Whiskey Ring in 1873-1875, numerous briberies of the War Minister William Belknap and other senior officials seriously undermined Grant’s reputation on the post of the president (Perret, 2009). These scams, as well as the financial panic in 1873, led to a five-year economic depression and an increase in unemployment (Perret, 2009).

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