Ulysses S. Grant:
Civil War General Becomes President

Ulysses S. Grant had no interest in holding political office, yet he became the 18th President of the United States. He led an amazing military career and entered politics because of his commitment to President Abraham Lincoln's ideals regarding the abolition of slavery and the reunification of the nation after the Civil War.

A Reluctant Start In The Military
Hiram Ulysses Grant was born on the banks of the Ohio River on April 27, 1822. As a young man, he reluctantly attended West Point military academy from July 1, 1839 to July 1, 1843. While at West Point, his initials were mistakenly listed as "U.S." From then on, he became known as U.S. Grant. After graduating from West Point, Grant went on to participate in the military occupation of Texas from 1845 to1846 and then the U.S. - Mexican War in 1847. After the U.S. won the war and claimed Texas, Grant moved throughout the country on a variety of military assignments.

Aside from being a military expert, Grant is also remembered as a devoted husband to his wife Julia and as an attentive father. After leaving military service, he worked as a farmer and in a leather goods store. When the Civil War began in 1861, Grant's highly respected military expertise was again called into action.

The Civil War is truly where Grant made a name for himself, working through the ranks until President Abraham Lincoln named him General-In-Chief of the Union Army in 1864. Grant established Union Army headquarters at City Point, VA, and directed the Union troops across the nation to final victory over the Confederate Army in 1865. (The town of City Point is now known as Hopewell, VA.)

A War Hero Becomes President
Grant's leadership as a general during the Civil War is a model for military strategy studied to this day. His military skills earned him the office of Secretary of War. In 1868, he ran for the office of the United States President out of dissatisfaction with President Andrew Johnson's approach to rebuilding the country after the tragic death of Abraham Lincoln. President Johnson was less empathetic to the South's problems than Lincoln. The Republican Party supported the war hero and a hopeful American populous elected Grant president.

Although he was viewed as the hero of the Civil War, he soon lost favor with the American people during his presidency. He was criticized by some for using military force during reconstruction of the South, the very issue for which he criticized his predecessor, President Johnson. Other detractors criticized Grant for his lack of experience in political matters and for his continued reliance on his military background. He even brought some of his army staff with him to the White House. Grant's legacy as a triumphant military leader but ineffectual president has caused many historians to label him "one of the most misunderstood leaders of the 19th century."

Grant, the man, was a combination of characteristics. He was one of the greatest military leaders in our history, and he was also an intensely devoted family man. He was a lyrical writer, composing beautifully expressive letters to his wife. And, many still consider U.S. Grant a genius at military strategy. Based on his superior military acumen, Grant contributed greatly to the sovereignty of our nation.

Jimmy Blankenship, Petersburg National Battlefield, 804-458-9504 (Pete_City_Point@nps.gov)
Jen Larson, National Park Foundation, 202-530-1487 (jlarson@goparks.org)
Sue Waldron, National Park Service, 202-208-5477 (sue_waldron@nps.gov)

Jill Sharp or Kim Scher, Lord, Sullivan & Yoder, 614-846-7777 (jsharp@lsy.com; kscher@lsy.com)