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Grant, Ulysses Simpson
Grant, Ulysses Simpson (1822-1885), lieutenant-general in the United States army and president of the United States from 1869 to 1877, was born at Point Pleasant, O., April 27, 1822. He had but a slight education in his early youth, but graduated at West Point in 1843. He served in the Mexican war with credit, and in routine service until 1854, when he resigned, having then the rank of captain. His attempts to engage in farming near St Louis and in the leather trade at Galena, Ill., were not successful; and, when the civil war broke out, he was the last man whom his brother officers would have picked out as the coming hero of the war. With some difficulty he obtained a commission as colonel of an Illinois regiment, but was soonadvanced to the rank of brigadier-general, having his head-quarters at Cairo, Ill. From this point he made incursions into the hostile territory, his first serious affair being at Belmont, Mo., Nov. 7, 1861, which was at best a drawn battle. The Confederate line ran through southern Kentucky, and was penetrated by the Tennessee river, of whose mouth Grant had possession. Estimating the opportunity correctly, he obtained permission, with much difficulty, to attempt to secure control of the whole Tennessee river.Flag-officer Foote, with seven gunboats and a number of transports, conveyed Grant's force up the river and captured Fort Henry, which commanded the point where the Confederate line crossed the Tennessee river (Feb. 6, 1862). A distance of but seven miles separated the rifle-pits around this fort fromthose of Fort Donelson, which commanded the point where the Confederateline crossed the Cumberland river. Marching overland with about 15,000men, Grant invested Fort Donelson, and began the first Federal siege of thewar. The surrender of the fort (Feb. 16) broke up the Confederate lineand forced it back into southern Tennessee. Grant was more popular withthe general public than with his superiors, and his experience with themwas so unpleasant that he asked to be relieved. Matters were patched up,and he was allowed to push southward. Here the battle of PittsburghLanding, in which Grant seems to have been taken by surprise, intensifiedthe doubts his superiors had of his capacity, and he was for some time undera cloud, Halleck assuming command himself, and really retiring Grant forsome months. A fully counterbalancing result of the battle was theestablishment of perfect sympathy between Grant and Sherman, who had shared itsdangers and what odium had come out of it. Grant himself has writtenthat, in the Mexican war, his service “gave no indication that he wouldever be equal to the command of a brigade,” and that in 1861 he “hadnever looked at a copy of tactics since his graduation.” His training forsupreme command was now completed, and it had qualified him for thedefence of Corinth, to which all his subsequent successes may be directlytraced. Left there almost in isolation, and exposed to the attacks of allthe forces which the Confederates chose to bring against him, hissuccessful battles of Iuka (Sept. 19, 1862) and Corinth (Oct. 3-5) left himmaster of the route along the Mississippi. In January 1863 Grant andSherman succeeded in taking the west bank of the Mississippi to a pointopposite Vicksburgh. Failing to reduce the city from this point, Grantcrossed the river below Vicksburgh in April, and began the remarkablecampaign which ended with the surrender of Pemberton. It showed thathe had strategic ability as well as fighting power, and that he was able todiscern the characteristics of his opponents and to calculate on their probableerrors, and it gave him an official as well as a popular respect whichhe never lost. Followed by the victories of Lookout Mountain andMissionary Ridge, it made him the acknowledged leader of the United Statesarmies, and his appointment as lieutenant-general and commander-in-chiefwas a foregone conclusion. When Grant assumed command in Virginia inMarch 1864, Lee's unaccustomed tendency to maintain a strict defensiveshowed his underlying consciousness that he had before him at last a manwho was ready and willing to answer an attack by a counter-attack. Grant'smilitary ability had now reached its highest developments: he handled his120,000 men with as complete control as he had shown with his 15,000 atDonelson. It is not probable that anything but the vigour and intensityof Grant's operations could have met successfully the problem offered to anycommander by Lee behind intrenchments arranged by himself and mannedby the army of northern Virginia, or could have reduced that army to thecondition which it presented in the winter of 1864-65. The end of the warand the death of President Lincoln left Grant the foremost man of theNorth and West, and it was really inevitable that he should be electedpresident in 1868. From the moment of Lee's surrender the people hadshown a disposition to put upon his shoulders any work which called forprompt completion. The Republican leaders relied on him to hold all thathad been secured by the war until the Congressional plan of reconstructionshould be fully carried out, and he did the work as probably no other mancould have done it. His public life is really the history of the country forthe eight years after 1869, and its errors were largely the result of theintrusion of some of his best personal qualities into it. Acymailing enterprise. The rule in thecivil service still was that of appointment by favour of the political leadersof the dominant party; Grant, bewildered by the constant and tremendouspressure for appointments, undoubtedly selected some men who wereno credit to his administration; when the appointment had been made, hisown bitter experience of unjust criticism led him to look with suspicionon any accusation against those whom he had appointed; and his militaryhabits of unquestioning obedience gave him a tendency to expect the samething from men in politics, and to regard independence as a sort of treason,disqualifying the man guilty of it for any useful criticism. His second termwas therefore filled with scandals which are likely to overshadow the solidand enduring achievements of his first. Retiring to private life, he foundneeded rest in a tour of the world; he was, however, a candidate for theRepublican nomination for the presidency in 1880, and engaged in businessin which he had no experience, and in which he lost his all. Attackedby an incurable disease, he spent his last few months of life in thepreparation of his autobiography, knowing that its sale would be so large as to puthis family out of reach of pecuniary distress. He died at Mount M‘Gregor,N.Y., July 23, 1885.