Former President Ulysses S. Grant was born in Point Pleasant, Ohio on April 27, 1822. His birth name was Hiram Ulysses Grant but due to a misunderstanding later in life, he was called Ulysses S. Grant, and he just accepted it. After growing up with one sister and his parents, in 1843, Grant graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point. He was distinguished as a brevet Second Lieutenant in the 4th Infantry Division, which was stationed in St. Louis, Missouri. He went on to fight in the US-Mexican War and returned in August 1848, when he married Julia Dent. He resigned from the military six years later. He spent the next few years working at various jobs and spending time with his wife and children.
After the start of the Civil War in 1861, Grant re-enlisted as a colonel and was later promoted to brigadier general by Abraham Lincoln. He led his troops into many battles. The first success was in February of 1862 at Fort Donelson in Tennessee. He refused to negotiate with the southern forces and forced their surrender. But his victories didn’t stop there, he moved his troops into Confederate-controlled Vicksburg, Mississippi and took control. This move effectively separated the Confederacy and its territory into two parts. It was not long before Lincoln recognized his capabilities and placed him in charge of the entire US Army in 1864. Grant is credited with winning the Civil War. It ended on April 9, 1865, when the Confederate commander General Robert Lee surrendered to Grant, the country’s new hero.
After the assassination of Lincoln, Andrew Johnson became the President of the US. One of his biggest responsibilities while in office was to rebuild the now demolished South but by 1867, Congress was dissatisfied with his progress. The Radical Republican group had control of Congress, and they wanted Johnson to take a drastic, fast approach. The bickering became so heated that Johnson removed one of the members of Congress, Grant was appointed to the position. Johnson was impeached in May of 1868 by the Republicans who promptly nominated Grant as the next president.
The general public received the nomination with open arms and elected Grant as the 18th President of the US by a significant majority vote. He started office on March 4, 1869, and appointed several of his commanding officers to White House staff. He took on the great challenge of Reconstruction, uniting the north and south once again. Some of his accomplishments included protecting the rights of the now-free slaves, limiting activities of the Ku Klux Klan, and restoring law and order to the South. His most important responsibility was to draft the 15th amendment which ensured African American men had the right to vote.
His presidency was not a complete success story, however. Grant became involved with two speculators who were planning to take control of the gold market. When Grant realized their plan, he had the US Treasury sell copious amounts of gold. The entire fiasco led to financial panic on the market and Black Friday. When he ran for his second term, he was opposed by a newly formed political party, the Liberal Republicans. They were not successful, however, and Grant went on to serve another term. The second term was also filled with scandal when several public officials were involved in a scheme to steal millions of dollars in liquor sales tax. This scam was called the Whiskey Ring and involved distillers, distributors, and Grant’s private secretary. The secretary, Orville Babcock, was indicted, but Grant defended him until he was acquitted. Ulysses S. Grant did not go on to run a third term (which at the time was legal).
Aside from winning the Civil War and signing African American suffrage into law, Grant left several other lasting legacies. He established the Department of Justice and what is now known as the National Weather Service. In addition, Grant is responsible for creating the first National Park, Yellowstone in Wyoming. This act later led to the creation of the National Park Service, which today manages 59 protected areas. Grant died at the age of 63 on July 23, 1885.