Sunday, December 02, 2012

10 Fun Facts About Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States

1. Hiram Ulysses Grant was born near Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1822.  Growing up in rural Georgetown, Ohio, he entered West Point in 1839.  His mother's maiden name was Simpson, and on his admittance papers to West Point, his name was mistakenly listed as Ulysses S. Grant (with the initial standing for his mother's maiden name).  Rather than correct the mistake, Grant decided to keep it, recognizing its patriotic implications.

2. Grant was a poor student who frequently got in trouble at West Point for refusing to attend required church services.  He excelled in horsemanship, but upon graduation he was overlooked for the cavalry appointed to the 4th U.S. Infantry.

3. Grant served with distinction during the Mexican War of 1846-48, and upon returning home in 1848, married his longtime girlfriend, Julia Boggs Dent - who was a sister to Grant's West Point roommate.  Grant's parents disapproved of the match because Julia's parents were slaveholders; they subsequently refused to attend the wedding.  The Grants had four children, three boys and a girl.

4. Now a captain, Grant remained in the military until 1854, at which time he abruptly resigned due, in part, to continual drinking problems that threatened his position.  Stationed in California at the time, he returned to his wife and children in Missouri, where he took over his father-in-law's farm in St. Louis.  Unable to produce much income, he briefly became a bill-collector before accepting a job with his father's tanning business in Galena, Illinois.  The Grants and their four children settled there in 1860.

5. Upon the outbreak of the Civil War a year later, Grant - being the only military professional in the area - was asked to assist in raising volunteers for the war effort.  Invigorated by the opportunity to do something other than farm or sell leather goods, Grant obliged.  He also began applying for reinstatement into the regular Army.  These applications, however, were ignored, and instead Grant was given command of the 21st Illinois Volunteers.  He was promoted to the rank of colonel, thanks to a recommendation from U.S. Congressman Elihu Washburne, who happened to be from Galena.

6. By February of 1862, Grant had led his regiment in a series of bold and successful battles along the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers.  News of his successes spread across the nation and Abraham Lincoln promoted him to Major General.

7. In March of 1864, after continued success, Grant was elevated to Commanding General of the U.S. Army.  In 1866, Congress created a new rank for him, called General of the Army, and he became the first 4-star general.  That same rank would later be used for the 5-star generals of the World War II era.

8. Following the disastrous presidency of Andrew Johnson, Grant was unanimously nominated by the Republicans for the 1868 presidential election.  His popularity as a general helped him win in a landslide.  At age 46, he was the youngest man (at the time) ever elected to the presidency, and the first person to be elected president while both of his parents were still living.

9. Grant served two terms in the White House, and his presidency was marked by a return to stability following the war and Reconstruction Era, but marred by numerous scandals involving his cabinet and other appointees.  Following his presidency, Grant and his wife embarked on a high profile publicity tour around the world that lasted more than two years.  Upon his return, Grant ran for president again in 1880, but narrowly failed to win the Republican nomination, which instead went to James A. Garfield.

10. His trip around the world, as well as several failed business ventures, left Grant virtually destitute, with only his military pension as income (his pension had been forfeited when he became president, but an act of Congress restored it). As a result, at the behest of his friend Mark Twain, he decided to write his memoirs as a way to make money; Twain functioned as the publisher.  He finished the 2-volume work just a few days before his death of throat cancer in 1884.  The book became an immediate bestseller.  Grant was buried in New York, in what would prove to be the biggest mausoleum in the United States - Grant's Tomb.


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