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Ulysses S. Grant

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Ulysses S. Grant

On April 27, 1822 a boy was born to Jesse Root Grant and Hannah

Simpson Grant in the small town of Point Pleasant, Ohio. They named their

son Hiram Ulysses Grant. In 1823 the family moved to a town nearby called

Georgetown, Ohio, where Ulysses' father owned a tannery and some

farmland. Grant had two brothers and three sisters born in Georgetown.

Ulysses attended school in Georgetown until he was 14. He then spent

one year at the academy in Maysville, Kentucky, and in 1838, he entered an

academy in nearby Ripely, Ohio. Early in 1839, his father learned that a

neighbors son had been dismissed from the U.S. Military Academy. Jesse

asked his congressman to appoint Ulysses as a replacement. The

congressman made a mistake in Grant's name. He thought that Ulysses was

his first name and his middle name that of his mother's maiden name. But

Ulysses never corrected the mistake.

Grant was an average student at West Point. He spent most of his free

time reading novels and little time studying. He ranked high in math and was

very good at horsemanship. Ulysses did not like the military life and had no

intention of making it his career. Instead he considered teaching mathematics

in a college.

Grant graduated from West Point in 1843 and was commissioned a

second lieutenant. He was assigned to the 4th Infantry Regiment stationed

near St. Louis. It was there that he met Julia Dent. They fell in love and soon

became engages. The threat of war with Mexico delayed their wedding

plans.

In 1847, Grant took part in the capture of Mexico City and won a

promotion for his skill and bravery. He reached the rank of 1st Lieutenant by

the end of the war. Grant returned to St. Louis as soon as he could and on

Aug. 22, 1848, he was married to Julia Dent. During their marriage, the

Grant's had four children: Frederick, Ulysses S. Jr., Ellen, and Jesse Root Jr.

Civil War Era

Grant was almost 39 years old when the Civil War began in 1861. He

had freed his only slave in 1859 and strongly opposed secession. After

President Abraham Lincoln called for Army volunteers, Grant helped drill a

company that was formed in Galena. Then he went to Springfield, the state

capital, and worked for the Illinois assistant general. Grant asked the federal

government for a commission as colonel, but his request was ignored. Two

months later, Governor Richard Yates appointed him colonel of a regiment

that became the 21st Illinois Volunteers. Grant led these troops on a

campaign against Confederates in Missouri. During two months of

campaigning, Grant refreshed his memory about handling troops and

supplies. Upon the recommendation of Elihu B. Washburne, an Illinois

congressman, President Lincoln appointed Grant a brigadier general in

August 1861.

Grant established his headquarters at Cairo, Illinois, in September

1861. He soon learned that Confederate forces planned to seize Paducah,

Kentucky. Grant ruined this plan by occupying the city. On Nov. 7, 1861,

his troops drove the Confederates from Belmont, Missouri, but the enemy

rallied and retook the position. In January 1862, Grant persuaded his

commanding officer, General Henry W. Halleck, to allow him to attack Fort

Henry, on the Tennessee River. As Grant's army approached Fort Henry,

most of the Confederates withdrew. A Union gunboat fleet, sent ahead to aid

Grant, captured the fort easily. On his own initiative, Grant then lay siege to

nearby Fort Donelson. When the fort commander asked for terms of

surrender, Grant replied: "No terms except an unconditional and immediate

surrender can be accepted." The Confederate commander realized he had no

choice but to accept what he called Grant's "ungenerous and unchivalrous"

demand. Northerners joyfully declared that Grant's initials, U. S., stood for

"Unconditional Surrender." Grant was promoted to major general. On April

6, 1862, the Confederates opened the Battle of Shiloh by launching a surprise

attack on Grant's forces at Pittsburg Landing, Tenn. The Union troops barely

held off the enemy until reinforcements arrived. Persistence brought Grant a

great victory at Vicksburg, Miss. All through the winter of 1862-1863, his

troops advanced against this Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River.

In May 1863, Grant defeated a Confederate army and then besieged

Vicksburg. On July 4, 1863, the Confederates surrendered.

Grant succeeded consistently in the West while Union generals in the

East

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