On April 27, 1822, in Pt. Pleasant, Ohio, Jesse Root and his wife Hannah Simpson Grant welcomed the birth of their first child, a son whom they named Hiram Ulysses Grant. Little did any of them know the future that lie ahead for this helpless newborn boy.
In 1839, Grant was nominated to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. According to most sources, when Grant arrived at West Point, the young man discovered that when Congressman Hamer nominated him for the academy, he gave them the wrong name, Ulysses S. Grant, the S. standing for him mother’s name Simpson. He was given the choice by West Point to either return home and be re-nominated under his right name and return the next year or accept the name change. Grant didn’t want to face the anger of his dad if he returned home, so Hiram Ulysses Grant became Ulysses S. Grant.
After West Point, Grant served in the Army from 1843 to 1854 when he retired from the Army. During his service, he participated in the Mexican-American War.
From 1854 to 1861, Grant worked at a variety of jobs and raised his family. When he heard about the Confederate attack on Ft. Sumter, Grant returned to the Army. His first command was that of Colonel of the 21st Illinois Volunteer Infantry.
On July 31, 1861, Grant was promoted to Brigadier General. The promotion was prompted by Illinois Congressman Elihu Washburn who just happened to be a close friend of newly elected President Abraham Lincoln.
In February, 1862, Grant leads victories at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, Tennessee. At Fort Donelson, Grant accepted the surrender of Confederate General Simon Bolivar Buckner, resulting in Grant’s nickname of ‘Unconditional Surrender’ Grant. The victories led to Grant’s promotion to Major General of Volunteers.
Later in 1862, Grant is present at the battles of Shiloh, Iuka, Corinth and Vicksburg.
After Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, Grant created a program to help freed slaves behind Union lines. He placed Chaplain John Eaton over the program that employed all of the freed slaves that were able to work and to pay them a fair wage to help them become self-sufficient.
1863 was a banner year for Grant. He continued his campaign to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi and accepted the surrender and the city from Confederate Pemberton. He also captured Black River Bridge, Champion’s Hill, Grand Gulf, Jackson and Raymond.
After meeting with Secretary of War Edwin McMasters Stanton, he returned to the field to take command of the troops at Chattanooga. They engaged in the battles of Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. President Lincoln is fully aware of Grant’s victories and achievements.
On this day, March 9, 1864, Lincoln signs the promotion of Major General Grant to Lieutenant General of the United States Army. Ulysses Grant now had command of the entire Union Army.
The last time the rank of Lieutenant General had been used was in 1798 when then President John Adams promoted George Washington to the rank in anticipation of a possible war with France.
Lincoln had asked Congress to resurrect the rank of Lieutenant General back in 1862, but there was a conflict between him and Congress. Congress wanted the rank to go to Grant then, but Lincoln wanted to give it to then Commanding General Henry Wagner Halleck. Some rumors circulated that a number of Republican Senators were planning to nominate Grant for the 1864 election in place of a re-election of Lincoln. Grant heard about the rumors and publicly quashed any idea of his accepting a presidential nomination.
Whether due to the rumors or the sterling record Grant had racked up over the past couple of years, Lincoln finally agreed with Congress and awarded Grant with the highest military rank in the nation.
With control of the entire Union Army, Grant launches his Grand Campaign where he wanted to keep all Union forces on the same page with the same orders to cut off all Confederate troops from joining forces. His campaign was successful and on April 9, 1865, Grant accepts the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, ending the bloodiest and costliest war in American history.
Three years later on May 24, 1868, Grant accepts the nomination of the Republican Party to run for President. His campaign slogan was ‘Let Us Have Peace.’ Granted was elected President on November 3, 1868 and inaugurated on March 4, 1869.
Later in life, Grant wrote that he had not really selected a military life and never expected to graduate from West Point and never expected to end up as the general in charge of the entire US Army, let along to be elected at the 18th President of the United States.
Under his 8 year presidency, Grant appointed the first American Indian to a Cabinet post, saw the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, signed the law creating an 8-hour work day for all federal employees, signed the 15th Amendment giving black males the right to vote, signed the legislation that led to the creation of the National Weather Service, established the Department of Justice, established the first Civil Service Commission, signed the second Enforcement Act also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act that suppressed white supremacy groups from denying blacks their legal rights, established Yellowstone as the first National Park, signed a bill giving amnesty to everyone that served for the Confederacy, signed legislation making gold the only official standard for US currency, welcomed Colorado as the 36th state and used US troops in numerous locations throughout the south to quell KKK and other racist uprisings.
Sources for the above include: Lincoln’s Nomination of Grant; Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant; Lincoln signs Ulysses S. Grant’s commission to command the U.S. Army; East Room: General Grant’s Promotion; Ulysses S. Grant; Ulysses S. Grant Timeline; Timeline: Ulysses S. Grant;