Grant, Ulysses Simpson (1822–1885)

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Next to President abraham lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant was the most important individual in the struggle to maintain the Union and the reconstruction of the nation in the civil war period. A West Point graduate, Grant left the military in 1854 but returned as a colonel in the Illinois Volunteers in 1861. By 1864 Grant had risen to become America's first lieutenant general since Washington, and commander of all Union forces. Throughout the war Grant understood that victory was synonymous with preserving the Union and the Constitution. He developed strategies that devastated the South, because he believed that only a decisive defeat of the Confederacy, with a military abolition of slavery and an unconditional surrender of southern troops, would remove secession from the American constitutional vocabulary.

In 1866 Grant became America's first full general, and he gradually challenged andrew johnson's leadership. Grant accepted an interim appointment as secretary of war, in defiance of the tenure of office act, but he relinquished the post to edwin m. stanton, paving the way for Johnson's impeachment. As President (1869–1877), Grant supported the fifteenth amendment (1870), the Ku Klux Klan Act (1871), the Civil Rights Act of 1875, and the creation of a Department of Justice and solicitor general's office to help enforce these new measures. However, after 1872 Grant gave little support to the freedmen and their white allies. He dismissed his aggressively integrationist attorney general, Amos Akerman, and in 1875–1876 he refused to send federal troops to protect black voters.

Three of Grant's Supreme Court nominees were never confirmed while a fourth, Edwin Stanton, died before he could take office. Apart from joseph bradley, Grant's successful Court appointments to the Court, william strong, ward hunt, and morrison waite, were lackluster. Grant's administration was scandal-ridden. His secretary of war was impeached and avoided conviction only through resignation.

Paul Finkelman


Mc Feely, William S. 1981 Grant: A Biography. New York: Norton.