Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885), 18th president of the United States (1869-1877). Grant was a puzzling figure in American public life. He was a failure in his early ventures into both business and military life. In four years of commanding Union forces he climbed to the highest rank in the U.S. Army and directed the strategy that successfully concluded the Civil War in 1865. His two terms as president of the United States are considered by many historians to be the most corrupt in the country's history. Yet from accounts of Grant's contemporaries, as well as from his own memoirs, there emerges a personality of strong character and considerable dignity.
Ulysses Simpson Grant was the son of a frontier family. He was born Hiram Ulysses Grant on April 27, 1822, in a two-room cabin in Point Pleasant in southwestern Ohio. His father, Jesse Root Grant, was a tanner. Hannah Simpson Grant, his mother, was a pious, hardworking frontier woman. When Ulysses was one year old, his father moved the family to nearby Georgetown, where the boy grew up and attended school. He later went to nearby Maysville Seminary in Maysville, Kentucky, and the Presbyterian Academy in Ripley, Ohio. He also worked on his father's farm, remarking in his memoirs: “I did all the work done with horses.” When Ulysses was 17, his father secured his admission to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point through U.S. Congressman Thomas L. Hamer of Ohio.
Grant entered West Point in May 1839. He now became Ulysses Simpson Grant through Congressman Hamer's error in writing the name. His classmates dubbed him “U.S.,””Sam,” and “Uncle Sam” Grant. Although he excelled at horsemanship and mathematics, Grant liked drill and discipline no more than most cadets. After a ten-week furlough home, he confided: “The ten weeks were shorter than one week at West Point.”
Grant graduated in 1843 with a barely average scholarship record, ranking 21st in a class of 39. He had hoped to get a position teaching mathematics at the academy and later a professorship “in some respectable college,” but he was instead assigned to infantry duty on the southwestern frontier. For two years he served in various posts in Missouri and Louisiana. In 1845 he joined the command of General Zachary Taylor in Texas. He fought in the Mexican War (1846-1848), but although twice cited for bravery in combat, he had little heart for the campaign. Later he told a friend, “I do not think there was ever a more wicked war than that waged by the United States on Mexico. ... I thought so at the time, when I was a youngster, but I had not moral courage enough to resign.”
Stationed in Missouri in 1848, Grant married Julia Dent, the daughter of a plantation owner and the sister of a West Point classmate. In the next ten years four children were born to Ulysses and Julia Grant: three boys, Frederick, Ulysses, Jr., and Jesse, and a daughter, Ellen. From 1848 to 1852, Grant served at army posts in Detroit, Michigan, and Sackets Harbor, New York. In 1852 he was transferred to the Pacific Coast, first to Fort Vancouver in Oregon Territory, then to Fort Humboldt in California.
Grant's Pacific Coast duty made him miserable. Because of the expense and hardship of the trip, his family did not go with him. High living costs in California, a legacy of the 1849 gold rush, left him without enough money to send for them. He tried to supplement his army pay by farming, woodcutting, selling ice imported from Alaska, and dealing in livestock. But all these enterprises were failures. Grant felt homesick and isolated, and grew morose. “How broken I feel here,” he wrote to his wife in February 1854. He took to drinking heavily and quarreled with his commander, Brevet Colonel Robert C. Buchanan. Two months later he was made to resign. He had reached the rank of captain.
Returning to Missouri in 1855, Grant and his family settled on 32 hectares (80 acres) that his father-in-law had given to Julia. Grant cleared the land, built a log house, farmed, and hauled wood to sell in St. Louis. Again he failed to make a profit. In 1857 he was even forced to pawn his watch and chain to buy his family Christmas presents.
Grant then accepted a partnership in a real estate and rent collection firm in St. Louis, but this did not work out either. For a month he held a job in the St. Louis customhouse, but he lost it when the collector died. Grant had started working in his brothers' leather shop in Galena, Illinois, when the Confederate States of America, or Confederacy, seceded from the federal Union and the Civil War broke out. Loyal to the Union, Grant applied to serve as an officer when a call for troops went out in Illinois.
Grant mustered in a volunteer Galena regiment and took it to the state capital, Springfield. There he took charge of mustering several more regiments and came to the attention of the governor, Richard Yates. In June 1861 Yates appointed Grant colonel of the rebellious 21st Illinois volunteer regiment. Grant soon taught the unruly men military discipline and led them against pro-Confederate guerrillas in Missouri. Because of his demonstrated leadership ability, Grant was then made brigadier general in command of the volunteers district at Cairo, Illinois.
Grant fought his first battle, an indecisive action against the Confederates at Belmont, Missouri, in November 1861. Three months later, aided by Commodore Andrew H. Foote's gunboats, he captured Fort Donelson, on the Cumberland River, and Fort Henry, on the Tennessee River. These were the first major Union victories of the war. The Confederate commander, Brigadier General Simon B. Buckner, an old friend of Grant's, yielded to Grant's hard conditions of “no terms except unconditional and immediate surrender.” Buckner's surrender of 14,000 men made Grant a national figure almost overnight, and he was nicknamed “Unconditional Surrender” Grant. This victory also won him promotion to major general of volunteers.
Two months later, at the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee in April 1862, Grant did not fare so well. Waiting for General Don C. Buell and the Army of the Ohio to join his own Army of the Tennessee for a major offensive, Grant was caught unaware by a Confederate attack. He had not fortified his position, and his forces suffered severe losses before Buell's army arrived and helped turn back the attack.
Abuse was heaped on Grant throughout the North. Some accused him of having been drunk or grossly negligent at Shiloh. Major General Henry W. Halleck took over command of the Union offensive, and although Grant was second in command, Halleck ignored him. Humiliated, Grant thought of resigning.
President Abraham Lincoln was pressed to remove Grant but would not do so. “I can't spare this man,” declared Lincoln. “He fights.” In the summer of 1862, Lincoln called Halleck to Washington as general in chief and made Grant commander of all Union forces in western Tennessee and northern Mississippi. Besides leading his own Army of the Tennessee, Grant now had authority over the Army of the Ohio.
In the autumn of 1862, Grant began planning the drive on Vicksburg, Mississippi, the Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River, which was to yield one of his greatest military successes. After several unsuccessful attempts on Vicksburg during the winter, Grant devised a new strategy of attack. In April 1863 he marched his army south along the west side of the river to a point well below the heavily defended city. There, with the aid of the Union river fleet, he crossed the river and began a swift march eastward. On May 12 he captured Jackson, Mississippi, the capital of the state, directly east of Vicksburg. Then he turned west toward Vicksburg.
On May 16 and 17 at Champion's Hill and Big Black River, Grant defeated General John C. Pemberton, commander of the Confederate forces defending Vicksburg, and drove him to prepared positions within the city. Grant's assault on the main Confederate works at Vicksburg failed, however, and he resorted to a siege, or isolation of the city from supplies or reinforcements to compel it to surrender. The siege lasted six weeks. On July 4, 1863, bottled up on land and prevented by Union gunboats from escaping across the river, Pemberton surrendered his 30,000 men to Grant (see Vicksburg, Campaign of).
Grant's capture of Vicksburg and the Union victory at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on the same day brought great joy to the North. Besides giving the Union control of the Mississippi River, the Vicksburg victory removed a Confederate army from the field and freed Grant and his men for operations elsewhere. Grant was made a major general in the regular army.
|C||Supreme Commander in the West|
Another objective of the Union was to control eastern Tennessee. For this they needed to capture and hold the major railroad center of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Chattanooga was occupied in late 1863 by the Army of the Cumberland (formerly the Army of the Ohio) under General William S. Rosecrans, but he was quickly challenged by the Confederate army of General Braxton Bragg. Bragg faced Rosecrans at the Battle of Chickamauga, about 20 km (about 12 mi) south of Chattanooga, on September 19 and 20, 1863, and forced him back. The Army of the Cumberland retreated into the city, where Bragg bottled them up. It was decided that Grant should save the situation, and for this he was given another promotion.
In mid-October Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton met Grant in Louisville, Kentucky, with new orders. Grant was to be supreme commander in the West, a post that had been unfilled since General Halleck was called to Washington, D.C. Reporting to him were General George H. Thomas, replacing Rosecrans as head of the Army of the Cumberland; General William T. Sherman, taking over Grant's old command, the Army of the Tennessee; and General Joseph Hooker, with 20,000 men sent west from the Army of the Potomac.
With 60,000 troops at his command, Grant resumed the offensive and, from November 23 to 25, engaged Bragg in the Battle of Chattanooga. Bragg's army was dug in on two promontories, Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, overlooking the city. Grant skillfully directed the movement of his three armies, and on November 25, the third day of action, his men took Missionary Ridge. The Confederate army was forced to retreat. Grant's victory at Chattanooga cleared Tennessee of Confederate troops and opened the way for an invasion of the lower South.
|D||General in Chief of the Union Army|
In February 1864 Congress revived the rank of lieutenant general, which until then had been held only by George Washington and Winfield Scott. On March 9, President Lincoln nominated Grant for that top rank. Then, relieving General Halleck as general in chief, he made Grant supreme commander of all Union forces. Grant assigned his command of the western armies to General Sherman.
Throughout the rest of the war, Grant was in constant communication with Lincoln, either by personal conference or by telegraph. He was the first of Lincoln's generals in chief to have the president's full confidence. Lincoln had great respect for Grant's military knowledge, leadership, and strength of will, and he gave him wide authority for planning the conduct of the war.
Grant, in turn, set up an efficient command organization. He reported his plans and troop and supply requirements directly to Lincoln and Secretary of War Stanton. Grant's 17 field commands, comprising more than 500,000 men, were expertly directed with the help of General Halleck, who now served under Grant as chief of staff.
Now that he was in full command, Grant developed an overall strategy for the Union forces. Rather than capture cities or territory, he decided to go after the principal Southern armies. By coordinating the Union armies and the Union river fleet, he would apply relentless pressure against the Southern forces and wear them down. He relied on the economic strength of the North to keep him supplied with fresh equipment and troops while he kept the Southern armies from receiving resources of their own. Grant assigned the Army of the Potomac to engage the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by General Robert E. Lee. Grant's western armies would meanwhile take on the Confederate Army of the West and sweep eastward through the South in a wide circling movement. Grant himself would accompany the Army of the Potomac, commanded by General George Gordon Meade.
Early in May, Grant led the Army of the Potomac across the Rapidan River in Virginia, where from May 5 to May 6 he engaged Lee's army in the swampy, wooded sector known as the Wilderness. His losses there were appalling. For the next month, Grant's men fought a series of battles against Lee's men, climaxing at Cold Harbor on June 3, where they suffered still more colossal casualties. On that day alone Grant lost 7000 men. His total losses for the month were nearly 60,000. As a result, he was called “Butcher” Grant by many people. “I have always regretted,” Grant confessed in his memoirs many years later, “that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made. No advantage whatever was ever gained to compensate for the heavy loss we sustained.”
After Cold Harbor, Lee took up a strongly entrenched position at Richmond, the capital of Virginia and of the Confederacy. Grant now altered his strategy. Instead of making a direct attack on Lee's well-defended position, he decided to proceed against Petersburg, the railroad and supply link between Richmond and the rest of the South. A great assault from June 15 to June 18 failed to take Petersburg, and Grant was forced to undertake siege operations.
From the middle of June 1864 to early April 1865, Grant besieged Petersburg. At the same time he cut Lee's transportation lines and sent out flanking expeditions against the Southern forces. While Grant, month after month, slowly starved out Lee's men, his generals carried out the other part of his strategy. General Thomas destroyed the Confederate Army of Tennessee at Nashville. General Philip H. Sheridan devastated the Shenandoah Valley, and General Sherman marched through Georgia and South Carolina, destroying everything in his path that could be of use to the Confederate Army.
|G||Appomattox Court House|
By the end of March 1865, Sheridan had joined Grant in Virginia, and on March 29, with an army of more than 100,000 under his immediate command, Grant began the final campaign against Lee. The end came on April 9, at the village of Appomattox Court House, Virginia. There, at Lee's request, Grant met with his defeated foe to discuss terms for the surrender. Because Lee was now commander in chief of all the Confederate armies, his surrender effectively ended the war.
Grant's surrender terms were generous. He allowed Lee's men to keep their horses and mules, and he shared his army's rations with the Confederates. In his memoirs, Grant recalled that he felt no exultation on Lee's surrender. He felt “sad and depressed” and “like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause.”
Although Grant would later serve two terms as president of the United States, it was probably in the command of his country's army that his career found its true climax. He was a keen judge of military men and knew how to elicit their best efforts. If he was not a brilliant tactician, he did understand modern mass warfare. He could plan and carry out campaigns involving large armies and complex supporting operations. Personally, Grant commanded the respect of his common soldiers as well as his fellow officers. A member of his staff, the younger Charles Francis Adams, described Grant's impact on his associates: “He handles those around him so quietly and well, he so evidently has the faculty of disposing of work and managing men, he is cool and quiet, almost stolid and as if stupid, in danger, and in a crisis he is one against whom all around ... instinctively lean.”
The end of the war left Grant in charge of the U.S. Army, directly responsible to President Andrew Johnson (who had succeeded the assassinated Lincoln) and to Secretary of War Stanton, but with ill-defined duties. In 1866 he was given the grade of full general, a rank held previously only by George Washington. He supervised the demobilization of the army and administration of the Reconstruction acts, aimed at restoring the Southern states to full membership in the Union.
Because of Grant's great popularity as a war hero, both President Johnson and his rivals, the Radical faction of the Republican Party, courted his favor. Although, as he admitted many years later, he “certainly never had either ambition or taste for political life,” Grant was launched on a career in politics.
Like Johnson and Lincoln, Grant appeared to favor a moderate Reconstruction program for the defeated South and to oppose the punitive policy of the Radical Republicans. He traveled with Johnson when Johnson went around the country to stimulate public support for his program. In 1867, when Johnson suspended Stanton, a Radical, as secretary of war, he gave the post to Grant. Grant resigned, however, when the U.S. Senate refused to concur in the suspension. The president accused Grant of not having supported him as promised. It is not known whether Grant actually made such a promise. But from the time of this disagreement, relations between the two men cooled, and on the day of his inauguration in 1869, Grant refused to ride in the same carriage with Johnson.
Grant's break with Johnson marked the beginning of his association with the Radical Republicans. Until that time he had no fixed party affiliation. His father had followed the Whig Party. He himself had voted for Democrat James Buchanan in 1856 against Republican John C. Frémont because, he explained with distaste, “I know Frémont.”
At the Radical-controlled Republican National Convention in 1868, Grant's name was the only one presented. He was unanimously nominated, with House Speaker Schuyler Colfax as running mate, for president. Opposing the Grant-Colfax Republican ticket was the Democratic slate of Governor Horatio Seymour of New York, for president, and George H. Pendleton of Ohio, for vice president. Grant did little active campaigning but easily defeated Seymour for the presidency. He received 214 electoral votes to his opponent's 80. The popular vote was Grant, 3,013,421; Seymour, 2,706,829.
|V||PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES|
Grant, who had carried out the duties of supreme commander of the army with a nearly complete mastery, proved to be totally unsuited to the office of president. He had neither talent nor understanding for politics. He approached the work of the president as if he were a military officer, assuming his orders capable of execution and his subordinates bound to carry them out. He seemed to have no comprehension of the definition or limits of his office. If told that an act was beyond the power of the presidency, he was likely to retort unrealistically, “Let the law be changed.” Where as army commander he had displayed an unusual talent for evaluating men and their abilities, as president he appeared to have no judgment at all. His guiding principle in politics was an apparently unfaltering trust in his friends, a trust that was often unjustified and often betrayed.
For his Cabinet, Grant picked, for the most part, men who could give the nation neither service, stature, nor confidence. They were largely incompetent personal friends, unqualified former army associates, unscrupulous businessmen, or shady politicians.
The appointments to his first Cabinet included, as secretary of state, Congressman Elihu B. Washburne of Grant's home district, who had no knowledge of law or diplomacy; as secretary of the treasury, Alexander T. Stewart, New York department-store magnate, who had lavished hospitality on Grant; as secretary of war, his friend and former aide-de-camp from Galena, Major General John A. Rawlins; as secretary of the navy, Adolph E. Borie, a wealthy Philadelphia merchant, who had helped buy a house for Grant.
There were only a few exceptions to Grant's choice of unsuitable men for high office. Of these, Secretary of State Hamilton Fish was the most remarkable and the only one not quickly replaced. A former U.S. senator and governor of New York, Fish succeeded the ill-qualified Washburne and became one of the most competent diplomats in American history. Although he was a man of high intelligence and moral character and was aware of the widespread corruption in Grant's government, Fish was devoted to the president. As secretary of state through both administrations, he served Grant for eight years.
A great variety of complex internal problems confronted the nation when Grant took office in March 1869. Paramount among these was the Reconstruction of the South and the reestablishment of relations between the seceded states and the federal government.
Grant dealt ineptly with Reconstruction. After a visit to the South in 1865 he had made a report to President Johnson supporting Johnson's moderation policy. His letter of acceptance to the Republican convention had exhorted: “Let us have peace.” In his first months as president, Grant listened to the counsel of moderation. He smoothed the road to congressional legislation that would speed the readmission of Virginia, Mississippi, and Texas to the Union. The other Southern states had been readmitted earlier.
By 1870, however, most of the moderate Republicans had shifted their views toward those held by the Radicals. It was clear that Reconstruction was not working as intended. Although the new governments of the South, elected by blacks and Unionist whites, had ended restrictions against blacks and extended social services, most white Southerners refused to accept the changes. Violent organizations like the Ku Klux Klan began to terrorize black leaders and keep black voters away from the polls to ensure the election of their own candidates.
Grant approved the punitive Force Acts of 1870 and 1871 to curb the violence. It was made a federal crime to interfere with civil rights, and the president was authorized to declare martial law (government by the military) where there was severe disorder. Grant did so only once, in nine counties of South Carolina, and managed to break the Klan's grip on that state. There was little more he could do, however, because the army was very small, and the North was too exhausted by the Civil War to be willing to build it up again. By 1876 most blacks had been driven from the polls, and the white-elected governments were free to start their program of segregation, or separation of the races. Segregation prevented most blacks in the South from having economic or political power for the next 70 years.
Grant's administration also faced financial problems. Farmers and laborers, who were often debtors, wanted to keep the paper money called greenbacks in circulation. Greenbacks, which had been issued to finance the Civil War, were soft money: there was no reserve of gold kept in the Treasury to guarantee payment if a holder wanted to turn them in for coin. Thus they varied in value in relation to gold, and a $1 greenback was usually worth less than a dollar gold piece. At one point it took $2.85 in greenbacks to buy a $1 gold piece. The government also authorized the issuance of national bank notes, which were backed by government bonds and thus did not vary in value. They were called hard money. Creditors did not want to be repaid in money that was not worth its face value, but to debtors this was an advantage.
The Democratic Party appealed to debtors in the 1868 campaign by promising to keep the greenbacks in circulation to pay off the government bonds issued during the war. The Republicans believed in hard money, and Grant held firmly to this position. In his inaugural address in 1869, he insisted that the war bond debt be paid in gold. Later that year he signed the Public Credit Act, pledging payment in gold or coin to holders of government bonds. However, Grant knew little about finance and was inconsistent in his monetary policy. He did nothing about the greenbacks, and they remained a threat to fiscal stability. The U.S. Treasury had to intervene frequently in the money market, by buying or selling gold or federal securities, because every serious political change or international disturbance threatened to destroy the delicate balance between greenbacks and gold.
In the first year of Grant's presidency, the constant variation in the value of greenbacks against the gold dollar enabled two speculators, Jay Gould and James Fisk, to create a major financial crisis. They set out to corner the market for gold by buying a significant part of the gold offered for sale on the New York City Gold Exchange, where most gold in the country was bought and sold. The government could foil their scheme by putting its gold reserves on the market, but Gould and Fisk spread the rumor that the president had agreed not to do so.
Fisk and Gould then bought gold on the New York exchange until, in a few days, the price shot up by 20 percent. Many businessmen who were locked into contracts to buy gold with greenbacks—which had not increased in value—were ruined. Prices of many commodities became unstable; foreign trade, which was conducted in gold, was paralyzed; and the stock market came to a halt on the day known as Black Friday, September 24, 1869. Grant and his able secretary of the treasury, George S. Boutwell, who had replaced Stewart, narrowly saved the market from collapse by releasing $4 million in government gold for sale before the end of the trading day. This action broke the corner; but then the gold price sank even faster than it had risen, ruining other businessmen who had invested in the rising market. Economic activity was depressed for weeks afterward. The president and Boutwell were widely blamed for the economic crisis, even though they had not known of the scheme, had acted promptly to stop it, and had fired all government officials involved.
Only in the conduct of foreign affairs, where Grant largely followed the advice of Hamilton Fish, was his administration at all remarkable. The long controversy with Britain over payment for damages inflicted during the Civil War by the Alabama and other British-built Confederate ships was submitted for international arbitration in 1871. Its settlement the following year greatly strengthened the relationship between the United States and Britain.
|F||Election of 1872|
Toward the end of his first administration, Grant's Southern policy, coupled with public scandals involving his political advisers and appointees, led to widespread public disapproval. The Congressional and state elections of 1870 resulted in a setback for Grant's administration. By 1872 a formidable reformist wave was beginning to roll across the nation. The Republicans nominated Grant for reelection, but a new, anti-Grant Liberal Republican Party combined with the Democrats to nominate Horace Greeley, publisher of the New York Tribune, to run against him.
Although Grant was assailed for his maladministration in both the Liberal Republican and Democratic platforms, he was overwhelmingly reelected. He carried every Northern state and most of the South, receiving 3,596,745 votes to Greeley's 2,843,446. Greeley died less than one month after the election, and when the electors met they spread his electoral votes among several other candidates. The final vote of the electors was Grant, 286; Thomas A. Hendricks of Indiana, 42; Benjamin Gratz Brown of Missouri, 18; Charles J. Jenkins of Georgia, 2; David Davis of Illinois, 1. Seventeen electors did not vote.
Grant had made an even better showing in reelection than in 1868. This was important to him. He had not cared intensely about his first election, but about 1872, he later said, “My reelection was a great gratification because it showed me how the country felt.”
|VI||SECOND TERM AS PRESIDENT|
Grant's second administration was even less successful than the first. A series of scandals in government was unearthed. Although Grant was implicated in none of them, the improprieties committed by officials in his government and by members of his party in Congress reflected on the president. His continued loyalty to friends whose abuse of public office was well known did not add to Grant's prestige.
A congressional investigation of the Crédit Mobilier swindle, involving stockholders in the Union Pacific Railroad, was completed in 1873. It was found that the Crédit Mobilier company, formed to do the Union Pacific's construction work, had overcharged millions of dollars on government contracts. Furthermore, one of its principal stockholders, Congressman Oakes Ames of Massachusetts, had tried to buy off the investigation by distributing stock among his colleagues. Those implicated in the scandal included Vice President Colfax and several Republican senators and representatives, including a future president of the United States, James A. Garfield (1881).
Also in 1873, Grant's secretary of the treasury, William A. Richardson, came under fire for an irregular tax collection scheme, known as the Sanborn Contracts. In May 1874 the House Ways and Means Committee declared that Richardson deserved “severe condemnation.” The committee privately urged Grant to remove Richardson. The president complied but made Richardson a U.S. Court of Claims judge.
Richardson's successor, Benjamin H. Bristow, broke up the notorious Whiskey Ring, a conspiracy among Internal Revenue Service officials to defraud the government of liquor taxes. Among the more than 200 people involved was Orville E. Babcock, Grant's private secretary and formerly his aide-de-camp during the Civil War. When Babcock was indicted in December 1875 for conspiracy to defraud the revenue, Grant volunteered a deposition that he knew of nothing suggesting Babcock's guilt and that Babcock was innocent. Grant's intercession saved Babcock from conviction and allowed him to resume his secretarial duties for a time.
Discoveries of other frauds in the U.S. Treasury and in the Indian Service came to light as Grant's second administration drew to a close. However, the president remained loyal to his friends, almost regardless of what their conduct had been or of how seriously they had damaged his reputation.
Grant's followers planned to nominate him for a third presidential term in 1876, but the leaders of the Republican National Convention opposed his renomination. They named Governor Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio as the party's standard-bearer, and he won the election.
Grant left office in March 1877, with a few thousand dollars saved and a desire to see the world. On May 17 he sailed with his family for Liverpool, England, on the first leg of a journey around the world. Everywhere he was well received, not as the former president of the United States, but as the hero of the Civil War. He met and talked with many foreign leaders. John Russell Young's Around the World With General Grant (1879) provides an account of some of Grant's impressions and conversations.
After two years of travel, Grant returned home. He was still interested in a third term as president, but at the convention in 1880 the nomination went to James A. Garfield. Grant's political career was at an end.
Grant's last years were bitter ones. He had given up an assured income for life when he resigned from the army to become president. For a year after returning to the United States, his family lived on the income from a $250,000 fund collected for him by friends. When the securities in which the fund was invested failed, Grant was once again without financial resources.
Not until 1885 did Congress vote to restore Grant's rank of full general with an appropriate salary. By that time he was fatally ill. He was moved to Mount McGregor, near Saratoga, New York, in an effort to restore his health. There he began to write his recollections of the war years, the Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant (1885-1886). They were completed only a week before he died of cancer of the throat. Because in the last months of his life he was unable to speak, the memoirs were in large part written out in his own hand.
The book was a resounding success. Grant focused on the Civil War, the period of his greatest glory, yet he did not write to glorify or justify himself. He attempted to tell what really happened, admitting his mistakes and sharing credit with others. His book remains one of the great war commentaries of all time.
Grant died at Mount McGregor on July 23, 1885. His body eventually found its last resting place in the great mausoleum known as Grant's Tomb, overlooking the Hudson River in New York City.
Just before his death, Grant summed up his career in a note to his doctor: “It seems that man's destiny in this world is quite as much a mystery as it is likely to be in the next. I never thought of acquiring rank in the profession I was educated for; yet it came with two grades higher prefixed to the rank of General officer for me. I certainly never had either ambition or taste for political life; yet I was twice President of the United States. If anyone ... suggested the idea of my becoming an author ... I was not sure whether they were making sport of me or not. I have now written a book which is in the hands of the manufacturers.”