Ulysses S. Grant was born April 27, 1822, in a log cabin in Point Pleasant, Ohio.
Grant’s birth name was Hiram Ulysses Grant. While a student at the United States Military Academy at West Point, however, someone called him Ulysses Simpson Grant by mistake, and he liked that name so much that he kept it.
Grant married Julia Dent on August 22, 1848 and had four children.
Even though he was a career soldier, he hated guns and didn’t even like to hunt; he would have preferred farming. Nonetheless, Grant pursued his career and by 1861, rose to the rank of general. At the outbreak of the Civil War, President Lincoln asked General Robert E. Lee to command the Union forces. Claiming loyalty to his native state of Virginia, Lee declined and resigned his commission, choosing instead to command the Southern forces.
After Lee’s departure, Lincoln asked Grant to command the Union army. Grant took command, eventually led Union troops to take the Confederate capital in Richmond, Virginia, and became a national hero. On April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, Grant formally accepted Lee’s surrender of the Confederate Army.
After the Lincoln-Johnson years, the Republican Party drafted Grant as its candidate in 1868. He was elected in 1868 and re-elected in 1872 with wide national support, the fifth to serve as President. His Vice Presidents were Schuyler Collfax and Henry Wilson.
During Grant’s term, America’s future was shaped by two major achievements. The transcontinental railroad was finished, linking the East to the West, when the “Golden Spike” was driven at Promontory Point in the Utah Territory. Meanwhile, Alexander Graham Bell invented the first telephone. In addition, Colorado was the 38th state admitted to the Union.
As President, Grant was himself an honest man. When he was arrested for speeding around Washington D.C. in a horse and buggy, he told the police officer, “Do your duty, my good man,” and eventually paid a fine. He paid too little attention to what was going on around him, however, and sometimes trusted people too much, leading to dishonest dealing and scandals.
Despite the scandals, Grant remained popular throughout his term and thereafter. He died on July 23, 1885, and was buried in an above-ground tomb in New York City.