The Life of Ulysses S. Grant

Grant was the son of a frontier family. He was born Hiram Ulysses Grant in 1822 in a two-room cabin in Point Pleasant in southwestern Ohio, near the Ohio River. 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.
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