Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) made his mark in American history as the general who led US forces to victory over the Confederacy in the Civil War in 1865. In Grant, President Lincoln at last found a general whose tenacity and perseverance would win the war. As an American hero, Grant was later elected the 18th President of the United States (1869-1877).
Grant’s watercolor of the view from West Point reflects the description of the Hudson Valley in his 1839 letter: “So far as it regards natural attractions it is decidedly the most beaut-iful place that I have ever seen; here are hills and dales, rocks and river; all pleasant to look upon. From the window near I can see the Hudson; that far famed, that beautiful river.”
In February 1862 Grant led a successful attack on Fort Donelson, a key Confederate base in Tennessee. He earned his nickname, “Unconditional Surrender” Grant, refusing to accept any terms but “unconditional and immediate surrender.”
Click here to read Grant's words on the fall of Fort Donelson.
Ira Blanchard, an Illinois soldier who fought at Vicksburg, wrote home, “Hencefort[h] the forth of July will have a new meaning and V. along with Yorktown and Bunkers Hill will enkindle a new luster in the patriots [hart].”
Click here to read Grant's words on the capture of Vicksburg.
On June 15, 1864, Lincoln sent a telegram confirming his confidence in Grant’s strategy: ”I begin to see it. You will succeed. God bless you all.”
Click here to read Grant's words on serving President Lincoln.
Grant was generous in the terms he offered Lee: “The Officers give their individual parolls not to take up arms against the Govt. of United States … This done each officer, and man will be allowed to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by the U. S. Authorities, as long as they observe their parolls, and laws in force where they may reside.”
Grant spent the months after Lee’s surrender and Lincoln’s death traveling across the country, establishing military governments to enforce Reconstruction and protect newly freed African American men and women.
Click here to read Grant's words on the cause of the Civil War.
“Although a soldier by profession, I have never felt any sort of fondness for war, and I have never advocated it, except as a means of peace.” -Ulysses S. Grant, Memorial Life of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.
Developed by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
Grant, Ulysses S. Memoirs and Selected Letters: Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, Selected Letters 1839-1865. New York: Library of America, 1990.
Allen, Stephen Merrill. Memorial Life of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. Boston: Webster Historical Society, 1889.