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Ulysses Simpson Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant;[a] April 27, 1822 – July 23, 1885) was an American soldier and statesman who served as Commanding General of the Army and President of the United States, the highest positions in military and government. A prominent United States Army general during the American Civil War, Grant led the Union Army to victory over the Confederacy with the supervision of Abraham Lincoln. As the 18th President of the United States (1869-77) Grant led the Republicans in their efforts to remove the vestiges of Confederate nationalism and slavery during Reconstruction.
Grant was born and raised in Ohio by Methodist parents whose lineage in the new world went back several generations. As a youth he often worked in his father's tannery and showed an early talent for riding, taming and managing horses. After graduating from West Point in 1843 Grant served with distinction in the Mexican–American War. Upon his return he married Julia Dent, and together they had four children. Grant retired from the army in 1854 and struggled financially in civilian life. When the Civil War began in 1861 he rejoined the army and quickly rose through the ranks. As a general he took control of Kentucky, most of Tennessee, won major battles at Shiloh and seized Vicksburg, gaining control of the Mississippi River and dividing the Confederacy. These victories, combined with those in the Chattanooga Campaign, persuaded Abraham Lincoln that Grant was the general best suited to lead the combined Union armies. Grant was promoted to Lieutenant General, a rank previously reserved for George Washington, in March 1864. He confronted Robert E. Lee, trapping his army in their defense of Richmond, while coordinating a series of campaigns in other theaters. In April 1865 Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox, effectively ending the war. Historians have hailed Grant's military genius, and his strategies are featured in military history textbooks.
After Lincoln's assassination, Grant became increasingly disillusioned by President Andrew Johnson's approach to Reconstruction, and drifted toward the "Radical" Republicans. Elected president in 1868, Grant was the youngest man ever elected. He stabilized the post-war national economy, created the Department of Justice, used the military to enforce laws in the former Confederacy and prosecuted the Ku Klux Klan. Grant strengthened the Republican Party in the South and signed three civil rights acts into law. He appointed African-Americans and Jewish-Americans to prominent federal offices. In 1871 he created the first Civil Service Commission. The Democrats and Liberal Republicans united behind Grant's opponent in the presidential election of 1872, but Grant was re-elected by a large margin. Generally regarded as personally honest, he nonetheless faced accusations of corruption within his administration. Grant's Peace Policy with Native Americans was a bold departure for its time.
In foreign policy, Grant sought to increase trade and influence while remaining at peace with the world. With Secretary of State Hamilton Fish, he successfully resolved the Alabama claims with Great Britain. Grant and Fish negotiated a peaceful resolution with Spain over the Virginius Affair. Congress rejected Grant's initiative to annex the Dominican Republic, creating a rift among Republicans. In national affairs, Grant's administration implemented a gold standard and sought to strengthen the dollar. Grant's immediate response to the Panic of 1873 failed to halt a severe industrial depression that produced high unemployment, deflation, and bankruptcies. When he left office in 1877, he embarked on a two-and-a-half-year world tour that captured favorable global attention for him and the United States. In 1880, Grant was unsuccessful in obtaining the Republican presidential nomination for a third term. Facing severe investment reversals and dying of throat cancer, he wrote his memoirs, which proved to be a major critical and financial success. His death in 1885 prompted an outpouring in support of national unity. Historical assessments of Grant's legacy have varied considerably over the years. Although Grant's presidency has popularly been criticized for its Gilded Age scandals, modern scholarship regards him as an embattled president who performed a difficult job during Reconstruction. Although early rankings of Presidents rated his administration among the worst, modern appreciation for Grant's support of civil rights and diverse federal appointments has greatly improved his historical reputation.