Ranked #22: Was a much better general than a president. Yet I think he being the president helped the nation pull together during the immediate post Civil War period.
Summary: Ulysses was 5’ 7” and had a muscular figure. He is best known as the general who won the Civil War for the Union. For an army general who drove many men into the most brutal battles, he was a modest and bashful man. Ironically, he would become sick at the sight of blood and typically preferred to eat meat that was well-done. He never hunted as a young man. He was modest to the point that, even when he bathed on the battle field, no other person was allowed to see him.
Bio: He liked to smoke cigars - lots of cigars. When knowledge of his love for cigars became public during his time as an army general, Americans sent him up to 10,000 of them. Later in his life he would develop cancer of the throat, no doubt because of this consumption. He liked fast horses and once got a $20 speeding ticket in Washington DC while he was President. He also liked to draw and paint.
Grant was always a professional soldier. At the age of 21, he graduated from West Point. As the Civil War continued on, he became one of the most trusted and capable generals that Abraham Lincoln had. He won many major battles during this period
As a President, he was not as successful. I think that he had a difficult time trying to govern a country with the same authority as that of a general in the army. There were some major scandals during his administration that he was not able to prevent. Despite these issues, Grant himself seemed to be able to escape the blame and almost got elected to a third term in office. When he left office, he actually addressed Congress to apologize for his errors of judgment and for attempting to be President without any political training. Overall, his years in office mostly weakened the power of the presidency, which was more and more transferred to Congress. He was committed to the reconstruction of the south and fought to protect the rights of African-Americans more than any other 19th century President. He was a big advocate for the 15th Amendment which strengthened the ability of African Americans to be able to vote in elections.
After his Presidency, Grant and his wife traveled throughout Europe and Asia. Virtually everyplace they visited, Grant was received as a hero and a symbol of American unity. A few years later he lost practically all of his money through a dubious business deal. Around the same time he developed throat cancer and was able to earn money writing his memoirs through the help of his friend Mark Twain. He was literally in the process of finishing his memoirs almost to the very day he died, continuing on for the sole reason of being able to provide for his family.
Pros: Restored strength and security for a desperate nation. Ratified the 15th amendment. Established national parks.
Cons: His administration had several scandals. Politically inexperienced. Made bad appointments to key positions.
Born: April 27, 1822, Point Pleasant, OH
Died: July 23, 1885 (aged 63) Mount McGregor, NY
Term: arch 4, 1869 to March 3, 1877 (two terms)
Political Party: Republican
Education: U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York (graduated 1843)