Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885) was a general and commander of the Union Army during the American Civil War and later the eighteenth President of the United States. Grant graduated from West Point before serving in the Mexican-American War. He resigned from the Army in 1854 and worked as a farmer near St. Louis, Missouri, and then as a store clerk in Illinois.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Grant returned to the Army. He was given command of the 21st Illinois Voluntary Regiment and rose quickly through the ranks. As a brigadier general, Grant was responsible for the first major Union victory of the war when he captured Fort Donelson, Tennessee, in 1862. He was promoted to major general and had victories at Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga. In 1864, he was promoted again when Lincoln put him in command of all the Union armies. Grant formulated a plan for immobilizing Confederate forces. His forces faced Robert E. Lee’s in stalemates at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor, while Sherman and Sheridan defeated Confederate armies in Georgia and Virginia. By spring 1865, Grant’s plan to defeat the Confederates had been largely realized. On April 9, 1865, Lee was forced to surrender his army at Appomattox Court House.

Grant used his military celebrity to defeat Andrew Johnson in the 1868 presidential election. He was reelected in 1872 over Liberal Republican Horace Greeley. During his two terms, Grant oversaw the last years of Reconstruction. He worked for the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870 and the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871. He also signed the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which guaranteed equal rights for African Americans in public places. Grant’s second term was complicated by the Panic of 1873 and the exposure of government corruption in the Whiskey Ring and Crédit Mobilier scandals, but his legacy was one of peaceful transition and reconciliation.

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