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Ulysses S. Grant

April 27, 1822 - July 23, 1885

A Continent Divided: The U.S.-Mexico War

Ulysses S. Grant

April 27, 1822-July 23, 1885

Hiram Ulysses Grant was born in Ohio on April 27, 1822. Ulysses S. Grant, the name he carried throughout his adult life, was the result of a mistake by the congressman who recommended him for West Point in 1839. Grant graduated four years later, ranking 21st in a class of 39. His first assignment, as a second lieutenant, was regimental quartermaster of the 4th Infantry at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri.

In March 1845, after Congress offered the Republic of Texas terms of annexation, Mexico, which still claimed Texas as its territory, threatened war. In August, the War Department ordered the 4th Infantry, stationed at Fort Jesup, Louisiana, to Corpus Christi, Texas as part of Gen. Zachary Taylor's "Army of Occupation."

In his 1885 autobiography, Grant criticized the Polk administration for its decision to wage war against Mexico. He remarked that although "most officers were indifferent" on the issue of Texas annexation, he regarded the war to be "one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation." In his opinion, U.S. troops had been sent to the border deliberately "to provoke a fight," but, he added, in order that the U.S. should not appear as the aggressor, "it was essential that Mexico should commence it."

On April 25, 1846 Mexican troops crossed the Rio Grande and attacked an American patrol, allowing President Polk to ask Congress for a declaration of war on May 11. Three days earlier, on May 8, Grant participated in the Battle of Palo Alto the first of these clashes, located about a dozen miles north of the Rio Grande. During what was essentially an artillery duel, Lieutenant Grant had his first taste of war. The following day Grant took part in the Battle of Resaca de la Palma, which resulted in the Mexican army's retreat across the river, although the future president afterward downplayed his role, commenting that the battle "would have been won, just as it was, if I had not been there." At the Battle of Monterey however, in September, Grant distinguished himself by galloping through the streets of the city while under fire from Mexican troops, to deliver a request for ammunition.

In 1847, after President Polk sent Gen. Winfield Scott to invade central Mexico, Grant's regiment was transferred to Gen. William Worth's division. Following the landing of U.S. troops at Vera Cruz in March and the city's subsequent capitulation, Grant took part in the Battle of Cerro Gordo, where future adversary Robert E. Lee experienced his first taste of combat. Grant was afterward present at all major battles that preceded the fall of Mexico City. During the occupation Grant's regiment was stationed at Tacubaya, a suburb of the capital.

Five years after the U.S.-Mexico War, Grant resigned his commission and returned to civilian life but eight years later, when the Civil War began, he returned to military life, serving first as a Colonel of Illinois Volunteers and then from 1861 onward as a General in the United States Army. In 1864, after Grant defeated Confederate forces at Vicksburg and Chattanooga, President Lincoln appointed him supreme commander of Union forces, the fifth man to hold the job since the war's start.

In April 1865, Grant accepted Confederate General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia. A little more than three years later, the victorious former general was elected President of the United States, serving two scandal-ridden terms (although Grant himself was never accused of any wrongdoing), from 1869 to 1877.

In the spring of 1885, after the financially-strapped former ex-president was diagnosed with throat cancer, author Mark Twain offered to publish his memoirs. Grant died on July 23, 1885 and was buried in an elaborate tomb in New York's Riverside Park.


Grant, Ulysses S. Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant. New York: Charles L. Webster & Company, 1894.

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