Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th president of the United States, graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1843, and then served in the Mexican War alongside many future Confederate officers. Disillusioned with military life, he resigned his commission in 1854. For the next six years he worked with little success as a farmer, real-estate broker, and customs-house clerk, eventually settling as a clerk in his father's leather goods store.
At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Grant accepted command of an infantry regiment in the Illinois militia. Early successes earned him promotion to the rank of major general in the regular army from President Abraham Lincoln. In 1862, when his poor judgment cost 13,000 casualties at the Battle of Shiloh, the public clamored for his dismissal. Lincoln, however, refused to relieve him, claiming, "I can't spare this man–-he fights."
Grant's brilliant victory at Vicksburg the following year restored his reputation and prompted Lincoln to award him command of all Union troops. His aggressive strategies led to Union victory in 1865, making Grant a national hero.
Grant reluctantly accepted the Republican presidential nomination in 1868, easily winning the subsequent election. He was reelected in 1873, but suffered deep embarrassment when several ill-chosen advisors were caught in acts of corruption. Nonetheless, he remained a military hero in the public's eyes.
Grant narrowly lost the Republican nomination for president in 1880, and four years later a bad investment once again tainted his name and ruined him financially. Grant was diagnosed with throat cancer in February 1885 and, desperate to provide a legacy for his family, he worked feverishly on his memoirs, completing the task just four days before his death on July 23, 1885. The two-volume work attracted wide acclaim and went on to become a best-seller.
Concise Dictionary of American Biography
(New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1964), 362.