Ulysses S. Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant; April 27, 1822 – July 23, 1885) was the 18th President of the United States (1869–1877) following his highly successful role as a war general in the second half of the Civil War. Under Grant, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military; having effectively ended the war and secession with the surrender of Robert E. Lee's army at Appomattox. As president he led the Radical Republicans in their effort to eliminate all vestiges of Confederate nationalism and slavery. Upset over uncontrolled violence in the South, President Grant effectively destroyed the Ku Klux Klan in 1871. President Grant believed in the protection of African-American voting and civil rights. Grant was the first President to establish Civil Service reform having created a two-year federally funded Civil Service Commission in 1871. In terms of foreign policy, Grant revealed an "unexpected capacity for deliberation and consultation" that promoted the national interest. His reputation was marred by his repeated defense of corrupt appointees, and by America's first industrial age economic depression (called the "Panic of 1873") that dominated his second term. Although his Republican Party split in 1872 with reformers denouncing him, Grant was easily reelected. By 1875 the conservative white Southern opposition regained control of every state in the South and as he left the White House in March 1877 his policies were being undone. Reconstruction ended on a note of failure as the civil rights of blacks did not remain secure. President Grant, however, after the controversial Presidential election of 1876, through a series of military deployments, secured the South from secession.
A career soldier, he graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and served in the Mexican–American War. When the Civil War began in 1861, Grant trained Union volunteer regiments in Illinois. In 1862, as a general he fought a series of battles and was promoted to major general after forcing the surrender of a large Confederate army and gaining control of Kentucky and most of Tennessee. He then led Union forces to victory after initial setbacks in the Battle of Shiloh, earning a reputation as an aggressive commander. In July 1863, after a long, complex campaign, Grant defeated five uncoordinated Confederate armies (capturing one of them) and seized Vicksburg. This famous victory gave the Union full control of the Mississippi River, split off the western Confederacy, and opened the way for more Union triumphs. After another win at the Battle of Chattanooga in late 1863, President Abraham Lincoln made him lieutenant general and commander of all of the Union Armies. As commanding general of the army, Grant confronted Robert E. Lee in a series of very bloody battles in 1864 known as the Overland Campaign that ended with the bottling up of Lee at Petersburg, outside the Confederate capital of Richmond. During the siege, Grant coordinated a series of devastating campaigns launched by William Tecumseh Sherman, Philip Sheridan, and George Thomas. Finally breaking through Lee's trenches, the Union Army captured Richmond in April 1865. Lee surrendered his depleted forces to Grant at Appomattox as the Confederacy collapsed. Although Lee's allies denounced Grant in the 1870s as a ruthless butcher who won by brute force, most historians have hailed his military genius.
Grant's two consecutive terms as President stabilized the nation after the American Civil War and during the turbulent Reconstruction period that followed. As president, he enforced Reconstruction by enforcing civil rights laws and fighting Ku Klux Klan violence. Grant won passage of the Fifteenth Amendment; giving constitutional protection for African-American voting rights. He used the army to build the Republican Party in the South, based on black voters, Northern newcomers ("Carpetbaggers") and native white supporters ("Scalawags.") As a result, African Americans were represented in the U.S. Congress for the first time in American history in 1870. Reformers praised Grant's Indian peace policy by having broken the deadlock on Indian appropriations in Congress, the creation of the Board of Indian Commissioners to make reform recommendations, and his enlistment of Quaker Protestants who controlled mid western Indian agencies, that effectively curbed Congressional patronage. Grant remained determined in keeping Indians from being exterminated from white settler encroachment or by the U.S. military. Grant's reputation as president by 1875 was at an all-time high for his previous veto of the Inflation Bill, the passage of the Resumption of Specie Act, and Secretary Bristow's successful raids that shut down the Whiskey Ring.
Grant's foreign policy, led by Secretary of State Hamilton Fish, implemented International Arbitration, settled the Alabama Claims with Britain and avoided war with Spain over the Virginius Affair. His attempted annexation of the Dominican Republic failed. Grant's response to the Panic of 1873 gave necessary, although limited, financial relief to New York banking houses, but was ineffective in stopping the severe five-year industrial depression that followed. More than any other president, Grant had to respond to Congressional investigations into financial corruption charges of all federal departments. In 1876, Grant's reputation was damaged by his White House deposition defending his personal secretary Orville Babcock, indicted in the Whiskey Ring graft trials, and his Secretary of War William W. Belknap's resignation, impeachment by the House, trial and acquittal in the Senate over receiving profit money from the Fort Sill tradership. After leaving office, Grant embarked on a two-year world tour that included many enthusiastic royal receptions. In 1880, he made an unsuccessful bid for a third presidential term. His memoirs were a critical and popular success. Historians until recently have given Grant's presidency the worst rankings; however, his reputation has significantly improved because of greater appreciation for his foreign policy and civil rights achievements, particularly: avoiding war with Britain and Spain, the Fifteenth Amendment, persecution of the Ku Klux Klan, enforcement of voting rights, and his Indian Peace Policy. Northern Republican capitalists who desired reconciliation without concern for civil rights, joined together with Southern Democrats who forgot the American Civil War was caused by slavery, emphasized Grant's presidential scandals, rather than his role in breaking up the Gold Ring and prosecution of the Whiskey Ring.