by Frank Scaturro of the Grant Monument Association
Early Years Through the
Start of the Civil War
A. Birth and Early Life
Ulysses S. Grant was born in Point
Pleasant, Clermont County, Ohio, on April 27, 1822.
He was originally named Hiram Ulysses Grant.
His parents were:
a. Jesse Root Grant (1794-1873), who developed a successful tanning
business. He was an outspoken, anti-slavery Whig who took a strong
interest in politics.
b. Hannah Simpson Grant (1798-1883), a strong, reserved, religious
woman. Some observers believed that her son's strength of character and
taciturnity were traits inherited from her.
His brothers and sisters were:
a. Samuel Simpson Grant (1825-1861)
b. Clara Rachel (1828-1865)
c. Virginia Paine ("Jennie")(1832-1881)
d. Orvil Lynch (1835-1881)
e. Mary Frances (1839-1905)
2. Early Years to West Point
In 1823 the family moved to Georgetown, Brown
From 1836-1837 Grant attended the Maysville
Seminary in Maysville, Kentucky.
From 1838-1839 he attended the Presbyterian
Academy in Ripley Ohio.
3. West Point
He was appointed to the United States Military
Academy at West Point in 1839.
By this time, he had been signing his name as
"Ulysses H. Grant."
Congressman Thomas Hamer, who had been acquainted
with the Grant family, mistakenly listed Grant as "Ulysses S. Grant," probably assuminng
that his middle name was his mother's maiden name, Simpson. Grant didn't
bother to correct the error.
Grant was generally an average student, but he
excelled in mathematics and horsemanship.
He established a record for the high jump on
horseback that would stand for 25 years.
He attended West Point with many other cadets who
would become both Union and Confederate officers during the Civil War.
In the 1843, he graduated from West Point 21st
in a class of 39 and was commissioned a Brevet Second Leitenant in the 4th Infantry.
B. Early Military Life
1. From 1843-1844 he was stationed at Jefferson Barracks, near Saint
There he met Julia Boggs Dent, a sister of
Frederick T. Dent (1820-1892), his roommate at West Point, at White
Haven, her family's estate (also near Saint Louis) and the two began a
Julia Dent, who was born in Saint Louis on
January 26, 1826, was the daugher of "Colonel" Frederick Fayette Dent
(1786-1873), a Missouri slaveowner with strong Southern sentiments, and
Ellen Bray Wrenshall Dent (179?-1857)
Before he was stationed at Camp Salubrity,
Louisiana, in June of 1844, Grant and Julia Dent became engaged.
2. After the annexation of Texas in 1845, Grant's regiment was sent to
Texas, and Grant was promoted to Second Lieutenant.
3. The Mexican War (1846-1848)
Grant was opposed to the Mexican War, later
calling it "one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a
weaker nation," but felt at the time he should serve under his flag
rather than resign from the army.
In later years, he devoted a good deal of
statesmanship to Mexico, striving to keep their government free from
foreign powers and improving relations between them and the United
States. His concern from Mexico sprang largely from what he saw as the
injustice of the Mexican War.
He fought in every major battle of the war
except Buena Vista.
a. Palo Alto (May 8, 1846)
b. Resaca de la Palma (May 9, 1846)
c. Monterrey (September 19-21, 1846) Here Grant undertook a dangerous
volunteer mission to ride through the bullet-ridden streets for ammunition.
d. Vera Cruz (April 18, 1847)
e. Cerro Gordo (April 18, 1847)
f. Churubusco (August 20, 1847)
g. Molino del Rey (September 8, 1847)
h. Chapultepec (September 12, 1847)
i. Mexico City (September 14, 1847)
Grant was given the Brevet (temporary) ranks of
First Lieutenant and Captain respectively for his gallantry at Molino del
Rey and the storming of Chapultepec.
The United States acquired two thirds of Mexico
as a result of this war.
C. Marriage and Peacetime Army Career
1. Grant married Julia Dent in Saint Louis on August 22, 1848.
2. He was reassigned to duty at Madison Barracks in Sackets Harbor,
New York (November 17, 1848), and his wife accompanied him.
3. In 1849, Grant was transferred to Detroit; he would be transferred
back to Sackets Harbor in 1851.
4. Frederick Dent Grant was born to the Grants on May 30, 1850, in
Saint Louis. He would himself become a Major General in the Army and was
the second highest ranking man in the active service at the time of his
death in 1912.
5. In 1852, Grant's regiment was ordered to the Pacific Coast, and
Grant was stationed at Columbia Barracks in Fort Vancouver in the Oregon
Grant could not take his wife and young son
with him on the dangerous trip through the Isthmus of Panama to the
Separated from his family, Grant was unhappy.
6. Ulysses S. Grant, Jr. (d.1929), was born on July 22, 1852, in Bethel, Ohio, but his father would not have
the chance to meet him until he was over one and a half years old.
7. Grant was promoted to Captain on the death of a
superior in 1853.
8. In January, 1854, he was stationed at Fort Humboldt, California. Unhappy and in poor health, he resigned from the army on April 11 and
rejoined his family at White Haven.
While on the Pacific Coast, Grant found himself
unhappy away from his family, unable to raise money, and ill.
Popular historical legend overlooks the broader
picture and contends without sufficient evidence that Grant was forced to
resign over drinking habits.
Evidence regarding Grant's habits during this
time period is shaky, though evidence from later in his career does not
support the notion that he was an alcoholic or habitual drinker.
Regardless, historical myth, apparently unable to resist sensationalism,
has cast Grant as a drunkard at the expense of accuracy. Perhaps the best
exploration of the drinking question is in Charles G. Ellington's The
Trial of U.S. Grant,(1987), which dispels the popular myth.
D. Family and Business Before the Start of the Civil War
1. 1854-1861: Grant made numerous attempts to support his
family, but suffered repeated setbacks and failures.
2. In 1855, the Grants moved to Wish-Ton-Wish, near Saint Louis,
where they had a third child, Ellen ("Nellie") Wrenshall Grant
3. In 1856, Grant built a modest house for his family and named it
Hardscrabble. Their fourth child, Jesse Root Grant (d. 1934) was born
there in 1858.
4. In 1858, Grant gave up farming and in 1859 entered the real estate
business with his wife's cousin, Henry Boggs.
5. After having little success in real estate, Grant moved to Galena,
Illinois, in 1860, and worked in his father's hardware and leather goods