THE UNKNOWN ULYSSES GRANT
Young Ulysses loved horses.
As a boy, he was what we would call a “horse whisperer.” Any horse brought to the boy, regardless of its temperament, could be calmed and ridden by Ulysses in a matter of a few minutes. While at West Point, Grant was considered the best cadet rider ever seen. During the Mexican War, Grant had to ride between the regiments under enemy fire on several occasions. He would ride “Indian style” clutching the horse’s side, with one arm around its neck and one leg on the saddle. Captain Ulysses Grant was a fearless rider and the finest equestrian other officers had ever seen.
He had six different mounts during the Civil War. His favorite was Cincinnati, a magnificent “War Horse” standing seventeen hands high, who he rode for the final two years of the war. Cincinnati was considered by most as the fastest “four-mile” thoroughbred in the country. The only other person Grant would allow to ride Cincinnati was Abraham Lincoln. The President would ride him every time he visited Grant’s field headquarters.
Grant and Lincoln; a brief but true friendship.
An act of Congress, on February 26, 1864, the new rank of Lieutenant General was authorized. Two days later, President Lincoln nominated Grant as the first man to receive this highest title; Congress confirmed the appointment the next day. A week later, the President gave an evening reception at the White House. At 9:30 p.m., a commotion near the entrance drew everyone’s attention - General Grant had entered. He had just arrived from the front and wanted to pay his respects.
The two were different in appearance but they shared similar backgrounds. Both were from humble origins, they had risen from the common people, had learned from personal adversity, and possessed a unique common sense. They formed a close friendship that, unfortunately, lasted only one more year until Lincoln’s assassination.
Doing what was required during the Civil War.
There is no question that Ulysses Grant was the most successful commander during the Civil War. But Grant had a reputation of being a cold-hearted killer on the battlefield; a man unmoved by the deaths of thousands of men under his command. Some believe that he had no compassion. Much of this has been historical misinterpretation; he did what was necessary to be done just as Sherman, Patton, MacArthur, and Eisenhower did.
His opponents on the battlefield also held high regard and admiration for Grant. John B. Gordon, the legendary Confederate General, wrote after the war, “General Grant’s truly great qualities - his modesty, his freedom from every trace of vain-glory or ostentation, his magnanimity in victory, his genuine sympathy for his brave and sensitive foe, and his inflexible resolve to protect Confederates against any assault will give him a place in history no less renowned and more to be envied than any other man.”
In May of 1884, the brokerage firm of which Grant was a silent partner fails. He falls into a prolonged depression. Four months later, an illness in his throat is diagnosed as cancer. Now penniless and dying, Ulysses Grant turns to the only thing that will provide for his family after his death - he begins to write his memoirs. Within six months, the cancer has spread. He is in extreme pain and can only take in liquid food in small portions. He is down to 120 lbs. Grant is racing against the clock to finish his book.
On July 19, 1885, he finishes his “Memoirs.” Four days later, he dies surrounded by his family. Sales of the book are astounding and the profits provide for his wife, Julia, for the rest of her life.