Ulysses S. Grant

  • When the Civil War began, Ulysses S. Grant was, by all accounts, a failure; he lived at home and worked at his father's tannery shop. Drummed out of the military years earlier for drunkenness, Grant's opportunity for redemption came when the South attacks Fort Sumter and President Lincoln puts out the call for able-bodied men to defend the Union.

    Through a series of resounding military victories that earns him the nickname "Unconditional Surrender Grant," Grant resurrects his career and rises through the ranks to eventually defeat Confederate military mastermind Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, signaling the end of the Civil War.

    Grant's victory in the war makes him an American military hero; in the elec- tion of 1868, the country elects him as President in a landslide. But Grant quickly finds that even though the Civil War battles may have ceased, the hos- tilities between North and South remain. Not only that, but the United States finds itself embroiled in a new war with the Indian tribes of the West, who are attacking settlers and the railroads that encroach on their ancestral lands.

    Grant enforces strict martial law in the South — appointing generals to rule the former states of the Confederacy. As for the "Indian Problem," Grant ad- vocates a path of peace with the Indians, and enforces treaties that give the Indian tribes protected lands. But when railroad speculation and corruption in his government lead to financial collapse and depression, Grant's peace policy with the Indians falls apart.

    Gold discovered in Indian territory of the Black Hills is desperately needed to restore the economy, and Grant is forced to renege on his promises to the Indians. A new war with the Indians breaks out and culminates in Custer's infamous debacle at the Battle at Little Big Horn."

    Economic depression and military disaster end Grant's terms on a low note – "The Man Who Saved the Union" leaves office with a country mired in crisis. But his policies do eventually turn the country around. Gold from the Black Hills rescues the economy, leading to great industrial expansion. And Sher- man's "scorched earth" tactics against the Indians will effectively destroy their ability to fight within a year of Grant leaving office.