Grant kept to himself pretty much but did have a couple of good friends who he kept in touch with throughout his life. He was known as a horse whisperer (a tremendous Cavalryman), and set an equestrian high-jump record that stood for almost 25 years. He was married to his wife (Julia), and they had two children, a boy (Frederick), and a girl (Ellen). By the way, Frederick and Ellen were the names of Julia’s parents.
He retired from the Army in 1853 but civilian life wasn’t good for him as he struggled from occupation to occupation. He went to work at his father’s tannery for a while then gave it a shot as a farmer but went bankrupt. Although the Civil War was a terrible thing it was exactly what Grant needed so he joined the Union in 1861.
Grant was initially put in charge of armies from Kentucky and Tennessee (the Volunteers), it was with these men that he won the famous Battle of Shiloh which took place in Tennessee and was one of the deadliest battles in U.S. history. Grant's army had 1,513 killed, 6,601 wounded, and 2,830 missing or captured. Anyhow, right off the bat Grant won a huge battle and was gaining notoriety and praise from President Lincoln.
General Grant was also known for bringing in African American slaves to help in the Union war effort. Even though it was the Union Army, fighting alongside blacks wasn’t popular with some Union soldiers. Grant ended up spending his entire military and political career trying to help free slaves and give them various rights.
Grant kept winning at every turn thus gaining him a great reputation and time with President Lincoln who eventually put him in charge of the entire Union Army. Both General Robert E. Lee and General Grant were the famous warriors during the Civil War and Grant got the better of Lee in Richmond, Virginia. Lee’s Army was being decimated so he finally surrendered to Grant in April of 1865.
Historians have hailed Grant's military genius and his strategies and tactics are still featured in history books and studied at various war colleges. The one issue that stuck with Grant though is that he had a drinking problem and didn’t always do things by the books. He got in trouble many times for not following military protocol but because he kept winning anywhere he went it was mostly overlooked.
After the war Grant was put in charge of reconstruction in the South. He worked to get African Americans engaged in politics and they became a part of the Republican Party. I wonder how many African Americans know this as it was the Republican Party who made sure they were freed. Then Grant brought in investors from the North (remember the Carpet Baggers), to help get businesses started and begin trade between the North and South. It was an extremely challenging yet successful endeavor overall and this is why along with being a military hero, that he was elected as President of the United States in 1868 and then re-elected in 1872.
In 1880, Grant was unsuccessful in obtaining a Republican presidential nomination for a third term. He was struggling financially again and dying of throat cancer when he completed his memoirs, which received rave critical reviews and turned into a financial success thus supporting his family after his death. When he died in 1885 at the age of 63, it prompted an outpouring of national unity. Some scholars rank his presidency below average due to economic problems (of course it was in shambles after the Civil War so I don’t agree with most of them), while admirers emphasize his concern for Native Americans and enforcement of civil and voting rights for African Americans.
General Grant wasn’t a perfect man but he certainly had more of a heart for people than most people know and he was absolutely instrumental in bringing the Union back together definitely deserving of his great place in history.