Ulysses S. Grant: Early Life, Education & Facts

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Much has been written about Ulysses S. Grant as a general and as a president. But do you know anything about his early years? If not, then read this lesson to find out more! Updated: 05/13/2022

Ulysses S. Grant

The general responsible for ending the Civil War was none other than Ulysses S. Grant. He led the Union to victory over the Confederacy. But he wasn't just a general. He was also the eighteenth President of the United States (1869-1877).

Given such amazing achievements, you'd think he was born into a well-connected family or was a genius of some sort. Nothing could be further from the truth. How about we learn about Grant's early years, before he became so great and famous?

Birthplace & Family

Hiram Ulysses Grant was born on April 27, 1822 in Point Pleasant, Ohio. However, he grew up in Georgetown, Ohio, where his family moved about a year after his birth. He was the first of six children born to Hannah Simpson and Jesse Root Grant, a tanner.

Early Life & Education

Grant, as he mentioned himself, had an ''uneventful'' childhood. He was pretty shy, close to his mother, yet a great horseman in his younger years.

While his father made a relatively good living as a tanner, Grant hated anything to do with the dead animals, having to skin them, and the smell of noxious chemicals used in creating leather. Instead, he chose to perform various other chores around the family farm.

When Grant was seventeen, he was enrolled in the United States Military Academy at West Point thanks to his father's efforts. Yet he didn't enroll as Hiram Ulysses Grant--he was enrolled as Ulysses S. Grant. Do you know why? It was a clerical error. He was mistakenly listed as Ulysses S. Grant.

Grant had no real interest in military life but also didn't like the alternative, a life without any further education. Since he didn't want to miss out on the chance to go one of the nation's best schools, he simply changed his name and enrolled as Ulysses S. Grant. The academy's regulations gave him only one other choice: to try and re-enroll the next year with his real name. He didn't want to risk it, or risk angering his dad. And so, his classmates called him U.S. Grant, Uncle Sam Grant, or simply Sam as a result.

At West Point, Grant was anything but a standout student. He got average grades and he was reprimanded for being late and dressing inappropriately. Not surprisingly, however, he did pretty well in horsemanship, and he did extremely well in math as well. He graduated twenty-first out of thirty-nine in 1843 and didn't really care much for the military, thinking he'd resign after doing a mandatory four-year stint.

Early Career

Grant was stationed in St. Louis, Missouri, where he met his future wife Julia Dent, the sister of one of his roommates from West Point. Dent and Grant married in 1848 and would go on to have four children.

Grant as a young officer.

Grant served bravely under General Zachary Taylor and General Winfield Scott during the Mexican-American War (1846-48). At first, Grant ensured the movement of supplies went smoothly. Eventually, he was tasked with leading a company into combat, which he bravely did. However, he detested the war, which he believed was being undertaken mainly to spread slavery into newer territories.

In 1852, he was stationed at Fort Vancouver, in what is now Washington state. This fort is very close to what is now the city of Portland, Oregon. In 1853 he was promoted to captain and left for Fort Humboldt in California. About a year later, Grant left the army, possibly as a result of heavy drinking and the threat of disciplinary action.

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