[00:05.80]VOA Learning English presents America’s Presidents.
[00:12.30]Today we are talking about Ulysses S. Grant. He took office in 1869.
[00:21.36]But his presidency is not what made him famous.
[00:26.60]Grant is best remembered for being the commander of Union forces at the end of the Civil War.
[00:35.43]He led the United States to victory over the Confederate States of America.
[00:42.93]Many Americans also remember Grant because of the unusual story about his middle initial.
[00:51.67]When the future 18th president was born, his parents named him Hiram Ulysses Grant.
[01:00.63]But the boy was known as Ulysses.
[01:04.04]When Grant was a young man, a member of Congress appointed him to a top college: the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.
[01:16.54]The congressman did not know Grant personally.
[01:20.79]He thought Grant used his mother’s family name, Simpson, as his middle name.
[01:28.18]So the congressman called him Ulysses S. Grant.
[01:33.22]The middle initial “S” became official. Years later, Grant joked that it did not mean anything.
[01:43.37]During the Civil War, however, Grant’s middle name did come to have a popular meaning.
[01:51.18]In a famous battle in the state of Tennessee, Grant’s army overpowered their opponents.
[01:58.81]The Confederate general sent a note asking for the terms of surrender -- in other words, what would the Union army require of them if they withdrew from the battle?
[02:12.04]General Grant replied: “No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender.”
[02:19.83]The answer did not please the Confederate general, but he agreed.
[02:25.72]In the North, people celebrated the victory.
[02:29.31]They began saying Grant’s first two initials stood for “Unconditional Surrender.”
[02:50.32]Grant was born in the state of Ohio. He was the oldest of six children.
[02:57.06]Grant’s father worked as a tanner – a person who makes leather from animal skin.
[03:03.94]As a boy, Grant helped his father. But he did not like the work.
[03:10.12]He said he would not do it when he was an adult.
[03:13.73]So, when Grant was a young man, his father asked West Point officials to admit his son as a student.
[03:23.25]The Grants had little money to pay for the boy’s college education.
[03:28.49]But they knew he was intelligent and skilled, and West Point was free.
[03:35.28]In exchange for their education, West Point graduates serve in the military.
[03:42.75]Grant probably did not seem like a soldier.
[03:46.37]He was quiet and sensitive. He hated seeing men die in battle, and he questioned the value of war.
[03:55.53]But he turned out to be an excellent military leader.
[04:00.52]After he graduated from West Point, he fought in the Mexican War and earned medals for bravery.
[04:08.28]He was given more power and added responsibilities.
[04:12.65]However, Grant was lonely. Early in his career, he married Julia Dent, the sister of a college friend.
[04:22.64]He was devoted to Julia and their four children.
[04:26.98]But his family could not come with Grant on all his deployments for the military.
[04:32.05]They were separated for years at a time.
[04:36.10]Without his family nearby, Grant began having problems with money.
[04:41.72]Some people said he also drank too much alcohol.
[04:46.02]One day, Grant resigned from the army.
[04:50.18]He returned home to his family. At first, he tried to farm, but he could not make enough money.
[04:57.80]Then he tried other jobs.
[05:00.52]Finally, he asked his father for help.
[05:03.70]His father gave him a job, but it was the one the young Grant swore he never wanted: working in a leather shop.
[05:31.50]Then things took a surprising turn.
[05:34.80]The Civil War began. The Union needed experienced military leaders.
[05:41.62]Grant accepted a position leading a difficult group of troops.
[05:46.96]He was able to train them and earn their respect.
[05:50.99]Quickly, Grant’s public image as a military leader grew.
[05:56.07]He won major victories for the Union in battles at Fort Donelson, Tennessee, and Vicksburg, Mississippi.
[06:04.71]The president at the time, Abraham Lincoln, liked the way Grant planned the battles.
[06:12.09]He also liked that Grant did everything he could to win.
[06:17.57]Grant permitted so many of his soldiers to die that his critics gave him a nickname: The Butcher.
[06:25.57]Grant’s methods were harsh, but effective.
[06:29.88]The Civil War effectively ended when the famous Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.
[06:41.71]The following year, Grant was named general of the U.S. armies.
[06:47.63]The only other person to hold that position was the military leader during the Revolutionary War, George Washington.
[07:20.29]Like George Washington, Grant became president although he did not really seek the position.
[07:29.25]But Republican Party leaders realized that the former general was very popular.
[07:36.38]And they knew that Grant opposed the policies of the president at the time, Andrew Johnson.
[07:43.86]So the Republicans nominated Grant as their candidate in 1868. He won easily.
[07:52.35]But Grant’s popularity and ability as a military leader did not make him a successful president.
[08:00.43]Grant tried to work for the political and civil rights of African-Americans, many of whom had been enslaved.
[08:08.79]One of Grant’s most important acts was to support the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
[08:16.24]The measure gave African-American men the right to vote.
[08:21.99]At the same time, Grant tried to give states control over their own laws.
[08:28.04]So, sometimes he used the power of the federal government to protect the rights of African-Americans.
[08:35.98]And he sometimes let states use violence to prevent African-Americans from exercising their rights.
[08:44.72]Grant also spoke about treating Native Americans with greater respect.
[08:50.79]He used government resources to help native people become farmers.
[08:56.98]But other government policies helped white settlers continue to push tribes off their lands.
[09:05.66]Few Native Americans saw their lives really improve under Grant.
[09:12.45]Finally, his administration suffered because of corrupt government officials.
[09:18.66]Grant himself did not get rich from their actions.
[09:22.96]But he remained loyal to people who worked for him, even when they profited from their position.
[09:30.54]As a result of all this, many Americans lost interest in Reconstruction and lost faith in the federal government.
[09:39.55]But Grant himself remained popular.
[09:43.90]He won a second term more easily than the first.
[09:48.60]Shortly after, the country entered a bad economic depression.
[09:54.66]Grant tried to improve the situation by supporting the gold standard.
[10:00.13]But many Americans – of all backgrounds – continued to suffer.
[10:24.10]Because of the problems in his government, Grant is not remembered as one of the country’s best presidents.
[10:31.95]But he is remembered as a war hero and as a kind-hearted man with an interesting life.
[10:40.00]In his last months, Grant worked nearly nonstop on writing his memoirs.
[10:46.28]Final images show him, covered in a blanket and with a pen in his hand, diligently working.
[10:54.48]Grant died in 1885, a few days after the book was finished.
[11:00.59]It was a major success.
[11:02.76]It earned enough money to provide for his family for the rest of their lives.
[11:08.06]People across the country mourned the loss of Grant.
[11:12.75]More than a million and a half watched his funeral parade in New York City.
[11:19.05]He is buried there, along with his beloved wife, in a well-known memorial popularly called Grant’s Tomb.
[11:35.47]I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.