The Civil War
Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) served as commander in chief of the Union army during the Civil War, leading the North to victory over the Confederacy. Grant later became the eighteenth President of the United States, serving from 1869-77. After fighting in the Mexican-American War, Grant left the army, only to rejoin at the outbreak of the Civil War. His victories at Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, Vicksburg and Chattanooga convinced Lincoln to promote him to head all Union armies. After a bloody campaign in Virginia, Grant accepted Confederate General Robert E. Lee's surrender on 9 April 1865. Grant's subsequent presidency was mired in corruption, and he became caught up in several political scandals.
During the Civil War, Grant was the only Union general who could equal southern general Robert E. Lee. Grant's early victories catapulted him into the public eye, and his willingness to be aggressive and fight—two traits sorely lacking in many Union generals—allowed him to keep his post after a near-disaster at Shiloh. Upon taking command of all Union armies, he embarked on the Overland Campaign of 1864, a brutal war of attrition in which Grant's armies suffered enormous losses as they attacked Lee on the way to Richmond. Union casualties were so high that Grant was branded "The Butcher." Still, after three years of indecisive and timid generalship from others, Lincoln was happy to have an aggressive general lead his forces against the South. Grant's magnanimous surrender terms at Appomattox helped heal the divided nation by avoiding treason trials and leaving the South with some of its honor intact.