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 Richmond, Grant accepted Lee's surrender on 9 April 1865. Grant's subsequent presidency was mired in corruption, and he became caught up in several political scandals.
Looking back on his life, Grant was most proud of his military career. Known for his adept selection of officers, that very skill deserted him when it came time to pick the men he would entrust with elite government posts during his presidency. His tenure in office was marred by the corruption and fraud that surrounded him, yet there was no evidence to suggest that Grant himself was guilty of anything but poor judgment. During Reconstruction, Grant pursued the Ku Klux Klan in South Carolina and effectively disabled the organization until the 1920s, but racism still abounded in the South. With the conviction that business supported the national interest, he signed legislation that protected entrenched business interests. This set the stage for more monopoly, public unrest over the accumulation of wealth, and increased corruption. Grant was unanimously renominated in 1872 and won reelection, but more scandal plagued his close associates, such as his Secretary of War, William W. Belknap, and his private secretary, Orville E. Babcock, who were both involved in graft schemes. He left office in disgrace and struggled to complete his memoirs while dying of cancer, so that his family would have some means of support after his death. Grant finished his two volume work, one of the finest presidential memoirs ever, four days before he died.