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Ulysses S. Grant

Tragedy was visited upon so many who trusted Ulysses S. Grant that one must marvel at the popularity of this great warrior.  If it was not tragedy that accompanied him, then it was the disappointment of those who were dependent on him for leadership, stewardship, judgment. The tragedies for the soldiers in battles at Cold Harbor and at Spotsylvania were in reality casualties of war and must be evaluated in the context of the great victories which Grant most certainly delivered to save the Union.  But he also was witness to tragedies visited upon the freedmen of the South and upon the American Indian and upon the workingmen who suffered from the panic of 1873.

Grant himself, however, was not a tragic figure.  He was in fact a survivor of some considerable magnitude.  He endured, he persevered, and in great measure he was a raging success from near his fortieth birthday until his death some twenty years later.  Although he experienced only failure when he tried his hand at farming or in his father's tannery business or in real estate, his lot in life turned around for him with the advent of the Civil War, for he was blessed with a natural genius for military command.

Grant had entered West Point at the age of seventeen, hardly distinguishing himself except for his considerable aptitude on horseback and for an intriguing indication of skill in a painting course.  He remained in the army long enough to serve as a lieutenant in the Mexican War, displaying an acute ability to learn how the army and combat worked and what distinguished  a  good commander.