President Ulysses S. Grant Timeline

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President US Grant Timeline
President US Grant Timeline.jpg
President Ulysses S. Grant Timeline


March 25: Lee fails in his effort to break the Union line at Fort Stedman. On the same day, Lincoln lands from the River Queen at City Point for a series of conferences with Grant.

March 29: Grant sends Sheridan around the right end of Lee's line in order to force Lee to retreat. Sheridan's victory April 1 at Five Forks forces Lee to abandon Petersburg and Richmond two days later. Lee makes one last, desperate effort to collect his forces at Amelia Court House and join Joseph E. Johnston in North Carolina. Sheridan quickly blocks Lee's road, and the Army of Northern Virginia is virtually surrounded.

April 6: Lee's effort to avoid encirclement leads to his defeat at Sayler's Creek.

April 7: Grant writes to Lee: "The results of the last week must convince you of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia in this struggle."

April 9: After discovering that escape will be impossible, Lee arranges to meet Grant at Appomattox, Virginia. "I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse." The two generals meet in the parlor of the McLean House, Lee in an immaculate new uniform, Grant informally dressed with only shoulder straps to show rank. "We soon fell into a conversation about old army times . . . Our conversation grew so pleasant that I almost forgot the object of our meeting." Finally, Grant writes a letter embodying his terms and Lee writes one accepting them.

April 14: Grant meets with the Cabinet to discuss Lee's surrender and the future of the South. Lincoln invites the Grants to join him at the theatre that evening. Grant replies that he is anxious to visit his children at Burlington, New Jersey. Thus Grant eludes the plan of John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators to assassinate him along with Lincoln.

April 15: After Lincoln dies, Vice President Andrew Johnson is sworn in as the nation's 17th president.

April 24: Grant arrives at Sherman's headquarters in North Carolina in an effort to eliminate the bitterness caused by Sherman's surrender terms to General Joseph E. Johnston. In attempting to end all Confederate resistance east of the Mississippi, Sherman's agreement has gone beyond what Grant conceded to Lee at Appomattox and raises cries in the North that Sherman is settling terms of peace.

October: After touring the nation and receiving praise everywhere for his leadership in the war, Grant moves with his family into a house on I Street in Washington.

November-December: Grant tours the South at the request of President Johnson, and is greeted with surprising friendliness. His report recommends a lenient Reconstruction policy.


July 25: Congress establishes a new rank, general of the armies of the United States, to which Grant is immediately appointed.

August 28: President Johnson leaves for a political tour, though the ostensible purpose is the dedication of the Stephen A. Douglas monument in Chicago. Grant goes along reluctantly. When the heckling of the crowd at various stops prompts Johnson into angry and undignified responses, Grant loses sympathy with the President.


July 31: President Andrew Johnson informs Grant that he intends to remove Secretary of War Stanton from office. Stanton, a holdover from the Lincoln administration, has been a consistent opponent of the President and stands close to the radical Republicans who dominate Congress. Stanton has refused to resign and Congress has supported him through the Tenure of Office Act (March 2), which requires the consent of Congress to removals. At the same time, Congress has weakened the President's control of the army through the Command of the Army Act, which requires that all military orders of the President have the approval of the general of the army (Grant). Johnson believes the Tenure of Office Act is unconstitutional, and hopes to defeat the effort to force Stanton upon him by employing the popular Grant. On August 11, Grant agrees to take over the War Department temporarily, and on the following day Johnson orders him to do so.


January 14: Grant resigns his position as Secretary of War ad interim after Congress reassembles and insists upon the reinstatement of Stanton. Johnson believes that Grant has betrayed him; Grant now openly breaks with Johnson.

May 16: Andrew Johnson becomes the first president to be impeached by Congress. He avoids conviction and retains his office by a single vote.

May 21: The Republican National Convention at Chicago nominates Grant for President and Schuyler Colfax of Indiana for Vice President.

May 29: Grant concludes his letter of acceptance with "Let us have peace." The words became a Republican slogan.

July 9: The Democrats nominate Horatio Seymour, former Governor of New York, for President, and Francis P. Blair, Jr., formerly one of Grant's commanders, for Vice President.

November 3: Grant is elected President, winning the electoral votes of 26 of 34 states and an electoral college majority of 214-80 over his Democratic opponent. But the popular majority is only 306,000 in a total vote of 5,715,000. Newly enfranchised black men in the South cast 700,000 votes, generally at the bidding of their Republican protectors.


 March 4: Grant is inaugurated President. In his inaugural address, he says: "The responsibilities of the position I feel, but accept them without fear. The office has come to me unsought; I commence its duties untrammeled. I bring to it a conscious desire and determination to fill it to the best of my ability to the satisfaction of the people." His Cabinet list, prepared without consultation, is generally considered weak. A. T. Stewart, a prominent New York merchant, is named Secretary of the Treasury even though his business interests make him ineligible. When Grant learns of the law, he asks Congress to change it, but soon finds that this is unlikely. On March 9, he withdraws Stewart's nomination and two days later nominates George Boutwell of Massachusetts. This causes further complications since Massachusetts is already represented in the Cabinet through Attorney General E. R. Hoar. E. B. Washburne is given a courtesy appointment as Secretary of State, which ends soon with his appointment as Minister to France. He is succeeded in the State Department by Hamilton Fish of New York. The Chief of Staff, John A. Rawlins, becomes Secretary of War although he is dying, because Grant wants to honor a faithful friend. Adolph E. Borie, a wealthy and congenial Philadelphian, briefly holds the post of Secretary of the Navy; Jacob D. Cox, an able Ohio reformer, is Secretary of the Interior; John A. J. Creswell, a Maryland lawyer, is Postmaster General.

March 18: Grant signs his first law, an Act to Strengthen the Public Credit, pledging the government to redeem in gold the greenback currency issued during the Civil War. Grant thus quickly places himself with the financial conservatives of the day.

September 24: The day will forever be known as Black Friday on the New York gold exchange as Jay Gould and Jim Fisk attempt to corner the available gold supply. In an effort to prevent the government from selling gold to break the corner, the conspirators have enlisted Abel Rathbone Corbin, Grant's brother-in-law. Corbin believes he has misled Grant into cooperation, but Grant approves a government gold sale which restores prevailing prices.


January 10: Grant submits to the Senate a treaty of annexation with Santo Domingo. He believes that Santo Domingo offers an attractive field for American investment and a solution to the race problem. Under Grant's plan, freed slaves will be able to relocate to the Caribbean island (the Dominican Republic today). The treaty is reported adversely by the Foreign Relations Committee, headed by Charles Sumner, who speaks bitterly against it. Although Grant forces support from his Cabinet Attorney General E. R. Hoar, who opposes annexation, and ultimately has Sumner deposed from the chairmanship of the Foreign Relations committee (March 9, 1871), he is unable to get the treaty confirmed by the Senate.


March 4: Grant appoints George William Curtis to head the first Civil Service Commission established by Congress. Because Congress fails to make an appropriation and ignores Curtis's recommendations, nothing will come of this venture.

May 8: The Treaty of Washington, negotiated by Hamilton Fish, provides for the settlement by an international tribunal of American claims against England resulting from the wartime activities of the British-built Confederate raider Alabama. The tribunal eventually will award $15,500,000 to the United States in a well-balanced decision which leaves no rancor in either country.


May 1: Meeting of the Liberal Republican Convention at Cincinnati. Leaders of the group include many prominent Republicans unhappy about vindictive Reconstruction policies and corruption in government, which they call Grantism. Although many attractive presidential nominees are available, Horace Greeley receives the nomination. Greeley's earlier radicalism, high tariff views, and well-known eccentricity repels many who oppose Grant. The Democrats, on July 9, also nominate Greeley.

May 22: Grant signs an amnesty bill he had advocated. Although the final legislation is less generous than Grant wants, now only a few hundred former Confederates are excluded from political privileges.

June 5: The Republican Convention meets at Philadelphia and renominates Grant on the first ballot (June 6).

September 5: The New York Sun charges that Vice President Colfax, Vice-Presidential nominee Henry Wilson, James Garfield, and other prominent politicians are involved in the operations of the Credit Mobilier, a corporation established by the promoters of the Union Pacific railroad to siphon off the profits of construction. Ultimately, two congressmen will be censured for their part in the swindle and many other politicians will be damaged in reputation.

November 5: Grant is reelected with an electoral college majority of 286-66, and a popular majority of 763,000.


March 4: Grant is inaugurated for a second term. In his second inaugural, Grant says: "I acknowledge before this assemblage, representing, as it does, every section of our country, the obligation I am under to my countrymen for the great honor they have conferred on me by returning me to the highest office within their gift, and the further obligation resting on me to render to them the best services within my power. This I promise, looking forward with the greatest anxiety to the day when I shall be released from responsibilities that at times are almost overwhelming, and from which I have scarcely had a respite since the eventful firing upon Fort Sumter, in April, 1861, to the present day . . . I have been the subject of abuse and slander scarcely ever equaled in political history, which to-day I feel that I can afford to disregard in view of your verdict, which I gratefully accept as my vindication."

September 18: The Panic of 1873 begins with the failure of the firm of Jay Cooke, spreads to the stock exchange, and eventually leads to widespread unemployment.


April 22: Grant vetoes a bill to increase the amount of legal tender currency. Grant's strong stand against inflation leads to a bill (June 20, 1874) limiting the amount of legal tender currency and providing for its retirement.


May 1: A group of corrupt officials and businessmen known as the Whisky Ring is exposed by the Saint Louis Democrat. An investigation ordered by Secretary of the Treasury Benjamin H. Bristow ultimately compromises important Grant appointees and General Orville E. Babcock, Grant's private secretary. Upon first hearing of the scandals, Grant had ordered: "Let no guilty man escape." Later, Grant's testimony influences a jury to acquit Babcock.

May 29: Grant writes a public letter announcing that he will not be a candidate for a third term.


March 2: On the same day Secretary of War William W. Belknap is impeached on charges of accepting bribes from Indian agents, President Grant accepts his resignation. Since Belknap is no longer a government official, the Senate holds that it has no authority to convict him.

December 5: In his last message to Congress, Grant surveys his years in the White House. "It was my fortune, or misfortune, to be called to the office of Chief Executive without any previous political training. From the age of 17 I had never even witnessed the excitement attending a Presidential campaign but twice antecedent to my own candidacy, and at but one of them was I eligible as a voter.

"Under such circumstances it is but reasonable to suppose that errors of judgment must have occurred. Even had they not, differences of opinion between the Executive, bound by an oath to the strict performance of his duties, and writers and debaters must have arisen. It is not necessarily evidence of blunder on the part of the Executive because there are these differences of views. Mistakes have been made, as all can see and I admit, but it seems to me oftener in the selections made of the assistants appointed to aid in carrying out the various duties of administering the Government--in nearly every case selected without a personal acquaintance with the appointee, but upon recommendations of the representatives chosen directly by the people. It is impossible, where so many trusts are to be allotted, that the right parties should be chosen in every instance. History shows that no Administration from the time of Washington to the present has been free from these mistakes. But I leave comparisons to history, claiming only that I have acted in every instance from a conscientious desire to do what was right, constitutional, within the law, and for the very best interests of the whole people. Failures have been errors of judgment, not of intent."


March 4: Following a bitterly disputed presidential contest between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden, in which both candidates claim victory, Hayes is declared president. Grant retires from the White House.

May 17: The Grant family sails from Philadelphia on a trip around the world.


December 16: Grant returns from his trip, during which he has been honored in many countries and has done much to improve relations with the United States.


June 2: The Republican National Convention meets in Chicago. The delegates are almost evenly divided between the followers of James G. Blaine and the stalwarts led by Senator Roscoe Conkling of New York. The latter favors the renomination of Grant, and he receives a plurality of votes on the first ballot. When the convention ends, after thirty-six ballots, in the nomination of James A. Garfield, 306 delegates are still voting for Grant. Although election in 1880 would have broken the third term tradition, Grant had written: "I can not decline if the nomination is tendered without seeking on my part."


April: The Grants, Ulysses Jr. and his new wife tour Mexico with Don Matias Romero, the former Mexican minister in Washington. Grant has become president of Jay Gould's Mexican Southern Railroad. Genuinely fond of the Mexican people ever since the Mexican War, Grant believes their best interests lie in commercial expansion. Now he urges a railroad link between Mexico and the United States.

August: Grant buys a home, a brownstone at 3 East 66th Street, New York City.


December: President Chester A. Arthur appoints Grant to negotiate a commercial treaty with Mexico. The Mexicans name Romero as his counterpart. Both nations eventually reject the resultant treaty because it has been drawn up by close personal friends.


December 24: Returning from a visit, Grant slips on the ice in front of his home in New York City. While still confined to bed in January, Grant develops pleurisy.


May 6: The firm of Grant and Ward collapses. Ulysses Grant Jr. had been lured by a remarkable swindler, Ferdinand Ward, into a partnership supported by his father and other relatives. General Grant had even been induced to borrow money from W. H. Vanderbilt to aid the firm. Grant had believed himself in comfortable financial circumstances; now, with Grant and Ward's collapse, he discovers that he has nothing and owes substantial sums. In order to support his family, Grant begins to write articles on his battles for the Century magazine. In June he decides to write his memoirs.

November: As Grant dictates to his secretary, he begins to feel a pain in his throat which soon makes eating almost impossible. He learns he is afflicted with a fatal cancer.


February 27: Grant signs a contract with his friend Mark Twain to publish his "Memoirs."

March 4: As an act of respect, Grant is placed on the list of retired generals. The Grants are very much in need of the money this will bring.

May 23: The first volume of Grant's memoirs goes to press. Prepared as Grant is dying, only the first part has been dictated, since Grant can no longer speak without pain as the cancer grows in his throat. The latter parts are scrawled in pencil on a tablet and transcribed by former staff officer Adam Badeau and Grant's oldest son, Frederick. In a note to one of his doctors, Grant writes: "If I live long enough I will become a sort of specialist in the use of certain medicines if not in the treatment of disease. It seems that one man's destiny in this world is quite as much a mystery as it is likely to be in the next. I never thought of acquiring rank in the profession I was educated for; yet it came with two grades higher prefixed to the rank of General officer for me. I certainly never had either ambition or taste for political life; yet I was twice president of the United States. If any one had suggested the idea of my becoming an author, as they frequently did, I was not sure whether they were making sport of me or not. I have now written a book which is in the hands of the manufacturers. I ask that you keep these notes very private lest I become an authority on the treatment of diseases. I have already too many trades to be proficient in any."

June 16: To avoid the summer heat, the Grant family moves to a cottage at Mount McGregor, New York, in the Adirondacks.

July 23: Grant dies at the cottage at Mount McGregor.

August 4: Funeral services for Grant are held at Mount McGregor. At the same time, a memorial service is held in London's Westminster Abbey. Following the funeral ceremonies, the coffin is carried by special train to Albany and displayed in the state Capitol. The following day, the coffin is taken to City Hall in New York City.

August 8: Three Presidents of the United States attend the burial services, and Union and Confederate Generals ride together in carriages. New York City has offered ground in any of its public parks for the tomb, and although the family is originally inclined to choose a location in Central Park, they finally settle upon Riverside Park. The coffin is placed in a hastily constructed temporary tomb.

December 10: The Memoirs are published. Sales are so successful that by February 27, 1886, the publishers give Mrs. Grant a check for $200,000. Total profits to the Grant family will reach an estimated $450,000.


April 27: Ground is broken for Grant's tomb. The task of raising the necessary $600,000 has taken considerable time, as will the construction of the tomb.


April 27: The tomb is dedicated on what would have been Grant's seventy-fifth birthday. The coffin had been privately transferred ten days earlier.


December 14: Julia Grant dies, and is buried with her husband, as both had earnestly requested.

President US Grant
President Ulysses S. Grant.jpg
President Ulysses S. Grant

Credits: PBS online; This is an abridged version of Professor John Y. Simon's Ulysses S. Grant Chronology, available in its entirety at the Ulysses S. Grant Association Web site (

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