Ulysses Grant grew up in Ohio, unremarkable in his studies and most skills other than riding and taking care of horses.
He studied at the United States Military Academy at West Point and upon graduation was assigned to a post near St. Louis, Missouri. With this group he would fight in the Mexican-American War, and after that war he would get married and be stationed in Detroit, New York, the Oregon Territory and California.
Grant left the Army in 1854 and struggled to make a living. When the Civil War broke out, he took over a group of volunteers and steadily made his way up through the ranks until he was named commander of all Union forces.
Grant was a war hero after the Civil War, and in 1866 he was named general of the armies, only the second man to achieve the rank. (George Washington was the first.) His status as a hero positioned him to be a presidential candidate, especially when he differed from President Johnsons views.
How he defined the office
President Grant was loyal to those who had worked with him in the past. This led to some appointments in his administration of people who were corrupt. Though Grant was never directly implicated, his time in office was plagued by scandal.
Successes and failures
From the moment he took office President Grant worked to protect the rights of black citizens, pushing for the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave citizens the right to vote no matter their race. He signed the Amendment into law in 1870.
Grant had to deal with an economic downturn after the Civil War, including the Panic of 1873, which led to a depression. He believed in a conservative fiscal approach.
Grant worked to improve treatment of Native Americans but was never able to install changes that lasted beyond his time in office.
The greatest good to the greatest number is the object to be attained This requires security of person, property, and free religious and political opinion in every part of our common country, without regard to local prejudice. All laws to secure these ends will receive my best efforts for their enforcement. from his first inaugural address March 4, 1869.