Grant, Ulysses Simpson

Born: April 27, 1822
Died: July 23, 1885

Ohio connection: Birth

Point Pleasant

In a one-story, three-room Point Pleasant cottage in Clermont County, Ohio, Ulysses Simpson Grant was born on April 27, 1822, the son of Jesse and Hannah Simpson Grant. The following year, the family relocated further down the Ohio River to Georgetown, Brown County, Ohio, where Grant would remain until 1836. During those thirteen years, the last he would spend in Ohio, Grant worked on his father’s farm and forest acreage. When, 48 years later, the unscrupulous and illegal actions of a business associate plunged the former Commander in Chief’s brokerage firm into bankruptcy. In desperate need of money, Grant wrote four articles for The Century, receiving $500 each. Detailing his campaigns at Shiloh, Vicksburg, and the Wilderness, and also the surrender of General Lee at Appomattox, the articles lacked the glimpses into Grant’s private life, details for which public clamored.

Diagnosed with throat cancer in the fall of 1884, Grant obtained from The Century a contract to write his memoirs, with a royalty of 10% on an anticipated sale of 25,000 copies. However, one of his close friends stepped in at this time to prevent Grant from accepting what he judged an unfavorable contract. Subsequently, Mark Twain, a great admirer of Grant’s, offered him a contract whereby Twain’s nephew, Charles L. Webster, would publish the ex-President’s memoirs, with Grant receiving 70% of the profits. Signing on in 1885, the ailing Grant began the process of recording his experiences. As he wrote, his aides (his son, Frederick, and former military secretary and author Adam Badeau) examined each page, checking facts, suggesting revisions, and locating and inserting relevant documents. By the beginning of April, the first volume was finished and in galleys, followed shortly thereafter by portions of the second. In late April, Grant and Twain were forced to counter allegations that the memoirs were not being written by Grant, but rather by his secretary, Adam Badeau, with minimal input from Grant. As 60,000 subscriptions had already been sold out of an estimated 300,000, the two men were eager to allay the fears of the public. Badeau, on whom the embattled Grant depended to conduct his research, wanted to increase the amount of his compensation. But after issuing a letter to his publisher, in which he refuted the accusations against him, Grant dismissed Badeau, and thereafter continued to be aided in his writing by his sons Frederick, Jesse and Ulysses Jr. His health failing, Grant labored to complete the project, dictating when he could no longer write, making revisions to the proofs as he received them. When the work was completed in 1885, Twain was astonished to discover that Grant had produced a considerably longer book than what he had anticipated receiving.

After having spent several days personally correcting the galley proofs of his manuscript, Grant died July 23, 1885, surrounded by family and friends at his cottage on New York’s Mount McGregor slopes. Later that same month, the first volume went to press, and it took until December for the more than 300,000 orders to be filled. On February 27, 1886, on the anniversary of the signing of the contract, Charles L. Webster & Co. paid to Grant’s widow $200,000, the largest single payment of royalties up to that time. Later, she received an additional check for $150,000. Available in a choice of five different bindings, the two volume result of Grant’s labor was judged by Twain to have been the finest recorded memoirs of any general since the Commentaries of Julius Caesar. Published as The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, this priceless work has never gone out of print.