General Ulysses S. Grant managed to put Robert E. Lee in such a tight spot it forced him to surrender, thus ending the Civil War. During the signing of the surrender treaty, Grant showed up at Wilmer McLean’s house in Appomattox Court House straight from the field.
He was looking a little rough around the edges, his uniform speckled with dried mud and dirt, while Lee showed up in his best dress uniform. Grant treated his now former foe with the greatest respect and offered generous surrender terms to Lee’s vanquished army.
After the war, he took on the very tenuous task of Reconstruction, which continued into his two-term presidency. In the process, he worked to protect the rights of African American. As president, he ratified the 15th Amendment which prohibits the federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s “race, color, or previous condition of servitude”.
After a difficult presidency, he went into business with a friend of his son’s. Unknown to him it was a Ponzi scheme and he lost everything. He was essentially broke. Then Grant found out he was dying from throat cancer. With just $189 left in the bank, he set out to write his memoirs in an effort to save his family from ruin after he was gone.
He started writing from the place his family was staying in Manhattan, but that summer of 1885 was so hot it added difficulty to his failing health. His doctor told him to get away from the heat of the city and go out to the country.
He moved his family to a cottage home in upstate New York. He was made offers for his memoirs, but the best one came from his friend Mark Twain, who would give his estate 75% of the royalties with $50,000 up front.
Grant soon lost his ability to speak and was in almost constant pain, but he continued writing his memoirs. The man wrote 10,000 words a day, on paper with pencils he sharpened with a penknife. Let me say that again, and let it sink in. This dying man wrote 10,000 words a day – in pencil! He wrote for five straight weeks.
Three days after completing his 600 page memoir, Ulysses S. Grant died on July 23, 1885, surrounded by his family. He was 63.
His memoirs were an instant hit. His wife Julia received about $450,000 in royalties, which equates to over $11 million dollars in today’s money. Ulysses S. Grant – A total Bad-Ass.