One hundred and fifty years since the Civil War commenced, Ulysses S. Grant is still considered one of the greatest officers to wear the uniform of the United States Army. But he began his military career reluctantly.
After his father submitted an application to West Point for his son, Grant reluctantly attended. A few years after graduation he served in the Mexican War and distinguished himself in combat, but while he enjoyed the excitement of war, shortly after he married he became despondent at the amount of time his army life kept him away from his family and resigned. But when the country split apart in 1861 and war between the northern and southern states erupted, Grant was eager to wear a uniform again and serve his country.
Joining the Union Army meant more to Grant than becoming a soldier again. He fought because he believed it was his duty to do so. He firmly believed the war was fought over the issue of slavery, and so even after he was unable to secure a commission with the regular army he signed up with the Illinois volunteer army. Grant was a natural leader and rose quickly to Commander of the Union Army. He was a soldier's soldier and the men who served under him respected his abilities to lead them in battle.
After the war, Grant went on to become the eighteenth president of the United States, serving two terms and presiding over the second half of Reconstruction, fighting for African American and Native American civil rights, and signing bills promoting black voting rights and Klan prosecution.
After years of resisting offers to write about his Civil War experience he suddenly found himself rushed to complete his memoirs when he was diagnosed with throat cancer. His two-volume memoirs were completed days before he died and were published posthumously in 1885. They are considered to be the greatest work of the genre and through them his military contributions remain with us always.