Ulysses S. Grant

One of the greatest military strategists of all time spoke in Richmond amidst disagreement about his job performance as president.

The 18th president of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant, stopped at Richmond on September 30, 1871 and told a small crowd at the train depot he realized some of his cabinet appointees were a disappointment.

Grant was an unassuming man, almost shy in manner, and did not look like the fierce combatant whose war strategies are now studied for their military genius.

His success as a Civil War general led to his presidential election in 1868, but these qualities did not cure the nation’s ills. His administration was marred by scandal, though Grant himself was a man of integrity. He could trust men in battle, but not in politics.

When he was in Richmond there was growing concern about recent political cabinet appointees. Unscrupulous politicians were reaping an illegal post-Civil War harvest, and news was leaking out.

Grant admitted, “It was my fortune, or misfortune, to be called to the office of Chief Executive without any previous political training…. My failures have been errors in judgment, not of intent.”

Grant’s forthrightness swayed the crowd.

As the train pulled away amidst cheers, he called, “I would like to talk to you longer but the allotted space of time and the impatience of the engineer…forbids it.”

He was forgiven and re-elected the following year.


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June 19, 2012