Most Americans know little about Ulysses S. Grant except that he helped the Union win the Civil War (somehow, against the more impressive Robert E. Lee), that he drank too much and that his presidency was plagued by corruption.
What truth is there in this picture? Modern historians have largely refuted each point. So if it’s not based in reality, where did the negative image of Grant come from? In his or her own time, every military or political leader develops rivals and critics who attack that leader’s record. But Grant had a special propaganda campaign aimed at him: The Lost Cause of the Confederacy.
There were real problems in Grant’s presidential administrations. But Grant’s critics, led by advocates of the Lost Cause, have blown those problems out of proportion.
In the words of the History Channel, “President Ulysses S. Grant: Known for Scandals, Overlooked for Achievements.” Author Greg Dougherty explains how “The Civil War hero left the White House under a cloud, but he also made substantial contributions—like passing the 15th Amendment.”
Here we list the main charges against Grant, which we maintain are myths: if true at all, they’re overblown. And in some cases they’re just lies. In the coming weeks, we’ll add information explaining each myth.
Myth 1: Grant Was a Butcher
Myth 2: Grant Was a “Drunkard”
Myth 3: Grant Was a Worse General than Lee
Myth 4: Grant Was Corrupt
Myth 5: Grant Was a Bad President
Myth 6: Grant Owned Slaves
Myth 7: Grant Was Anti-Semitic