Date of Award

Fall 12-7-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Wendy Venet

Second Advisor

Dr. Charles Steffen

Third Advisor

Dr. Larry Youngs


At the time of his death in 1885, Ulysses S. Grant was widely regarded by his contemporaries as one of the great Americans of his age. Along with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, his name was frequently included among the most accomplished heroes of the then still-young republic. Both nationally and internationally Grant was widely regarded as one of the world’s great military leaders. He was elected to the presidency of theUnited Statesduring one of the most divisive epochs in American history and won a decisive electoral victory to earn a second term. In his final years he embarked on a comprehensive world tour to great personal acclaim as well as the acknowledgement of this nation’s ascendancy as a world power. And literally hours before his death, he completed a literary work that stands today as one of the finest pieces of writing in American military history.

Yet today, the remembrance of U.S. Grant bears little resemblance to the one he enjoyed among his contemporaries. As noted in a recent biography of Grant, his reputation has fallen into “disrepair.” In current popular memory, mention of Grant’s name frequently invokes images of a drunk, a failed and corrupt presidency, and a “butcher” who gained victory inAmerica’s great Civil War only as a result of superior resources and manpower.

The intent of this study is to examine the evolution of Grant’s reputation from the American Civil War to recent times. It is intended to tell the story the storytellers told about Grant and how his reputation developed and was forged in popular memory. During his lifetime, this will include the study of a multitude of sources including newspaper accounts, political cartoons, diaries, and letters that reflected prevailing thought about Grant. In the years since his death, research will focus on those numerous factors that shape reputation. These will include delving into historical scholarship, literature, changing cultural nuances, political influences, and the wide range of popular entertainment vehicles so important in shaping public remembrance, to conclude with the suggestion that Grant’s reputation has been miscast in this nation’s popular memory.