Born in Ohio in 1822, and baptized Hiram Ulysses, Grant was reported to been nominated to the military academy at West Point in 1839 as "Ulysses Simpson Grant" (Simpson being the maiden name of Grant's mother) by the Congressman who authored his appointment. The name was to follow him for this rest of his life.
Grant was noted for his distinguished service during the Mexican War in the armies of Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott. Following this war he successfully (and sometimes unsuccessfully) worked as a farmer, real estate salesman, county engineer candidate, customhouse clerk, and finally, clerk in a leather store business conducted by his two brothers in Galena, Illinois.
However, with the advent of the Civil War, Grant achieved rapid advancement from relative obscurity, and within three years commanded the armies of the United States. Achieving victories at Forts Henry and Donelson in 1862 won him the acclaim of the nation and the moniker of "Unconditional Surrender" Grant. Following the Battle of Shiloh, he focused his attentions on taking the Confederate stronghold at Vicksburg, Mississippi, and with the combined forces of the Army of the Tennessee and Admiral David Dixon Porter's Mississippi River "Brown Water" Navy, the success of the Campaign and Siege of Vicksburg essentially split the Confederacy in two, and gave the Union control of the Mississippi River.
Rewarded for his success in the western theater with the appointment to Major General in the Regular Army, Grant continued to move his forces east through Chattanooga, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, and Cold Harbor, until stopped at Petersburg, Virginia, with his failure to take the city by assault. Forced to lay siege to Petersburg in June 1864 (much as he had done in Vicksburg), Grant finally forced the capitulation of city in April 1865, and advanced on the Confederate capitol at Richmond, Virginia. On April 9, 1865, Grant succeeded in bringing General Robert E. Lee to bay at Appomattox Court House, leading to the surrender of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.