This statue, on display in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, depicts American general and president Ulysses S. Grant in the uniform of the Union army. He looks slightly to his left with a serious expression. On his shoulders are four stars denoting him as “General of the Army of the United States,” a rank that he was the first to hold. A cape is draped over his left forearm, and his left hand holds the grip and guard of a sheathed sword. His right arm, with gloved hand, hangs by his side. Over his trousers are knee-high boots, and his left foot comes to the front of the self base. The tree stump behind his right leg provides support for the statue. On the front of the self base is inscribed “GEN. U. S. GRANT”; at the front of the proper right side is inscribed “FRANKLIN SIMMONS / FECIT 1899.” The right and left sides of the pedestal are inscribed “PRESENTED BY / THE GRAND ARMY / OF THE REPUBLIC”; the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was an organization of Union Army veterans. On the front of the pedestal, crossed bronze laurel and oak branches (symbolic of victory and strength, respectively) underlie a bronze relief plaque depicting the GAR badge in the form of a medal.
Ulysses S. Grant was born Hiram Ulysses Grant on April 27, 1822, in Point Pleasant, Ohio. Appointed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1839, he arrived to learn that he had been erroneously enrolled as Ulysses Simpson (his mother’s maiden name) Grant. The roll could not be corrected, so Grant changed his name. Upon graduation he was posted near St. Louis, where he met his future wife, Julia Dent. After distinguished service in the Mexican War and at several garrison postings, he resigned his commission in 1854.
Volunteering to return to service in the Union cause after the start of the Civil War, Grant held a series of increasingly responsible commands and was the strategist of victories that earned him national attention. He also earned the respect of President Abraham Lincoln, and his achievements at Shiloh, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, and Appomattox were decisive in the course and outcome of the war.
After the war, Grant initially supported the reconstruction of the South but grew disenchanted to the point of supporting President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment. Running as a Republican for president, he was easily elected in 1868 and re-elected in 1872. His political inexperience and misplaced trust in unscrupulous advisers, however, led to scandal despite his own innocence of corruption. After leaving office he toured the world with his family and unsuccessfully sought the presidential nomination in 1880. A partnership in a brokerage firm that failed left him bankrupt. He spent the last months of his life writing his war memoirs, which were published posthumously by Mark Twain and ultimately earned his family $450,000. Grant died of throat cancer on July 23, 1885, and is entombed with his wife in New York City, in a mausoleum on Manhattan overlooking the Hudson River.
Sculptor Franklin Simmons, born in Maine in 1839, developed an early interest in painting and sculpture. After college he moved to Washington, D.C., where he sculpted relief portrait busts of cabinet members and military officers. In 1867 he moved with his wife to Rome and established a studio; except for occasional trips back to the United States, he remained there for the rest of his life. Working in the neoclassical style, he created statues and busts of figures from public life, mythology, and literature. He was commissioned by the Grand Army of the Republic to sculpt a statue of General Grant to be given to the Congress, and legislation passed in 1890 authorized its acceptance. The first statue that Simmons created was not approved because it was not a good likeness; he sent a second version in 1899, and it was placed in the Rotunda in 1900. His other works on Capitol Hill include the Peace Monument on the Capitol Grounds; statues of William King, Francis Harrison Pierpont, and Roger Williams in the National Statuary Hall collection; and busts of Vice Presidents Charles W. Fairbanks, Hannibal Hamlin, and Adlai E. Stevenson in the United States Senate collection. Simmons died in Rome in 1913.