Sure, these are Ulysses S. Grant’s quotes, but there is also a famous Lincoln quote that sums up the general’s contributions to our nation.
According to legend, when disparagers of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant grumbled to President Abraham Lincoln about Grant’s drinking problem, Honest Abe replied, “I wish some of you would tell me the brand of whiskey that Grant drinks. I would like to send a barrel of it to my other generals.” It is no surprise that most of these quotes are about war or our country.
Grant was an exemplary general because he was passionate about his purpose and the Union he sought to defend. He possessed a natural penchant for leading others. However, his problem with alcoholism was more serious than the quote from President Lincoln would suggest.
Grant’s wife, Julia, and friend John Rawlins kept an eye out for him whenever they found themselves in situations that would tempt him. Alcoholism wasn’t understood well back then, and I am sure these people made a world of difference in his life.
These Grant quotes give us a glimpse into the life of the man who commanded an army during The Civil War and later became the 18th President of the United States.
Ulysses S. Grant quotes about war and fighting
1. “The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can and keep moving on.” — Ulysses S. Grant
2. “I have never advocated war except as a means of peace.” — Ulysses S. Grant
3. “If men make war in slavish obedience to rules, they will fail.” — Ulysses S. Grant
4. “In every battle there comes a time when both sides consider themselves beaten, then he who continues the attack wins.” — Ulysses S. Grant
5. “I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer.” — Ulysses S. Grant
6. “There never was a time when, in my opinion, some way could not be found to prevent the drawing of the sword.” — Ulysses S. Grant
7. “The distant rear of an army engaged in battle is not the best place from which to judge correctly what is going on in front.” — Ulysses S. Grant
8. “No other terms than unconditional and immediate surrender. I propose to move immediately upon your works.” — Ulysses S. Grant
9. “Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions.” — Ulysses S. Grant
10. “Let us have peace.” — Ulysses S. Grant
11. “I have nothing to do with opinions. I deal only with armed rebellion and its aiders and abettors.” — Ulysses S. Grant
12. “Although a soldier by profession, I have never felt any sort of fondness for war.” — Ulysses S. Grant
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13. “… but for a soldier, his duty is plain. He is to obey the orders of all those placed over him and whip the enemy wherever he meets him.” — Ulysses S. Grant
14. “Wherever the enemy goes let our troops go also.” — Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant quotes innermost thoughts
15. “I believe it has never been my misfortune to be placed where I lost my presence of mind—unless indeed it has been where thrown in strange company, particularly of ladies.” — Ulysses S. Grant
16. “My failures have been errors in judgment, not of intent.” — Ulysses S. Grant
17. “Everyone has his superstitions. One of mine has always been when I started to go anywhere, or to do anything, never to turn back or to stop until the thing intended was accomplished.” — Ulysses S. Grant
18. “Labor disgraces no man; unfortunately, you occasionally find men who disgrace labor.” — Ulysses S. Grant
19. “If you see the President, tell him from me that whatever happens there will be no turning back.” — Ulysses S. Grant
20. “I know only two tunes: one of them is ‘Yankee Doodle’, and the other isn’t.” — Ulysses S. Grant
21. “I know no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent execution.” — Ulysses S. Grant
22. “I appreciate the fact and am proud of it, that the attentions I am receiving are intended more for our country than for me personally.” — Ulysses S. Grant
23. “But my later experience has taught me two lessons: first, that things are seen plainer after the events have occurred; second, that the most confident critics are generally those who know the least about the matter criticized.” — Ulysses S. Grant
24. “There are but few important events in the affairs of men brought about by their own choice.” — Ulysses S. Grant
25. “The fact is, I think I am a verb instead of a personal pronoun. A verb is anything that signifies to be; to do; to suffer. I signify all three.” — Ulysses S. Grant
26. “I only knew what was in my mind, and I wished to express it clearly.” — Ulysses S. Grant
27. “There was always news coming back to the quarter about someone who had been killed or sent to prison for killing someone else: Snowball, stabbed to death at a nightclub in Port Allen; Claude, killed by a woman in New Orleans; Smitty, sent to the state penitentiary at Angola for manslaughter. And there were others who did not go anywhere but simply died slower.” — Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant quotes about trust and integrity and people
28. “The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most. I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity.” — Ulysses S. Grant
29. “Nothing could be more dishonorable than to accept high rank and command in war and then betray the trust.” — Ulysses S. Grant
30. “I have made it a rule of my life to trust a man long after other people gave him up, but I don’t see how I can ever trust any human being again.” — Ulysses S. Grant
31. “The will of the people is the best law.” — Ulysses S. Grant
32. “I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.” — Ulysses S. Grant
33. “I desire the good-will of all, whether hitherto my friends or not.” — Ulysses S. Grant
34. “No theory of my own will ever stand in the way of my executing, in good faith, any order I may receive from those in authority over me.” — Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant quotes about religion, church, and state
35. “Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private school, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and state forever separate.” — Ulysses S. Grant
36. “Hold fast to the Bible. To the influence of this Book, we are indebted for all the progress made in true civilization, and to this, we must look as our guide in the future.” — Ulysses S. Grant
37. “Declare church and state forever separate and distinct, but each free within their proper spheres, and that all church property shall bear its own proportion of taxation.” — Ulysses S. Grant
38. “I would suggest the taxation of all property equally, whether church or corporation, exempting only the last resting place of the dead and possibly, with proper restrictions, church edifices.” — Ulysses S. Grant
39. “Let us labor for the security of free thought, free speech, pure morals, unfettered religious sentiments, and equal rights and privileges for all men, irrespective of nationality, color, or religion.” — Ulysses S. Grant
40. “Encourage free schools and resolve that not one dollar appropriated for their support shall be appropriated to the support of any sectarian schools. Resolve that neither the state nor nation, nor both combined, shall support institutions of learning other than those sufficient to afford every child growing up in the land of opportunity of a good, common school education, unmixed with sectarian, pagan, or atheistical dogmas.” — Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant quotes about our country
41. “There are many men who would have done better than I did under the circumstances in which I found myself. If I had never held command, if I had fallen, there were 10,000 behind who would have followed the contest to the end and never surrendered the Union.” — Ulysses S. Grant
42. “I believe… that if our country ever comes into trial again, young men will spring up equal to the occasion, and if one fails, there will be another to take his place.” — Ulysses S. Grant
43. “It was my fortune, or misfortune, to be called to the office of Chief Executive without any previous political training.” — Ulysses S. Grant
If you’re enjoying these quotes, make sure to read our collection of The Office quotes from the iconic hit show.
44. “If we are to have another contest in the near future of our national existence, I predict that the dividing line will not be Mason and Dixon’s but between patriotism and intelligence on the one side, and superstition, ambition, and ignorance on the other.” — Ulysses S. Grant
45. “The great bulk of the legal voters of the South were men who owned no slaves; their homes were generally in the hills and poor country; their facilities for educating their children, even up to the point of reading and writing, were very limited; their interest in the contest was very meagre—what there was if they had been capable of seeing it was with the North; they too needed emancipation.” — Ulysses S. Grant
46. “The right of revolution is an inherent one. When people are oppressed by their government, it is a natural right they enjoy to relieve themselves of oppression, if they are strong enough, whether by withdrawal from it or by overthrowing it and substituting a government more acceptable.” — Ulysses S. Grant
47. “God gave us Lincoln and Liberty, let us fight for both.” — Ulysses S. Grant
48. “Generally, the officers of the army were indifferent whether the annexation [of Texas] was consummated or not; but not so all of them. For myself, I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory.” — Ulysses S. Grant
49. “Our great modern Republic. May those who seek the blessings of its institutions and the protection of its flag remember the obligations they impose.” — Ulysses S. Grant
50. “The theory of government changes with general progress.” — Ulysses S. Grant
What did you learn from these Ulysses S. Grant quotes?
Grant has often been hailed as one of the worst presidents in US history, but recent biographies, like Ronald C. White’s American Ulysses (2016) and Ron Chernow’s Grant (2017) have shed new light on the contributions of his presidency. He was tasked with the nearly impossible job of stitching together a country torn apart by war and feuding ideologies.
When Grant addressed Congress, he believed that history would not view his presidency in a kind light saying, “Mistakes have been made, as all can see and I admit,” he wrote. “But I leave comparisons to history, claiming only that I have acted in every instance from a conscientious desire to do what was right, constitutional, within the law, and for the very best interests of the whole people. Failures have been errors of judgment, not of intent.”
Grant had some major achievements that should get more attention. Namely, he held the Union together. He also signed the Yellowstone National Protection Act and fought to keep freed slaves safe. Like our nation itself, he wasn’t perfect, but he was likely far better than history gave him credit for initially.
What’s your biggest takeaway from these Ulysses S. Grant quotes and sayings? Do you have any other favorite quotes to add? Let us know in the comment section below.
December 9, 2020 7:00 AM EST