Prior to the Civil War, Grant failed at everything he did. While stationed in San Francisco, he made efforts to supplement his army income in many ways, such as selling ice; buying cattle, hogs, and horses to sell to immigrants; planting potatoes; advancing funds for a store; and opening a billiard parlor. All these ventures failed.
Grant was extremely lonely while stationed at Fort Humboldt, near San Francisco, without his family, and he began drinking heavily. This sad account is given by one of his biographers: "Melancholy, silent, gloomy, inattentive to what went on around him, solitary, he got the reputation of a souse.
"Perhaps it gave him courage, for he went on with a final new business project, a billiard room in Frisco, which did not pan out. He drank some more. Lieutenant Colonel Buchanan might have dealt with the problem differently had he liked Grant. But when Grant showed up drunk for paymaster duty, Buchanan told him to fill out an unsigned resignation. Another binge and Grant would sign that resignation, Buchanan said.
"For a time he stayed sober. Then at a party, an officer's wife urged him to have a little punch. He took some. The next day, the entire post knew he had become completely done in, and knew also what must be in prospect as he trudged across the dismal parade ground to Buchanan's office. Buchanan took out the unsigned resignation and asked Grant what he thought his proper course was now. He signed. It was April 11, 1854. For fifteen years he had worn cadet gray and Army blue. Now he was a civilian." 1