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Ulysses S. Grant: 18th President, 2nd Republican

Expository critical essays in literary, political, historical, philosophical, and spiritual topics remain part of my literary toolkit.

President Ulysses S. Grant

“Hiram Ulysses Grant” Becomes “Ulysses S. Grant”

As “Ulysses S. Grant” was growing up, his nickname was “Lyss”— short for Ulysses. His mother’s maiden name was “Simpson.” These two facts ultimately resulted in “Hiram Ulysses Grant” becoming “Ulysses S. Grant.”

Congressman Thomas Hamer, who sponsored Grant’s enrollment in West Point, assumed that Lyss’ nickname was short for his first name, as is usually the case. And Hamer knew that Lyss’ mother’s maiden name was Simpson; thus, when he filled out the application for Grant’s West Point assignment, Hamer gave the name “Ulysses S. Grant.”

Upon arriving at West Point and finding that his name was registered incorrectly, Grant tried to correct it, only to be told that if he wanted to attend West Point, he would have to change his name. He was informed that the official government application could not be changed. Therefore, Grant changed his name, and “Hiram Ulysses Grant” became “Ulysses S. Grant.”

Grant’s Presidency

Running against Horatio Seymour, former Democrat governor of New York, Ulysses S. Grant handily won election to the presidency, beating Seymour 214-80 in the Electoral College and winning 26 of 34 states, becoming the 18th president of the United States and the second Republican president. Grant was well known for serving in the Union Army, which vanquished General Robert E. Lee’s Confederates.

Grant did not strongly desire to hold the position as president, but the Republican Party sought someone who was moderate and popular enough to win the election. Grant also wanted to make sure peace was restored to the country after the bloody Civil War had ravaged the country for nearly half a decade. Grant believed that he could lead the Reconstruction with true statesmanship.

In 1872, Grant succeeded in winning the presidency again, this time overcoming the New York newspaper editor, Horace Greeley, who famously advised, “Go west, Young Man!” Grant’s presidency did, in fact, see much significant legislation enacted, as well as important amendments to the Constitution. The 15th amendment gave voting rights to all citizens, especially necessary for the newly freed slaves.

The Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 was intended to stop the illegal intimidation of blacks, making it a federal crime to violate voting rights. Grant also signed into law the Civil Right Act of 1875.

General Grant National Memorial

Grant’s Memoirs

While suffering from cancer, Grant completed his memoirs titled Personal Memoirs, which was so well received that it sold more than 300,000 copies immediately upon publication. Since its publication, the book has remained in print. Robert McCrum, writing in The Guardian, has high praise for Grant’s narrative writing ability:

When Grant finished the manuscript in July 1885, it was rushed into galley proof. On 23 July, having completed his final corrections, Grant died in his summer cottage on the slopes of Mount McGregor, in New York state. His Personal Memoirs, published a few months later, were at once acclaimed as a masterpiece. One contemporary critic wrote that “no other American president has told his story as powerfully as Ulysses S Grant. The book is one of the most unflinching studies of war in our literature.” More than a century later, Gore Vidal added his own assessment: “It is simply not possible to read Grant’s memoirs without realising that the author is a man of first-rate intelligence.”

Grant’s book of memoirs was such a success that after his death, the royalties from Grant’s it supported his widow, Julia Boggs Dent Grant, who came from a plantation near St. Louis. Mrs. Grant served as first lady of from 1869 to 1877. Both Grant and his wife are buried in New York City in the General Grant National Memorial.

Portrait of Colonel John Singleton Mosby, CSA

Interesting Trivia

The confederate colonel, John Singleton Mosby—whose guerrilla warfare tactics were dramatized in the 1950s TV show, “Gray Ghost”— became a Republican after the Civil War ended. He felt that the Republican Party offered the best strategies for helping the South recover from the war. Mosby served as Grant’s Virginia campaign manager. About Mosby, Grant claimed, “Since the close of the war, I have come to know Colonel Mosby personally and somewhat intimately. He is a different man entirely from what I supposed. He is able and thoroughly honest and truthful.”

Colonel Mosby later served as US Consul to Hong Kong from 1878 to 1885 and assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice from 1904 to 1910. His memoirs include two books, Memoirs of Colonel John S. Mosby, published in 1887 and Stuart's Cavalry in the Gettysburg Campaign, published in 1908.

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© 2019 Linda Sue Grimes

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