Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Chat with General Hiram Ulysses Grant

I had a great conversation with the man enacting General Grant at the Appomattox Court House surrender reenactment. He looked a LOT like the pictures I have seen of the General.  General Grant talked a lot about this youth.  His father, who, from the General's viewpoint was pretty tough guy, called him, "Lyss", which I found endearing.

I asked the General about how he ended up at the US Military Academy, which also prompted the story of how his name got messed up.  Ulysses' Dad got in his mind that his son was very well suited to military life and command and decided he needed to go to West Point.  Unfortunately Mr. Grant was NOT on good terms with his local Congressman, and a Congressional appointment was, and is, still required for admission to the academies. But, somehow the senior Mr. Grant swallowed his pride and requested an appointment to USMA for his son.  The Congressman obliged, but NOT knowing Hiram U Grant's full name, assumed the son was Ulysses Simpson (his mother's maiden name) Grant- which of course gave his the appealing initials of "U.S." Grant.

Well, as soon as the appointment was set, that night at the dinner table, Lyss' father informed his son that he was headed to West Point for his education.  the young Grant took umbrage at this idea and informed his father that indeed he WOULD NOT go the USMA.  But... upon further reflection, the young Ulysses, whose name had been change unbeknownst to him, decided that perhaps he should indeed honor his father.

So,  on 1 July (the day and month I write) 1843 U.S. Grant graduated 21st in his class from USMA (out of 39 graduates). I might guess that this inauspicious beginning might have led me to predict that little would come of the military career of this "mid-pack" graduate, but once again, I would be bad wrong. Though he was perhaps NOT one of our greatest U.S. Presidents, he certainly distinguished himself in leading a war which preserved the Union. But even MORE REMARKABLY, General Grant was WISE enough to Treat the surrendered Confederate Army with extreme dignity.  This may have been his GREATEST achievement.

Think about it- showing grace and mercy could also be one of OUR OWN "greatest achievements".  May it be so! 

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