Ulysses S. Grant was born on this day in 1822. Grant was actually born Hiram Ulysses Grant, but an error by the congressman who submitted his name to West Point had him as Ulysses S. Grant, which Grant adopted. When asked what the “S” stood for, Grant often said, “Nothing”. Senior cadets at West Point jokingly said that the “U.S.” stood for “Uncle Sam”, and Sam became Grant’s nickname for the rest of his life.
Even as a graduate of West Point, and a veteran who served with distinction in the Mexican War of 1847, Grant’s life may have been one of obscurity if not for the outbreak of war between the North and South. Grant’s Civil War career is one of victory after victory. His campaigns in the West had been intensely aggressive and offensive, leading President Lincoln to flatly state, “I cannot spare this man! He fights!”
U.S. Grant’s Memorial is located at the base of Capital Hill in Washington DC. Grant sits atop his favorite horse, Cincinnati, as he stares across the National Mall towards his President. While in DC, I was told that the Grant Memorial is one of the most overlooked. I found the location to be a great place to write, when I needed some downtime from the city, and I do recall a few people asking, “Who is the man on the horse?” when I was there. Of course, I also heard the question, “What did he do?” while I was at the Lincoln Memorial. History may not be one of America’s top subjects.
Well over 1 million people lined the streets for Grant’s funeral procession in July 1885. Just three days before his death, Grant had finished his “Personal Memoirs”, which were published by friend Mark Twain. They are arguably the best ever written by a General or President, and well worth the read.