INTRODUCTORY *** Our newsletter is designed to provide news of the Grant Association, Grant studies, and activities of Grant interest. Contents will include items which turn up in the search for material for the Grant Association edition of the writings of Grant. A running bibliography of recently published Grant items will begin in a subsequent issue. Success is dependent upon finding interested readers and contributors, and we welcome additional names for the mailing list as well as suggestions regarding contents.
LINCOLN SPEAKS OF GRANT *** Robert J. Breckinridge, a Presbyterian minister of Lexington, Kentucky, was a bulwark of the Union in Kentucky during the Civil War. Two of his sons fought for the Confederacy, but though his family was divided, his sentiments were not. The veteran Kentucky emancipationist would allow nothing to obstruct a vigorous prosecution of the war for the Union. Lincoln knew the Breckinridge family through his wife, who had lived in Lexington, and valued the support of Breckinridge, who had done much to prevent the secession of Kentucky. [pg. 2] Breckinridge went to Baltimore in June, 1864, as a member of the Kentucky delegation to the National Union convention, and was appointed temporary chairman. Later he went to Washington with the delegation chosen to inform Lincoln officially of renomination. It was during this visit, not long after the news of the battles at Cold Harbor reached Lincoln, that they discussed Grant.
The Edward D. Mansfield papers, recently acquired by the Ohio Historical Society, include a letter written by Breckinridge on May 11, 1868, ten days before the Republican convention nominated Grant for President, in response to Mansfield’s request for an estimate of Grant. Mansfield, a vigorous Cincinnati Republican who wrote for the Cincinnati Gazette, Railroad Record, and New York Times, also wrote a campaign biography of Grant, but made no use of the letter which follows.
“In the summer of 1864–immediately after the National Convention at which Mr. Lincoln was nominated the second time; I asked him, one day, in a private conversation, what precisely, was his idea of that greatness, on the part of Grant, as a commander–which seemed to have impressed him, so very deeply. After a moment’s hesitation, he said: ‘Nothing could persuade this man, that he was whipped–till he was actually whipped: he could never be made to believe, even under a complete surprise, that fifty men were five hundred: he had as much sense and as complete possessession [sic] of his faculties, when suddenly waked up under attack, as when he plans & leads the attack; in the very crisis of the greatest battle, his senses, his faculties, his knowledge–are as much under his full & instant power of use, as under any other circumstances. And then Mr. Lincoln illustrated, by various great & striking circumstance–these great qualities of Grant–which mustered into professional language–explains so large a part of the grand career he has run–and so large a part of our hopes, for the career still, as I trust, before him.[pg. 3]”Great executive talents, are the rarest of all–and are the most fruitful & the most important of all–in high stations. Good men, in high station–good I mean, even after the standard of nature simply–are not too common. For my own part, and upon both grounds, and using the greatest moderation of speech–it seems to me, that the making of Genl Grant President of the U. S. would be an act full of wisdom; on the part of the American people.”
AWARD TO GENERAL GRANT, 3RD *** On April 27, 1963, the 141st birthday of his grandfather, Major-General Ulysses S. Grant, 3rd was presented an honorary life membership by the Ohio Historical Society at its annual meeting. Director Erwin C. Zepp read the following statement concerning the award.
Major General Ulysses S. Grant, 3rd, first grandson of President Grant, graduated from West Point as his father and grandfather before him, and served over forty years in the army. During this time he was in the Philippines, 1903-1904, in Cuba in 1906, in Mexico in 1914 and 1916, a member of the General Staff Corps during the First World War, with the Supreme War Council and the American Commission to Negotiate Peace at Versailles, and in the Office of Civilian Defense during the Second World War.A graduate of the U.S. Engineering School, he has maintained an active interest in engineering and building projects. In 1926, he became Director of Public Buildings and Parks in the National Capital, and later served as Chairman of the National Park and Planning Commission and with other groups interested in planning and preservation.
In addition to assisting several generations of scholars in their efforts to understand his grandfather, he has had other interests in history and education. From 1946 to 1951 he was Vice President of George Washington University, and has also served as President of the Columbia Historical Society and chairman of the National Civil War Centennial Commission.
CITATION: Major General Ulysses S. Grant, 3rd, as soldier, educator, preserver of the past and planner for the future, inheritor and worthy guardian of a tradition of distinguished service to the American people, the Ohio Historical Society is privileged to present you with an honorary life membership.
[pg. 4] GRANT IN THE WHITE HOUSE *** The list of 1780 titles recently recommended for a White House library by a committee headed by James T. Babb, librarian of Yale, includes many volumes by officers of the Grant Association. Allan Nevins is represented by The Evening Post, The Emergence of Modern America 1865-1878, Grover Cleveland, Letters of Grover Cleveland, Hamilton Fish, Fremont, America Through British Eyes, Ford, The State Universities and Democracy, Study in Power, Diary of George Templeton Strong, and Ordeal of the Union. Bruce Catton is represented by The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War, Mr. Lincoln’s Army, Glory Road, A Stillness at Appomattox, Centennial History of the Civil War, and Grant Moves South. John Hope Franklin’s From Slavery to Freedom and The Militant South appear on the list, as do David C. Mearns’ The Story up to Now: The Library of Congress 1800-1946and his essay on Lincoln in Three Presidents and Their Books. E. B. Long’s edition of Grant’s Memoirs and the late Robert S. Harper’s Lincoln and the Pressround out the list. Grant is also covered by Lloyd Lewis’ Captain Sam Grant and the five volumes of Lincoln Finds a General by K. P. Williams.
GRANT ON GOLF *** In his Personal Recollections of General Ulysses S. Grant, General John C. Smith, Grant’s former neighbor in Galena, told the following story.
“Visiting a gentleman’s estate when in Great Britain, [Grant] was invited out on the links to witness a game of golf. Induced to enter the game and being given a club by the caddy, the General looked earnestly at the ball, then at his club, and having measured the distance carefully made a strike, his club going six inches above the ball. Disappointed at this failure, a more careful estimate was made of length of club and distance to ball and another swing was made, the club striking the ground one [pg. 5] foot before reaching the ball. Without change of countenance, the General made several other efforts to hit the ball, but without success. Returning the club to the caddy, General Grant remarked to the gentleman beside him, “I have always understood the game of golf was good outdoor exercise and especially for the arms. I fail, however, to see what use there is for a ball in the game.”
A NAME FOR GENERAL GRANT *** The following first appeared in The Ohio Historical Society ECHOES for April, 1963.
The birth of a son to Jesse R. Grant and Hannah Simpson Grant on April 27, 1822, at Pt. Pleasant, Ohio, brought about an animated family conference on the subject of his name. The baby’s maternal grandmother and father favored Ulysses, since both had recently read a novel in which the legendary Greek hero appeared. The maternal grandfather argued for the sturdy Biblical name of Hiram. The mother and aunt preferred Albert, in honor of the distinguished statesman, Albert Gallatin, while another aunt clung to the romantic Theodore. Finally, the matter was decided by having each put a name in a hat. Although the name drawn was Ulysses, it was finally decided that the baptismal name would be Hiram Ulysses Grant, to satisfy both grandparents. But Jesse chose to call his son Ulysses, and gradually Hiram was forgotten. The boy’s contemporaries called him Ulyss or Lyss, although some corrupted the name to “Useless.”In 1839, Jesse Grant asked Congressman Thomas L. Hamer to appoint his son Ulysses to West Point. Hamer apparently believed that any boy deserving his recommendation also deserved a middle initial. Either because Hamer remembered that the mother’s maiden name was Simpson, or because he confused Ulysses with his younger brother, Simpson, he appointed Ulysses S. Grant to West Point. Ulysses knew nothing of the change Hamer had made in his name. While preparing a trunk for his journey by pounding brass tacks into the top to form his initials, he realized that his classmates, much given to rough banter anyway, would make disastrous use of “H.U.G.” He decided to reverse his first two names and call himself Ulysses Hiram Grant, and used that name to sign the register at West Point. But officers insisted that no such person had been appointed; only Ulysses S. Grant was entitled to enroll. Ulysses’ protests were fruitless, and in the fall he signed a certificate of enlistment as U. S. Grant. Although the army had given him a name he had to accept officially, for the four years of his cadetship he continued to sign his private correspondence U. H. Grant. After he had received a diploma and a commission as Ulysses S. Grant, however, he abandoned [pg. 6] his chosen name for the army issue. His classmates had used the initials anyway, and called him “Uncle Sam” at first, but later settled on “Sam”.
Grant had made peace with his army name, but his troubles were not yet over. As he rose to fame in the Civil War, people began to wonder about the initials. His demand for unconditional surrender at Fort Donelson gave rise to the nickname, “Unconditional Surrender” Grant. The people of the North would not allow their leading general a mere middle initial. An early biography, published in 1864, provided 316 pages of information about Ulysses Sidney Grant. Those more familiar with his family background made the same mistake Congressman Hamer had made so many years before, and spoke of Ulysses Simpson Grant. In a letter to his special friend and patron, Congressman Elihu B. Washburne of Illinois, Grant gave an indication of his annoyance: “In answer to your letter of a few days ago asking what ‘S’ stands for in my name, I can only state nothing.”
In spite of the fact that Grant never referred to himself or signed his name as Ulysses Simpson Grant, it is still persistently believed that this was his name. Unlike Harry S. Truman, who has no middle name and has defended his right to a simple initial, Grant was too reticent to correct widespread public error. The man who consistently signed himself U. S. Grant patiently bore a name which he did not acknowledge as his own.