Thursday, April 27, 2017

Born Today April 27: President Ulysses S. Grant


Our 18th President of these United States of American Ulysses S. Grant, born Hiram Ulysses Grant, was born on this date in Point Pleasant, Ohio.  Despite that his father was a merchant and a tanner, the family had a long history of military service in the New World. The story as to how he wound up with the name "Ulysses" is an interesting one.  The family held a naming ceremony where in names were placed in a hat and drawn out.  Amongst them was the name Ulysses, chosen because of the Greek hero of the same name.  This happened to be the name drawn out, but Grant's father Jesse, who wanted to honor his father-in-law Hiram, gave the infant his grandfather's name, but always referred to him as Ulysses.  A year after his birth, the family moved to Georgetown, Ohio, where all of his younger siblings were born.  His formal education started at the age of five years at a subscription school, and later attended two private schools.  During this period, he demonstrated a great talent with horses.  Almost all aspects of the equestrian arts came easy to him.  He was an expert rider and trainer, what we might call today a "horse whisperer."  He did not want to follow his father into the tannery business, so he was put to work by his father transporting both goods and people by horse-drawn carriages.  Jesse Grant wrote to his congressman in Washington asking him to put his eldest Ulysses forward for attendance at West Point.  Upon hearing this, Ulysses reportedly refused, but his father was able to convince him to attend if he were accepted.  When a cadet position opened up Ulysses was put forward under the mistaken name "Ulysses S. Grant." It would be his adopted name for the rest of his life. He entered the academy in 1839 and trained there for four years; during which he became the record holder for the equestrian high jump (a record that stood for 25 years).  He wasn't exactly suited to a military training situation and came up with creative outlets to relieve the monotony.   Among them was studying Romantic art under Robert Walter Weir, and reading a lot of Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper.  He left behind 9 surviving works of art from this time period.  He graduated in 1841, with a four year compulsory commission in front of him, after which he planned to resign and go into a possible teaching career.  It was around this time that he met his future wife Julia Dent (read more about her here).  He would marry her four years later, though his father refused to attend the wedding because the Dent family owned slaves.  In the meantime, he served in the Mexican American War, but resigned afterward.  The next years were hard on Grant and his young family, winding up on a farm that was little more than sharecropping.  Much to the chagrin of his family and going against his own principles, he acquired a slave during this time.  But when the Grant's left the property, he freed the man, even though Grant was desperate for money and could have sold him for $1500.  Grant bounced around, until he eventually was able to go back to work for his father.  Then the Civil War broke out and he was drawn, at the request of President Abraham Lincoln, slowly back into military service.  He eventually attained the rank of a four star General. Immediately following Union victory in the bloody conflict,  Ulysses and Julia were invited by the Lincoln's to attend a performance at Ford's Theater.  They were forced to decline due to previous travel plans; otherwise, they would have been present when Lincoln was mortally wounded that night by one John Wilkes Booth.  Grant intensely disapproved of incoming president Andrew Johnson; he could plainly see that Johnson bungling the Southern Reconstruction.  It would be Johnson's near impeachment and removal from office that would spur Grant to move into politics at the highest level.  He entered the 1868 presidential race and won, being sworn in on the 4th of March 1869.  As with all historical figures here of major import, to learn more about his history, especially as President, follow the links below.  The reason for Grant's inclusion here is because of one lone film dating from 1911 entitled The Last G.A.R. Parade at Rochester, NY, which was produced by the Independent Moving Pictures Co. of America.  Grant would serve two terms as President, would leave office, only to later seek a third term later on and fail; he spent the rest of his life in various business ventures, and ended up writing memoirs.  Over the summer of 1884 he developed a sore throat that wouldn't go away; a visit to his doctor confirmed that he was suffering from throat cancer--a condition he tried unsuccessfully to keep from his doting wife Julia.  After the announcement to the country of his illness, Congress reinstated his military pension, which he was forced to give up by becoming President.  He succumbed to the disease in New York on the 23rd of July, after suffering through the ordeal for a year. He was 63 years old.  President Grover Cleveland ordered 31 day of mourning, and flags were flown at half-staff at military installations.  His casketed body was then borne on a funeral train for two days traveling to and from West Point, after which he was given a private funeral in New York City.  During this time, it is thought that a quarter of a million people showed up to get a glimpse of the train.  His casket was then marched up to Riverside Park, with tens of thousands of men--many veterans--marching along with it.  He was interred there in what would become a temporary tomb.  Twelve years later, the mausoleum that he is currently entombed in, with his wife, was built.  It is commonly known as Grant's Tomb and remains the largest mausoleum in North America.  In all around 1.5 million people were thought to be on the streets of New York the day of his funeral.  

For More:

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