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Ulysses S Grant

December 13, 2016

Today the name “Ulysses” is not common, but admirers of Homer know well that Ulysses was a hero and someone we should learn more about. And, then, there was Ulysses S Grant, Union General and President of the United States.

Grant went to West Point, hated it, and once advocated that it be shut down. There was something about his personality, however, that lent itself to leading men in war and he served honorably in Mexico. He didn’t do well in civilian life, but was rescued by appointment to a regiment of Illinois volunteers when Civil War befell our country.

Years ago I began to read Grant’s Autobiography which is heralded as a work of skill and grace and which earned the sum of $200,000 from its first printing, something his wife needed since Grant died the day after he completed that work.

I have a grandson, also named Ulysses, and last summer he was intrigued by a photo of U.S. Grant that we came upon at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. So I decided I would grab a biography of Grant that I found on my bookshelf, dip in to it, and then take Ulysses to some of the places where President Grant lived and to visit Sheridan Circle where an equestrian statute of Gen. Phil Sheridan commemorates Sheridan’s bravery and skills of command. I had read that Grant stayed at the Willard with his son, and as President would sit behind a screen, smoke a cigar, in the lobby and watch who came and went. We’ll visit the Willard, too.

The biography on my bookshelf is titled  Grant by Jean Edward Smith, published in 2001, and contains picture that I’ll show young Ulysses. I began to read the book expecting I would put it down in an hour.

I can’t put it down.

Professor Jean Edward Smith, born in 1932, served in the U.S. Army, earned a Ph.D. from Columbia University and taught at the University of Toronto for thirty-four years. He now teaches at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.

What can one say about a superb history about a great American General, Civil War hero and President of the United States?  I now look forward to speaking with young Ulysses about his namesake.


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