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Ulysses S. Grant
A Humble Man

Kara R. Guzzo
Sonshine Academy Homeschool, Rockford

It was April 9, 1865, and Ulysses S. Grant was walking down the stairs of the Appomattox Court House. Robert E. Lee had just surrendered and the Civil War was finally over. As the Union troops cheered, Grant calmly told them that they need not humiliate the South; for the South and North were now once again one nation. Saying this was very typical of Grant's humble personality.

Hiram Ulysses Grant was born on April 27, 1822, on a farm in Point Pleasant, Ohio, to Jesse and Hannah Grant. Jesse Grant was a tanner and had his own business; Hannah was a calm and loving wife and mother. Ulysses was not named for over a month after his birth. The name Hiram was finally decided upon, but since Mrs. Grant did not like the given name a lot she called her son Ulysses. About a year after he was born, his family moved to Georgetown, Ohio, where the Grant family had five other children.

As a small child Ulysses loved horses, and it seemed as if horses loved and understood him. They were used to him swinging on their tails or crawling under their bellies. Ulysses's gentleness came through even in his relationship with his horses.

Ulysses was an honest and obedient child. For example, one day Ulysses saw a beautiful foal for sale. He immediately asked his father if he could buy it. Grant said the price of $25 was too high, but he gave his son permission to bargain with the owner, Mr. Ralston. Ulysses intended to do this.

He went to Mr. Ralston and said, "My Papa says I may offer you $20 for the foal, but if you won't take that I am to offer you $22.50, and if you won't accept that I'm to offer you $25." Ralston took the $25, and Ulysses was teased for weeks afterwards. His mother, however, had taught him not to talk back to the people that teased him, and he just shrugged it off. As a result of constantly being teased for being so honest, he became very quiet.

A chore of young Ulysses was to help his father in the tannery where his father made cow and deer skins into leather. Ulysses did not like the sight of dead animals; thus many times his father would let him drive people back and forth to different towns. With the money he earned doing that he would hire his friends to do his other chores. The rest of the money he earned he saved to buy a horse. In this way he learned responsibility.

Ulysses started school when he was five. He attended a one-room school with about thirty other students. He enjoyed learning and did quite well, especially in mathematics. At the age of fourteen he went to Maysville Seminary in Kentucky. He went for only one winter term because that is all his parents could afford. But, in that short amount of time he built a reputation for himself as an honest and very likeable person.

Grant achieved remarkable things in adulthood as a successful military commander and popular two-term president. Critics have attacked some of his deeds, but there was a little-known and worthy side of his personality, his humility.[From Lucille Falkof, 18th President; Zachary Kent, Ulysses S. Grant; Laura Ann Rickarby, The Strategy of Victory; and Augustus Stevenson, Young Horseman.]

30 ILLINOIS HISTORY / FEBRUARY 1993


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