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Ohio History Sketches
prepared & published by F. B. Pearson & J. D. Harlor
Columbus - Press of Fred. J. Heer


By George C. Dietrich.

ON the grounds of the State Agricultural Society at Ohio's capital there stands a building which is an object of interest to visitors.  It is a frame building of two small rooms - an upper and a lower story - with a large stone chimney on the outside, all encased in a glass building, that it may be seen but that its walls may not be defaced and despoiled by the souvenir seeker.
     This humble cabin was the first home of a great American.  In this house on the banks of the Ohio River at Point Pleasant, Clermont County, Ulysses Grant was born on the 27th of April 1882.
     His father, Jesse Grant, was an immigrant from Pennsylvania; his grandfather and great grandfather had served as soldiers in the Colonial and Revolutionary Wars, from Connecticut.  From these, Ulysses, or "Lis" as he was familiarly known when a boy, inherited a vigor and hardihood of strength, a martial spirit, and an intense loyalty to American institutions.
     His mother's maiden name was Simpson and later in life he was known as Ulysses Simpson Grant, though he was first named Ulysses Hiram.  That he, the oldest son, was named Ulysses by his mother's sister, who at the time was reading of this Greek hero, indicates that his mother's family also were admirers of martial life.  The parents of the boy, in his early life, were often joked in regard to his name, and by some persons he was given the undeserved name of "Useless Grant."  There was one, his mother, who was certain that the boy's future career would not justify this sobriquet.
     From his mother, young Ulysses inherited steadiness of purpose, patience and equability of temper, as well as that reticence which gave him the title of "The Silent Man."
     The greater part of Grant's boyhood was spent in Georgetown, Brown County, Ohio, and there, to this day, is standing a substantial brick building which was erected by his father, who was one of the prosperous citizens of this staid old town.  His father's business of tanning prospered in Georgetown, because of the abundance of bark furnished by the oak forests in that vicinity.  The boy Ulysses disliked his father's trade, but greatly enjoyed working in the woods, on the farm, or any place where he might be near horses, for these he loved greatly.  When only eight years of age he had charge of a team and his horses were always fat and sleek.
     Young Grant was not a brilliant pupil in school, though in mathematics he had little or no difficulty.  He was glad to make use of the limited advantages offered by the schools in that day, and was regular in attendance.  That his opportunity for securing an education might be improved, he was sent across the river to Maysville, Kentucky, to school for several months.  He did good work in this school, and was an active member of the school's literary society.
     His life was not unlike the lives of other boys in his community, with whom he associated.  His companions were of the crowd that did not use tobacco or liquor, and his best friends were often boys older than himself.  He was considered good company because he was a good listener.  He avoided all prominence, and this made him a general favorite with all who knew him.  His father and mother relied much upon his ability to take care of himself.  When quite young he made long overland trips on matters of business for his father.  So when, at the age of seventeen, an opportunity was offered the boy of entering the military school at West Point, his parents were glade of his chance to equip himself for a military life, and were confident that he would be able to take care of himself.
     He spent the next four years in this school, winning few honors in classes, but laying the foundation for the illustrious career that awaited him.  The routine of the life at West Point was not altogether pleasing to a fresh young Westerner.  The difficult lessons, the continual drill in tactics, the sentry duty, the subjection to higher classmen, and the disagreeable tasks they imposed, no doubt seemed annoying to young Grant, but all these were contributing to his development into one of the world's greatest generals.
     His West Point career ended, having ranked only an average student, he was glad of the change to garrison duty.  In this work, two or three years were now spent near St. Louis, and at this time he met Miss Julia Dent, whom he afterwards married.
     In 1884, the Mexican War presented the first opportunity to him of entering active military service.  For meritorious conduct in the campaigns on the Rio Grande and around Mexico City he was advanced to the rank of first lieutenant and was twice breveted.  His part in these campaigns proved a valuable experience for him, since he served under General Taylor, who was noted for his easy and free regulations, and also under General Scott who was distinguished for his severe discipline.  Later as a great general, Grant seemed to strike a happy medium between these diametrically opposed plans of organization.
     After the close of the Mexican War, Grant was ordered to garrison duty with his regiment on the Pacific coast.  Fresh laurels came to him for successfully engineering the transportation of his regiment across the Isthmus of Panama, when success seemed almost impossible.  He remained in the army until 1854, when his dissatisfaction increasing with the routine of garrison duty and when with the constant separation of himself from his family, he resigned and returned to Missouri.  Here as a civilian he tried for six years to succeed, but as a farmer, as a real estate agent, as a clerk he was hardly able to support his family.  This was the darkest period in the life of Grant, yet his associations with both Northern and Southern people, his being brought face to face with civilian duties, his being forced to battle against poverty, all were contributing to developing those traits that were needed for his future career.
     At the beginning of the great struggle over slavery, his sympathies were all with the North.  Because of aid rendered Governor Yates of Illinois, in which State he now resided, in mustering this State's quota of soldiers, and because of his regular army experience, he was commissioned as Colonel of the Twenty-first regiment of Illinois volunteers.  It is interesting to note that an appointment as Colonel of the Twelfth regiment of Ohio volunteers came a few days too late for acceptance.  In the same year, without his knowledge or solicitation, Grant was appointed a Brigadier General by President Lincoln.  Busy days were now before him.  He came before the eyes of the whole people because of his successful campaign in Missouri, and also because of his capture of Fort Donelson.  He success in these campaigns assisted greatly in restraining some of the border States from joining the Confederacy.  It was at Fort Donelson, in reply to a request for terms of surrender from Gen. Buckner, that he used the following famous words.  "No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted.  I propose to move immediately upon your works."
     His next great battle was that of Shiloh Church.  The Confederate army perpetrated a surprise on the Union army, and for a time conditions seemed very discouraging, but Grant's coolness, perfect control, courage and well-directed plans changed what bade fair to be a sad defeat into one of the greatest victories of the war.
     On July 4th, 1863, Grant brought joy to the Northern people, and dismay to the Southern, for on this day, he received the capitulation of the stragetic point, Vicksburg,, which had been besieged for many months, and the surrender of more than thirty-two thousand soldiers.  His successful campaigns in the West were revealing to the authorities that Grant was the man of destiny, who might bring the war to a close.  Ten days after the great victory which was won under his leadership at Chattanooga, a bill was introduced in Congress establishing the rank of lieutenant general.  This bill passed almost unanimously for it was known that the President was to appoint Grant to this grade.  Prior to this Washington alone had borne the rank, but Grant was now placed in command of any army ten times as large as hand ever been under Washington.  With the finest army the world has ever seen at his services he set about to crush the rebellion by breaking its military power.  He entrusted to his strong friend, and very great Ohio general, W. T. Sherman, the task of destroying the rebel army under J. E. Johnson.  He himself was to threaten, worry, confuse, defeat and destroy Lee's army, or bring it to a condition of surrender.  It is only true to Grant's style of fighting to say, that in the next few months he won only doubtful victories, because of great loss of life, but he was constantly on the offensive, and was gradually weakening and destroying the rebel army.  His principal battles were the "Wilderness," "Spottsylvania," "North Anna," "Cold Harbor," "Petersburg," and "Appomattox."  Lee was forced to surrender and Grant drew up the terms, "the officers and men were paroled, and allowed to return to their homes, *** and the men to retain their horses, and take them home to work their little farms."  No conquering general ever granted such terms, expressing so much magnaminity, generosity and thoughtfulness.
     The war was now practically at an end.  Yet Grant's countrymen would not permit the modest unobstrusive, successful hero to retire from public view.  At the very next Presidential election, he was chosen to the chief magistracy.  Two administrations with many difficult problems to solve, reveled the fact that he was as great in peace as in war.  His friends clamored for a third term, but he gave it no encouragement.
     After a trip around the world, upon which he was given every honor, and was recognized as America's noblest and ablest man, he returned to the land that he had done so much to preserve as a great nation of the world.  He located in New York City, where he entered business.  Here on July 23d, 1885, after a long and painful illness, U. S. Grant passed from earth.  The last few months of his life saw the completion of his memoirs, which will offer interesting reading to every Ohio boy.
Source: Ohio History Sketches - prepared & published by F. B. Pearson & J. D. Harlor - Columbus - Press of Fred. J. Heer - 1903  - Page 249



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