Revealing Truths about Ulysses S. Grant

By Heun, Dave | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), July 3, 2011 | Go to article overview

Revealing Truths about Ulysses S. Grant


Heun, Dave, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Dave Heun Daily Herald Correspondent

On April 9, 1865, Ulysses S. Grant spent 2 1/2 hours in the Appomattox Courthouse with Robert E. Lee to discuss the terms of surrender of the Confederate Army to end the Civil War.

Terry Lynch of Orland Park spent about half that amount of time on a recent Wednesday night at the Geneva Public Library to reveal the entire life of the famous Union Army leader and 18th president of the United States.

Lynch, who has been doing portrayals of historic figures for the past 10 years, agreed to put together a U.S. Grant presentation as part of the library's commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

"I have done a vast amount of research on Grant and have probably read all of the books in the library about him.So when I was asked, it was like, 'Sure, I can do that,'" Lynch said.

Dressed in a topcoat and civilian hat from the 1860s, U.S. Grant greeted about 40 attendees at the library, saying, "You can call me by my real name if you'd like, and that would be Hiram Ulysses Grant."

It was later explained that Grant's name was changed when he was given a West Point appointment by a congressman who didn't know his full name, and put down his mother's maiden name of Simpson as his middle name on the paperwork.

"I wasn't anything spectacular as a young man, and I would say a bit of a nothing," Grant said. "Kids liked to make fun of me with the nickname 'Useless' Grant over there in Pleasant Point, Ohio."

Grant shared other little-known facts, saying he nearly drowned at age 7, and admitting he couldn't stand the sight of blood, which made him rarely eat meat. He also dispelled the notion he was a heavy drinker.

"Truth is, I couldn't handle my liquor and very rarely had more than two drinks," Grant said. "But I suffered from migraine headaches, and it affected my equilibrium, so it gave the appearance that I was staggering at times."

After struggles as a student and a businessman, Grant served his first stint in the military, though he rarely paid attention to military strategy lessons while at West Point.

"I was more interested in reading the classic novels, and I avoided all of the military protocol of West Point," Grant said. "When I graduated, I was right in the middle of the pack, No. 21 of 39 students."

Grant came from a family passionately opposed to slavery, but he fell in love with and married Julia Boggs Dent, whose family owned a plantation in St. Louis, Mo., and favored slavery. This caused considerable stress between family members, even at the wedding.

"My father refused to set foot in a house that agreed to slavery, so at the wedding Julia's side was magnificently filled, and my side was completely empty," Grant lamented.

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