Babies named for Ulysses S. Grant

U.S. President Ulysses S Grant (1822-1885).
Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant is best remembered as a U.S. President…but he initially gained fame as a military leader during the American Civil War.

His victories for the Union — starting with the Battle of Fort Donelson in February of 1862 — led to a series of promotions that culminated in his being appointed commander of all Union armies in March of 1864. Ulysses S. Grant is the person to whom Confederate commander Robert E. Lee surrendered in April of 1865.

Three years after that, Grant was elected U.S. President. At 46 years old, he was, at that point, the youngest man ever elected president. His two-term presidency lasted from 1869 until 1877.

As you might imagine, Grant acquired many namesakes. Records indicate that thousands of baby boys were named “Ulysses Grant” or (more precisely) “Ulysses S. Grant” during the 1860s and 1870s. Some examples…

Those already in Grant families simply got “Ulysses S.” or some variant thereof (e.g., “Ulysses Sherman“) as given names.

Interestingly, though, Ulysses S. Grant himself was not born with the name “Ulysses S. Grant.”

His parents, Jesse Grant and Hannah Grant (née Simpson), didn’t have a name picked out when their first child arrived in 1822. He remained nameless for weeks. Finally, the couple got together with Hannah’s family to make a selection. Here’s how Jesse described the naming process:

When the question arose after his birth what he should be called, his mother and one of his aunts proposed Albert, for Albert Gallatin; another aunt proposed Theodore; his grandfather proposed Hiram, because he thought that was a handsome name. His grandmother […] was a great student of history, and had an enthusiastic admiration for the ancient commander Ulysses, and she urged that the babe should be named Ulysses. I seconded that, and he was christened Hiram Ulysses; but he was always called by the latter name, which he himself preferred when he got old enough to know about it.

(Other sources say that the names were put into a hat, and that “Ulysses” was drawn, but Jesse altered the name to “Hiram Ulysses” to please Hannah’s father.)

In 1839, Jesse wrote to Rep. Thomas Hamer — a former friend with whom he’d been quarreling — to request that Hamer nominate his teenage son, “H. Ulysses,” to be a cadet at the United States Military Academy. Hamer complied, but mistakenly wrote the boy’s name as “U. S. Grant.” Jesse guessed that Mr. Hamer, “knowing Mrs. Grant’s name was Simpson, and that we had a son named Simpson, somehow got the matter a little mixed in making the nomination.”

Ulysses was unable to get the mistake fixed while he was at West Point. After graduation, he simply adopted “Ulysses S. Grant” as the standard form of his name.

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