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Definitely Not “Useless”

May 1, 2019

Hiram was a good Bible name.  Hiram was the name of King David’s friend the King of Tyre.  Hiram was the name of the metalsmith who fashioned implements for Solomon’s Temple.  Jesse Grant, in deference to his father-in-law’s suggestion, named his firstborn son Hiram.

Little Hiram’s middle name was Ulysses, not a good Bible name but a strange-sounding Greek name, a name that lent itself to scorn and parody in their frontier community.  Normally, little Hiram would have been able to hide his middle name by using only the initial, but Jesse ensured that would not be possible.  He insisted on calling little Hiram “My Ulysses.”  Little Hiram’s playmates called him “Useless.”

Ulysses came to accept his father’s convention.  Besides, he didn’t want his monogram to be H.U.G.  That would be worse than being called “Useless Grant.”

When Ulysses went to West Point, he started signing his name “Ulysses H. Grant” or “U.H. Grant,” but his monogram became, through a clerical error, U.S.G.  The Congressman who had arranged his appointment mistakenly thought his name was Ulysses Simpson Grant.  Simpson was Ulysses’s mother’s maiden name.  It was also the first name of one of his brothers.

His fellow cadets nicknamed him Uncle Sam Grant.  This soon became shortened to Sam.

During the early part of the Civil War yet another nickname would emerge: Unconditional Surrender Grant.

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