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General Order No. 11

It appeared in the Memphis Daily Bulletin the same day as the Emancipation Proclamation.  Everyone knew the Emancipation Proclamation was coming.  Lincoln had revealed it months earlier when he gave an ultimatum to the Confederacy.  The other document was a surprise to the public and to President Lincoln.  General Halleck, speaking for Lincoln, wrote to General Grant from Washington: “A paper purporting to be a Genl Order No. 11 issued by you Dec 17 has been presented here… If such an order has been issued, it will be immediately revoked.”

Why was Lincoln displeased?  Because, as Halleck wrote, General Order No. 11 proscribed “an entire religious class, some of whom are fighting in our ranks.”

Why had Grant issued such an order?  In the words of the order he had written, Grant believed they were guilty “as a class [of] violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders.”  With three words, “as a class,” Grant had condemned the entire Jewish community.

There is no doubt that Grant wrote the order himself.  It could be argued that Grant said more than he meant.  It could be argued that Grant’s action was precipitated by the recent imposition of Grant’s father, whose business partners were Jewish.  However, it cannot be argued that Grant was in the right or somehow not responsible.

Grant revoked the order on January 17, 1863.  He had learned a great lesson and would in the future work hard to deal fairly with all people.  Years later, still embarrassed by his wartime prejudice, Grant became President despite the long memories of many who might have become his political allies.  Some members of the Jewish community were more forgiving and would eventually give him a unique opportunity to demonstrate his high regard for them.











Ulysses and Jesse

General Grant had just been surprised twice: the first time on April 6, 1862 when the Confederates attacked his position; the second time shortly after April 26 when he wrote to his father.  He had not considered that his father would share the letter with the Cincinnati Commercial.  The Battle of Shiloh was a Union victory, but the Union Army had more killed in action, more wounded, and more captured or missing in action than the Confederates.  The Northern press had reacted with severe criticism for the General, and Jesse Grant was only trying to defend his son’s reputation.  The General did not appreciate his father’s efforts.

By September 17 Grant was at the end of his patience.  He wrote to his father: “I have not an enemy in the world who has done me so much injury as you in your efforts in my defense.  I require no defenders and for my sake let me alone.”

This was not the first time he had to deal sternly with his father.  Back in 1861 Jesse had tried to use his son’s influence to get an army contract.  Jesse ran a leather goods business in Galena, Illinois, and he had hoped Ulysses would help him sell some harnesses.  Grant informed his father: “It is necessary both to my efficiency for the public good and my own reputation that I should keep clear of government contracts.”

By the end of 1862 Jesse would try his son’s patience one more time, and Ulysses would rightly send his father away on the next train.  He would also send his father’s business partners packing.  Then General Grant would do one more thing which he would greatly regret.





Unconditional Surrender

Confederate General Simon Bolivar Buckner was very disappointed with the terms offered by the Union General.  When everyone was on the same side back in 1854, Buckner had paid Captain Grant’s hotel bill until money arrived from home.  Now General Grant was returning the favor by asking for unconditional surrender!  The war had raged for ten months, and the Confederates had won some stunning victories.  Buckner would now suffer the humiliation of being the first Confederate General to surrender an entire army to the Union.

He had hoped for better terms, but Grant informed him: “No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted.”  In case Buckner had any second thoughts, Grant added: “I propose to move immediately upon your works.”

Buckner replied: “The distribution of the forces under my command, incident to an unexpected change of commanders, and the overwhelming force under your command, compels me, notwithstanding the brilliant success of the Confederate armies yesterday, to accept the ungenerous and unchivalrous terms which you propose.”

Thus ended the Battle of Fort Donelson.  Grant would not let an old friendship get in the way of the nation’s business, but he did connect with Buckner on a personal level.  As Buckner was about to depart for a Union prison, Grant confidentially said to him: “Buckner, you are, I know, separated from your people, and perhaps you need funds; my purse is at your disposal.”  Buckner thanked Grant for the kind offer, but refused his assistance.

When Grant died twenty-three years later, former Confederate General Simon Bolivar Buckner was one of his pall bearers.

Definitely Not “Useless”

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.

President Who?

He was born in April, but it was almost June before this future President received his first name.

His father’s name was Jesse, but unlike the Bible character whose son would become King of Israel, this Jesse did not even consider naming his son David.

His mother’s name was Hannah, but unlike the Bible character whose son would become a great prophet, this Hannah did not even consider naming her son Samuel.  Others would eventually nickname him Sam, but for a different reason.

Some other names were considered.  Hannah liked the name “Albert.”  She would have given her son this name in order to honor Albert Gallatin who had been Jefferson and Madison’s Treasury Secretary and who was now serving the Monroe Administration as United States Minister to France.  Gallatin was from Hannah’s native Pennsylvania.

Someone suggested “Theodore,” another “Hiram,” and another proposed the name by which he later became famous.  After Jesse, Hannah, and a few close relatives made their suggestions, Hannah’s sister drew a name out of a hat.

Jesse liked the name that was chosen and always called his son by that name, but he overruled the entire procedure.  The name drawn from the hat would be his son’s middle name.  His son’s first name would be “Hiram,” which had been suggested by Hannah’s father.  It was not her father’s name, but Jesse wanted to honor his father-in-law by accepting his proposal.

When we review the list of Presidents, we find no one called “Hiram.”  So, who was this child who later became President of the United States?


The April Born Presidents in Rhyme

Jefferson wrote the Declaration;

Thus began a brand new nation.

He made a Purchase very wise,

Which added to that nation’s size.


Monroe’s Era of Good Feeling

Was a time without mudslinging,

But what should not be forgotten

Is the eponymic Monroe Doctrine.


Buchanan was a diplomat

And Senator, but even that

Was simply not a guarantee

His tenure would end happily.


Grant was unsuccessful, then

His life began changing when

He led the Army into war.

Now he is the stuff of lore.




Lincoln, McClellan, and Grant

Shortly before General Fremont was removed from command in Missouri he got Lincoln to notice Ulysses Grant, but he was not the only person touting Grant’s military career.  Grant’s Congressman, who was from Grant’s adopted hometown, also had Lincoln’s ear.  Apparently, Grant had made a good impression on the people of the 1st Congressional District of Illinois.

Grant did not always make such a good impression.  Although he graduated from West Point in the middle of his class (21st out of 39), he was near the bottom of the entire Academy in conduct (156th out of 223).  He had received so many demerits for poor dress, tardiness, and lack of proper bearing that, despite his exquisite horsemanship, he was denied a cavalry commission in the regular army.

George McClellan was the exact opposite of Grant.  He graduated from West Point near the top of his class (2nd out of 59), and was a model of military decorum.  While serving in California during peacetime, Captain Grant developed a reputation for drinking that haunted him years later.  When Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers, General McClellan refused to meet with Grant, but Grant was persistent and obtained a Colonel’s commission through other channels.

Lincoln had put McClellan in charge of the Army of the Potomac.  When McClellan failed to pursue the enemy after the Battle of Antietam, Lincoln removed him.  McClellan ran against Lincoln in 1864 and lost.

Grant’s accomplishments at Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga eventually earned him the position of Commanding General.  He ran for President in 1868 and 1872 and won both times.