Will The Real Sam Please Stand Up?
A famous birthday of a former president falls in this month. It’s Ulysses S. Grant, born on April 27, 1822. I admire the greatness of this historian flaws and all, but I always drop and sigh at the single biggest inaccuracy that inexplicably ties him to me. I’m speaking of course, of our common nickname Sam. For those of you who are still reading this, here are some facts that hopefully will clear things up for you as well.
He was born Hiram Ulysses Grant, son of Jesse R. and Hannah Simpson Grant, was born at Point Pleasant, Clermont County, Ohio. At the age of 17, with the help of his father, Grant was nominated by Congressman Thomas L. Hamer for a position at the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, New York. Hamer mistakenly nominated him as “Ulysses S. Grant of Ohio.” At West Point, he adopted this name with a middle initial only. His nickname became “Sam” among army colleagues at the academy, since the initials “U.S.” stood for “Uncle Sam”. The “S”, according to Grant, did not “stand for anything”, though Hamer had used it to abbreviate his mother’s maiden name of Simpson.
What I admired about Grant was that as president, he forged Reconstruction by enforcing civil rights laws and spent his tenure fighting Ku Klux Klan violence which was rampant throughout the South. He won passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, giving constitutional protection for African American voting rights. He used the Army to build the Republican Party in the South, based on black voters, Northern newcomers (“Carpetbaggers”) and native white supporters (“Scalawags.”) As a result, African Americans were represented in the U.S. Congress for the first time in American history in 1870.
Sadly, as he left the White House in March 1877, the conservative white southerners regained control of every state in the South, ended all movements towards Reconstruction, as the civil rights of African Americans were not secured until almost 100 years later.
So, next time your in a bar with friends, and you want to pepper the conversation with some outside-of-the-box presidential trivia, drop this little known history fact on them. It’s gotta be worth one free beer.