We all like to read, or to hear, of the great men of the age, to know how and where they lived, what kind of boys they were, and how they rose to their high place, and won their fame.
U-lys-ses S. Grant was a poor boy. He was born at Point Pleas-ant, O-hi-o, on the 27th day of A-pril, 1822. He was not as bright and smart as some boys are, but was thought to be quite dull and slow at school, and more fond of a horse than he was of a book. If there was a wild rough horse that no one would dare to mount, U-lys-ses would leap on its back and ride off with no thought of fear.
A man whose farm was not far from the Grants, had a horse that he could not train. He had seen. U-lys-ses break in more than one wild colt, and he thought it would be a good plan to get him to try his hand on this one. But U-lys-ses was too proud to do this kind of work for hire. The man knew that; so he came up one day as if in great haste, and said to the ten year old boy, “I wish you would take this note from me to a man in the next town. I have no time to go, as there is work to be done on the farm, but if you will go I will pay you well. My horse is swift, and will take you there and bring you back in no time.”
U-lys-ses said “I will go.” He was in need of cash, and this was a good chance to earn some. So up he got on the horse, took the reins in his hands, and just as he set off the man cried out to him, as if he had just thought of it, when it had been on his mind all the while — “I want you to teach that horse how to pace.”
It was a hard task, and U-lys-ses had a fight with the horse all the way to town and part of the way back. At last the horse gave in and made up his mind to change his gait to please the small boy on his back, who stuck like a bur, and was not to be thrown off, though the horse tried his best to get rid of him.
Of course, the man who owned the horse was much pleased, but it was not long ere U-lys-ses found out that the whole thing was trick to get him to break in the horse, and he did not like it at all. He thought the man should have told him the truth, for a boy who is fond of the truth does not like to have a lie told, or to be made a fool or a tool of in the way. Though he was well paid for what he did, he made up his mind that he would do no more of that kind of work, which was much too low to suit his taste.
U-lys-ses was quite small for his age, but did not like to drive the small team in use on the farm. He was fond of a big horse, and when Dan was bought as a mate to the one on the place, U-lys-ses was in high glee. When eight years old he could hitch up the team and drive off as well as a man, and when twelve years old would haul great logs and load up the cart with no one to help him but Dan.
The boy would fix a chain round a log and get Dan to pull it up near the cart, and with a haul here and a pull there would work it in place, and think it no great thing to do.
The boy, you see, had a wise head, and knew how to plan his work, and how to pull through a tight place, and these traits grew strong day by day and made him the brave calm man he grew to be.
But I must tell you how he came to be known as U-lys-ses S. Grant, when that was not his right name at all. His real name was Hi-ram U-lys-ses, but when the boys at school gave him the nick-name of “Hug”, he thought it was time to change it. So he wrote his name U-lys-ses H. Grant.
A friend who had a chance to send a boy to West Point, thought that U-lys-ses would be glad to go and would be the right boy for the place. He knew that one of the Grant boys had Simp-son as part of his name, and so he wrote to West Point that the boy he sent bore the name of U-lys-ses Simp-son Grant, and when Grant found this out he let it go. It was a good thing, and, I have no doubt, part of a wise plan, for these things do not take place by chance. H. U. Grant, or U. H. Grant, would not have been so strong as U. S. Grant, which seems to bring him near to us and to the land for which he fought.
Most of those who go to West Point have a taste for war, but Grant was more fond of peace, and did not care to go this kind of a school. But it was thought best that he should. The young men there soon gave him the nick-name of “Un-cle Sam,” and this stuck to him all through the rest of his life.