Authored by Melissa Henderson
The letter written by Father Deshon in regards to Ulysses S. Grant highlights the character of our 18th President and provides anecdotal information on how he viewed West Point and how he interacted with his fellow cadets. It also gives historical reference to life at the United States Military Academy.
The letter itself is from the New York Freeman’s Journal and was written by Father Deshon, one of the founders of the Paulist Fathers, was a fellow cadet at West Point and Grant’s roommate. The letter, written May 1, 1897, outlines how the cadets lived upon arrival and how it changed after they had been at West Point for a considerable amount of time. The letter also recalls General Grant’s nickname while at West Point. He was born Hiram Ulysses Grant and was erroneously enrolled as Ulysses S. Grant. Fearing that he would be rejected from the school due to this error, Grant changed his name and soon became known as U.S. Grant- Uncle Sam Grant- or just Sam by his classmates (Britannica, 2014).
The letter by Father Deshon showcases Ulysses S. Grant’s efforts within the Dialectic Society and his attempts to stay sober and restrained. It also shows President Grant’s flaws as a student at West Point, as well as Father Deshon’s academic short comings. Lastly, Ulysses S. Grant is depicted as being friendly and forthcoming toward his Catholic roommate, Father Deshon, and shows the tolerance that Ulysses S. Grant subscribed to obtain. Even after becoming president, Grant did not forget his old roommate at West Point and greeted him warmly as stated in the letter.
The letter incorporates Ulysses S. Grant’s “scrupulous regard for the truth” and honorable nature (Deshon, 1897). During his presidency, Ulysses S. Grant led the Radical Republicans in their attempt to eradicate the confederate nationalism and slavery, to defeat the Klu Klux Klan, and supported their mission to protect African-American citizenship. Furthermore, President Grant is also known for his approach towards Reconstruction, doing so “calmly, without prejudice, hate or sectional pride” (United States, 1989). Ulysses S. Grant attempted to engage cooperatively with Native American peoples through peace policies which were a far cry from his predecessors. Though his presidency was marred by scandal and could not be considered highly successful, President Grant “symbolized a new American identity born of war, freedom, economic prosperity, and a nationalism and internationalism leavened with democratic ideals” (Waugh, 2013).
Deshon, Fr. George. (1897). General Grant and Father Deshon [.tif filesimage_00180 through image_000182]. Retrieved from Paulist Fathers Archives.
McPherson, J. (2000). Grant, Ulysses S. American National Biography Online. Retrieved from http://www.anb.org.jerome.stjohns.edu:81/articles/05/05-00291.html?a=1&n=ulysses%20s%20grant&ia=-at&ib=-bib&d=10&ss=0&q=1
Ulysses S. Grant. (2014). In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/241766/Ulysses-S-Grant
United States. (1989). Inaugural addresses of the Presidents of the United States from George Washington 1789 to George Bush 1989. Washington, DC: U.S. G.P.O.
Waugh, J. (2013). U. S. Grant: American hero, American myth. The University of North Carolina Press.