Ulysses S. Grant’s first name wasn’t actually “Ulysses.”

  • Ulysses S. Grant portrait
Ulysses S. Grant portrait
mikroman6/ Moment via Getty Images

Ulysses S. Grant, America’s 18th President, was born Hiram Ulysses Grant on April 27, 1822, in Point Pleasant, Ohio, to Jesse and Hannah Grant. Though Hannah initially wanted to name her son after American diplomat Albert Gallatin, her father suggested the name Hiram and her mother proposed Ulysses. After much discussion, Jesse announced the boy would be named Hiram Ulysses Grant in an effort to please both grandparents. The future President lived the first 17 years of his life with the first name Hiram — until there was a clerical mistake at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Grant was nominated to West Point in 1839 by Ohio Congressman Thomas Hamer, who accidentally wrote Grant’s name in the application as “Ulysses S. Grant.” The confusion stemmed from the fact that Grant often went by Ulysses, rather than Hiram. To further complicate things, the application called for a middle initial, so Hamer added an “S” for Grant’s mother’s surname, Simpson. Grant made several efforts to correct the mistake, but the name stuck. Fellow cadets even referred to Grant as “Uncle Sam” because of his unintentionally patriotic initials. In an 1844 letter to his future wife Julia Dent, Grant wrote, “You know I have an ‘S’ in my name and don’t know what it stand for.”

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