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General U.S. Grant Learning Activity-- Order #4-- Gen. Grant's Love of Horses and Horse Riding


An excerpt from

By William A. Crafts, Life of Ulysses S. Grant: His Boyhood, Campaigns, and Services, Military and Civil (Chapter One Online). 

At  http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:2001.05.0063

       "The ancestors of General Ulysses S. Grant came from Scotland, and probably belonged to the Scottish clan named Grant, whose ancient motto was, “Stand fast, Stand firm, Stand sure.” The clan has never afforded a better illustration of that motto than the distinguished subject of this sketch. They first settled in Connecticut, from which state General Grant's grandfather, who was a soldier through the whole war of the revolution, removed to Westmoreland County, in Pennsylvania, and was a thrifty farmer there. About  the year 1799, however, he emigrated with his family to what was then the North-western Territory, and became one of the pioneer settlers of Ohio, to the rich but wild lands of which the tide of emigration from the older states was then beginning to set. At the time of this removal Jesse R. Grant, the general's father, was a boy, who grew to manhood under the genial influences of that magnificent country, and the inuring difficulties of pioneer life. He added to the occupation of a farmer that of a tanner, and settling at Point Pleasant, in the County of Clermont, married Hannah Simpson, the daughter of another pioneer settler, also from Pennsylvania. He had learned his trade of tanner in Kentucky, but his aversion to slavery led him to settle in Ohio.

        Hiram Ulysses Grant, now known to the world as General Ulysses S. Grant, was the eldest of six children, and was born on the 27th of April, 1822. His parents were quiet and unpretending, but persevering and thrifty, possessed of good sense, and governed by good principles. Grant felt their influence for good through all his early life; and his successful career is due, in no small degree, not only to his inherited temperament, but to his early training, and the influences of his home in the formation of his character. It was a humble home in which labor was necessary, but in which, also, the dignity of labor was justly appreciated and adorned with many virtues. In it Grant acquired habits of industry and fidelity to all his duties, of self-reliance, perseverance, and straightforward honesty. The influence of his mother, who was a woman of genuine strength of character, was very great, and was always well directed in molding the elements of his character for future usefulness.

       The early settlers of Ohio, especially those from New England and New York, carried with them a just appreciation of the advantages of education, and made provision for common schools. At one of these young Grant received such education as was then afforded. He was not a brilliant scholar, but he was faithful and persevering, and by dint of application and encouragement at home he mastered all the lessons required of him more successfully, and to better purpose, than boys of quicker and more showy abilities. He exhibited at school, and in all his youthful life, those qualities of faithfulness, patience, and perseverance, and a persistency in doing what was to be done, which have characterized him in after life, and have given him that success which has made him famous. In lessons he accomplished with credit all that was required of him, especially in mathematics, and at least acquired so much as enabled him, when appointed a cadet at West Point, to pass an examination as successfully as many who had enjoyed superior advantages, or were endowed with more brilliant mental qualities.

       Nor was he idle at home. Like most boys in a similar condition of life, he had many duties to perform about his father's house and tannery; and to these duties, even if they were not always agreeable, he was always faithful. He was not afraid to work, or to lend a helping hand when anything was necessary to be done, and was especially apt at driving team or taking charge of horses. His work done, he applied himself to his lessons, receiving generous encouragement from his parents, and such assistance as they could render. He learned much by experience and observation, and acquired the habit of making practical application of what he learned by study. Thus his education at school and at home laid the foundation for the accomplishment of great deeds in his manhood, when his country imposed upon him the necessity.

       When men have become famous, it is quite usual to find recorded numerous anecdotes of their sayings and doings in boyhood, which are characteristic of the qualities they exhibited in maturer years. If these are not readily found in family traditions or neighborly gossip, they are sometimes invented, or enlarged from some trivial occurrence which the subsequent fame of the subject alone would cause to be remembered. It is not proposed to repeat or to create any such myths concerning the boyhood of Grant. Doubtless many things occurred to him, and he did many things, which might, if duly recorded, add interest to his biography. But such things occur to all boys, and most of them do something characteristic, only there are but few whose after career renders it worth while to remember or enlarge upon such things to point a moral or adorn a biography.

       But Grant's boyhood was not very remarkable, and gave no special promise of future greatness, though a phrenologist once said he would be President of the United States. He was a downright, earnest, honest boy, quiet and unassuming, with indications of reserved power to meet emergencies. He was no boaster, but he exhibited self-reliance, persistency, and courage which could not but win the respect of his associates.  He was generous and good-natured, but his firmness did not allow him to be imposed upon. He was not disposed to quarrel or — to fight on his own account, but it is related of him that he once fought and punished a Canadian boy who insulted the memory of Washington. He was not without ambition, but it was by no means the only motive of his actions, or led him to do more than faithfully and persistently attend to the duty in hand. He was patriotic, and had a laudable desire to serve his country as a soldier rather than as a politician. Though exhibiting no special aptitude for military life, except firmness and fidelity to duty, his modesty and reticence saw no attractions in the political field.

        One of the traits of his character earliest to be developed was his love for horses, and his faculty of managing them. From his infancy he loved a horse, and learned to ride one long before he learned to read. When only seven and a half years old, during his father's absence, he harnessed to a sled a three-year-old colt, which had never been broken except to the saddle, and drove the animal all day, carrying loads of brushwood. He was afraid of no horse, and not only became an expert driver, but an excellent tamer and trainer of horses even before he was twelve years old. He taught them to pace with remarkable facility, and his neighbors, near and far, were very desirous of having his service in this line, though he was not inclined to become a mere horse-trainer. He rode with more than the skill of a circus-rider, for his rides were in the rough and open fields without the advantages of the “ring;” but his feats were for his own amusement and his own satisfaction, and not for the eye of any one  else. He once or twice balked a tricky showman by safely riding a mischievous pony which was trained to throw all venturesome boys who mounted it, but was completely mastered by young Grant.

He not only loved a horse and knew how to tame, ride, and train him, but he early learned to know the points of a good horse, so that he could, even at twelve years old, judge of the quality and value of one. This love for and power over a horse, manifested, as in young Grant's case, in useful and practical ways, show both a genial side to his nature and a power to dare and to command.

His love of a good horse now is well known, and it is one of the homebred affections of his boyhood, which, with homebred habits and virtues, have adhered to him through all his life. He can “talk horse” with any-body, and has often evaded the questions of too inquisitive visitors, or concealed his plans and purposes, by a ready resort to that fruitful topic of conversation."

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Grant the Equestrian from the Grant Home Page

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