Who the heck is WL Grant?

Today’s post comes from National Archives Office of Strategy and Communications staff writer Rob Crotty.

This page of the 1860 Census lists WL Grant, better known as Ulysses S Grant

This page of the 1860 Census lists “WL Grant”, better known as “Ulysses S. Grant.”

Today at the National Archives in Washington, DC, thousands of visitors will be asking that very question.  Just who the heck is WL Grant?

As it turns out, WL Grant is someone we’ve all heard of.  He led the Union Army to victory during the Civil War, and later led the country as its 18th President.  Yes, this is Ulysses S. Grant.

No one is quite sure where the “W” or the “L” came from, but like so many census searches, the context clues confirm that “WL” is better known as “U.S.”:  we know Grant’s wife was Julia, that the age fits, and that in between the Mexican-American war and the Civil War Grant worked at his father’s leather shop in Galena, Illinois.

As Fate would have it, this wasn’t the only time Grant experienced a typo in his paperwork.  As a 17-year old arriving at West Point, a young Hiram Grant discovered his name wasn’t listed as a new cadet, but a U.S. Grant was.  Rather than risk refusal, Grant took the name U.S.  The rest is history.

This page of the 1860 census, and plenty of other little-known artifacts relating to the Civil War, are on display at the “Discovering Civil War” exhibit at the National Archives in Washington, DC, which opens today and runs through September 6, 2010.

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