Lesson Plan

The Odyssey of Ulysses: Commanding Impressions

General Ulysses S. Grant, in camp, on horseback

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Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
6-8.RH.2, 6-8.RST.2, 4.W.4
State Standards:
7th Grade
(4) History (C)
(21) Social Studies Skills (A) (B)
(22) Social Studies Skills (B)

8th Grade
Social Studies Grade 8
(8) History (A)
(29) Social Studies Skills (A) (B)
(30) Social Studies Skills (B)
Additional Standards:
National Council for the Social Studies
History Standards: Historical Thinking Standards #2 & #3
Thinking Skills:
Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.


During the U.S. Mexican War, Ulysses S. Grant fought under two leading commanders – Generals Winfield Scott and Zachary Taylor. How did Grant’s observations on Scott and Taylor prepare him for future leadership roles as a Civil War General and President? Students will compare, contrast, and reflect on primary documents to infer how these general influenced Ulysses S. Grant.


During the U.S.-Mexican War, 2nd Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant served under two Generals - Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott. While both were esteemed Generals, they were a study in contrasts. Scott, known as “Old Fuss and Feathers,” was prim and proper. He wore a full uniform and demanded officers and privates always adhere to strict military protocol. When he passed, he demanded to be saluted.

The modest General Zachary Taylor preferred a plain uniform and straw hat than a General’s polished uniform. Unlike other generals, he fought alongside his men, earning their trust and respect. He was known as “Old Rough and Ready,” a nickname that reflected his modesty and ability to make quick decisions in battle.

Grant studied the characteristics of the two Generals. As he developed his own leadership style, he took a blend of the best characteristics of Taylor and Scott.


  • Review the activity.
  • Print the Commanding Impressions worksheet
  • Print the images of General Taylor and General Scott.


Use this worksheet for lesson readings and assessments.

Download Commanding Impressions Worksheet

Use for a class discussion on the differences between the portrayal of General Taylor and General Scott.

Download Image of Major General Zachary Taylor

Lesson Hook/Preview

Think about someone that you have taken time to observe. What did you study about the person?

Was it:

  • their bearing
  • the way they interact with people
  • the way they communicate
  • the way they dress

How did this person influence you? 


Step #1

Have students talk to a partner(s) or have a class discussion about their answer(s) to this question(s) in the Lesson Hook.

Step #2

Tell students they will learn about how others influenced Ulysses S. Grant.

After the U.S. Mexican war Ulysses S. Grant was 26 years old. He had “been in battle with the two leading commanders conducting armies in a foreign land.”

Read Grant’s descriptions of General Zachary Taylor and General Winfield Scott.

In Grant's Eyes - General Zachary Taylor

“General Taylor never wore uniform, but dressed himself entirely for comfort. He moved about the field in which he was operating to see through his own eyes the situation. Often he would be without staff officers, and when he was accompanied by them there was no prescribed order in which they followed. He was very much given to sit his horse side-ways with both feet on one side—particularly on the battle field.”

In Grant's Eyes - General Winfield Scott

“General Scott . . . always wore all the uniforms prescribed or allowed by law when he inspected his lines; word would be sent to all divisions and brigade commanders in advance, notifying them of the hour when the commanding general might be expected. This was done so that all the army might be under arms to salute their chief as he passed.

On these occasions he wore his dress uniform, cocked hat, aiguillettes, saber and spurs. His staff proper, besides all officers constructively on his staff—engineers, inspectors, quarter masters, etc., that could be spared—followed, also in uniform and in prescribed order. Orders were prepared with great care and evidently with the view that they should be a history of what followed.”

Now that you have read Grant’s descriptions in one word describe General Taylor and in one word describe General Scott.

Step #3

Hand out the images of General Taylor and General Scott.

Have a class discussion on the differences between the portrayal of General Taylor and General Scott.

Step #4

Grant also took time to study the way both Generals communicated. Read the description of his observations.

General Taylor's Communication Style

“Taylor was not a conversationalist, but on paper he could put his meaning so plainly that there could be no mistaking it. He knew how to express what he wanted to say in the fewest well-chosen words, but would not sacrifice meaning to the construction of high-sounding sentences.”

General Scott's Communication Style

“General Scott was precise in language, cultivated a style peculiarly his own; was proud of his rhetoric; not averse to speaking of himself, often in the third person, and he could bestow praise upon the person he was talking about without the least embarrassment.”

Despite the differences in communication between each General, what lesson do you think that Grant learned from both Generals about communication?

Step #5

Grant’s last observation of both Generals reads as follows:

“But with their opposite characteristics both were great and successful soldiers; both were true, patriotic, and upright in all their dealings. Both were pleasant to serve under—Taylor was pleasant to serve with.”

What words does Grant use to emphasize the differences in both Generals? What do you think that emphasis means?

Step #6

Write a paragraph or draw a picture of someone you have taken time to observe. Think about what drew your attention to this person. What was it about the person that made an impact on you?


bearing—the outward manifestation of personality or attitude

aiguillettes—a shoulder cord worn by designated military aides

quarter master—an army officer who provides clothing and subsistence for a body of troops

rhetoric—a type of mode or speech ex. Insincere, lofty language

averse—having a feeling of distaste

bestow—to give

Assessment Materials

Student Learning

Use the questions at the end of each step to assess student learning. 

Commanding Impressions Answer Key

Download Assessment

Rubric/Answer Key

Student Learning

Download the answer key to assess student learning. 

Supports for Struggling Learners

The following modifications can be made for struggling learners:

  • Provide a vocabulary definition list
  • Create mixed-ability groups
  • Let students work on the entire assessment in groups

Enrichment Activities

Have students use Grant’s written descriptions to create a drawing of one or both Generals.

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Last updated: August 15, 2016