Just replace Kenobi’s spirit form at the end of “Return of the Jedi” with Ulysses S. Grant’s love of spirits and you have a strong case that the famed Union general and 18th president was the real world inspiration for the legendary Jedi Master.
Both of these bearded military masterminds have just way too much in common.
1. Both are widely regarded for the first half of their accomplishments, but were immortalized by their final ones.
Quick history lesson for anyone living under a rock since 1977 or never picked up a history book.
Obi-wan Kenobi was a Jedi Knight in the prequel trilogy of “Star Wars.” His level head and skill in battle shot him up the ranks before eventually being recognized as the mentor to Luke Skywalker in the Original Trilogy.
Ulysses S. Grant was the top general of the Union Army during the American Civil War. His level head and skill in battle shot him up the ranks before eventually being elected to be the 18th President of the United States during the Reconstruction era.
2. Both accepted their adoptive names early in life.
Each of them have semi-arbitrary names, Ben Kenobi and Ulysses S. Grant.
According to the canon novel “Kenobi,” Obi-wan was meditating in an attempt to contact Qui-Gon. In his conversation, he remembers that Ben was a name he saw on a map and liked it. His fling would then call him by it and it sort of stuck.
It came in handy when he needed to go into hiding (because I guess Kenobi was a common name).
Grant was actually born Hiram Ulysses Grant. When his father wrote his representative to help get the 16-year-old Grant into West Point, the forms were filled out incorrectly and mistakenly written as “Ulysses S. Grant.”
Because this was the biggest opportunity for him at that point, he adopted the name. He would also go by the name “Sam,” because his initials U.S. were a play on Uncle Sam. Eventually that U.S. became “Unconditional Surrender.”
Even though his mother’s maiden name was Simpson, he joked with his wife, “You know I have an ‘S’ in my name and don’t know what it stands for.”
3. Republic versus the Confederacy.
Civil War breaks out for both men. The Galactic Republic fights the separatists, The Confederacy of Independent Systems. War rages on between them in many star systems.
As in our timeline, the United States of America fought the separatists, the Confederate States of America. War rages on between them in many states.
4. Both were responsible for the first major victory in their wars.
The people of Naboo were losing the invasion by the Trade Federation. Tides were turned when a young padawan, Obi-wan, struck down Darth Maul in an epic light saber battle. He was promoted to Jedi Knight for his actions.
The Union was losing the skirmishes along the Tennessee-Kentucky border, most notably at the Battle of Fort Donelson. Tides were turned when a young Brig. Gen. Grant pushed back Brig. Gen. Floyd in an epic counterattack (and earning him the “Unconditional Surrender” Grant nickname). He was promoted to major general for his actions.
5. Both had beaten major adversaries in other generals — and a comrade.
Kenobi fought many great enemies during the Clone War and after. In “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” he fought General Grevious, commander of the CIS forces. Afterwords, his largest enemy was the commander of the 501st, Darth Vader himself. Twice (if you consider him being struck down and achieving more power than Vader would ever know a victory).
Darth Vader, previously Anakin Skywalker, was once a great ally to Kenobi, fighting at his side other during the Clone War. By the end, they would both become each other’s greatest enemy.
Grant lead the Union Army through many of its more memorable victories. Grant defeated Confederate generals left and right — many of whom hold the name of U.S. military bases today. General Bragg, Gen. Polk, Gen. A.P. Hill, and of course, Gen. Robert E. Lee. He would defeat Lee at Petersburg and then force his surrender at Appomattox.
Robert E. Lee and Grant had first met each other during the Mexican-American War. Both were present at Scott’s March to Mexico City. This was back when Grant was a still a lieutenant and Lee a lieutenant colonel long before they were both Generals-in-Chief of their respective armies.
6. Both saw their people in turmoil after their Civil Wars.
After the Galactic Republic collapsed into the Empire, Obi-wan needed to go into hiding and assumed the name of “Ben.” He witnessed the collapse of the Jedi Order and the chaos that was brought by the Emperor and Darth Vader. More about what happened in those years is rumored to be played out in the upcoming “Obi-wan” stand-alone film.
Grant may have been victorious, but Reconstruction wasn’t an easy step. The short time between the Union victory and Lincoln’s death was mixed with the moderate positions and vetoes of Andrew Johnson and the devastation of white supremacists had on the newly freed slaves. Grant would try his best to push through his Enforcement Acts, which were in place to protect African Americans and combat the Ku Klux Klan.
7. Their successors (mostly) ended the strife.
Obi-wan was slain by Darth Vader, giving his pupil the next step in his hero’s journey. By the end of “Return of the Jedi,” Luke Skywalker would help (spoiler alert: by the way for those aforementioned people under a rock) his father, Darth Vader, renounce the Dark Side and overthrow the Empire, bringing peace until “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.”
Grant tried to reunite the divided country again, make peace with the Native Americans, and help with civil rights. They still weren’t enough. The Luke Skywalker in this comparison? Rutherford B. Hayes, the Republican nominee who took his place. Even still, Hayes only withdrew troops from the South.
*Bonus!* The strong connection with “McGregor.”
As for Ulysses S. Grant, he spent the last weeks of his life at his friend’s cottage atop Mount McGregor while he finished his memoirs.