Frederick Dent Grant
Below are two articles written by Frederick Dent Grant (1850-1912), the eldest son of Ulysses S. Grant.
"To me, my father is a sacred character..."
From the April, 1969 edition of the Ulysses S. Grant Association Newsletter
In private and in public he was a plain, dignified, undemonstrative man, with a quiet self-controlled manner which never left him, showing consideration in all his actions and words towards others which I have never seen equaled. To me my father was a sacred character. In my recollections of him there is no blur, no shadow. I had the happiness as a child and as a man of being his constant companion in peace and in war. The admiration I had for him as a boy only deepened with increasing years. It must have been the same with all others who saw him and knew him as well as I did.
During the years following his return from California, we lived upon my Grandfather Dent's farm. He raised crops successfully and spent his evenings with his family. I, being the oldest, was permitted to accompany him about the farm, and he began to teach me, at an early age, to ride and to swim. I can see myself now, a chubby little chap, sitting on the back of one of the farm horses and holding on for dear life, my father urging me to be brave. He would not tolerate timidity in his small boy, and a display of it meant an unhappy hour for him,and me also.
To teach me to swim he would go into the water anplacehis hand under my breast or chin, and coax me to strike out, most patiently holding my nose and mouth above the water, and encouraging me in every way. My father was a strict disciplinarian with his children, although most kind and gentle, and always thoughtful of our happiness. While it became necessary on a few occasions to severely punish some of us, his usual method of correction was to show disapproval of our actions of his manner and quiet words. This was more effective with us than scolding or whippings would have been. We all felt consternation and distress when he looked with disapproval upon what we had done.
His children learned was that our father's decision in any matter was absolutely final, and that the fulfillment of any promise he made was as certain as the coming of another day. He was very careful about making a promise, but he never broke one after making it. One of the qualities we most admired in him was his loyalty. He was loyal to his family, to his friends and to his country. If he believed in and trusted a man whose worth was considered proven, nothing said or done by others would change his opinion. In political life the more bitterly his friends were attacked the more stoutly he clung to them. This was at times most unfortunate. If we had anything to say that was unpleasant to others we did not dare to repeat it before our father. Yet, generous as he was, he would not permit himself to be imposed upon, and he never forgot an injury.
Father was an undemonstrative man, although in his family life most affectionate and gentle, and there never was a moment one of us doubted his devotion and thoughtfulness of us. My sister was probably the most petted, and, in his quiet way, he anticipated every childish wish of hers. He was apt to show his affection for us in deeds rather than in words. He was so anxious that his boys be strong and manly, and took the greatest interest in our sports and pleasures. If one of us was ill, he would quietly enter the sick room and ask about the patient with marked solicitude. He would remain near the ill child, rendering every service possible, and seemed to be most patiently watchful. He showed great happiness when the child recovered and rejoined the family circle. He also taught purity, honesty, truthfulness and consideration of others, and in all these things his own example was better than sermons.
My father had a different way of dealing with each of his children. He showed us uniform affection and kindness, but he adapted himself to the individual character of each child. I, being the eldest, was treated by him always as if I were already a man, and was permitted to do many things that would have been considered too dangerous for the other children. For instance, he allowed me to accompany him during much of the war. My brother Ulysses, who was next to me in age, was, though brave, a very gentle and exceedingly sensitive boy. Father never failed to remember this, and was careful not to hurt his feelings in any way. He was considerate of my brother's opinions and his wishes, and showed appreciation of his actions. My sister, as I have indicated, was his darling, and father was exceedingly tender with her. The youngest boy, Jesse, was very jolly and inclined to be something of a wit. My father enjoyed this very much and frequently addressed him facetiously, and the two had many laughs together.
When I was very young my father gave me a series of home lessons, instructing me in the evening. He taught me arithmetic, reading and spelling and in the evenings would read aloud to the family. I distinctly remember that one of the periodicals he used to read was from the works of Charles Dickens. My father read stories aloud to us, and I have yet a vivid recollection of "Little Dorrit" and other tales. Besides the serial stories, he read Oliver Twist and many books by standard authors.
My father had a quiet sense of humor, and was fond of illustrating his opinions with apt stories and anecdotes. He rarely laughed aloud, but his eyes would twinkle over a good bit of wit, and occasionally would utter a gentle laugh, which held the essence of mirth. As honors crowded upon him, they wrought no change in him. As the President of the United States he was the same considerate gentleman.
The dread of seeing physical suffering in others, which in noticed in him during the war, was only equaled by the care and consideration of the feelings of others during his political life. In battle I have seen him turn hurriedly from the sight of blood, and look pale and distressed when others were injured. My admiration for him increased because of the fortitude with which he bore his own mental and physical sufferings. How patiently he endured these sufferings the whole world knows. He never turned his face against the wall and rebelled against his fate. To the last his consideration of others outweighed all thought of self. For my mother's sake, he was determined to finish his Memoirs. With him it was a race against death and he won. With the book finished, there was nothing to do but wait, and he was never so thoroughly the man and solder as during this patient wait until the end.
My father cared nothing for show of any kind, and even public receptions were distasteful to him. He was happiest in the home circle. Besides, he was liable to become embarrassed. People used to think that he a florid complexion, but his complexion really was pale, and his skin was delicate as that of a young girl. I never saw a man with a skin so delicate... but as soon as he appeared in public and was ushered into the society of strangers his embarrassment caused his face to flush. My father was always the same. He was always thoughtful. He was always gentle, he was always extraordinarily considerate of the feelings of others. I have never known a man who had such nice ways about him in that respect as my father.
The following article was originally published in the Missouri Republican in 1912:
I spent much time by my father's side during the great civil war, especially in 1863 when he was with the Army of the Tennessee. I was allowed to accompany him in the memorable campaign against Vicksburg and spent many a night sleeping by his side in his travelling tent. Many of his characteristics I came to grow and understand during this time, and I look back with great and cherished fondness to those days.
My first firm memories of my father were at my mother's farm, White Haven, near St. Louis. My father was an industrious and stirring man and he built himself a log cabin there, cutting the trees and hewing them. He had but little help, though I would accompany him sometimes. I watched him split the logs and it was hard, difficult labor. I never saw a man work so diligently. Remember that he had been educated at West Point and was a veteran of the Mexican war. He was an officer in the Army, which was no small thing for a man on the frontier in those times. Yet he sacrificed his career and built that log cabin, so that he would not be under any obligation to his father-in-law, Mr. Dent. He was always an independent man.
I remember that in those days, my father suffered very much from ague, which is a debilitating form of malaria. He would have his good days and his bad days, when he would lie in bed, shaking with the fever. My mother's care of him at such times was the soul of devotion, as it was throughout their married life. In 1860 the family moved to Galena, Illinois and we were well situated there. Our home was above the city and we had room for visitors and my mother kept two servants. My father bought his children many toys and I had a prized sled, which was the best in town. He liked to make us paper boats, which he would sail in the gutter after a rainstorm. Father's salary at that time was $60 a month and that was more than enough. He always lived simply and never cared for show of any kind. My mother's family also gave her gifts of money, sometimes as much as $100, which helped considerably.
During the war, I joined my father in Cairo, in 1861, and then later on while he was operating below Vicksburg. I looked out for myself and my father allowed me rare latitude, because I was his oldest child. Had it been my younger brothers, he would not have been so lenient. He was protective of my brothers and my sister to a rare degree, but my mother also supported me being with my father. Whenever she could, my mother got as close to father as possible. She would leave the older children at Covington with Grandfather Grant, and come with my youngest brother, Jesse, to see father. Jesse was an open, jolly child with a fast wit and was prone to say what he fancied. He teased and played with my father and they enjoyed one another very much. Jesse and my mother's visits were the great sunshine for my father during the war.
Even in times of war, my father was always quiet and self-possessed when others seemed to be laboring under great excitement. I frequently noticed, however, an intense flashing of his eyes (which were always a clear, deep blue), and a determined expression on his face. My father's eyes were a singular feature. Those of us who knew him could read his thoughts through his eyes. He didn't smile so much with his mouth, but rather with a twinkle in his eyes. He could also show rare anger and displeasure with a swift look. He could also express great tenderness in his glance, or fierce determination.
On the battlefield General Grant would ride with his head erect from one point to another on his line where the heaviest fighting was heard, and though quiet in his movements, he seemed to take in account everything - the very smallest and seemingly unimportant details. He gave close attention to all that occurred about him, directing his officers and troops with prompt decision. During the Vicksburg campaign, he was on horseback during the day, and then late into the night he would be writing his orders which were full of the minutest details. He seemed always to be the last to retire and the first to rise in the morning. I know because I slept in the same room or tent with him many a night.
My father possessed an iron constitution, and he always slept well. The only little vanity I ever detected in him was when he alluded occasionally to his physical strength and that of his family. I have seen him lift heavy objects with no special effort, when three others could not budge it with effort. Knowing of his great physical strength, my father's fortitude and patience during his last long illness impressed me deeply. He would prefer to suffer intense pain than distress those around him. Had he been a weaker man, he could never have lasted as long as he did. To see him waste away was a torturous thing to witness.
My father was always kind and gentle in his words, considering the feelings of the private soldier as he did those of an officer of great rank. A slight reprimand from him seemed to have a marvelous effect. He never scolded either my mother or my sister, who was his darling and pet. I saw him scold Jesse and my second brother, Ulysses, Jr., on very rare occasions and they were mortified. He was close and affectionate in deeds to his family. Personally he was loved by his soldiers of the Army of the Tennessee and my heart throbbed with joy when "The Old Man" (as the men affectionately called him) would pass along the line. My father always flushed easily, and his face was red when he was cheered by his soldiers.
My father was the best horseman in the army, he rode splendidly and always on magnificent and fiery horses when possible to obtain one. He preferred to ride the most unmanageable mount, the largest and the most powerful one. Oftentimes I saw him ride a beast that none had approached. This is another instance of his physical strength. I never heard him use an expression that approached coarseness and I have seen him withdraw from company whose conversation seemed to be verging on vulgarity. Men told coarse stories in his presence sometimes, but father seemed uncomfortable. Upon on occasion a man said to him, "I know an excellent story which would not be proper to tell before ladies. At this point my father said, "Let us then say it would not be told in front of gentlemen."