Were you at the wedding of Capt. Grant and Miss Julia?
No, that was before I came on to St. Louis. I remember, however, that there were some good-natured criticisms about his bearing at the wedding. He wore his regimentals and some people thought it would have been better had he dressed in civilian's clothes. They said he seemed very awkward and embarrassed and his long sword nearly tripped him up on several occasions! Still, he was fresh from the Mexican war at that time , where he had won promotion for gallantry and the feeling toward him was very good. I saw a good deal of them at White Haven. They lived in the fine, free Southern style. They had plenty of meat and drink.
Did you visit them at White Haven, the family homestead?
Yes, they lived liked any young people just starting on a farm. Julia was always very ambitious for him. She believed in him and she wanted to show his capacity to others. He couldn't bring his family in town at that time and so he lived with us (1859). We gave him an unfurnished back room and told him to fit it up as he pleased. It contained very little during the winter he lived here. He had a bed and a bowl and pitcher on a chair and he used to sit at our fire. He used to go home Saturday night to his family. He lived this way all winter. I can see him now as he used to sit humbly by my fireside. He had no exalted opinion of himself at any time, but in those days he seemed almost in despair.
Did he accumulate property on the farm?
I think he may - I know he worked hard and faithfully. He was not hand to manage Negroes. He couldn't force them to do anything. He was just so good and good tempered, and besides, he was not a slavery man. Grant was not suited for civilian life. We thought him a man of ability but in the wrong place. His mind was not on such things as selling real estate. He did clerical work and wrote a good clear hand, but wasn't of much use. He hadn't the push of a business man. His intentions were good, but he hadn't the faculty of keeping affairs I order. Mr. Boggs went east on business, leaving the Captain in charge, and when he returned he found everything upside down. The books were in confusion, the wrong people had been let into houses and the owners were much concerned. He seemed to me to be much depressed. Yes, he was a sad man. I never heard him laugh out loud. He would smile, and he was not a gloomy man, but he was a sad man, you might say.
It was a hard situation for him. He was a northern man married to a southern, slave owning family. Colonel Dent openly despised him. All the family said "poor Julia" when they spoke of Mrs. Grant. So you can see why everybody thought Captain Grant a poor match for Miss Dent. Yes, they were very poor in money and in clothes and furniture. Their hardest time was just before going to Galena. They always had enough to eat, but Mrs. Grant had to dress very plainly. I remember once someone asked her to go downtown shopping and she said, 'I can't do it. I have no shoes fit to wear on the street."
The house they lived in was very small and very economical. I have no doubt Colonel Dent helped them out with produce from the farm. Meanwhile his own family did not believe in his business ability. His mother did - she felt he could go anywhere. I don't know whether his father helped him at this tie or not - I don't think he did. Colonel Dent gave him 60 acres of land and told him to make a living off it if he could. He did this out of regard for his favorite daughter. He had a very poor opinion of his son-in-law. All the family did except Fred and Julia. Emma (Julia's sister) was very bitter. Col. Dent was a hot tempered, swearing old Southerner and the whole family was an easy going crowd. The Grant's were hard working and economical and the two families never fused.
Old Jesse (Grant's father) was outspoken about it. I recall his question while sitting in my house with Nellie on his knee. He said, "Are you related to the Dent tribe?" I remember he used that word, which was a New England expression and it meant a good deal as he spoke it. After Capt. Grant took up the Northern side, Col. Dent swore with a big oath that if his worthless son-in-law ever came on his land he would shoot him as he would a rabbit. ( Note: Dent never shot at Grant, even though he visited 4 or 5 times during the war.) He died in the White House, not before realizing I think, the good that was in his son-in-law.
Julia's mother was always friendly She believed in him and was a very imaginative woman. She was accustomed to having wonderful dreams. She had a dream in the mid-1850's of Ulysses with everybody bowing down to him. She considered it a prophesy of future greatness. Julia had a good deal of her mother's temperament. She believed in her husband and was as dear and devoted to him in low times as she was in high estate. When he began to go up she thought there was no point too high for him to aspire to. Nobody else saw anything in him at that time. Everybody loved him, for he was so gentle and tender, but we didn't know what he could do in the world. He was a gentle, kind man with no special powers to get along. He didn't blame us to think poorly of him - he thought poorly of himself. I don't think he had any ambition further than to educate and care for his family.
His mind was always somewhere else. He said very little unless some war topic came up. If you mentioned Napoleon's battles or the Mexican war or the question of secession, he was glib enough. He would talk politics fluently. He was a very domestic man and extremely homelike in his habits. His wife had very great influence over him. She kept him longer in St.Louis than he otherwise would've stayed. He had the very highest regard for her and was always loyal to her. He was always even tempered like his mother.