Ulysses S. Grant




Cantacuzene, Julia Grant. My Life Here and There. NY: Scribner's, 1921.

Princess Julia Grant Cantacuzene (1876-1975)

Julia was General Grant's first grandchild, and was just 9 years old when he passed away, though she remembered him well. She later married into Russian nobility. Julia wrote the following in 1921:

My grandfather wasn't exactly gay, and I do not remember his laughing ever, but the talk between us was very interesting. He always took me seriously. I felt promoted and felt inclined to live up my position as his companion. Sometimes he would pinch my ear or my cheek and say softly, 'Julianna Johnson, don't you cry," and it rather teased me. But generally he held my pudgy dimpled hand on the palm of his, and we learned to count the fingers and dimples together; sometimes I made a mistake and sometimes he did so, letting me correct him. And he taught me "cat's cradle" with a string. We walked together hand in hand, silent frequently, but at other moments talking of our surroundings, and he called me habitually "my pet," or "my big pet," which made me very proud. I was not at all afraid of him, for he had a charming, gentle way of acting always, and though his face was generally grave, now and then a sudden gleam lighted up the eyes and made them seem to smile in answer to my chatter.

In New York City when I was small, my grandfather evidently enjoyed us very much. He continued to call me his pet, also sometimes to sing me the old Julianna Johnson song, and he kept me with him and talked to me a great deal. A wonderful experience was when he let me go out to drive in his buggy with he fast trotters, which were his single luxury. I stood between his knees, which steadied me, and held the reins out in front of his hands, and found skimming the road as great a joy as he did.

At Long Branch, New Jersey, I watched my grandfather's friends gather on the piazza and he would sit quietly, his face relaxed, and amused or interested look in his expressive eyes. He talked little, but now and then he would take the cigar from his lips and say a few words, asking a pointed question, always with the simple manner and voice habitual to him.

It was the Grant and Ward failure (1884, when the General was almost bankrupted), which took us definitely to my grandparent's house to live. A new and terrible cloud, however, gathered gradually over our heads. In 1883, my grandfather, in crossing the sidewalk one morning, had slipped and fallen heavily and had done his hip an injury. This trouble caused him afterward to use a cane, and held him to a sedentary life, barring him practically from all exercise. This and his weight of care aged his greatly, and he grew gray of face as well as of hair and beard.

When we move to his house to live, I was for the first time conscious he was an old man in looks. The hair was still thick and it waved, his face was not much wrinkled, but it showed a few marked lines and a certain thinness, with less color than before. The strength of this nose was more apparent than ever; long, aquiline, well shaped and distinguished, its character emphasized by the fine brow with rather shaggy eyebrows.

My grandfather always wore a slight frown in those days, which grandmama would smooth out in passing with her tiny, beautiful hand. He always gave her a smile then, and the cloud of trouble for the moment was raised. I remember his smile as rather out of the ordinary, more in the eyes than in the mouth, for I do not recall ever seeing much change in the the strong, straight line of the lips and jaw. Only the eyes glowed or grew deep with humor and intensity. The impression remains with me of immense reserve power for action, for enjoyment, or for suffering - behind a mask, which, without being agitated, reflected sentiments and responded instantly with sympathetic light to what was going on round him.

He was small, growing old with his lameness and his load of sadness, yet one felt his face and figure to be the center of decision, of intellect and character. He was a master in greatness and in perfect command of himself. He never thought of ordering anyone to do anything, never raised his voice or asserted himself; but one saw the respect, almost awe, he inspired, and devotion given him by all who were near.

I was now 8 and the family began conversing about grandpa's "book." He was to give his own personal record of the Civil War, and he was glad to be busy and useful still. I remember occasional remarks that he had a sore throat, the doctor called in said it was "smoker's throat," and gave him medicine to gargle with. I assisted at the gargling often, and thought the whole thing interesting; only I was sorry my grandfather was not quite well. As he moved about, always quite dressed, while kept his usual gentle smile and kindly word for me, I was not yet anxious.

I was allowed once and awhile to go into his office. Sometimes my grandfather was writing, sometimes he would dictate to the secretary instead. He would always draw me to him when I went in, with his habitual gentle manner, and would say, "Good morning, my pet. It is nice you thought of paying grandpa a little visit;" and he would add in answer to my question, "Grandpa is well today," or "better today," and with a kiss and a quiet stroking of my cheek or hair, he would let me go. I was used to my grandfather's being considered above other men; but because I knew him personally as so quiet and modest, I was always dazzled by any fuss outsiders made round him.

There was soon a change in my grandfather and of the family life around him. A big, soft leather armchair appeared in his bedroom, and he could no longer sleep lifting down, he spent his night sitting upright. He often wore a soft knitted cap when he head ached. Now he walked generally with his hand on my father's arm. I still enjoyed my privileges. He still would stroke my hair or cheek and hold my hand in his awhile. I remember how beautiful his hands were - large, classic, with long, capable fingers and perfect nails, to which nature had left nothing for the manicure to do. The hands looked strong, and so did the wonderful face with its quiet, firm expression of mouth and deep eyes, calm in spite of constant pain.

He grew worse steadily and remained constantly in his room. When I was allowed in, I noticed a great change; his face was pale and drawn and the find hands were very thin. With a slow, quiet movement he would open and close his hands, rubbing the thumb over closed fingers backwards and forwards. When we went to Mt. McGregor (June, 1885), the cottage there was arranged for the invalid's comfort. I trotted along his wheelchair, now and then tucking in the corner of his scarf or lap robe.

Towards the end, I entered my grandfather's sick room. Grandmama was crying quietly, and was seated by his side. She held in her hands a small bottle, perhaps of cologne, and was dampening my grandfather's brow. His hair was longer, and seemed to be more curled. Beads of perspiration stood on the broad forehead. My mother came behind me. "Kiss grandpa," she said but I could not reach up and over to his cheek. I noticed once more how beautiful the hand was. With a lump in my throat, I leaned down and kissed the beautiful hand and was led out of the room.



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