Ulysses S. Grant




Hamlin Garland Papers, Doheny Library, University of Southern California

J. D. Elderkin

There are not many eyewitness accounts of Grant during the Mexican-American War when he was a Lieutenant, but the drum major of the Fourth Infantry, J.D. Elderkin, did give an account of his friendship with Grant, written in the late 1890's:

My first remembrance of Captain Grant was at Corpus Cristi, in the army of occupation in 1846. He was a quartermaster at that time, but he took an active part in every battle. He was always a very mild-spoken man, he spoke like a lady almost. He was about as nice a man as you ever saw and I liked him first rate. He was, of course, a young man at that time, just out of West Point. He had a very heavy beard all through Mexico and his whiskers were of a reddish-brown color. Later in Detroit, when we returned he would shave off his beard, but he would let it grow a little. He had a very stiff beard and very thick whiskers.

His general character was of a quiet, inoffensive man. He spoke but few words to anybody but he loved to ride on horseback. I remember the march from Camargo to Monterey and that was the first fight we were in. He was always up with the regiment and his services as a quartermaster were splendidly done and he was even complimented from the War Department for his services. He would have everything ready for the regiment each night; cattle to kill and wood for the campfires, for he was always prepared. When the regiment got there at night, they would have nothing to do but pitch their tents. he bought all his supplies from the Mexicans and paid for them too.

He started a bakery early in the war and ran it for the regiment. Sometimes I would go to see him to get bread for the boys, and I saw Grant often. When he was off duty, he was always looking around and seeing what he could see. He was a very observant man and loved to look at the scenes before him. His habits in Mexico were very good as far as I know. I know he did drink a little, but that was pretty good whiskey he had.

He never was a ladies man at all. He liked the women, but he never ran after them. He was a virtuous man, he was diffident and retiring. He did not run after the women as some of the officers did. When he was in Oregon in 1852, his wife was in the eastern states, and he never ran after anyone.

Grant was quartermaster on the march from Vera Cruz to Jalapa and I saw him every day and saluted him as a matter of course. He was very sociable, always talked to every man the same. I saw him every day and when there was a fight, he was, as I've said, always up front in the thick of things. I remember Grant especially well at Pueblo because he had another bake-house there and supplied the troops with fresh bread instead of hardtack. He used to go out almost every day looking around the countryside and seeing what he could rustle up for us. There was some ruins of a temple there and we went out together to examine them. He always wanted to find out what he could about everything.

At Molina Del Rey there were a lot of causalities and Grant was one of the few officers who was always around assisting those that were wounded on the battlefield. He was like a ministering angel, and he had a kind heart. He did it voluntarily at Molina Del Rey and at Monterey.

Even though Grant was very young then, only in his early 20's, he was a thorough disciplinarian. He did his duty as well a any man I ever saw, and he expected, even demanded, that others follow suit. He has this reputation somehow of being slow, or dim, not altogether intelligent. Where this comes from I have no concept, because he was exactly the opposite of this in all respects. I knew him well and I knew that his brain was very active. He was very quick to comprehend, and fast to understand anything. When you spoke to him about anythi under the sun, he would have an answer in a moment and never hesitate at all. He would say yes or no to everything you would sk him, straight away.

He was also very sociable with people he knew. He liked to laugh, listen to stories, and tell a few jokes himself. He was not altogether shy, but a little reserved. He enjoyed playing cards and was an active kibitzer when he wasn't playing. We played five cent brag, Whist and poker and he sometimes won a bit of money in the evening. Grant was also never changed by the good fortune that came over him in later years. He was the same man as President, as when he was a 25 year old quartermaster in Mexico. He was still self-contained, quiet and in control of himself, whether famous or an average officer in a faraway place.

H is memory was a marvelous instrument. There was no one else, I feel, that could tell as good a story as he could about Mexico or remember precisely each detail. He never exaggerated or changed stories, he told the facts of the battle or situation exactly as they occurred, without altering the outcome or spicing up the particulars. I could listen to him by the hour retelling events of which I had been a part. He was still modest as President, still a trifle shy and boyish, always a little on the fringe of a group, never feeling so sure as to intrude into a conversation. In all things, at all times, he was a gentleman and it is in this guise that I will remember him, always.



Copyright Notice

Copyright © 2006 The Ulysses S. Grant Homepage™. All rights reserved.
All text, photographs, graphics, artwork and other materials contained on this sight are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without prior written consent of The Ulysses S. Grant Homepage™.