Ulysses S. Grant




Visit With Mrs. Grant, 1899
Washington, DC

Julia Dent Grant (1862-1902)

Mrs. Grant looks much younger than her 73 years. She walks with vigor and though her eyesight is said to be weak, one would not know it. She does not wear glasses and says she is in excellent health. She still wears heavy mourning but her voice becomes cheerful and vivacious whenever she discusses the General, as she always refers to him. She is completely absorbed in her memoirs and love for the General.

Mrs. Grant's memory is completely intact and she remembers almost everything about her husband. No married couple ever lived closer to each other than did General and Mrs. Grant. She was, as she tells us, his only real confidant. The two were one in almost everything and their life was a most beautiful one.

"You spent four years in camp with the General?"

"Well, I had to go away for some periods of the war. I was with him as much as circumstances would allow. He used to send for me and I was only too happy to come. Sometimes he had to send me away because he told me my presence might embarrass his movements. But we were together much of the time. I always had Jesse with me and sometimes some of the other children."

"So you know much unwritten history about this time?"

"Oh, a good deal. But the General and I never discussed war matters. I tried to 'meddle,' as he put it, on more than one occasion, but he didn't listen to me about war movements. He wanted me to talk to him about our children, home things, domestic details, and I did as he requested."

"Did he write you many letters?"

"A great many. I have over three hundred of his letters, he wrote me all the time."

"Would any of those be love letters?"

"Oh, a good many of them, mostly written when he was a young soldier fighting the battles of his country. He was a sentimental and deeply affectionate young fellow, my hero. I would not publish those letters, no! They are too precious to me."

"The reports have always said he was a Sphinx, that he could not talk."

"The nonsense of this. I shall tell you the truth of the matter, the General was a very good talker and exceedingly interesting. He was always an enthusiastic talker when he was in a circle he knew. When I first knew him, he was initially shy with family friends who came on calls. I had told some of them of a young soldier that I was interested in and they came coming specially to see him. My Lieutenant would be on the porch, with me proudly as his side, talking and chatting with such absorbing interest. Then the people that I wished to impress would call and Ulysses would be quiet as a mouse. When they left he would start chatting again.

I finally said, 'Ulys! I told these people you were a fascinating and wonderful conversationalist. I think they have gone away disappointed. Why can't you be as interesting to them as you are to me?" My Lieutenant just smiled at me. He said nothing.

"It was also said he couldn't make a speech."

"This is more nonsense. He acquitted himself beautifully in Europe. I never heard him make so many nice speeches. When we landed in Liverpool the decks were covered with 50,000 people, all waiting for Grant. The General was given the freedom of the city. I fairly trembled when the Major was welcoming the General for I knew he had no response. I was anxious that he would do well because this was his first utterance in a foreign land. Well, he delighted me and made me so proud because he gave such a splendid speech, saying all the right things.

"Did you know he was a great man even when he was a boy?"

"Well, I didn't know him in his boyhood, I first laid eyes on him when he was 21 years of age. I would call him a boy now in my advanced years, but I assure you I thought him a man and not a boy when I was a girl.

I would like to think I saw greatness in him even then. I certainly knew he was a very, very fine young man with great promise. He was unlike any other officer I had ever seen and I had seen a great many come and go. He was cut from different cloth than any other young man and I was not the only one who saw this in him, it was thought so by others in my family circle as well."

"It is written that he first addressed you when he was riding away on a visit. He saw you, turned around and introduced himself because he was so enraptured by you."

"My heavens, who wrote of this?"

"It is commonly reported."

"Well, that is essentially correct. It was at the conclusion of one of his stays. My sisters had told me about him, they were angling as to which of them could catch him. He was known far and wide in our area as being the handsomest soldier that anyone had met. Yes, I knew of him before I first saw him."

"Did you agree that he was the handsomest officer in St. Louis?"

"I certainly thought so. I never thought otherwise."

"Did your parents approve of him?"
"A great deal of untruths have always been written about this. I read that my father disliked the Lieutenant, that they argued politics and had disagreements. My Lieutenant never argued in his life with my father. They disagreed on issues but they were sporting about it. My mother adored him. She thought he was marvelous in every way. He was a brave and wholesome young man, unspoiled by barracks life or the Academy."

"It is also written your parents hoped you would forget him when he left for Mexico."

"This is not the facts of it. As I said, my mother loved him. It is true that certain people hoped that my fancy for him would swerve when he was out of sight. Such a thing never entered my head."

"Do you have many pleasant memories of your wedding and honeymoon?"

"Oh yes! Our wedding was a sweet, old-fashioned wedding. It was small but very proper. Our friends from the city came to see our happiness. The parlor was very hot and lit by candles all around. Our honeymoon was delightful in every way. I had never been away from home before, in fact, I had scarcely been on a boat, and we took a trip on a boat which was very beautiful for us both."

"Afterwards you were stationed at some difficult places, were you not?"

"I would not say that, our post in upper New York was wonderful. I look back with especial fondness to our years in Detroit. All my soldier had to offer me was a frame vine-covered cottage near the barracks. Those are some of my dearest memories. We lived there in an unpretentious style, alone, for we had not yet welcomed any additions to our family as of yet. I learned how to keep our books and try to get by on our budget. Money was not important, we scarcely thought of it in those newly wedded times.

"Does it please you that your romance with the General is viewed as such a great one?"

"I didn't know it was the subject of such talk."

"It is often written as one of America's greatest romances."

"That is pleasing for me to be reminded of other's interest in this subject. I was loyal and true to him and he rewarded me with his lifelong devotion. My soldier was always loyal, brave and true to his country as well as to his loving family."

"Did the General ever get downcast and depressed when times were hard?"

"I don't believe he did. He could get a little cross later on when he had political difficulties, or when certain men disappointed him in their positions. We always had enough for us and our little children. We were always happy even when circumstances around us weren't going as planned. I was always cheerful and happy and this rubbed off on him, so to speak."
"Was the General easy to live with?

"He was always the same, whether he was a humble Lieutenant or the President of the United States. He had very simple needs and wants. He never was a great eater, he was not fussy, though he expected people to be prompt in their appointments. He wasn't a scolder or cross, he was a gentle and affectionate father and so deeply generous to me and my faults. Even before our marriage we found it easy to get along with each other and talk to each other, it was a comfortable, pleasing match, always.

"Does it please you to see so many people visiting the General's magnificent tomb?"

"Indeed it does. I am gratified by the outpouring of affection for his memory. When I lived in the city, I visited nearly every day, but that was before the tomb was completed."

"When you think of the General, what things do you think of most often?"

"Oh, I couldn't say. My memories relate to private matters that are too sacred to discuss. The General and I were always together, it was near impossible to relinquish that part of me which was so dear. You forge on for others but cannot help but dwell in the past.

"It was written that you think of the General every instant, that you have never forgotten him."

"Naturally I should never forget him, whoever thinks this is mistaken. My memories are sacred."



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