Ulysses S. Grant




Troy Intelligencer, April 17, 1892

Mrs. Orvil Grant


The family all called him 'Ulyss," except, I heard, the mother did not, she called him by his given name. I did too, until I fell into the habit of calling him "Ulyss" like the others. I met him first when he came to Galena before the war with his family. He had come because he couldn't get or keep a job in Missouri, the state where he lived because of his wife's family. He was 13 years older than his brother, they had similar coloring and the blue eyes, but the Captain, as he was then called, was very much different.

He was a bit shorter than Orvil, more muscular, a sturdily built man. They had the same sandy blonde beard, the Captain's hair was blonder and tawny, Orvil's hair was reddish. Orvil wore spectacles in later years, General Grant did not. Ulysses Grant had what was then called "the throwers forearms;" in a leather and saddlery business there is always the strongest one who would throw the frozen hides down the chute for them to be cleaned and distributed. The Captain could take a hide which weighed over 200 pounds and throw it with a fling of his arm, whereas Orvil could not, not could Simpson when he was in the business. Simpson was like Ulysses, though not as active or as strong. Simpson Grant died shortly after the war commenced, he had been ailing in Minnesota and he was a gentleman through and through.

Ulysses Grant was quiet. He smoked a small pipe. He was reflective. He seemed like he was meditating on some project all the time, quiet, a composed man. He didn't laugh so much aloud, but smiled with his eyes. I was chiefly impressed by his wonderful adoration of his wife and what a loving father he was. These traits always impressed me, at least at first. Our Harry was a little younger than their boy Jesse, who had been named after the father of the Grants. Ulysses liked Harry and would carry him about on his shoulders and pet him, he was only a little boy of 2 or 3 then. Harry liked his Uncle.

I grew to know Mrs. Grant whilst they lived in Galena. She was a very small lady, much shorter than the General and had very tiny feet and hands, a very dainty hand. She had a Southern way of looking at things, was superstitious, did things differently than the Grant clan. Her ways were all mischief to the Grants except for Ulysses, who doted on her.

Some would say she had a gay sense of humor, rather I would claim she laughed at things others did not. She thought things amusing when others could not see the point in the wit. As an instances of this, it was common family gossip that she ran the Captain around. She decided for him what he would wear. Even in later years if he wanted to wear a blue coat, she would say he looked better in a black coat and with no word of protest, the black coat would be donned.
One fine morning in Galena he came down when we were going to church. It was a Sunday and he came down the stairs in his stocking feet and a red checked shirt with braces. I can still see him. Julia was aghast. She ran up the stairs, intercepted him, turned him round and took him into their bedroom where she wanted him to change into something appropriate for Sunday. He never did attend that day I don't believe.

The Captain never seemed to mind, he always was the same in his doting ways. They had lived in the South all those years and didn't come back to Clermont County, he had been infected with that Southern way of doing things which was not the way in Ohio or Illinois.

Julia and Ulysses Grant allowed all manner of behavior with their children. The little ones would eat meals seated on their father's lap and he would feed them this and that, any morsel on the table. The littlest one, Jesse, was an impossible child, he had no quantity of manners. He said and did much as he pleased and Mrs. Grant encouraged him in all manner of folly. They thought he was funny when others suffered from his behavior. He and the Captain would spend time rolling around on the floorboards, kicking, wrestling and paying no mind to the dust or trouble they stirred up. It was a spectacle.

When Simpson went to St. Paul because of his illness, the Captain was already back in the service. Julia boastfully told the townsfolk that her Ulyss had become a Brigadier and she had always known his mettle. She was bragging on him long before he amounted to a hill of beans. Father Grant said she bragged on him as early as he knew her, which was years before I laid eyes on her. After he became a Brigadier Julia Grant lit out of town and we never saw her or Ulysses till they come back after the wars end. He was the same, maybe a little more self impressed, but Julia was much worse.

She still ran after him, bragged on him, told me, 'Isn't he even more handsome with his three-star boards?' and like nonsense. She togged herself in expensive clothes, he still was dressed like he rolled out of bed, though Julia always said he was the handsomest soldier, always fussing and hovering over him, which he lapped up like a boy in a confectionery.

To see them together when there were no other pairs of eyes about was a sight. He was much past 40 and she was nearing that, but no two people of that age ever deported themselves quite like that pair. The Grant family was not like this, public displays were frowned on, but Ulysses had been Southernized and did not care what his upbringing taught him after he had taken up with the Dent ways.

I never met Julia's father but I heard he was a cross, lazy man, a surly Democrat and a Rebel. They said he was asleep all day except to wake up to eat and argue. Then he would sleep again, awaking only for the next meal. I knew Jesse Grant, the Grant patriarch, quite well. He was a hard-working man, he brooked no laziness, he grew to know Mr. Dent from Missouri and had no kind words for him or any other Dent. He said they were a lazy, self-satisfied lot, slave owners and worse.

He could not believe Ulysses could treat the Rebel father Dent so kindly when it took no little enticement for his son to come west to Ohio to visit his own clan, or visit his parents in Kentucky which he did but seldom. But Julia ran around Ulysses and he did what she wanted in most any little thing you can mention. Kentucky was not Washington, and such a visit was not convenient.

Ulysses Grant did not see his brother in the later years nor attend his funeral. He might have sent condolences, I do not recall. If he did it was brief and did not enclose money or assistance. Orvil saw him in the White House only on a few occasions. Orvil would try and see him and I think it was Julia who prevented him from coming near. He would come and wait to see him when he returned from abroad and he never did get to see his brother. He even tried in New York and was kept away by Julia.

Julia and I had our last cross words in the summer before General Grant was made President. The Grants did not want to appear as if they coveted the Presidential chair. They languished in Galena for several months behaving as if it was what they had planned.

The General was always a nice man, he was at heart a simple, honest soldier, but he had been infected with Dent ways and around Julia he was not a Grant, but a Dent. They were both still allowing young Jesse to say or do what he pleased. They paid no mind that he was but a small boy and should have been given rules with which to live. They still carried on as young lovers which did not flatter a couple that advanced in years. It was all tiresome by then.

The cross words came about because I asked Julia Grant if she could loan me a bit of money. I have forgotten the reason I was short at that moment. She became indignant, she had a hot temper mind you, and said that Orvil had gotten a great deal of money from father Grant, that Ulysses had gotten none because he had 'earned his way,' and if Orvil had squandered such riches, that was not her fault and she would not make up the difference.

She referred to father Grant dispensing his earnings amongst his surviving children, but General Grant saying he did not need it, refused it. This was only fair, since Grant was given all manner of riches, houses and moneys after the war, and Julia lived in luxury all the rest of her days. For her to spare a bit of this money seemed fine, she thought it imprudent of me to request it.

Then she reminded me that Orvil had also received Simpson's share, since he had passed away in Minnesota. I thought this a cruel jab and was deflated. I even told General Grant about it, who stood there saying nothing and turning all shades of color. Then Julia came down the stairs and hovered near the General and whenever she was nearby, he became a Dent and all was lost. He would never take anyone's side over his wife's even when she was wrong much of the time, if not all of the time. So I never got the loan and it caused me considerable bother. They were rich by then but Julia kept the pocketbook and she kept a stingy hand on it, dispensing only what she needed or trinkets for their children.

As I said the General's wife has a ghastly temper. She would fly off at any little thing, unless it was caused by her husband or her children, then there were no scenes. But woe to any baggage man who scuffed her carrying case or any maid who didn't know where such-and-such was in the house. The General forgave all and either tipped the offended baggage man or got a new maid. Indulgent would not begin to explain this attitude of his, which was a Dent quality he had absorbed. The General had no temper to lose, was fair-minded and got along with everyone, saying but little. He was talkative in his circle and in his family hearth, but one could not drag a word out of him in the company of strangers.



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™.