Julia Dent Grant

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Julia Dent Grant

Former First Lady #18 , Julia Dent Grant (1826-1902) hated to leave Washington when her husband Ulysses (1822-1885) decided enough was enough after his two terms in the White House.

She wrote, “Dear Washington, how I love you, with your beautiful, broad, generous streets and blue skies! The sun shines always there for me.”

Born into a wealthy Missouri family, Julia had a father who re­main­ed an unreconstructured Southerner for the re­mainder of his life even when staying with his daughter and son-in-law during the White House years.

She met her future husband in 1844, married him four years later and gave him four children, each of whom, unusual for those days, survived well into 20th century adulthood.

Her White House hostessing included up to 29 courses to a meal, Roman punch further easing the stomachs of guests between the pot roast and dessert and at least six glasses of wine.

Up to that point, the Grants were the youngest couple to occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Volumes of fascinating material on Grant and his life and family exist, of which some examples are offered:

He was extraordinarily skilled at breaking horses but was a so so student at West Point.

Introverted by nature, he preferred drinking by himself at the off-limits pub to any social occasions.

He loved the novels of Sir Walter Scott but read very little else.

He once stated that he had been told so often that “a noun is the name of a thing” he believed it.

There was never a day during the Civil War when he didn’t drink nor a day after when he did.

He detested dirty jokes and cussing and the troops under his command were very careful with their language around him.

He was President Lincoln’s fourth Commander-in-chief of the Union forces but the first successful one, scoring victories at Vicksburg, Chattanooga and Petersburg.

He would fight alongside his men in battle with bullets flying around him.

When Grant and General Robert E. Lee (1807-1870) met at Appomattox to broker the terms of surrender, they were both suffering from migraines.

As to music, Grant knew two kinds; “one is Yankee Doodle, the other ain’t. ”

His presidency eased the national debt, and signed into law the Justice Department but otherwise was rocked by endless scandals.
Grant based his cabinet appointments more often on personal friendship than on professional qualifications .

Grant detested military parades.

His father learned to be a tanner from the abolitionist John Brown and moved to Ohio from Kentucky because he detested slavery; needless to say, he and Julia’s father avoided each other at the White House.

Grant’s sons Fred and Ulysses Junior constantly beat their father at wrestling matches.

Due to some bad investments, by 1884 Grant was destitute and dying of throat cancer. Mark Twain offered to publish his Memoirs which the former president completed just two days before he died. The book sold many copies, left his widow and family well provided for, and is considered a classic.


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