The Curious Case of Mr. Camp and Capt. Grant

by Patrick Neal

Mr. Elisha Camp and Capt. Ulysses Grant knew each other for several years before arriving together at Vancouver Barracks in 1852. Camp came as sutler and Grant as quartermaster. Grant’s letters to his wife Julia talk about his business relationship with Camp.

"I will tell you I went into partnership with Elish Camp and enabled him to buy, on credit, the house and a few goods where he keeps store. The business proved profitable that I got $1500.00 to leave the concern. I was very foolish for taking it because my share of the profits would not have been less than three thousand a year." October 7, 1852

"Mr. Camp becomes very much dissatisfied here and sold out. He was making money faster than he will ever do again. Not withstanding his bad luck having his store blown up he has cleared six thousand dollars, this without two thousand capital to start with." March 31, 1853

The partnership between Elisha Camp and Ulysses Grant creates legal questions that continue to be asked today. Article 31 of the Articles of War states:

No officer . . . shall . . . be interested in the sale of any victuals, liquors, or other necessities of life brought into the garrison, fort, or barracks, for the use of the soldiers, on the penalty of being discharged from the service.

Was Grant’s partnership with Camp a violation of the Articles of War?

Should Grant, the future Civil War general and President of the United States, have been discharged from the service?

What is the proper relationship of a military officer or government official and a civilian contractor today?

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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