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Carte-de-Visite, Grant and Family


Grant was raised in a family opposed to slavery, and his marriage into a slaveholding family strained his relationship with his father. Post presidency, Grant returned to private life. However, his retirement was marked by financial difficulties and failing health.

Family

Ulysses S. Grant was born Hiram Ulysses Grant on April 27, 1822, in Point Pleasant, Ohio, the first of six children born to Jesse Root Grant and Hannah Simpson Grant. The Grant family traces its American roots to the earliest days of colonization. Grant’s ancestors, Matthew and Priscilla Grant, came to the Massachusetts colony in 1630 aboard the ship Mary and John. They helped to settle the towns of Dorchester, Massachusetts and Windsor, Connecticut.

Jesse Root Grant emerged from poverty to become owner of successful leather goods stores in Illinois, Ohio, and Kentucky. He taught his son Hiram that slavery was wrong and needed to be phased out, and that his Southern relatives "had depended too much on slave labor to be trained in self-reliance." Grant’s choice to marry into the slaveholding Dent family significantly worsened tensions with his father, and none of the Grants attended Ulysses and Julia’s wedding.

Grant, Mrs. U.S. and son (Jesse) and daughter (Nellie) also her father Mr. Dent

Mrs. Grant with father, son & daughter

Library of Congress, Brady-Handy photograph collection, LC-DIG-cwpbh-04778

(Carte-de-Visite, Grant and Family)

Carte-de-Visite, Grant and Family

Ulysses S Grant NHS, ULSG 7925

General Grant's Mother

General Grant's Mother

Ulysses S Grant NHS, ULSG 7765

(General Grant & his family)

General Grant & his family

Library of Congress, LC-DIG-pga-12564

Julia Dent Grant Cabinet Card
Julia Dent Cabinet Card

Ulysses S Grant National Historic Site, ULSG 8291

Julia Dent Grant

Julia Boggs Dent Grant (1826 – 1902) was the fifth child of "Colonel" Frederick Fayette Dent and Ellen Dent. Her father grew up in a wealthy family on a slave plantation in Cumberland, Maryland. He later owned White Haven, the 800-acre plantation with 70 enslaved individuals in Saint Louis County, Missouri where Julia was raised. As a young girl, Julia enjoyed outdoor activities such as horseback riding and playing with the enslaved children at White Haven. She attended the Gravois School and the Mauro Boarding School for seven years with other young daughters of wealthy families in the area. In February 1844 Julia met Ulysses S. Grant, a friend and classmate of her older brother, Frederick. After his first visit to White Haven, Grant returned often to court Julia. He proposed that May with his West Point class ring before deploying in the Mexican-American War, delaying their wedding by four years. Ulysses and Julia had an intense correspondence during this period. Ulysses and Julia Grant were married for 37 years and raised four children: Frederick, Ulysses Jr. (“Buck”), Ellen (“Nellie”), and Jesse. Julia provided her children with daily lessons in addition to their formal schooling.

Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant

Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant

Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-25791

Cabinet card, Julia Dent Grant

Cabinet card, Julia Dent Grant

Ulysses S Grant NHS, ULSG 7902

Mrs. Lieut. Gen. Grant

Mrs. Lieut. Gen. Grant

Library of Congress, Marian S. Carson Collection, LC-DIG-stereo-1s08331

Frederick Dent and Ellen Dent

Frederick Dent and Ellen Dent

Ulysses S Grant NHS, ULSG 7577

Grand reception of the notabilities of the nation, at the White House 1865

Grand reception of the notabilities

Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsc-03937

Ivory sewing case with JDG initials in black

Julia Grant's Sewing Case

Ulysses S. Grant Home, Galena, Illinois, GG70.01.03

Ulysses S. Grant's Cigar Holder

Ulysses S. Grant's Cigar Holder

Ulysses S. Grant Home, GG70.01.04

Silver Coffee Service

Coffee Service

Ulysses S Grant NHS, ULSG 7529a-d

Letter from Ulysses S Grant to Julia Dent Grant

Letter Ulysses S Grant to Julia Dent

Ulysses S Grant NHS, ULSG 919

Document Case

Document Case

Ulysses S Grant NHS, ULSG 7800

Pair of brown leather boots with gold heels

Shoes

Ulysses S Grant NHS, ULSG 7528

Brown Mallet
Mallet from Grant Leather Shop

Ulysses S. Grant Home, Galena, Illinois, GG74.08.01
Galena State Historic Sites - IDNR

Civilian Work

In 1854, Grant resigned his commission in the U.S. Army and returned to Julia and his children at White Haven. He found it difficult to find steady work, and did several short-lived odd jobs. These included roadside firewood salesman, customhouse clerk, engineer for Saint Louis County, and real estate agent. As Grant struggled to find permanent employment, he worked alongside enslaved people at White Haven and at Hardscrabble, his cabin built on the property. Amid growing financial troubles, Grant's father offered him a clerk position at Grant and Perkins, the family leather goods store in Galena, Illinois. Grant, Julia, and their children moved to Galena in May 1860, where they stayed until he reenlisted at the outbreak of the Civil War.

Historic photograph of Grant & Perkins Leather Store

Grant & Perkins Leather Store

Ulysses S. Grant Home, Galena, Illinois, GE75.08.02 Galena State Historic Sites - IDNR

J.R. Grant Leather Shop Invoice

J.R. Grant Leather Shop Invoice

Ulysses S. Grant Home, Galena, Illinois, GE73.01.01 Galena State Historic Sites - IDNR

Gen. U.S. Grant writing his memoirs, Mount McGregor
Gen. U.S. Grant writing his memoirs, Mount McGregor

Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-58230

Retirement

After retiring from public office in 1877, Ulysses and Julia Grant spent time with family in Galena, St. Louis, and other cities before embarking on a world tour. They settled in New York City to be closer to their children after returning from the tour in 1879, despite wanting to live at White Haven. They periodically visited White Haven, with their last visit in 1883. Prior to 1884, Grant traveled frequently, visited family, and pursued business interests such as investment banking and serving as president of the Mexican Southern Railroad.

Ferdinand Ward, a business partner of Grant’s son Ulysses, Jr., swindled Grant out of all his money in 1884. This blow, coupled with a large loan from William Vanderbilt, left Grant in a precarious position. Grant repaid the loan by giving Vanderbilt most of his personal items and White Haven. In addition to this financial disaster, Grant, an avid cigar smoker, was diagnosed with throat cancer that same year.

Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant
Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S Grant National Historic Site, ULSG 7979

Grant had long been encouraged to write his memoirs, but he had declined, saying that others already had written accounts of his military service. Facing his imminent demise and his family’s financial ruin, Grant reversed this decision. In a race against time to complete his memoirs, Grant wrote with a profound sense of urgency and completed the manuscript just three days before his death on July 23, 1885. Grant’s friend, famed author Mark Twain, provided invaluable assistance by arranging for a generous royalty agreement. The memoirs were immediately popular, generating a small fortune for the Grant family after his passing. The nation collectively mourned Ulysses S. Grant as a national hero.
General Grant

Gen. Grant

Ulysses S Grant NHS, ULSG 7680

Mourning Brooch

Mourning Brooch

Ulysses S Grant NHS, ULSG 7530

Letter from Ulysses S Grant to William Elrod

Letter

Ulysses S Grant NHS, ULSG 8807

The Death of General Grant

The Death of General Grant

Ulysses S Grant NHS, ULSG 7610f

The Funeral of U. S. Grant

The Funeral of U. S. Grant

Ulysses S Grant NHS, ULSG 7610b

Last updated: July 12, 2022