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- Hi, welcome to Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site. My name is David Newmann, I'm one of the Park Rangers here with the National Park Service. And today I'll be your tour guide on our trip through President Grant's historic estate, White Haven. White Haven, which stands behind me today, was built between 1812 and 1816, making it one of the oldest known homes in St. Louis County today. But our story as it relates to Ulysses S. Grant, really begins in 1843. When the young Lieutenant graduated from West Point and made his way to St. Louis where he was stationed at the nearby Jefferson barracks. When he arrived in St. Louis, Grant was quickly invited out to the childhood home of his West Point roommate, Frederick Dent. When Grant arrived here on the property he not only met the Dent family for the first time, but he was also introduced to his future wife, Julia Dent Grant. Shortly after meeting here on the estate, Ulysses and Julia began a courtship which would last nearly four months, and conclude with a secret engagement to be married. This engagement, however, would prove to be a long one. As Grant was away fighting in the Mexican American war for nearly four years. In 1848 however, Grant returned to St. Louis and married Julia here in her hometown. For the next several years, Grant spent quite a bit of time traveling with the military, but by 1854 had grown tired of life separated from his loved ones. In that same year, he resigned his commission and moved back to White Haven to live here on the farm full time. For the next five and a half years Ulysses Grant lived in St. Louis with his family, primarily here at White Haven with his in-laws. During this time, Grant worked a number of odd jobs from collecting rent to selling firewood and even working as a farm hand right here on the estate. A job, which by the way, positioned Grant side by side with upwards of 20 enslaved African Americans owned by his father-in-law. Grant's exposure to slavery at White Haven, undoubtedly affected his viewpoints on slavery and civil rights moving forward into his generalship and his work as 18th president of the United States. When the civil war broke out in 1861, Ulysses Grant was living in Northern Illinois, but was quick to volunteer his services to the union army. Within a month, Grant was promoted from Colonel to Brigadier General, and over the next three and a half years, Grant won more than a dozen major battles for the union army. Eventually becoming the top commander in the US military. As such, Grant was a famous man. And with this fame came all kinds of attention that Grant really didn't care for. Ultimately, Grant wanted to come back to Missouri and be a farmer again. He thought he might even raise horses. And in the years following the civil war, Grant not only purchased this estate from his father-in-law, but throughout his presidency, began upgrading the property in many ways that visitors will still see today. For instance, if you take the tour here at White Haven, one room you may notice is a small kitchen off the back of the house. This was designed by Grant in 1868. Additionally, Grant designed a large horse stable for the property, which now houses our park museum. On top of that in 1874, Ulysses and Julia pick out the color that we see on the outside of the house today. It's a color known as Paris Green, which believe it or not, was very popular at the time. Now, the Grants make all of these changes thinking that they're going to come home and retire here. But after eight long years in the White House, their children had all grown up and moved away. Three of his children ended up in New York and New Jersey. And when his daughter moved to England, he and Julia reconsidered their plans to move back to St. Louis and instead moved to New York City where they retire. Despite this, Grant and Julia do continue returning to the estate and actually visit here six documented times as President and First Lady. Our hope for visitors today, is that you get a little sense of what it might've been like to be Ulysses or his family returning to this place they called home, after so many years of being away. We hope you've enjoyed today's tour through President Grant's historic estate, White Haven. And if you'd like to learn more, I highly encourage you to visit us online at nps.gov/ULSG. There you'll find essays and stories and even articles about the people who lived here at White Haven. Again, thank you so much for watching and have a great day.

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Duration:
5 minutes, 40 seconds

Join Ranger David for a short video tour of Ulysses S. Grant's home, White Haven.

 
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Duration:
3 minutes, 39 seconds

In this video, Park Volunteer Rebekah Kell provides an introduction to Ulysses S. Grant's life for young students in grades Kindergarten through 2nd grade.

 
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Duration:
1 hour, 5 minutes, 3 seconds

From 1854 to 1859 the Dents, Grants and an enslaved African-American workforce lived on the property known as White Haven. Follow Ranger Nick and Ranger David on a virtual room-by-room tour of Ulysses S. Grant's St. Louis home, and learn about the people who lived at the White Haven estate.

 
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Duration:
4 minutes, 16 seconds

Ulysses S. Grant was one of the great civil rights presidents in American history. His legacy on behalf of African American citizenship laid the foundation for future generations. Yet in the 1850s, he lived among African American slaves.

 
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Duration:
8 minutes, 52 seconds

During his time as a St. Louis farmer (1854-1859), Ulysses S. Grant undertook the work of building a log cabin for his family. In this video, Park Guide Ashton Farrell provides a history of the "Hardscrabble" log cabin and explains how it ended up at its current location at Grant's Farm. This video was filmed at St. Paul Churchyard, the original site where Grant farmed 80 acres of land and built Hardscrabble.

 
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Duration:
4 minutes, 9 seconds

Despite hardship, family conflicts, and extended separation during two American wars, Ulysses and Julia Grant's love for each other remained constant. Watch this short video to learn about their remarkable true love story.

 

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- ♪ Oh Shenandoah, I long to hear you ♪ ♪ Away you rolling river ♪ ♪ Oh Shenandoah I long to hear you ♪ ♪ Away I'm bound away ♪ ♪ 'Cross the wide Missouri ♪ ♪ Well a white man loved an Indian maiden ♪ ♪ Away you rolling river ♪ ♪ In my canoe with notions laden ♪ ♪ Away, we're bound away ♪ ♪ Across the wide Missouri ♪ ♪ Farewell, goodbye, I shall not grieve you ♪ ♪ Away you rolling river ♪ ♪ Oh Shenandoah, I'll not deceive you ♪ ♪ Away, we're bound away ♪ ♪ Cross the wide Missouri ♪ Hello and welcome to Ulysses S Grant national historic site. We are glad you have chosen to attend our program today. My name is Kristine Sneeringer. I am currently a volunteer in the park, although I was formerly a ranger here. I'm hoping that you will recall the love story of Ulysses S Grant and Julia Dent. Theirs is one of the most famous love stories in American history. As we sing, perhaps you could think about their love. During the 19th century live music was really the only form of musical entertainment available. Julia played the piano and Emma played guitar, Emma being her sister. Music was expressive then as now of daily life. "Shenandoah" which I have just sung for you is a song that is known today as a sea shanty. It originated in the area of the Missouri and the Mississippi river, so really not far from where we are now, and it was taken down river to New Orleans, and then it spread to the world. The song deals not with the Shenandoah river of Virginia, as you might imagine, but with chief Shenandoah and his maiden daughter. A young white man has fallen in love with her and she with him. And it is his intention to take her with him to share his life. They are not hiding this from chief Shenandoah. In fact, they are respectfully telling him what they're going to do. And so that makes the song not only a song about love between two sweethearts but also the father for his daughter, and she for him. The composer of the song is completely unknown, but every version varies. So I think you could say actually there have been many composers, So we're going to move on now. And we're going to do songs that talk about other aspects of love, for example, fun, longing, pain, romance, durability, and beauty. And I hope you'll enjoy the program. This next song is called "Cindy." It originated in the 19th century in Appalachia and it reached great popularity around 1850. It's very gay and happy and upbeat. And it was used for what is called a play party song. It was the sort of a game that young people could enjoy who were not allowed to touch each other, except perhaps fleetingly in a dance. The only musical accompaniment was often foot stamping, toe tapping, finger snapping, and this sort of thing. Although there might've been some musical instruments, but not necessarily so. So, let's hear about "Cindy." ♪ You ought to see my Cindy ♪ ♪ She lives way down south ♪ ♪ She's so sweet the honey bees ♪ ♪ They swarm around her mouth ♪ ♪ The first I seen my Cindy ♪ ♪ Was standing in the door ♪ ♪ Her shoes and stockings in her hand ♪ ♪ Her feet were down the floor ♪ ♪ Get along home Cindy Cindy ♪ ♪ Get along home Cindy Cindy ♪ ♪ Get along home Cindy Cindy ♪ ♪ I'll marry you some day ♪ ♪ I wish I was an apple ♪ ♪ A-hanging on a tree ♪ ♪ And every time that Cindy passed ♪ ♪ She'd take a bite of me ♪ ♪ If I were with a sugar ♪ ♪ Standing in the town ♪ ♪ Then every time my Cindy passed ♪ ♪ I'd shake some sugar down ♪ ♪ If I had thread and needle ♪ ♪ If I knew how to sew ♪ ♪ I'd sew that gal to my coat tail ♪ ♪ And down the road I'd go ♪ ♪ I want my Cindy, Cindy ♪ ♪ Her lips and arms and feet ♪ ♪ I never seen another gal ♪ ♪ That Cindy couldn't beat ♪ ♪ Get along home Cindy Cindy ♪ ♪ Get along home Cindy Cindy ♪ ♪ Get along home Cindy Cindy ♪ ♪ I'll marry you some day ♪ In addition to the fun song "Cindy" that we just heard, we're now going to hear "The Girl I Left Behind Me." It originated in about 1500, but it was printed first in Dublin in 1791. However, it was in America already in 1650. It was played by military bands, the melody being carried by the fife. So you can imagine what kind of gayness the fife engendered. ♪ All the dames of France are fond and free ♪ ♪ And Flemish lips are willing ♪ ♪ Very soft are maids of Italy ♪ ♪ And Spanish eyes are thrilling ♪ ♪ So although I bask beneath their smile ♪ ♪ Their charms fair to bind me ♪ ♪ And my heart fall back to Erin's Isle ♪ ♪ To the girl I left behind me ♪ ♪ The hours sad I left a maid ♪ ♪ A lingering farewell taking ♪ ♪ Whose sighs and tears my steps delayed ♪ ♪ I thought her heart was breaking ♪ ♪ In hurried words her name I blest ♪ ♪ I breathed the vows that bind me ♪ ♪ And to my heart in anguish pressed ♪ ♪ The girl I left behind me ♪ There is often a more serious side of love. And in this particular case, we're going to sing about longing. Julia and Ulysses often were separated and longed for the company of each other, which they often in their life did not have. There are other kinds of longing too. There's the longing of unrequited love. And the song we're going to do now is called "Lorena." It was written by Reverend Henry Henry De Lafayette Webster in about 1857. It happens that he was a Canadian living in Chicago. But it's based on a true story. Ella Blocksom broke off her engagement to the composer and married a lawyer who became chief justice of the Ohio Supreme court. The reason she did this was not because she didn't love him, but because her sister and her guardian who was her brother-in-law, insisted. So apparently Webster pained for her most of the rest of his life. And the song is beautiful, but sort of sad. It was often some in military camps, even in the South, even though it was published in the North, but eventually it was banned because it demoralized the troops so seriously and made them so homesick. And they often deserted as a result. So here we have "Lorena." ♪ The years creep slowly by, Lorena ♪ ♪ The snow is on the grass again ♪ ♪ The sun's low down the sky, Lorena ♪ ♪ The frost gleams where the flow'rs have been ♪ ♪ But my heart beats on as warmly now ♪ ♪ As when the summer days were nigh ♪ ♪ The sun can never dip so low ♪ ♪ Or down affections cloudless sky ♪ ♪ It matters little now, Lorena ♪ ♪ The past is in the eternal past ♪ ♪ Our heads will soon lie low, Lorena ♪ ♪ Life's tide is ebbing out so fast ♪ ♪ There is a future, o, thank God ♪ ♪ Of life this is so small a part ♪ ♪ 'Tis dust to dust beneath the sod ♪ ♪ But there, up there, 'tis heart to heart ♪ Love also envisions an aspect of pain at times. The song "Barbara Allen" tells about that pain, it was first found in about 1622 in England, Scotland and in America as well, probably enjoyed oral transmission being brought to America by the pilgrims. There are many variants and in some variants, Barbara Allen dies knowing that she has caused Jimmy to die of a broken heart. There are over 500 recordings of this particular song. ♪ Oh, in the merry month of May ♪ ♪ When green buds all were swellin' ♪ ♪ Young Jimmy on his death bed lay ♪ ♪ For love of Barbara Allen ♪ ♪ So slowly, slowly she got up ♪ ♪ And slowly she drew nigh him ♪ ♪ "Fear not," she said where there she came ♪ ♪ "Young man, I think you're dying ♪ ♪ If on your death-bed you do lie ♪ ♪ What needs the tale you're tellin' ♪ ♪ I cannot keep you from your death ♪ ♪ Farewell," said Barbara Allen ♪ Not exactly sympathetic, I don't think. All right, the next song that we're going to experience is "Stars of the Summer Night." And it is purely romantic as far as I'm concerned. The text was written in 1842 by Henry Longfellow. And it was written for a play called the "Spanish Student." Notice as I sing that there's a progression going on throughout the poem. For example, it begins with stars of the summer night and they have golden light, moon of the summer night comes next and it has silver light, wind comes next and it doesn't have any particular light except pinions light, pinions are one of a birds feathers, a particular feather, and then dreams of the summer night, and every verse, the first line ends with night and the third line ends with light. ♪ Stars of the summer night ♪ ♪ Far in yon azure deeps ♪ ♪ Hide, hide your golden light ♪ ♪ She sleeps, my lady sleeps ♪ ♪ She sleeps ♪ ♪ She sleeps, my lady sleeps ♪ ♪ Moon of the summer night ♪ ♪ Far down yon western steeps ♪ ♪ Sink, sink in silver light ♪ ♪ She sleeps, my lady sleeps ♪ ♪ She sleeps ♪ ♪ She sleeps, my lady sleeps ♪ ♪ Wind of the summer night ♪ ♪ Where yonder woodbine creeps ♪ ♪ Fold, fold thy pinions light ♪ ♪ She sleeps, my lady sleeps ♪ ♪ She sleeps ♪ ♪ She sleeps, my lady sleeps ♪ ♪ Dreams of the summer night ♪ ♪ Tell her, her lover keeps watch ♪ ♪ While in slumbers light ♪ ♪ She sleeps, my lady sleeps ♪ ♪ She sleeps ♪ ♪ She sleeps, my lady sleeps ♪ Oddly enough, there were an awful lot of songs in the 19th century that dealt with love and death. And normally it was the death of the female partner in the relationship. "All Through the Night," which went into print in 1784 in Wales is such a song. It was popular in America by 1825 when John Quincy Adams happened to be president. And it definitely is a song about the death of the beloved. ♪ Sleep, my love, and peace attend thee ♪ ♪ All through the night ♪ ♪ Guardian angels God will lend thee ♪ ♪ All through the night ♪ ♪ Soft the drowsy hours are creeping ♪ ♪ Hill and dale in slumber sleeping ♪ ♪ Love alone his watch is keeping ♪ ♪ All through the night ♪ ♪ Hark! a solemn bell is ringing ♪ ♪ Clear through the night ♪ ♪ Thou, my love, art heavenward winging ♪ ♪ Home through the night ♪ ♪ Earthly dust from off thee shaken ♪ ♪ Soul immortal thou shalt waken ♪ ♪ With thy last dim journey taken ♪ ♪ Home through the night ♪ Moving on. The next song is about the durability of love. And it was written in 1866 by a Canadian composer who was living in Chicago, and it was written for his beloved Maggie Clark. He was looking forward to growing old with her. And in this song, he looks forward to their old age and how they would feel about each other then. "When You and I Were Young, Maggie." ♪ I wandered today to the hills, Maggie ♪ ♪ To watch the scene below ♪ ♪ The creek and the old rusty mill, Maggie ♪ ♪ Where we set in a long long ago ♪ ♪ The green growth is gone from the hills, Maggie ♪ ♪ Where first the daisies had spring ♪ ♪ The old rusty mill is now still, Maggie ♪ ♪ Since you and I were young ♪ ♪ They say that I'm feeble with age, Maggie ♪ ♪ My steps slow strictly than then ♪ ♪ My face is a well written page, Maggie ♪ ♪ But then time, time along was the pen ♪ ♪ They say we are aged and gray, Maggie ♪ ♪ As spray by the white breakers flung ♪ ♪ To me you're as fair as you were, Maggie ♪ ♪ When you and I were young ♪ The last song that we're going to enjoy today is "Beautiful Dreamer." It was written in about 1864, and I think it is one of the most beautiful love songs ever written. I am reminded of a dream that Julia had. She and Grant had been courting for some time but Grant had orders to move on to his next duty station. At about that same time, Julia acquired a new bed with posters and as was the custom at the time she named the posters. So one of them she named Grant. It happened that she was having a friend to spend the night with her and her friend was told the dream that Julia had the next morning. Julia had dreamed that Ulysses appeared at White Haven on Monday next, wearing civilian clothes. And the friend assured Julia, that this would not happen because Ulysses was already on his way down river. When Monday came, there was Grant dressed in civilian clothes, just as in Julia's dream. So the dream came true. Without further ado, let's listen to "Beautiful Dreamer." ♪ Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me ♪ ♪ Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee ♪ ♪ Sounds of the rude world heard in the day ♪ ♪ Lulled by the moonlight have all passed away ♪ ♪ Beautiful dreamer, queen of my song ♪ ♪ List while I woo thee with soft melody ♪ ♪ Gone are the cares of life's busy throng ♪ ♪ Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me ♪ ♪ Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me ♪ ♪ Beautiful dreamer, out on the sea ♪ ♪ Mermaids are chanting the wild Lorelei ♪ ♪ Over the streamlet vapors are borne ♪ ♪ Waiting to fade at the bright coming morn ♪ ♪ Beautiful dreamer, beam on my heart ♪ ♪ Even as the morn on the streamlet and sea ♪ ♪ Then will all clouds of sorrow depart ♪ ♪ Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me ♪ ♪ Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me ♪ Valentine's day is the day we celebrate loves of many kinds. It may be love for sweetheart or a spouse. It may be love of a child or grandchildren, or it may be love of friends. Our lives though often seem touched by hatred. This is not really so different than it was during the Civil War era. We know for example, that within the Dent family there was a lot of disagreement and misunderstanding between the various family members. And this was only overcome with love. So make a point to love people every day, today and every day, even those who disagree with you. The world will be a better place for it. Thank you for attending our program today. I hope to see you at the park in the near future. Take care.

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Duration:
25 minutes, 44 seconds

Ulysses and Julia Grant's love story is considered to be one of the greatest in American history. Join park volunteer Kristine for a concert of popular love songs from the Grant's lifetime. Songs: Shenandoah (00:00), Cindy (05:10), The Girl I Left Behind Me (07:09), Lorena (09:50), Barbara Allen (12:13), Stars of the Summer Night (14:07), All Through the Night (16:53), When You and I Were Young, Maggie (19:07), Beautiful Dreamer (22:07).

 

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- [Narrator] Man dressed as Ulysses S. Grant in civilian clothes enters, sits at a table, and removes his hat. A multicolored patchwork quilt hangs in the background.

- Hello, I'm Captain Ulysses S. Grant, late of the United States Army, presently of White Haven, Missouri, near St. Louis, and Jefferson Barracks. I am living at White Haven with my wife, Julia, and my two boys. It is her home since birth, and she was reared here. So when I left the Army, I came back here to take up farming, and we are embarking on a life as farmers. But after 15 years, people asked me why I had left the Army. And I should like to think back a bit, and tell you about the events, the last couple of years of my Army career, and explain to you why I left the Army, what happened to me that couple of years. The war was over, the Mexican War in 1848. Julia and I married in St. Louis in August of 1848. And in the next couple of years, we had assignments in Detroit and Sackett's Harbor, New York, back and forth. We had our first child, Fred, was born on May the 30th of 1850. And we were quite happy. But in the late spring of '52, I received orders to go with the Fourth United States Infantry to the Oregon Territory at Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River. I wanted to take Julia, but I couldn't, for a couple of reasons. The first reason, most pressing, was that in June of 1852, Julia was heavily pregnant with our second child. And I was to leave on July the fifth, and we knew that it was only days before she would give birth. And we were going by way of the Isthmus of Panama, and that is a green hell of a jungle with mosquitoes and bandits, malaria, bad weather, rampaging rivers, and it was no place for a mother with a newborn. It's a good thing that Julia did not go with us. Because I caught a fever myself on that crossing of the Isthmus. And we lost about a third of the men, women, and children of our command, the Fourth Infantry, in that crossing. Cholera hit us really hard. So it's good that Julia and the children weren't there. Another reason that she couldn't come was I simply couldn't afford a wife and two children on my lieutenant's salary. I was making $480 a year, and even though the government was giving me an increased allotment of $197, that still wasn't enough money to support a wife and two children. So I had high hopes of raising the money while I was there. En route there, my second son, Buck, was born on July 22nd. I found this out after I had arrived at Fort Vancouver. In early October, I got the news. I arrived at Fort Vancouver on September 20th. And shortly thereafter, I got news that on July 22nd, Julia had brought forth another son. And he was called Buck. He's Ulysses S. Grant, Junior, but he was born at my parents' home in Ohio, and he's the only one of our children that was not born at White Haven. But since he was born in Ohio, he was dubbed "a son of the Buckeye State", hence the nickname Buck, and it stuck. Julia resisted that, but to no avail. He has been Buck since birth, and I expect he'll be Buck 'til death. So I had that son, 17 days after I left New York. So it would have been a nightmare to have Julia with me. We made the crossing. As I said, we lost about a third of our command. That trip in and of itself is another tale to tell another time. But on September the 15th, we finally got to San Francisco. And a town, at that time, as I recall, of some 20,000 inhabitants. It had grown almost overnight, from a small village to a town of 20,000 or more, because of the gold rush. Indeed, we were going to the Oregon Territory to serve, essentially, as a police force for the 49ers out there. And I progressed on to Columbia Barracks on the Columbia River. And on September 20th, I arrived at Columbia Barracks. It was a beautiful place, I liked it very much, the scenery. Had a reunion with a classmate of mine, Rufus Ingalls. Ruf and I had a 'hail fellow, well met' time. Several other men that I had served with in the Mexican War, other officers, were there. So I had pleasant surroundings, and pleasant memories. But I was missing my wife, and now I knew, two sons. And that was driving me to distraction. I tried to keep busy, and indeed I kept busy, being the quartermaster, outfitting expeditions and so forth. I even outfitted an expedition for George McClellan. He came through to do an Army survey for a potential railroad route through that area. And tried to keep busy. But every time I got a letter from Julia. And I got about one letter from her for every four that I wrote. But Julia has a condition in her left eye called strabismus. And her left eye is crossed, almost to the bridge of her nose. And so since we have binocular vision, to read or write is a painful exercise for her. Indeed, I read to her a great deal in the evenings before I left, because she likes for me to read to her, and I enjoy reading to her. But it's a good way for her to be entertained and to get her news. But when I got one of her too-rare letters, she would send me locks of the boys' hair. And she would outline their little hands in pencil on the page, and that was killing me. Because as you would imagine, every time I got a letter, the hands, particularly the boy that I'd never seen, the hands were getting bigger. Now that's where I made, it's not an excuse, but it's a reason. I did some drinking, because I did what too many soldiers, indeed, too many people do to self-anesthetize and kill pain. And when I got a letter, particularly one of those letters with the little hand outlines, I would go down to the Sutler, get a gallon of Pop's Cola for 25 cents and drink the pain away. My housekeeper would tell my fellow officers that "I don't think Captain Grant's gonna make it." I had been breveted Captain for bravery in the Mexican War, so I carried the title. And she would say, "I don't think Captain Grant's "gonna make it." Because they would say that you could hear me sobbing outside my cabin, reading those letters. So I was having a difficult time missing my wife and children. Well, I was hanging on in the Army because I hadn't really contemplated another career, another way to make a living, and now I've got a wife and two children. The Army wasn't paying well, but it was steady money. It was all, indeed, I knew as an adult. I'd been involved with the Army since I was 17. And I was writing Julia letters about possibly resigning. I would tell her that every time I think about resigning I think, all I can see is poverty, poverty staring me in the face. But the desire to get back home and see my babies and my wife was becoming stronger than my desire to grit it out and stay with the Army. But I also wanted to stay in the Army because I was hoping to make Captain. We all feel, we read the newspapers from back east. And we all feel there is a war coming. And I felt that I just might need that rank of Captain in the future, it might come in handy. The difficulty was that in our Army at that time, rank was glacial, so slow in coming, somebody ahead of you had to die, either in combat, or sickness, or old age. So it became a lock-step as somebody ahead of you died. As grim as that is, that was the case. And I knew that I was getting close in my positions of ranking and billets that were available. And I made the best of it at Fort Vancouver. Now, I tried several different ways to make money while I'm waiting for a rank to open up for me. And those efforts are a time for us to get together at a later time, and let me regale you with that tale. Because I tried cutting wood for steamers. I tried growing potatoes and corn to sell to the Army and to the miners. I tried selling chickens; they all died, to the businesses in San Francisco. Tried selling ice, that didn't work. I tried any number of activities. Invested in a boarding house, and the fellow took my and our other officers' monies and absconded and we haven't seen him to this day. So everything I tried to do to bring money in, to bring Julia to me, came to naught. And not because I had made a poor business decision, but because circumstances around each of those decisions caused them to go wrong. So I was really frustrated, and after well over a year at Fort Vancouver, I'm still no closer to getting Julia and my children out there with me. But in August of 1853, August the fifth, it was official that I was promoted to Captain. Captain W.S. Bliss had died and opened a billet for me. So as of August of 1853, I was a Captain. With the notification of that promotion though, I received orders to go to Fort Humboldt, in California, and report to Lieutenant Colonel Robert C. Buchanan. That concerned me, because Captain, or at that time Captain Buchanan at Jefferson Barracks, Lieutenant Colonel Buchanan, now, and I clashed at Jefferson Barracks, and there was some bad feeling between us, and he was now going to be my commanding officer. So I left Fort Vancouver on September 24th and, to go to Fort Humboldt. I took my time getting there. I had some leave, I did some visiting. And I did not arrive at Fort Humboldt until January the fifth. I started a new year at Fort Humboldt, California. And was even more miserable there than I was at Fort Vancouver. In fact, I got there on January the fifth. In a letter that I wrote Julia on February the sixth, I told her I'm so down about the Army and my situation that I've been considering going 'nolens volens', which is a slang term for desert, just leave. But I couldn't do that. I could not bring myself to do that. But as early as a month after I had gotten to Fort Humboldt, I was already thinking about just leaving. Well, I hung on, and tried to make the best of a bad situation. And there are rumors that I was told to either resign or be court-martialled. There's no truth to that. But that's a time, at another time for us to talk, and I'll elaborate a bit on that. But on April the 11th, I got a letter from the Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis. And that was my official notification that I was indeed promoted to rank of Captain, regular Army. Now April the 11th was a signal day for me. It was my 10th anniversary of having been a Lieutenant, First Lieutenant. And I, I'd been struggling to try to make the best of it, as I said. But when I got that letter in my hand saying, and it didn't make any difference, I had had the rank several months, but when I got the official letter, from the Secretary of War, I was moved to make the move. And I sat down and wrote a letter accepting the promotion to Captain. And then I immediately wrote a letter resigning from the United States Army. So I secured the rank, and then resigned. April 11th, well I gave the letter, sent the letter for my resignation to take effect on May 31st next, and, or July 31st, I'm sorry, I resigned to take effect July 31st. And the first week of May, I left the fort, Fort Humboldt, and began my trip back to New York City, and Kentucky, my parents' home, and then to White Haven to see my wife and two sons, one of whom I had not seen. And that journey is another tale that I should like to reflect about, and talk with you at another time. That's my story about how I came to resign from the United States Army after 15 years of service. And what I was thinking as I did it. When I left Fort Humboldt, I told my fellow officers, "If you look me up in 10 years, "come to Missouri, and you'll see that I'm a successful "old Missouri farmer." "That's where I'll be, that's what I'll be in 10 years." And I expect we'll have to see. So until we get together again, my friends, I bid you adieu.

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Duration:
19 minutes

Renowned living historian Dr. Curt Fields portrays Captain Ulysses S. Grant's momentous decision to resign from the U.S. Army in 1854 to start a new life with his family as a farmer at White Haven in St. Louis.

 

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Transcript

- Welcome to Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Sites Annual John Y. Simon Day. I'm Julie Northrip, Program Manager of Interpretation, Education and Volunteers. I'm greeting you today from the park, and behind me is the historic house that we call, White Haven. It's a beautiful day here at the park and we wish we could all be together for this event but we hope that you will enjoy the virtual program that we've put together for you. Many people contributed to this program and we appreciate everyone's contributions. I want to thank especially my staff, Nick and David in particular, for their creation and participation in this program. Now, the John Y. Simon lecture series is held to honor Dr.John Y. Simon, who was the editor of the papers of Ulysses S. Grant, professor of history at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and executive director of the Ulysses S. Grant Association from 1962 until his death in 2008. He edited 31 annotated volumes of Grant's letters and papers. He also edited Julia Dent Grant's memoirs and was the author or editor of over 100 articles on the Civil War, Grant, Lincoln in Illinois history. His scholarship on Grant has been indispensable to the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site. Harriet F. Simon donated her husband's extensive book collection to the park in March, 2010. Adding over 2000 monographs to the park library. At this time, I would like to recognize and thank Harriet Simon for her ongoing support of Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site.

- Hello all, and welcome to the first possibly, hopefully, maybe, probably only virtual John Y. Simon Day. I hope most of you have already become accustomed to these kinds of virtual meetings. Now, ever since John died in 2008, the John Y. Simon Day was established and held right here at the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site from 2009 through 2020, with the exception of the October, 2013 government shut down. And this makes this event the 11th event here at the park. We are indebted to Julia Northrip and her capable staff for putting together this video that I think you will find enlightening, and maybe something to laugh at too, there are a few jokes I think, buried in the proceedings. So, sit back, relax and enjoy your 2020 John Y. Simon Day.

- Hi, welcome to Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site. My name is David Newmann, I'm one of the park Rangers here with the National Park Service, and today I'll be your tour guide on our trip through president Grant's historic estate; White Haven. White Haven which stands behind me today, was built between 1812 and 1816, making it one of the oldest known homes in St. Louis County today. But our story, as it relates to Ulysses S. Grant, really begins in 1843, when the young Lieutenant graduated from West Point and made his way to St. Louis where he was stationed at the nearby Jefferson Barracks.

- When he arrived in St. Louis, Grant was quickly invited out to the childhood home of his West Point roommate, Frederick Dent. When Grant arrived here on the property, he not only met the Dent family for the first time, but he was also introduced to his future wife, Julia Dent Grant.

- Shortly after meeting here on the estate, Ulysses and Julia began a courtship which would last nearly four months and conclude with a secret engagement to be married. This engagement, however, would prove to be a long one as Grant was away fighting in the Mexican-American War for nearly four years. In 1848, however, Grant returned to St. Louis and married Julia here in her hometown. For the next several years Grant spent quite a bit of time traveling with the military but by 1854 had grown tired of life separated from his loved ones and that same year he resigned his commission and moved back to White Haven to live here on the farm full time.

- For the next five and a half years Ulysses Grant lived in St. Louis with his family. Primarily here at White Haven with his in-laws. During this time Grant worked a number of odd jobs, from collecting rent to selling firewood and even working as a Farm Hand right here on the estate. A job which, by the way, positioned Grant side by side with upwards of 20 enslaved African Americans owned by his father-in-law. Grant's exposure to slavery at White Haven undoubtedly affected his viewpoint on slavery and civil rights, moving forward into his generalship and his work as 18th president of the United States.

- When the Civil War broke out in 1861 Ulysses Grant was living in Northern Illinois but was quick to volunteer his services to the Union Army. Within a month, Grant was promoted from Colonel to Brigadier General and over the next three and a half years Grant won more than a dozen major battles for the Union Army, eventually becoming the top commander in the U.S. Military. As such, Grant was a famous man, and with this fame came all kinds of attention that Grant really didn't care for. Ultimately, Grant wanted to come back to Missouri and be a farmer again. He thought he might even raise horses. And in the years following the Civil War Grant not only purchased this estate from his father-in-law but throughout his presidency began upgrading the property in many ways that visitors will still see today. For instance, if you take the tour here at White Haven, one room you may notice is a small kitchen off the back of the house. This was designed by Grant in 1868. Additionally, Grant designed a large horse stable for the property which now houses our park museum. On top of that, in 1874, Ulysses and Julia pick out the color that we see on the outside of the house today. It's a color known as Paris green, which believe it or not, was very popular at the time. Now, the Grants make all of these changes thinking that they're gonna come home and retire here but after eight long years in the White House their children had all grown up and moved away. Three of his children ended up in New York and New Jersey, and when his daughter moved to England he and Julia reconsidered their plans to move back to St. Louis and instead moved to New York city where they retire. Despite this, Grant and Julia do continue returning to the estate and actually visit here six documented times as president and first lady. Our hope for visitors today is that you get a little sense of what it might've been like to be Ulysses or his family returning to this place they call home after so many years of being away. We hope you've enjoyed today's tour through President Grant's historic estate, White Haven, and if you'd like to learn more I highly encourage you to visit us online at nps.gov/ulsg. There you'll find essays and stories, and even articles about the people who lived here at White Haven. Again, thank you so much for watching and have a great day. Text reads, "11th Annual John Y. Simon Day, "Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site." Text reads, "How did you know John Y. Simon?"

- In my case, I was very fortunate I was a member of the History Department and we used to have what we call the presidential forum, and we would invite very famous historians, et cetera, to come in, and the one year I was in charge of it and we did something on the Western Theater the Civil War and so one of the people we invited in fact was John Y. Simon. In fact I've got it written down here. He gave a talk about the Union Military Effort in the West Grant Emerges and you can just imagine that set the tone. He was the first speaker and it was just wonderful.

- I think the first time I actually met him was in 1997. Of course, I had heard of him earlier when I started at the Grant Site in the summer of 1995 but by '97 I had accepted the position as historian and was supposed to work on the Historic Source Study Phase II. So, I wanted to go out and actually meet him when he was there in Carbondale. And so, set up a meeting to go see him, and I had heard all kinds of stories about him so it was a real pleasure to actually get to meet him in person. He kind of a funny story, when I first met him, when I went out there, one of his first questions for me was was I one of those Grant groupies? And I said, "Well, what do you mean Grant groupie?" He said, "Well, it seems like all these other women who study Grant are just in love with him." And he said, "I just don't understand it." And so I assured him that I was doing all I could to learn everything about Grant and I certainly admired him but no I wasn't in love with him and so he seemed satisfied from that point on.

- I did first meet John Y. through the former president of the Grant Association, Ralph G. Newmann, and we became fast friends because of that engagement.

- I'm Tamara Smith, I knew Dr.Simon from 1977 to '82, as one of his graduate student researchers working on the papers. Papers of the Ulysses S. Grant volume six to 12. And knew him ever after as a one of my best friends.

- Well, I've been on the Board of Directors of the Ulysses S. Grant Association since the 70s and as you know we now also have the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library. And so, that's where I met John Y. back in the day. I mean, that is the day, back in the '70s. Back then as it is now with John , the name Grant comes up, anybody has a question, they're gonna send it to the executive director, and that happened to be John for what? So many years, 30, 40. And so, I was one of those that made a phone call, I was researching to Ulysses S. Grant, I wanted to do a book of photographs on Grant way back then and so I contacted John at Southern Illinois University. And I just couldn't believe how acceptive he was to this a call foundation. And so I told them , and he was so excited, and from that point on we became best friends..

- I can remember when I met John. John and I knew each other through correspondence for seven or eight years before we actually laid eyes on each other. Various jobs I had in the early '70s meant that I was searching through manuscript collections no one had never heard of, or hadn't looked at in a while. And every time I found a Grant document that I thought might have escaped his attention, or a Madison document, or The Adams Sent Notes to all of the editors. And so John thanked me and we got know of each other a little. I went to work, The Adams Papers couldn't help him there. Then when I started the Burr Papers, it was a new project, so again, we were searching libraries nobody had looked at for years, and by then John and I had become friends and before we even met, he suggested the design for the Aaron Burr Papers' Christmas card, which featured a drawing by me of with Aaron Burr Duel with Santa Claus. Finally in 1978, at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians in New York city, I gave a cocktail party for any editor who had come to the convention and I finally got to meet John and Harriet Simon, that was it.

- Well, I met him, I'm sure at a ADE meeting but I'm not sure which one it was. But John was very interested in the war department papers, a project that I had started, trying to recover documents that seem to have been lost, in copies of which had been lost in the war department fire in 1801. And so, we were looking for 10 years of documents or 12 years of documents and I thought we'd find 10,000 copies maybe on a really... The day I started working, I'd say 12,000, I'd do remember saying we might find 15,000 one time. When I left that project to come down to the Papers of George Washington we were at 43,000 documents that we hadn't found out in the countryside: copies of letter from the war office, copies of the letters to the war office. Thank goodness for the copy books that officers kept in those days, because otherwise, there would be no record for that first 10 years at all.

- To know John Y. Simon is to know a very special individual, as you know, 'cause you never know what he was gonna do. One of the things that I most remember about him is I first met him when he came to to Mississippi State. I forget what year it was, in 2001, that's right, 2001. And at that time I had known him already, some from other meetings and et cetera, but the thing that you never will forget is if you have a breakfast with John Y. Simon. And he would come in and his plate would just be covered with bacon basically and everybody would look at him, "Oh! My." And he would say, "Well, you know, a lot of people think that's bacon "but that really isn't, those are my vegetables," and he would make that point. The other thing that I really remember about him and it had made such a big impact on me and had a big impact on the students, was when he came to that Presidential forum he was the first speaker. And it was a big auditorium, and there were 200-300 people I can't remember how many, but there are lot of people there. And he strode across the stage, only John Y. could, and he got behind the podium and he looked over the podium and to all those people that were gonna be listening to him.

- And I think he sensed, and either from a question or questions from the audience that they were still infatuated with the South's lost cause.

- And he raised him literally, puffed himself up, and he was a big man. He puffed himself, looked across the podium at the students and said to them.

- "You lost the war, get over it." I sort of wanted to scream down in my seat, you know, I could envision watermelon and tomatoes being threatened at. Of course that wouldn't happen. But, but they loved it. They took it in good spirit, you know? So you kind of never... you never knew, you weren't quite sure what would come out of John's mouth sometimes . It added a little obsess and uncertainties to things. Yeah, definitely.

- Well, there's this silence and you got over here. And then they start applauding and they started laughing and cheering. And John set the tone. He had them in the Palm of his hand and we never that and afterwards I had people come up to me and say, "I'll tell you what, "if you ever have another one of these things, "be sure John Y. Simon's been invited".

- And I think the way he did it, it was in such a way. It wasn't uncivil. It wasn't angry, but it did bring a very large laughter from the audience that was hearing him.

- I sort of dropped hints to John in mail that I was dating someone seriously. And he had said years before that, he really felt that if I ever married it should be someone with a history of combat experience. And Ted had done tow tours in Vietnam. So I wrote John and said, "I'm pretty serious about this guy. "It's somebody you know "and he does have combat experience." But never told him Ted's name. And finally we took a snapshot, Fred had taken others, at a restaurant in Providence and we used a method that was employed in well in America and the State Department and the Navy Department. If you had a document like the ships passport a section at the bottom was cut off cut off with a carved Mark and for identification purposes at the end of the voyage, the passport could be matched with that carved detached little slut. So we carefully cut around my picture in the photo and you can see a man's hand on my arm, but no trace and sent this to poor John saying, "Here you are John. It's getting serious." And there was at the ADE meeting in that fall. Ted went to the meeting, I didn't, and we'd set this up with friends who knew all about it. One friend was poised to the camera. While Ted present John with the missing part of the photo and--

- And then go up what you had to open the card, inside there was a card and then there was the picture of me.

- It's a fragment of the picture that fitted perfectly. And so we have sent you a photo of John and John in moments of the astonishment could drop his jaw just slightly below his nimble.

- And this is a wonderful gift. He got the picture just exactly the right moment. So, that was it.

- And John even came to our wedding in Elmira, New York.

- He did. He did.

- I like John because of his dry sense of humor which I like to think I share that too. He's not into telling jokes, no his jokes just kind of flow with whatever happened, what you talking about. So, back then I lived in LA, we traveled to Michigan and on the way we'd stop by and visit with John and Harriet at least for a day or they'd put us up for the night and so one year we missed and I'll never forget this little email I got. It said, "Jim, I sat on that corner for days "waiting for you. "What happened to you and " That was John. I loved it.

- When he would come to town in DC where I was working as a Navy historian we would gather up his son and sometimes Harriet Simon and we'd go out to Battlefields and have picnics. Bloody angle and things like that. We would just sit there and just soak it in. Not asking any questions we'd already read everything about it. We just wanted to be there and enjoy the day. And that was an awful lot of fun. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of everything not just the Civil War. I remember playing racquetball with his wife one afternoon, coming to their house and we worked on the New York Times crossword puzzle together and we couldn't finish it. And he walked in and said, "What are you doing in my house?" She took their students on his family and we really still feel a part of the same family. I would wish everyone have a boss like that when they start out in their chosen field.

- John always had a close connection with the Park. And although White Haven became the National Historic Site in 1989 operated by the National Park Service. There was no visitor center, which was a real handicap. So Pam invited John and several historians in the field of women's history, Civil War history and Missouri State history to prepare visitor center that would include all those fields and show Grant in the context of his time. Luckily I had a chance to tag along and sit in on the meetings, which was really fun. So that's how the visitor center came about. I have to add a personal footnote. We were always glad, John especially, that St. Louis had been chosen as the National Historic Ulysses S. Grant Site. Not only because it was the location of White Haven but because of its proximity to Carmen Hail, it made it much easier for us. One month after John's Memorial service in 2008 we discovered we had a giant mildew problem in the home which was gonna require extensive renovation. So the study had to be completely evacuated which means moving all the books out and luckily a good friend of ours, Dan Jones, who at that time lived in a very large home in Carbondale, volunteered to take them. So we went through the books we put aside ones I wanted to keep with inscriptions or signatures and Dan took the rest of them. And now when it was time to bring the books back into this house, I wonder what was the point of that? What I wanted to do was donate them to an institution that would really make good use of them and people could use them.

- I know that the Grant Association had approached her and said, you know, they would be happy to take it down at Mississippi State as part of that collection but she felt that they already had a lot of, that same, you know, especially of the monographs and so she didn't know that it was necessary for them to have that. And so she contacted me and I don't remember if she offered or if I kind of said, "well, you know, "we would love to have that collection here."

- When I talked to Pam Sanfilippo about this, she was thrilled and she wanted all of John's books; the whole library. So Pam and her son came down one day at Dan's house and hey loaded up the book in the van she had rented. Then later she had to make one extra trip for just a few books that managed to pop up. You know how these things are. They're always a few more books.

- And then I remember, I think we made several trips out there with a van to go pick up all of the books that were in boxes and bring them back and begin the process of cataloging them.

- And it turned out to be the perfect place for John's library because not only can users use them in person right there but they are now online and everyone can have access to them in that way.

- As part of the Grant lecture we opened up the library for people to come down and see the collection and unveiled the plak identifying that this was the John Y. Simon collection. We couldn't actually name the whole library after Dr.Simon. Initially we looked into that but apparently it takes an Act of Congress to do that but we did make sure that the collection was there and then we had the plak and I think it was just great to be able to share that with everyone and know that Harriet felt that it was in a good place and that we would take care of it.

- At each John Y. Simon day program, we invite a guest speaker to present a talk in our theater on some aspect of Ulysses S. Grant. Today the presentation will take place in the parks library where I am now seated. Surrounding me it's just a small part of the John Y. Simon collection of books that was graciously donated to us by Harriet Simon. Our speaker today is one of our own Nick Sacco; Park Ranger at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site. Nick holds a Master's degree in history with a concentration in public history from Indiana University, Purdue University Indianapolis. He's written numerous journal articles, digital essays and book reviews for a range of publications, including Indiana Magazine of History, The Civil War Monitor, American Association of State and Local History and The Society for US Intellectual History. In September of 2019, his article about Ulysses S. Grant's Relationship With Slavery was published in The Journal of the Civil War Era. Today Nick will share with us some of his research on Grant and slavery.

- Hello there, this is Nick Sacco, Park Ranger at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site in St. Louis Missouri and on behalf of the park I'd like to thank you for participating in the annual John Y. Simon day presented to you virtually for the year 2020. I'm sitting inside the John Y. Simon collection here at the park. when Dr. Simon passed away in 2008 his widow, Harriet Simon, generously donated more than 1,500 books from Dr. Simon's collection to the park. So some of those books are behind me here in this video but this collection is open for the public to come and do research. We also have various collections of court records, property records, and other various documents connected to general Grant's life here in St. Louis as part of the John Y. Simon collection as well. It's my honor this year to present the keynote speech and today I would like to present to you some of my findings, research and thoughts on Ulysses S. Grants relationship with slavery. This is a topic that has been discussed both through print and various Grant biographies and recently with the three part documentary presented on the history channel about Ulysses S. Grant. But I feel like there's still more to the story and as an interpreter here who regularly talks about Grant's relationship with slavery while living in St. Louis, over the past couple of years I've taken it on to do my own research on this topic. And in September of 2019 I got a journal article published with "The Journal of the Civil War Era" on this very topic in the September, 2019 issue of The Journal of the Civil War Era. So this is a bit of a summarization of some of my findings and my interpretations of Ulysses S. Grant and slavery.

- Now as mentioned, I work at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site in St. Louis and we interpret and preserve that greenhouse on the picture here. That is the White Haven estate. White Haven was the childhood home of Ulysses S. Grant's wife, Julia. Grant met Julia in St. Louis while stationed with the US army at Jefferson barracks. Ulysses and Julia first met at White Haven in February of 1844. They fell in love at this house, began their relationship and 10 years later in 1854, Grant growing increasingly frustrated with life in the U S army will resign and he comes back to White Haven and he'll live on this property for five years. Farming of range of fruit, vegetable, oat and grain crops here for five years in the years right before the Civil War. And this property was also a plantation, in the years before the Civil War. The dent family owned upwards of 30 enslaved African Americans who did most of the work on this property in the years before the Civil War.

- Now, there are a few basic facts that we understand about Ulysses S. Grant and his relationship with slavery while living here in St. Louis. As mentioned, the Grant's lived on this property together from 1854 to 1859, and upwards of 30 enslaved African Americans lived on this property, worked on this property. That number fluctuates over time, but in the 1850 census, Julia's father, Frederick Dent is listed as owning 30 Enslaved Laborers. Grant himself owned one enslave man by the name of William Jones. We're not 100% sure when Grant obtained William Jones but we do know that in March of 1859 Grant went down to the St. Louis Courthouse, which is today, the old Courthouse across the street from The Gateway Arch. And Grant signed a manumission paper, freeing William Jones. Finally, what's very difficult about interpreting Grant's relationship with slavery is that there are no existing papers beyond this one manumission paper to really tell us about Grant's personal feelings on slavery. There's only about a dozen letters from the 1850s from Grant's time in St. Louis. And none of them go too in depth in terms of how Grant felt about slavery prior to the Civil War. Grant never talks about William Jones, again, beyond this manumission paper, never mentions him in any other letters and he doesn't mention William Jones in his personal memoirs. So in the absence of written evidence indicating Grant's views, to a certain extent, we have to examine Grant's actions and look at some of this other actions here in St. Louis to help kind of fill in the blanks when it comes to Grant's views and relationship with slavery.

- Now, there were a number of contemporaries who spoke about Grant's relationship with slavery and spoke on that topic after Grant died in 1885. For example, a woman by the name of Louisa Boggs. Her husband, Harry Boggs was a cousin of the Dent family. And while Grant lived here in St. Louis, that last year they were here in 1859, Grant for a brief period of time went into real estate with Harry Boggs and the two of them worked together in downtown St. Louis. And we also know that Louisa Boggs occasionally visited with the Grant family. And for a brief period of time during the Civil War she actually helped babysit the Grant's four children when they were here in St. Louis at the beginning of the Civil War. In any case, Louisa Boggs was interviewed twice about her relationship with the Grant family. And in both cases she said that she believed that Grant was not cut out for life on a slave plantation. That he was not hand to manage Negroes. He was too nice to the Enslaved Laborers here at White Haven and as such, it may have indicated an anti-slavery belief or an anti-slavery opinion on Grant's part cause he just wasn't cut out for life here in St. Louis. Mary Robinson, was enslaved labor here at White Haven. She was one of the cooks who lived on this property. And the day after Grant died in 1885 she was interviewed by a St. Louis paper. And likewise also talked about Grant, his experiences here in St. Louis. Interestingly enough, Mary Robinson argues that Grant at one point during his time living in White Heaven said at the dinner table that if he had the power, he wanted to free four enslave laborers that were owned by his father-in-law, Frederick Dent and were sort of gifted to Julia for her benefit: Dan, Eliza, John and Juliette and Grant said in this dinner time conversation that if he had had the power to do it he would free those enslaved people. According to Mary Robinson, this is what happened when Grant lived here in the 1850s. But we do have to be careful and take this interview with a grain of salt. She was interviewed the day after Grant died. It's highly unlikely that a newspaper article or interview critical of Grant's relationship with slavery is gonna be posted the day after he died. And of course there's a white newspaper editor who is going through Robinson's comments and editing those comments. So to a certain extent we're also getting the views and interpretation of the interviewer who was speaking with Mary Robinson the day after Grant died in 1885. And of course, Grant himself does speak about the institution of slavery more broadly in his personal memoirs. And he takes a very strong anti-slavery perspective and at one point in the memoirs argues that slavery was sort of at war with Western civilization and at war with the world and it was a sort of at one day it was doomed to be extinct from the United States. So reading the personal memoirs, you wouldn't know about Grant's relationship with slavery but almost get the impression that Grant always been opposed the slavery.

- Now, historians have tried to interpret Grant's views on slavery. We have a few examples on this PowerPoint slide, for example H.W. Brands in 2012 argued that, "Grant didn't believe in the institution of slavery." He eventually purchased a slave of his own because he couldn't find other help but he never got over the queasiness he felt from the ownership of another human. Joan Waugh in 2009 in her biography of Grant argued that "Grant nursed a content for slavery." He was a northerner alone and silenced in a world of slaveholders, but he had closely observed the habits of Southern white families in his part of the Missouri. Jean Edward Smith argues that, Grant was ambivalent about slavery. Unsure what to do about it and unsure how to feel about it. More recently, Ron Chernow in his 2017 book argued that Grant held views against slavery although he was concerned about the abolitionist movement, which is true. And then finally out of kind of the more extreme interpretation G.L. Corum in a recent book about the "Underground Railroad" in Southwest Ohio argues and suggest that Grant may have helped out in the Underground Railroad in Southwest Ohio because his parents were strongly anti-slavery and he never spoke out against slavery in the years before the Civil War. A rather dubious and uncertain claim.

- So it's important to remember that when Grant moved to White Haven in 1854 there are a multitude of factors that are in play. Grant certainly misses his family, his wife Juliet, and at that time there were two boys at White Haven. The youngest Ulysses Jr. was two-years-old and had never seen his father before. And Fred Grant, the oldest son, when Ulysses arrived at the front door, he didn't even recognize his father. So moving to White Haven is in part for family motivations and an anxiousness on Grant's part to get back to his family. But there's also an economic motivation too. Grant Certainly wouldn't have come to White Haven if he didn't think he was gonna make money and succeed on this property. William McFeely, his biography from the 1980s makes an interesting argument that Grant in some ways may have wanted to mimic his father-in-law's Southern lifestyle by moving here to White Haven. This property was 850 acres at the time. Frederick Dent was a very much a fan of the Southern lifestyle being a slaveholder and a Grant certainly had other options on the table. His father, Jesse offered for the Grants to go to Galena, Illinois and work at the leather goods store in Galena. But Ulysses interestingly enough turns that down so he can gain independence and work as an independent farmer at White Haven. So I just want to point out that it is important to keep in mind that Grant is willing to move on a slave plantation and he thinks he can make money here on the property. So that definitely needs to be considered when thinking about Grant's views on slavery before the Civil War Now an 1855 the year after Grant had move to White Haven there's a very interesting episode that's actually chronicled in volume I of the papers of Ulysses S. Grant edited by the late John Y. Simon. If you look towards the back of the book there's a note that Grant participated in an estate sale in 1855. A neighbor of the Dent and Grant families was a man named Richard Wells. Richard Wells passed away in 1855 and upon his passing there were some questions about some of his property and who it was going to, and how much it was worth. As a part of this process there were three Enslaved Laborers that were owned by Richard Wells. Wells' widow, Martha Wells wanted to keep these enslaved people on her property and she requested that St. Louis County hire appraisers to come out and put a value on these Enslaved Laborers. Of the three appraisers that were hired by St. Louis County included one Ulysses S. Grant. So Grant and these two other men went to the Wells property. They looked at these three Enslaved Laborers and they put a monetary value on their bodies. So these three Enslaved Laborers included; Bill, who was 26-years-old and was valued by the appraisers at $825. Augustin, who was an 18-year-old Enslaved man also valued at $825. And then finally, Amanda, who was a 13 year-old-girl valued at $600. In the end Bill, the 26-year-old, was awarded to Martha Wells but the two other Enslaved people that were part of this process ended up being sold at the St. Louis Courthouse. This image here on this PowerPoint slide is an Ad from the Missouri Republican. A notice of Augustin's sale at the St. Louis Courthouse. So this newspaper article says, "Negro boy at public sale. "On Thursday next, the 14th instant "between the hours of 10 and five o'clock. "I will sell at the North front of the Courthouse "in St. Louis, a fine Negro boy named Augustin, "about 19 years-of-age, "belonging to the estate of Richard Wells, deceased. "Terms of sale, cash. "William M. music executor." In the end, Bill was, excuse me Augustin was sold for $800 at the St. Louis Courthouse. Again, it's worth thinking about Grants complicity and participation in this event and his willingness to appraise the value of Enslaved Laborers on another man's property while living here at White Haven in the 1850s. Now, the same year that Ulysses S. Grant moved to St. Louis Congress passed and President Franklin Pierce passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act. And this act was very controversial because it opened up the possibility of slavery expanding to new territories that had been previously closed to slavery through the Missouri Compromise. If we look at this map here we can see the Nebraska territory and Kansas territory. And essentially rather than Congress stating whether or not slavery was gonna be accepted in these territories, the concept of popular sovereignty introduced the idea that settlers in Nebraska and Kansas they themselves would determine whether or not these territories would allow for slavery. This is going to create a new partisan divide in national politics including the creation of the Republican Party. Republicans like Abraham Lincoln are outraged. They believe that the Missouri Compromise was a way to limit slavery's Western expansion and they are outraged at the idea of territory is previously closed to slavery in Kansas and Nebraska now could possibly see slavery introduced into these areas here. And likewise, Utah and New Mexico territory through previous legislation, possibly seeing the expansion of slavery in these territories as well. So the major political parties in 1854 were the Whigs and Democrat parties. We can see we kind of break it up into four quadrants we can see that slavery is not the main dividing line of partisan politics in 1854. Other issues like internal improvements in government, funding for expansion of railroads, taxes through tariffs. These were the major issues in the 1850s. So we can see on the Whig party that there were anti-slavery Whigs like Charles Sumner but also pro-slavery Whigs like Alexander Stephens, future vice president of the Confederacy united together in one party. Likewise, there were anti-slavery Democrats like Salmon Chase, who later becomes President Lincoln's treasury secretary and head of the Supreme Court during the end of the Civil War and also pro-slavery Democrats like Jefferson Davis and John C. Breckinridge. So we can see that this uneasy tension where anti-slavery and pro-slavery elements exist in both political parties However, with the Kansas-Nebraska Act being passed at 1854 and the creation of the Republican Party. Soon thereafter, we see a change in the presidential election of 1856 and new dividing lines. So we see James Buchanan run as the Democrat nominee, running on the platform of popular sovereignty; the belief that the settlers of the given territory should themselves determine whether or not slavery would be allowed. We see John C. Fremont rises the first political candidate for the Republican Party for president and he campaigns in the belief that slavery's westward expansion should be stopped. They're not calling for the end of slavery in the States where it already exists. They're just simply calling to put a line in the sand and to stop slavery's Western expansion. And then finally there was a third party candidate with Millard Fillmore, former president, and he's gonna run into the Know Nothing banner on a campaign of basically anti-immigrant legislation. Proposing that naturalized citizens would have to live in the United States for 21 years instead of five years before they become US citizens. And the Know Nothing did not have a strong preference one way or the other on slavery. They basically wanted to punt on the issue but it's important to point out that here in Missouri the Republican Party did not have any support really at all. There was no functioning Republican Party within the state and disaffected Whigs in Missouri rather than joining the Republican Party or instead gonna go and support the Know Nothing Party and support Millard Fillmore. That is especially the case here in St. Louis where a large percentage of German and Irish immigrants are making their way to St. Louis and in many cases, getting government jobs, working for St. Louis in the 1850s. So, Ulysses S. Grant given the choice here if he strongly opposed slavery, here's an opportunity for him in 1856 to vote for an anti-slavery candidate. What did Grant do in the presidential election of 1856?

- Well, in the end Grant voted for James Buchanan. Interestingly enough, Grant is very concerned about the rise of the Republican Party. He's very concerned that agitation over slavery, specifically stopping slavery's Western expansion could possibly lead to disunion and Grant instead views James Buchanan as the most nationally appealing candidate. This is very interesting to point out though because Grant is at odds with someone like an Abraham Lincoln, who certainly believe that the Republican platform would not lead to disunion in 1856. I have liked this political part cartoon that's listed here because this was intended to actually as a slam on Grant. This political cartoon was created during Grant's reelection campaign in 1872. But the argument here was that Grant couldn't be trusted to protect African American civil rights because in 1856 he had voted for Buchanan to become president. So we can see Grant kind of in his hardscrabble-farmer's outfit here in Saint Louis. He's casting his ballot with election judges sitting at the table. But interestingly we see behind Grant, there's an oxcart with firewood, so Grant is going to sell firewood, and there is what appears to be an Enslaved African American sitting on top of the oxcart. So making this connection that Grant had been a former slaveholder and should thus therefore not be trustworthy when it comes to protecting African American civil rights. And at the top corner here it says vote for Buchanan and Extension of Slavery. Grant himself later on, in his personal memoirs tried to justify his vote for Buchanan in 1856. Here's what Grant said in his personal memoirs. He said, "The Republican party was regarded in the South "and the border States "not only as opposed to the extension of slavery "but as favoring the compulsory abolition of the institution "without compensation to the owners. "Many educated and otherwise sensible persons appeared "to believe that emancipation meant social equality. "It was evident to my mind "that the election of a Republican president in 1856 "meant the secession of all the slave States and rebellion. "I therefore voted for James Buchanan for president." Very interesting comments from Grant. And he goes on to later admit that had he been eligible to vote in 1860, and Grant was not able to do so because the Grants had moved to Galena, Illinois in early 1860 and Grant had not lived in Galena long enough to be an ineligible Illinois voter, but Grant recalls in his memoirs had he been able to do so, He would have voted for Steven Douglas, the Northern Democrat for president and not you not Abraham Lincoln. Very interesting. Now, during Grant's time at White Haven he did construct a log cabin called hardscrabble. Here's a picture of hardscrabble to the left. The log cabin still stands today across the street from us at another property called Grant's Farm. Grant took about a year and a half to build the hardscrabble log cabin anxious to find his independence and to be closer to the 80 acres of property he was working on here at White Haven. But it is important to point out that Grant alone did not build the log cabin. And it's worth mentioning that some of the Enslaved Laborers here at White Haven did help with the construction of White Haven, particularly the raising of the log cabin in 1856. This experiment and this living at hardscrabble only lasted for three months, the last three months of 1856. However, because Julia's mother, Grant's mother-in-law, Ellen Dent passed away in January of 1857. After Ellen passed away, the Grant's moved back to White Haven, but importantly Frederick Dent asked Ulysses Grant to take overall management of the entire property. So where as Grant was largely focused on supporting himself and his family alone from 1854-1856, starting at 1857, Grant is managing the entire White Haven property and all the Enslaved Laborers here on his father in law's behalf. It's interesting to think about that and it's also interesting to note that the famous Dred Scott Decision which had started here in St. Louis, only 12 miles away from White Haven, was likewise decided in 1857. In this famous case declares that African Americans could not be considered United States citizens whether free or enslaved. And also said that any sort of restrictions on slavery's westward expansion were unconstitutional. Whether it was from Congress or from the settlers themselves through the Kansas-Nebraska Act unfortunately, Grant himself never speaks on the Dred Scott decision during his time at White Haven. But it's nevertheless interesting to see that as that decision is being handed down Grant is increasing his relationship with slavery by managing the entire property. Fairly recently, the park made an interesting discovery about Grant's relationship with slavery. There's a letter from 1858 in which Grant writes his sister, Mary, and explains that he had had hired out two Enslaved African Americans from other slaveholders in the St. Louis area to assist him on the White Haven property. For many, many years, we were not able to identify who those two enslaved African Americans, whether they had been hired out from other properties. However, a few years ago, Andy Hahn, who is the president and director of the Campbell House Museum in downtown St. Louis, was going through the records of the estate of Francis Sublet, who was the widow of a famous far trader here in St. Louis. And when Francis Sublet died in 1857, as part of the estate sale one Ulysses S. Grant went downtown and ended up hiring a man named George. We can see in this record here, I've highlighted with the red square, that Grant had hired out George for a sum of money for one year, for the year 1858. So this is one of the two enslaved men that had been hired out here on the White Haven property. Once again, sometimes argued by historians that whenever Grant had the chance he would hire free blacks to serve here and work at White Haven. Not necessarily the case as we can see with this record here. And of course it's already well known that Ulysses Grant did own William Jones for part of the time that he lived here in St. Louis. The picture on the left is a picture of the St. Louis courthouse in the 1850s. And to the right of that is the menu mission paper that Grant signed in March of 1859. It is important to point out that whether Grant acquired William Jones from his father-in-law for money, or whether he was gifted William Jones, whether he owned Jones for several years, or just a few days. It is important to mention that this is a courageous move on Grant's behalf to free William Jones. He certainly would have made a profit by selling William Jones. Jones was 35 years old, a prime Field Hand that would have gone for $1,00 or $1,500 on the market if Grant would have sold him. And it's important to point out that other presidents in American history who owned slaves never freed any of the Enslaved property. So in this sense, it is courageous for Grant to go and take this step. However, it's important to point out that Grant still continued to benefit from slavery even after owning William Jones. In 1859, when Grant moves to St. Louis, he gives up farming, he tries to support his family through other means and other jobs. Those four Enslaved people that were gifted to Julie, that I mentioned earlier: Dan, Eliza, John and Julia. They came with Julia Grant and they lived with the Grants in 1859 in downtown St. Louis. So even after William Jones is freed the Grants are still benefiting from the Enslaved Labor of these foreign slave people in 1859. And in 1860, when the Grants left St. Louis and moved to Galena, Illinois the Grants chose to hire out these foreign slave people to others in the st Louis area. So they did not get their freedom and instead Ulysses Grant is going to work, to hire out these Enslaved Laborers to other people on behalf of his father-in-law. So once again, courageous for Grant to free William Jones but we have to put that in context and take it with a grain of salt given that the Grants are still benefiting from slavery in the 1850s. Sometimes people ask what happened to William Jones? The short answer is that we don't know. However, I did research several years ago and I found in the 1860 city directory for St. Louis that there was a listing for a William Jones colored as having lived in downtown St. Louis in the year 1860. He lived on Myrtle street, which is now part of the arch grounds in downtown St. Louis, kind of hard to see here, but this is a map of 1857 and the red square is 100 Myrtle street where this William Jones colored was living in 1860. Is it the same William Jones that Grant freed in 1859? We're not 100% sure because there's no census listing for William colored in the 1860 federal census. But nevertheless, interesting to consider that Jones may have lived in downtown St. Louis among the free black community in St. Louis. There was 1,500 free African Americans living in St. Louis at the time of the Civil War and it turns out that Jones is one of six free people of color living in this particular household in 1860.

- When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Ulysses S. Grant initially believed that the war would be a short conflict. That the Confederates would fold fairly quickly, the rebellion would be shut down and the constitution would be preserved as it was. Grant was very concerned about alienating Confederates, he wants to bring white southerners back into the union and we can see through some of his early comments that Grant is strongly opposed to a war to end slavery. He does say in a famous letter, "In all this, I can but see the doom of slavery." That is a famous letter from the beginning of the war. However, there's other letters that need to be added for this context here. So for example, to Julia Grant on May 6th of 1861. Grant wrote, "The worst to be apprehended at this time "is from Negro Revolts. "Such would be deeply deplorable. "And I have no doubt but a Northern army would hasten South "to suppress anything of the kind." So Grant is saying not the biggest concern is not a war with white southerners, it's the possibility of slave insurrection caused by disunion after president Abraham Lincoln's election. In a letter to his father, Jesse Grant, the same day. Grant said, "The Negro "will never disturb this country again. "The worst that is to be apprehended from him is now. "He may revolt and cause more destruction "than any Northern man accepted be "the ultra abolitionist wants to see. "A Northern army may be required in the next 90 days "to go South to suppress a Negro insurrection. "As much as the South have vilified the North, "they would go on such a mission "and with the purest of motives." So Grant is saying that northerners don't want to touch slavery in the South. And the union army would gladly go down to the Confederate States and demonstrate their support for maintaining slavery by working to shut down any potential slave insurrections. So these are comments not of somebody who sees the war as an opportunity to end slavery but is anxious to maintain the constitution as it is, very reflective of the mentality of a Northern Democrat when the Civil War breaks out in 1861.

- It is safe to say though, that Ulysses S. Grant evolves on his views and attitudes towards slavery during the Civil War. I would contend that a major turning point for Grant is the Battle of Shiloh in April, 1862. At that time, Shiloh was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, there were upwards of 25,000 casualties over two days of fighting. More casualties than all previous US Wars combined. Grant recalls in his personal memoirs later on in life that for him, Shiloh demonstrated to Grant that Confederates were not going to give up for anything. The time for reconciliation and reunion had passed and Confederates would stop at nothing to leave the United States. Grant starts to see the end of slavery and emancipation as a possible war measure. He observes that African Americans are aiding the Confederate war effort by cooking, digging earthworks, providing labor in the camps to enable the white men to fight on the front lines of the Confederate military. Grant sees that African Americans are anxious to fight for their freedom and provide intelligence and reconnaissance to the United States Military. So Grant starts to come around and believe that slavery could possibly be used... The end of slavery could be used to aid the union war effort as the Civil War progressed.

- When President Abraham Lincoln issues his famous emancipation proclamation in January the 18 1863. The emancipation proclamation calls for the end of slavery in the Confederate States and is essentially contingent upon the Union Army going into the South acting as an army of liberation, going in and conquering territories in the South and then enabling African Americans to run away to freedom. And we'll also see upwards of 180,000 African American men enlist in the United States Army and serve as United States Colored Troops during the last two years of the American Civil War. Grant had thoughts on these changes during this time. After the Battle of Vicksburg in the summer of 1863 Grant wrote to president Lincoln and stated the following, he said, "I have given the subject of arming the Negro "my Hardy support. "By arming the Negro we have added a powerful ally. "They will make good soldiers and taking them from the enemy "weakens him in the same proportion they strengthen us." Grant also was very open about his previous opinions on slavery in a letter to Elihu Washburne, who was the representative in Congress from Galena and a personal friend of president Lincoln. Grant said to Congressman Washburne that, "What Vice President Alexander Stephens acknowledges "as the cornerstone of the Confederacy, "slavery is already knocked out. "I never was an abolitionist "not even what could be called antislavery." So here Grant admits to Washburne in August of the 1863, that he had not even been anti-slavery prior to the Civil War but that now he saw the necessity of ending slavery. And he supported the idea of African American men serving in the United States Army.

- So in the end, I would argue, that what makes you Ulysses S. Grant unique, when it comes to the question of slavery. is that there's an evolution in his thinking. It is not that Grant always held an aversion to slavery, it's that during the Civil War the impression made to him by African Americans who were fighting for their freedom, who were gonna serve the United States Military during the Civil War is gonna make a huge impression on Grant. As Brooks Simpson famously argues for Grant, it became about the color of one's uniform and not the color of their skin. So Grant becomes a huge proponent of black soldiers. He supports black enlistment. He ends prisoner of war exchanges with the Confederate military because African Americans were not being considered prisoners of war. Were oftentimes being sold back into slavery or outright executed by Confederate forces. And later on after the Civil War Grant will support the goals of the Republican Party during reconstruction. Supporting the 15th amendment ending racial discrimination at the polls. He also supported a series of enforcement acts to shut down terrorist groups like the KU Klux Klan, the white league, and the red shirts. And he argues, in 1872 Grant says, "By off to express desires that all citizens, "white or black, native, or foreign born, "maybe left free in all parts of our common country "to vote, speak, and act in obedience to law "without ostracism on account of his views, color or naitivity. So that somewhat long sentence summarizes Grant's belief that all people should be treated equally under the law. And that with the end of slavery, all free citizens should have equal rights to citizenship and at least for men, the right to vote during reconstruction. To conclude this presentation, I would like to leave you with some thoughts from Frederick Douglass Frederick Douglass viewed Ulysses S. Grant not just as a military leader for the country but as a moral leader for the country. Largely because of his legacy during reconstruction and his role as president in promoting citizenship and voting rights for African Americans. In his final autobiography, written Ulysses S. Grant had passed away, Frederick Douglas said the following about Grant, "Ulysses S. Grants pragmatism was made "all the more conspicuous "and striking in contrast with his West point education "and his former political associations. "For neither West point nor the Democrat Party "have been good schools in which to learn justice "and fair play to the Negro." So here we see Frederick Douglas arguing that Grant's previous life before the Civil War, his connections with the US army, which were not always friendly to African Americans, his associations with the Democrat Party and his previous slave holding here in St. Louis . All led to the idea that Grant may have been hostile to African Americans during reconstruction but the changes brought by the Civil War, Grants pragmatism, his open-mindedness, his willingness to change. Instead leads Ulysses S. Grant to be one of the greatest leaders for African American civil rights during the reconstruction era after the Civil War. So that's one of the big lessons I think we should take away from Grant. His political evolution, his previous connections to slavery, to then becoming a huge proponent of the civil rights. And the idea, that no other political candidate in the 19th century received more votes from African Americans than Ulysses S. Grant. So that's about it for this presentation. Thank you so much for watching.

- I hope you enjoy the video as much as I did. It's amazing what a great job everyone here did with a virtual program. We're especially indebted to Julia Northrip, who is interpretation education, and volunteer program manager for arranging and coordinating everything. Also to Park Ranger Nick Sacco, for his excellent talk on Grant and slavery. And to Park Ranger, David Newmann for preparing and editing the video and to both Nick and David for their technological expertise. Also to the participants who spoke about their relationship with John during the years. And also finally to other staff members, to superintendent Tucker Blythe and the National Park Service for their support. So I'll say goodbye for now and we hope to see you next year at what we hope is an in person presentation. Good being with you. Goodbye.

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Duration:
1 hour, 11 minutes, 19 seconds

Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site has hosted an Annual Lecture every October since 2009 to commemorate the life of Dr. John Y. Simon, lead editor of The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant from 1962 until his death in 2008. John Y. Simon Day is going virtual in 2020! This video includes: 4:02: A short virtual tour of the park grounds by Park Ranger David Newmann 9:50: Tribute video to Dr. John Y. Simon 28:53: Keynote lecture by Park Ranger Nick Sacco about Ulysses S. Grant's relationship with slavery.

 
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Duration:
45 minutes, 33 seconds

Join Park Guide Evan Meyer as she discusses some of the archaeological findings which help piece together the lives of enslaved people who lived and worked at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site's White Haven estate in South St. Louis County.

 

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- Welcome, I'm Suzanne Corbett. I'm a foodways interpreter with the Ulysses Grant Historic Site. I'm stirring up something fun today for the holidays. Something that the general or I should say the lieutenant when he was here enjoyed. It was one of his favorite cakes, ginger cake. And this ginger cake is very special because it's a light spongy cake as you can see, not the hard ginger crackers or cookeries that you might associate with gingerbread. But gingerbread was so popular that it was eaten all year long. Just not reserved for the holidays. No, no, no, no. And it's a very simple recipe to do and anybody could make it as long as you had a few simple ingredients. All you needed was molasses or in this part of the country you might've used sorghum molasses, which is still another grain that is crushed or say a grass that is crushed and then cooked to get the essence the sweet syrup out of it. And we're using a whole cup worth of this along with all about a quarter pound of butter or lard and mixing it together until it's nice and smooth. Now, the spices you would have had, kind of costly. So it was one of these types of recipes that you wanted to be sure that people enjoy the full flavor of these costly ingredients and we have ginger and cinnamon. Sift it into my batter. Mix it around. Don't get too wild. It'll fly out just like it did there. Add in a couple of eggs. And these are actually about the size of what an egg would have been in that timeframe when the Grant's lived here. Eggs were smaller, milk was richer. So if you're doing this today you really wouldn't wanna use an extra large egg. A large egg would be fine or better yet a medium egg. Stir that around. Now this particular recipe dates all the way to 1820 but there was one cook, one baker that Grant particularly enjoyed her gingerbread and her name was Lucy Latimer. Lucy was attached to one of his generals as his cook and he stole her just because of how well she did her gingerbread, asked if she wouldn't come and make gingerbread for him. And when he was elected to the white house, he took Lucy with him and her gingerbread was well thought of so much that she stayed on and baked for President Hayes all the way through the Cleveland administration where she varied the recipe just a little bit and added buttermilk instead of water. Now this, I just add a little bit of extra water to this to thin down the batter. And then we'll add in enough flour to make a nice stiff dough, that's about two cups. Any cook would know how much would be added into your mix. Stir until it looked right. It was stiff. Now, flour of this white would have been reserved for finer white cakes. Most of the flour of the day would have been more of a whole wheat unbleached. But the finer grades really didn't come about until the 1870s when the ruling system of the flour mills improved the texture and the color. This is looking good. It's just simply stirred about and then baked in a hot fire in a pan until it's set and dry. The fire is good, it'll take about 30 minutes to do. Spread it out. Bake it. Now, if I'm working out of a hearth like we have here I would use a smaller pan that would fit directly into my dutch oven. Add it, add your lid, put a little bit of the hot coals on the top of it to keep the heat even and then I would slide it back into the hearth on a spider, which is an implement that has three legs, a long handle that I could move in and out of the fire to control the heat. Then once it's baked, cool it off, slice it up and then serve it to Grant. The lieutenant would definitely like it.

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Duration:
7 minutes, 15 seconds

President Ulysses S. Grant loved ginger cake more than any other dessert. In this video food historian, Suzanne Corbett demonstrates how to make an authentic 19th-century ginger cake. Along the way, she describes the history of this delectable holiday dessert and the cook that Grant hired to bake it at the White House.

Last updated: January 11, 2022

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