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Ulysses S. Grant and Julia Dent Grant papers

Identifier: USGPL-USGJDG

Scope and Content Note

This collection consists of thirteen boxes of correspondence, ephemera, photographs, and scrapbooks related to Ulysses S. Grant, Julia Dent Grant, their acquaintances, and family members. It is arranged in three series: Correspondence and Ephemera; Photographs, and Scrapbooks. The first two series have additional Sub-Series that break the material down into specific types which are then arranged either chronologically or alphabetically by topic.

Correspondents in this collection include:

Ulysses S. Grant; Julia D. Grant; Frederick Dent Grant; Ulysses S. Grant, Jr.; Jesse Root Grant; William T. Sherman; Philip Sheridan; John Schofield; Orville E. Babcock; B. F. Butler; W. W. Smith; J. M. Schofield; John Rawlins; Horace Porter; William McKinley; Mary Todd Lincoln; Adam Badeau; Rama V / Chulalongkorn


  • 1822 - 2011


Biographical Note: Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant’s ancestors first came to America in 1630, Englishman Mathew Grant landing in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

Grant was always extremely proud of his forebears, but the most important individuals in his lineage were his mother and father.

His father Jesse spent part of his early years living in the home of the father of the famous abolitionist, John Brown. His quiet mother Hannah Simpson Grant came from Pennsylvania parents who were die-hard Jacksonian Democrats. The two married in June of 1821, and their first born, Hiram Ulysses Grant, was born on April 27, 1827. It was only later when the congressman who nominated him for West Point erroneously recorded him as Ulysses S. Grant that he was able to shed the embarrassment of his true initials: H.U.G.

Grant’s father sent him to the United States Military Academy where he graduated 21st out of a class of 39, excelling in mathematics. The last year at West Point he roomed with Frederick Dent the son of a slave-holding family from St. Louis, Missouri. Grant, whose family was opposed to slavery, regularly rode to the Dent plantation and there he met Julia Dent. They agreed to marry in May of 1844, but the Mexican-American War intervened, and the marriage did not happen until August 22, 1848.

The marriage resulted in four children: three boys and a girl. Because Grant remained in the army, the family was frequently separated, and Grant suffered from depression. When he was stationed far from his family at Fort Humboldt in the wilds of California, it is rumored that he drank so heavily that his commanding officer forced him out of the army. He returned to St. Louis and unsuccessfully attempted to earn a living in a variety of occupations. Finally, in 1860, his overbearing father gave him a job as store clerk in his Galena, Illinois tannery business.

While he was living in Galena, the Civil War exploded, but Grant had difficulty getting into the conflict. Finally, his success as an Illinois records clerk resulted in the state’s governor giving him command of an undisciplined regiment, to reform them. He did and from that point on, his track was upward. He gained success at places like Forts Henry and Donelson, Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga. Lincoln named him commander of all Union armies in 1864. His fight against Robert E. Lee in Virginia and his mild surrender terms at Appomattox, made him a national hero.

When the presidential election of 1868 came along, Grant had no real rival for the office as he soundly defeated Horatio Seymour. He was re-elected in 1872, easily defeating newspaper editor Horace Greeley. Grant thus became the only two term president between Andrew Jackson (1829-1837) and Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921). He was also the only president between Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson to try to insure full rights as citizens for the former slaves. He worked hard to destroy the Ku Klux Klan and also tried to deal with the difficult economic Panic of 1873. As is often the case after a war, Grant had to deal with corruption during his time in office, although he himself was never accused of any wrongdoing.

When he completed his term in office, Grant became the first American president to make a world tour, being received by enthusiastic crowds and world leaders throughout Europe and Asia. Upon his return, there were numerous calls for him to run for the presidency again in 1880, but this attempt proved unsuccessful.

Grant then became president of a Mexican-American Railroad Company. All sorts of publishers also wanted him to write his memoirs, but he repeatedly refused. Then in 1883, he fell on the ice outside his New York home and permanently damaged his left leg. A charlatan fleeced him out of all his money, forcing him to agree, finally, to write his memoirs. He agreed to work with publisher-business agent Mark Twain. Then because of years of smoking cigars, he developed throat cancer. In spite of his terrible pain, he was able to finish his memoirs, dying just days after finishing them in July 1885. His 1885 funeral was and remains the largest such event in American history, and “Grant’s Tomb” remains an important fixture in American popular consciousness.

Ulysses Grant was immensely popular during his lifetime, but, for a time, was considered a butcher general and a corrupt president. He was regularly ranked at the bottom of all American presidents. He is today considered one of the most significant people in American history.

Biographical Note: Julia Dent Grant

Julia Dent Grant

Julia Dent Grant was born January 26, 1826 at White Haven plantation in St. Louis, Missouri. The daughter of Colonel Frederick Dent and Ellen Wrenshall Dent, Julia was the fifth of eight children. She grew up on a plantation where her family enslaved over 30 African Americans.

Her brother, Fred Dent, was a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, where he befriended a fellow student, Ulysses Grant. In 1844, Ulysses began to visit the Dent family and he gave Julia his class ring. He then was sent to the Mexican-American War. In 1848, Ulysses and Julia were married. Julia gave birth to her first child, Frederick Dent Grant, in 1850 and her second child, Ulysses S. Grant, Jr., in 1852 while her husband was stationed in California. Ulysses resigned from the Army in 1854 and returned to Julia in St. Louis, building a small farm with enslaved labor called Hardscrabble.

In 1855, Julia gave birth to their only daughter, Ellen Wrenshall Grant, whom they called Nellie, and in 1858 she gave birth to her fourth and final child, Jesse Grant.

By 1860, the Grants were heavily in debt, forcing them to move to Galena, Illinois to join Ulysses’ father's family business. Julia was forced to leave her enslaved persons behind in Missouri.

When the Civil War began, Julia was living with Ulysses in Illinois. As Ulysses rose up the ranks, Julia was often by his side throughout many of the campaigns. In the early years of the war, though, she received criticism for bringing along enslaved African Americans to care for her while her husband was fighting for the Union. By 1863, the enslaved woman, Jules, self-emancipated by running away from Julia. After this, Julia and the children were constantly by Grant's side until the end of the war.

Julia Grant was thrilled that her husband was elected president in 1868. She held receptions for dignitaries and the public alike. Their daughter, Nellie, was married in the White House in 1874 in a lavish ceremony.

Julia accompanied her husband and various children on a three-year Grant Tour of the World beginning soon after the Grants left the White House in 1877. The traveled all over Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Russia, India, China, Southeast Asia, and Japan before returning to the United States in 1879 when they landed in San Francisco. There, Ulysses showed Julia all of the places in the West where he lived in the 1850s, then they visited silver mines in Colorado, toured cities in the Midwest, and returned to Philadelphia having circumnavigated the globe. The Grants then moved South, touring the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida, traveling to Cuba during Mardi Gras and then on to Mexico. In Mexico, Ulysses regaled Julia with tales of his service in the Mexican-American War, taking her to the sites of his earliest military services. They next travelled to Texas, New Orleans, Mississippi, Alabama, and back to the City of Vicksburg, Ulysses’ great triumph during the Civil War. Finally, the Grants returned to Illinois, stopping in towns along the way as Ulysses made speeches in preparation for the 1880 Republican National Convention in Chicago where he attempted an ill-fated try at a third-term at the presidency.

Julia and Ulysses moved to New York where Ulysses opened an investment firm with his sons and an investor named Ferdinand Ward. Ward, though, was a crook who took all of the Grant's money leaving them penniless. On top of that, Ulysses was diagnosed with mouth and throat cancer due to his excess cigar smoking. Over the next months, Ulysses feverishly wrote his Personal Memoirs, published by Mark Twain, in an effort to secure some finances for Julia and his family. Ulysses died in 1885 and the Memoirs were published soon thereafter. The book was a huge success and kept Julia financially stable for the rest of her life.

Julia then moved to Washington, DC where she wrote her own Personal Memoirs, the first First Lady to do so, though they would not be published until 75years after her death. She traveled the country visiting her children and grandchildren, returned to Europe to visit her children Frederick Grant, Minister to Austria and daughter Nellie Grant living in England. Julia died on December 14, 1902 and is interred in General Grant's National Monument in New York alongside her husband.


6.5 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials