Julia Dent Grant - The Things You May Not Know

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As it is Women's History Month I thought I might share some more perhaps little known information on the wife of Ulysses S. Grant.

While Grant's star continues to shine brightly, or not, Julia has her own story to tell. It may be dimmed by Grant's, but her star shone none the less brightly in his eyes.

Many of these insights come from the following link http://www.firstladies.org/biographies/firstladies.aspx?biography=19 with a focus on First Ladies.

Religion

"Methodist. Throughout her entire life, Julia Dent Grant was a regular church-goer and made an effort early on to ensure her children received a religious education. She did not, however, ever refrain from some of the “worldly” pleasures such as alcohol consumption, dancing, and gambling either through betting at horse races and card-playing, which the strictest adherence to the faith insisted upon."

Julia's mother, being a strict Methodist, did not indulge in any of these practices. Julia was obviously a young woman with a mind of her own, or not stifled by her parent's religion it seems.

Extra Sensory Perception

"Grant’s regiment was then ordered to Louisiana, in preparation for service in the Mexican War. Distraught at their separation, Miss Dent had an intense dream, which she detailed to several people, that Grant would somehow return within days, wearing civilian clothes and state his intention of staying for a week.

Despite the seeming impossibility of this, circumstances permitted Grant to return precisely as Julia had dreamed he would. It was but the first example of a lifetime of dreams and other extra-sensory perception experiences by which she often found comfort or made decisions of calculable risk."

Julia also recalls another dream in her memoirs:

"I am afraid you will pronounce me superstitious, but I must tell you of another dream I had. I had not received a letter from Lieutenant Grant for a month, and I suppose felt troubled about this, as he never missed sending me a letter by each mail out of Mexico. I dreamed the Monday morning paper was handed me and there the second name in the D's list of advertised letters was Julia Dent-2. I was leaning out of the window when the paper was handed to Sister Nell, who had just gone to the front door. I called down to her not to open the paper until I told her my dream, that she must look at the second name in the D's in the lisst of advertised letters and see if it was Julia Dent-2; and sure enough, there it was, and I lost no time in send for those two very nice letters."

Julia recounts another story where her suspicions were raised in another of her perceptive moments while at Corinth in Tennessee:

"As I made this remark, I happened to look up and saw a young man standing near the door. He started and looked surprised. I did not recognize him, and the thought flashed across my mind, 'What is he doing here? He must be a spy.' I at once wrote in the margin of my letter, 'Who is the strange young man? He is much interested in what is going on here. I am sure he is a spy.' The General wrote 'You are right; he is in our employ.' And would you believe it? It was found afterwards that he was a spy for both sides. He asked many questions: how each room was occupied and by whom."

Julia had discovered a double agent. I think.

In one of the more startling episodes regarding her extra sensory perception, she urged her husband to make arrangements to travel home on the night of the Lincoln assassination. She was already insistent that morning they should go, even before receiving an invitation to the theatre. After a postponement of a meeting with the President earlier in the day, Grant felt he could not oblige. Julia pleaded earnestly and Grant said he would see what he could do to satisfy her pleadings. It was after this Julia received a request from Mary Lincoln to attend the theatre and, as she did not trust the messenger or like the tone of the message, she abruptly declined. She immediately sent a dispatch to General Grant 'entreating him to go home that evening'. She also sent three of Grant's staff officers who had called to pay their respects to her to 'urge the General to go home that evening.'

"I do not know what possessed me to take such a freak, but go home I felt I must."

After this Grant sent word for Julia to have their trunks ready and if he could be in time said they would take the afternoon train for Philadelphia. It was on their way there that Grant got the news of Lincoln's assassination.

Julia's mother also made prophetic statements about Grant which I shall try to locate, but one more for 'Fat Tuesday' as it's called in some places:

"Our gaiety reached its climax just before Lent, when Nell and I had to divide. I accompanying mamma to all the quieter parties where there was no dancing; Nell, being claimed by some of our gay old French friends, sent to the great balls with them.

A great many of our friends used to go to New Orleans to be present at the Mardi Gras festival. Nell and I wanted to go, but it was not convenient for papa to allow us. I must tell of a very strange dream I had about this time. I had been reading George Sand's Consuela and was much wrought up over the reception in Venice so vividly described, and I dreamed that I arrived at New Orleans amidst hurrahs, salutes of cannon, a great display of flags and flowers, and there were bright carpets spread out for me to walk upon, or rather for the party I was with. I told this to my young friends, telling them that when I went there all this would happen. When I did visit New Orelans for the first time it was with my beloved, my hero husband, on his return from Mexico in 1880 where we had been on an extended and delightful journey. A train loaded with the nicest people of New Orleans came to meet General Grant and to escort him to the city. As we approached the landing opposite, a salute of twenty one guns was fired, and a shout of applause went up as we landed. This city of flowers was literally bedecked with flags, banners, and garlands. The people were dressed in holiday attire and smiles. Bright carpets were spread for us to walk upon."

The Personal Memoirs of Julia Dent Grant

Next installment coming soon ...
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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I do not know what possessed me to take such a freak, but go home I felt I must."

You know, that awful feeling she had that she had to get away gets lost. Someone began yet another stupid Mary Todd Lincoln rumor, all about how Julia declined because she disliked Mary. It distracts from these words and Julia's ' jump out of her skin ' , ominous premonition something awful was imminent.

Julia was a big peach. Thanks for posting her words, for some reason we don't see that a lot.
 

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Julia's ' jump out of her skin ' , ominous premonition something awful was imminent.
Yes, she felt that from the morning even before she got the invitation. And the man who handed it to her was unknown to her and not the Bell Boy she expected. He was dressed rather shabbily I believe. So her suspicions were aroused right away and she was probably discourteous to him in her manner as she had not been expecting him. But, I think her refusal was more about her determination to leave than the fact Mary Todd Lincoln had offered the invitation, and also the fact the invitation came to her in such a strange manner.

All her perceptions were on high alert with a further incident that took place after that as she was dining as well. Julia was seeing red flags everywhere, but at the same time didn't know what those red flags would amount to. Sadly, it was the assassination of President Lincoln.
 

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Wedding and Honeymoon:

Julia was 22 years old when she married Hiram Ulysses Grant on 22 August 1848 in St. Louis, Missouri.


9grant.jpg

The St. Louis, Missouri city home of the Dent family, on the corner of Cerre Street and Fourth Street, where Julia married Grant. (Missouri History Museum)

"The Dent-Grant wedding took place at the Dent family home in St. Louis on the corner of Cerre and Fourth Street. Since many of her friends were out of the city due to the summer heat, the wedding was small, but elegant. Although she had intended on wearing a simple and light Indian muslin gown for the ceremony, Julia Dent was delighted at the gift of an elegant watered silk white wedding gown and veil of white fringed tulle, presented by her O’Fallon relatives. There was a lavish wedding cake, music and refreshments. Among the groomsmen were several men who would go on to fight against Grant as Confederate officers.

Noteworthy for their absence were any members of the groom’s family. Extremely religious and vehement abolitionists, his parents Jesse and Hannah Grant did not approve of their son marrying into a family that held human beings as property. While there is no indication of any open confrontation between Grant’s parents and his wife, the lack of any effort by the senior Grants to even grudgingly express affection for their new daughter-in-law was a hurt she never forgot. According to the “Ulysses S. Grant homepage,” Grant’s letters to his father were “sometimes curt and show disapproval for his condescending attitude towards his wife, Julia, and his miserly habits when she visited.” Despite such documentation, Julia Grant left a conflicting record of their first encounter, claiming that Jesse Grant treated her “cordially,” and that Hannah Grant offered her “an affection welcome.”

The newlyweds took a three-month honeymoon excursion by riverboat and stagecoach, stopping in Louisville and then travelling through Ohio to the home of his parents and other relatives. During a visit at the lavish home of a Grant cousin, Julia Grant was impressed by how modestly her new husband suggested to a number of prominent and successful export merchants there that he would welcome a chance to enter one of their enterprises since such a business profession could provide a more financially stable life for his new wife. She was stung by the fact that none of them made any overture to help Grant and, further, that in later years she was compelled to treat politely some of these same individuals who then pressed her for favors at the direction of her then-prominent husband.

The attraction between Ulysses and Julia Grant was intense and lifelong. All documentation suggests that his mother Hannah Grant was extremely detached from her son, offering no emotional support to him. In contrast, Julia Grant provided a deep well of unconditional love and support to him. She had a series of affectionate nicknames for him, such as “Victor” (as in always the winner), Dodo, and Dudy. By conventional standards, Julia Dent Grant was often described as plain, due largely to her crossed eyes. Highly self-conscious about this physical defect, in later years she scheduled an appointment for surgery to correct it until her husband gently reminded her that he had fallen in love with her despite the appearance of her eyes. The remark convinced her to remain as she was, reminded of the secure love of her husband."

There seemed to be a lack of support around this new young couple related to both family and possible business ventures. By all accounts Grant took it hard in terms of how his family treated Julia, and she took it hard when Ulysses was not offered further support by those who had successful business ventures and who later tried to take advantage of the friendship.

It continues to stand out to me that this loving couple had eachother's backs, so to speak, and it was a definite mark of their marriage.,
 

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Children:

"Three sons, one daughter: Frederick Dent Grant (30 May 1850 – 1912); Ulysses S. “Buck” Grant, Jr. (22 July 1852 – 1929), Ellen Wrenshall “Nellie” Grant [Sartoris] (1855 – 1922) Jesse Root Grant (1858 – 1934)

The Grant children were highly indulged with love and forgiveness, especially by their father. Horace Porter, staff officer to General Grant, later recalled that Nellie and Jesse “would hang around his neck while he was writing, making a terrible mess of the papers, and turn everything in his tent into a toy.”

11grant.gif

Julia Grant with her first two sons, in 1854, at the time her husband was stationed in California. (Library of Congress)

Although she too indulged her children, it was Julia Grant who ultimately had to control and guide their children, turning to her husband as a last resort. As she would recollect: “The General had no idea of the government of the children. He would have allowed them to do pretty much as they pleased…Whenever they were inclined to disobey or question my authority, I would ask the General to speak to them. He would, smiling at me, and say to them, “…you must not quarrel with Mama. She knows what is best for you and you must always obey her.”

Julia Grant was affectionate and close to all of her children, never showing preference for one over the other. She named them after her mother and father, her husband and father-in-law, nicknaming the second one “Buck” to honor the fact that he was born in Ohio, the “Buckeye State.” Apart from their formal education, she provided them with a unique venue of teaching, giving them daily lessons about each object they used, detailing for them how wood furniture was from trees in Central America, glass from the sand of beaches, and wool blankets from lambs."

It's lovely to hear what an affectionate mother Julia was and how close she was to all her children. I can especially appreciate her not showing preference to one child over another knowing the damaging effects which can ensue from that.

I had no idea how their second child, Ulysses, came to have his nickname, but no doubt 'Buck' helped to save him being confused with his father as well.

Her daily teaching of her children shows her dedication and maybe her delight in simple things, too. Knowing where things come from often generates a greater appreciation.
 
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I remember a story from her memoirs that I thought was interesting and a window into the interaction of the family - all this happened when General Grant was President Grant:

“I remember once, though, when General Grant was really cruel to me. It was during the holidays when all the young people of the family were at home. We were a gay party seated around the dinner table, happy and jesting, challenging each other to eat a philomena. {This is a game in which two people divide twin kernels of a nut, then must pay a forfeit for failing specified challenges.} I accepted every challenge and was caught by almost everyone before I left the table. They all enjoyed my discomfiture, when the President arose, came around the table to me, and said: ‘Come, let us leave them,’ he was ready for his cigar now. As we ascended the stairs, the President said to me in a sympathizing tone, ‘Did they all catch you’. I answered in an injured tone, ‘yes’ ‘Philopena!’ he cried. I drew my hand indignantly from his arm and rapidly ascend the steps in advance of him. Then I met my son Ulysses, who had run up the back stairs on purpose to meet me, who, looking earnestly at me said” ‘Mamma, did papa catch you too?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Philopena!’ he cried. This was the straw the broke the camel’s back, and I was ready to shed tears if I did not. I could count on no one now as my friend.” (page 193)

Tough day for Julia at the White House. I think this shows a “human” side of both Julia and General/President Grant and it seems that occasionally the family liked to have fun at “mamma’s” expense.
 

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I remember a story from her memoirs that I thought was interesting and a window into the interaction of the family - all this happened when General Grant was President Grant:

“I remember once, though, when General Grant was really cruel to me. It was during the holidays when all the young people of the family were at home. We were a gay party seated around the dinner table, happy and jesting, challenging each other to eat a philomena. {This is a game in which two people divide twin kernels of a nut, then must pay a forfeit for failing specified challenges.} I accepted every challenge and was caught by almost everyone before I left the table. They all enjoyed my discomfiture, when the President arose, came around the table to me, and said: ‘Come, let us leave them,’ he was ready for his cigar now. As we ascended the stairs, the President said to me in a sympathizing tone, ‘Did they all catch you’. I answered in an injured tone, ‘yes’ ‘Philopena!’ he cried. I drew my hand indignantly from his arm and rapidly ascend the steps in advance of him. Then I met my son Ulysses, who had run up the back stairs on purpose to meet me, who, looking earnestly at me said” ‘Mamma, did papa catch you too?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Philopena!’ he cried. This was the straw the broke the camel’s back, and I was ready to shed tears if I did not. I could count on no one now as my friend.” (page 193)

Tough day for Julia at the White House. I think this shows a “human” side of both Julia and General/President Grant and it seems that occasionally the family liked to have fun at “mamma’s” expense.
Do you know @DBF I actually just read this story tonight as I was looking for Julia's reaction to Grant's inauguration. Amazing! I, too, thought about sharing it and I'm so glad you did. Thanks for explaining the 'Philopena' by the way ... I was wondering what that was!
 
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Then there is this Mary Lincoln story -

Towards the end of the war when the President and Mrs. Lincoln were visiting City Point, Julia Grant tells of the story of reception that Mary Lincoln had planned in celebration of what appeared to be the soon conclusion of the war and a party was planned on the Lincoln boat. When Mrs. Grant awaits her invitation (which never comes) she asks that a boat be prepared for her to take a “ride on the river”. She also requests a band. As the story goes - - -

“As bad luck would have it, just as we were nearing the President’s boat, the leader of the band came forward and inquired if there were any particular piece of music I wished played, expecting, no doubt, that I would order something patriotic. I cooly answered: ‘Yes, play “Now You Will Remember Me”. And we passed on up the river. When my boat returned, the kind “president’s boat had gone, and - well! - I regretted my ride up the river.”

The Personal Memoirs of Julia Dent Grant - page 151.

I may have explained the "Philopena" game - but I still don't quite understand it sounds like a version of truth or dare. I imagine at City Point Mary Lincoln and Julia were both under tremendous stress watching their men trying to finally put an end to war.
 
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I came across this little story a while ago, and thought I might post it here.

Marie Dressler (1868-1934) would become one of the greatest comediennes and character actresses of Hollywood’s early talkies. She won an Oscar for Min and Bill (1930) and starred in several other classics.

In 1897, when she was an up-and-coming Broadway star, she took a vacation at Marion House on Lake George. Alone, and “on the stage”, she found herself snubbed by the society types in the place. One day, as she sat at a piano playing and singing to herself, an old lady peeked in from the window, and asked if she could do “Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms”. Marie asked her in and sang for her, and in turn got invited back to the old lady’s cottage for tea, where she also met her daughter. Neither woman seemed to care in the least about her profession.

To her astonishment, when she went to dinner at the hotel that evening, all the snobs that had snubbed her where now warmly welcoming her. The old lady had introduced herself as “Mrs. Grant” – but that is a common name. Only now did Marie realize that she was the former First Lady, Julia Dent Grant.

https://featherfoster.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/julia-grant-and-the-actress/

Kennedy, Matthew – Marie Dressler : A Biography, With a Listing of Major Stage Performances, a Filmography and a Discography, McFarland & Co. Publishing, 1998 (p. 31-32) https://books.google.no/books?id=-h8Qy3pZGnoC&printsec=frontcover&hl=no#v=onepage&q&f=false
 

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I came across this little story a while ago, and thought I might post it here.
Oh, thank you so much for sharing that here! What a wonderful story, proving once again it's not what you know, but who you know ...

This is a story I haven't come across yet and I'm sure others may not have either.

It seems Julia had a real love of music and also had her favourite songs. Like the one she requested from the band in an earlier post :eek:

Glad to have you on board @Sildesalaten :smile:
 
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Correspondence

It appears to me that Julia was not always great at corresponding with her husband, either prior to marriage or after, during times of separation. I have read before that Grant was much more inclined to write to Julia than the other way round. There could be many reasons for this, not least of all a more social life at White Haven when they were apart. Prior to marriage in circumstances of hardship which came upon her family she even offered to release Grant from his promise. He refused, and even knew this was his best chance of marrying her as such decreased her potential as marriage material. There's no doubt he was deeply in love.

Julia was loathe to leave White Haven after her marriage and cried bitterly at the prospect. She did not want to leave her father. This upset Grant, but ultimately he left the choice up to her whether she would follow him to his next post or remain at home with her family.

"For four years he had struggled to make Julia his own - and not her father's - and now, just when it seemed that he had won, Julia was wavering. Grant did not want to see Julia unhappy, but he was upset by her behavior. The colonel, always ready to seize an opportunity to confirm that he was the most important man in Julia's life, offered to let her stay with him. 'You can get a leave of absence once or twice a year and run on here and spend a week or two with us,' he told his son-in-law. 'I always knew she could not live in the army.'

There was a challenge in this offer to both Ulysses and Julia. Perhaps Julia was too spoiled to be an army wife. Perhaps Ulysses could never provide for Julia as had her father. Perhaps their love for each other was not as strong as they once thought. Ulysses chose not to demand his rights as a husband, but to trust Julia's heart. He left it up to her, reminding her that they would be apart once more. Julia immediately realized what was at stake. 'No, no, no, Ulys,' she sobbed: 'I could not, would not, think of that for a moment.' And so it was settled: Grant had won the battle - for the moment, anyway."

Julia travelled and stayed with Ulysses when she could, but the times when she couldn't correspondence always seemed to be lacking.

She went home to White Haven to have their first son, and named him after her father.

"In the fall Julia announced that she was pregnant; this event, which might have drawn the couple even closer, instead forced another separation. On the advice of Charles Tripler, the regimental doctor, Julia returned to her father's home and on May 30, 1850, gave birth to Frederick Dent Grant - a name that in itself suggested the continuing tension in the Grant marriage."

Grant secured leave to journey to St. Louis on hearing the news and returned to Detroit with his wife and son. Ulysses wanted to be a family man and having his family with him was important.

A move to Sackett's Harbor became imminent while Julia was once again spending time at White Haven. "Once more Julia's failure to correspond frequently and promptly irritated him, especially when he heard that Fred was ill. 'I feel a constant dread lest I shall hear bad news,' he told Julia. 'I know I shall be afraid to open the first letter I get from you.' He wanted Julia to come east as soon as possible. It seemed almost as difficult for him to keep Julia by his side in peace as in war."

"Ulysses Grant disliked being apart from his wife for any length of time. He felt incomplete without Julia; friends did not compensate for her absence. Little Fred's absence compounded his misery. He wanted so badly to be the sort of father who spent time with his boy, walking and riding about - the father he never had. Grant also worried about the influences surrounding his wife in St. Louis. Doubtless Julias's father would try to keep his little princess to himself as long as he could, certainly St.Louis and White Haven seemed more attractive places than an army post in upstate New York. Julia's letters, when they did come, said little in response to his missives. Finally, he chided her: 'I have seen nothing from you that shows whether you know that I have ever taken a trip since coming to Sacket's Harbor ... I have asked you so many questions which you never answer.' Not until August did he learn that his wife was at last prepared to return to him."

Some time later, a new stationing became imminent, but this time Julia was pregnant with their second child. This stationing was much further distant and the travel hazardous. Julia at the time pleaded with Grant to go with him, but the journey was too dangerous and he advised her to stay ultimately, as always, leaving Julia to make up her own mind. She finally concurred with her husband and gave birth to their second child in Ohio.

"Through the summer and into fall no letter arrived from Julia. It was not until December 3rd that Grant learned that on July 22 his wife had given birth to a second child. 'If it is a girl name it what you like,' he had directed months before, 'but if a boy name it after me' - a clear reminder of what had happened with his first child's name. Sure enough, the boy was named Ulysses S. Grant Jnr., although people soon took to calling him 'Buck' because he was born in the Buckeye State."

Grant tried to manufacture ways to get his family out to him, but all his monetary ventures failed. He was struggling to cope with distance and depression. Drinking soon followed.

"All winter there was no word from Julia. Grant did not know what to make of her apparent silence, although he realized that her letters might have gone astray. 'You do not know how forsaken I feel here!' he declared in anguish. Still, he feared the worst. 'The state of suspense that I am in is scarsely bearable', he told her as February began. 'I think I have been from my family quite long enough and sometimes feel as though I could almost [desert and] go home 'nolens volens.'"

By March Grant's letters to Julia were pathetic in their loneliness and still no letters arrived from her.

In his frustration, he came close to snapping at Julia. Even if she came to California, she could not have a servant, something Grant remarked she could not do without. But perhaps she was not eager to come out in any case, for 'you never complain of being lonesome so I infer you are quite contented.' He even dreamed that she had ignored his arrival party to dance with someone else while their boys watched."

In a further letter Grant says: 'But how do I know that you are thinking as much of me as I of you? I do not get letters to tell me so.' Since he had arrived at Humboldt he had received 'just one solitary letter ... and that was written about October of last year.' It was now springtime.

Finally Grant can bear the separation from his family no longer and resigns from the army.

"He had no regrets: as he told a friend, 'whoever hear of me in ten years, will hear of a well-to-do old Missouri farmer.'"

All this makes me wonder how much of an impact Julia's absence and her lack of communication had on Grant's drinking and his resignation from the army, the two of which are often tied together. As a young mother with one, then two, small children, and having the reassurance of family around her she may have delayed her actions in responding to Ulysses. And no doubt the post was not always reliable. But, to have a man weekly waiting on letters and never to receive any, and not to inform him of the birth of your son until nearly six months after the event seems somewhat lax on Julia's part. The reading of his letters must surely have impressed her with the sense of loneliness he felt and longing for news from home. As much as Julia loved her husband, this is one area where I feel she could have been more proactive in showing her love. She may not have like what people said about Grant at this time, but she was most likely the only person who could really have influenced that situation for the better.

Edit to add: all quotes taken from Brooks D. Simpson's Triumph Over Adversity (Ch.3 Forsaken)
 
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It certainly looks like Julia's lack of correspondence drove Grant to frustration and - eventually - taking up drinking. I can understand that you're busy with a newborn baby and all, but surely you'll find some time to write at least once a week? Especially if she was with her family and had help with the children.

And poor Grant, to pour out his heart in his letters and she hardly ever responded to these points. I want to just hug the poor man! :hug:

Deb, do you know if Julia regularly corresponded with Grant during the Civil War?
 

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And poor Grant, to pour out his heart in his letters and she hardly ever responded to these points. I want to just hug the poor man! :hug:
You and me both! I had no idea Julia was so lax in her letter writing and I agree that she could have created opportunities to correspond more often. But, I guess we don't know all the circumstances. Just that Grant was extremely forlorn in not hearing from her during these periods. He did try to keep himself busy, but his heart did not seem to be in it when his family and Julia were not around. His thoughts always turned to them. Which was the reason for his resignation. He could not get his family out there, his drinking appeared to worsen and I think he chose wisely when he resigned. By all accounts things would only have gotten worse otherwise.

In terms of the period during the CW, I know as often as possible Grant had Julia with him. I don't know if her writing habits improved, but I'd say general communications may have, which might have alleviated some of the stress. He also had much more to occupy his mind during this time which he didn't have in some of these previous postings. He enjoyed the camaraderie of the other men, but nothing seemed to fill the gap that Julia and his family left in his heart. Once I know more about the period during the war, I'll post it here, Lu.
 
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I agree with you both on her lack of letter writing, and the fact for so many months, he wasn't even aware of whether he had a son or daughter. I remember reading that perhaps her "eye" condition created a problem with her in both reading and writing - but seems to me she could have had someone writte in her behalf.

I have attached a link to this article which is titled:

“Mrs. Orvil Grant - General Grant’s Sister-In-Law/She Insults the General’s Domestic Life/Denies Orvil Grant Died in a Mental Asylum/Vengeful Wrath Over General Grant’s Widow/Exclusive Disclosures”
https://www.granthomepage.com/intmrsorvilgrant.htm

It reads like today’s National Enquirer - but inquiring minds want to know!
 

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