Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Civil War Chronicles Month 6, Julia Dent Grant

Julia Dent was born Jan. 26, 1826 in Missouri. She was the 5th of 8 children. Her mother believed in a solid education, so Julia attended both a local school and a boarding school where she received schooling in many subjects. She enjoyed reading immensely and after reading "The Lieutenant's Wife," she commented that she would enjoy living as a soldier's wife.

In 1844, Julia's brother, Frederick, brought home his West Point roommate, a man named Ulysses Grant. The two connected immediately sharing a love of literature, horses and their strong Methodist faith. The couple beame engaged four months later, but hid the news from her family who had hoped for a wealthier suitor.

After keeping their secret for a year, Ulysses asked for Julia's hand. Her father reluctantly agreed but asked the couple to wait to marry until after the Mexican-American War. They agreed and were finally married on August 22, 1848. Grant's parents did not attend the wedding because they disapproved of the fact that Julia's parents owned slaves.

For a time, the couple traveled to various military bases. Then Grant was stationed on the Pacific Coast in country too rough for their growing family. Julia remained in St. Louis tending the couple's children. In 1854, Grant returned home following his discharge from the Army for insubordination. He tried various occupations but succeeded at none of them. Then, came the war.

Lacking enough experienced officers, the Army asked Grant to return and command a volunteer regiment from Illinois. He gladly accepted. Julia supported the war by sewing uniforms and tending to wounded soldiers. Whenever conditions allowed, she joined her husband and he found her to be calming presence. Julia's effect on her husband was known to all and when he was appointed Commander of the Army of the Potomac, President Lincoln himself asked that Julia come and stay with Ulysses.

Following the war and Lincoln's assassination, Ulysses' political stature grew and he eventually became president himself, making Julia the First Lady. She loved the attention and lifestyle afforded such a position. During her time as First Lady, she worked to update and improve the Whilte House and made it open for public tours to everyone, even former slaves.

From 2010 Homestead Hearth, Mexico, MO.

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