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Grant in Saint Louis

The Committee on Publications of The Franklin Club of
Saint Louis certifies that one hundred copies of "Grant in
Saint Louis" have been printed for members of the club.

Grant in Saint Louis


Walter B. Stevens

From letters in the Manuscript
Collection of William K. Bixby

The Franklin Club of Saint Louis


■ 584-


SEP -7 1916


Table of Contents

Introduction: Grant's Letters .... ix

Grant, the Boy 3

Grant, the Lieutenant 9

Grant, the Farmer 23

Grant, the Business Man 41

Grant, the General 65

Grant's Habits 85

Grant, the President 99

Grant and the Whiskey Ring .... 109

Grant and the Third Term 139

The Grant Farm Letters 147


Portrait of Grant in 1864 . . . Frontispiece
Grant's Log Cabin in 1868 . Facing page 21
Fac-simile of endorsement on letter

of W. D.W. Barnard . . Facing page 107

Granfs Letters

Grant's Letters

Grant's letters reveal him. The great commander
was a man of few spoken words. He avoided speeches.
His Memoirs are wonderful military history, but
were written while disease was preying. Of the state
papers within the eight years at the White House no
one can be sure how much was Grant's and hozv
much was the secretaries'. Biographers have looked
through lenses of varying power and color. His
personal letters give the nearest vision and most
satisfying appreciation of Grant, the man.

Two collections of these letters have been pub-
lished. Grant corresponded with Elihu B. Wash-
burne from the beginning of the Civil War to about
the time the third term nomination was attempted in
1880. The letters to Washburne were made public
several years ago. When Grant entered the army as
colonel of an Illinois regiment in 1861, Washburne
was the member of Congress from the Galena dis-
trict. He had been in Congress nearly ten years and
was influential. Grant moved from St. Louis to
Galena in 18 '59 to enter the leather business with his
brothers, their father supplying the capital. Wash-
burne had faith in Grant and was his friend at
Washington. The letters show that Grant realized
this. They were written with utmost frankness. Mr.
Washburne was in Congress not only throughout
the Civil War but until 1869 when Grant, having
been elected President, offered him the first place in
his cabinet, Secretary of State. The position was
not congenial to Washburne and he was appointed
minister to France.


Grant* s Letters

The second collection of Grant letters was given
more recent publicity. These letters are from the
farm near St. Louis, from the camp in war, from
the White House and from stopping places on the
journey around the world. They were written by
Grant to his father, his sister and other home folks.

A third collection of Grant letters supplies the
motive of this book. Some time after the war Grant
came into possession of the old Dent estate on the
Gravois road. There he had gone a-courting when
he was a lieutenant. There he had built his first
home. There his children were born. Grant em-
ployed a superintendent, improved the land and
acquired blooded stock. These letters relate to "the
Grant farm." They were written on White House
stationery. As the President neared the close of
his second term, his interest in the St. Louis farm-
increased. He expended money freely in his plans of
improvement. Evidently he contemplated retirement
to White Haven, as the estate had been known for
generations. Suddenly came the Whiskey Ring
exposures. They centered in St. Louis. They involved
men of high official position and of influential busi-
ness standing, men whom Grant had known well and
looked upon as friends for many years. Some of
those caught in the conspiracy sought to convey the
impression that the President had connived at the
frauds. Until April, 1875, Grant's strong interest
in the farm was shown in his letters of insttuc-
tion to his superintendent. On the 10th of May
revenue officers arrived in St. Louis and seized ten

Grant's Letters

distilleries. A grand jury was called and investiga-
tion of the frauds led to many indictments. In July
a relative of Mrs. Grant wrote on the stationery of
the Kirkwood hotel a long letter to the President
telling him of the boasts the indicted were making
that he would not let them suffer. The trials had
not then taken place. This letter is in the Bixby
collection. On the back of it, in the handwriting of
Grant, is indorsed:
" Referred to the Sec. of the Treas. This was in-
tended as a private letter for my information and
contained many extracts from St. Louis not deemed
necessary to forward. They are obtainable and have
no doubt been all read by the federal officials in
St. Louis. I forward this for information and to
the end that if it throws any light upon new parties
to summon as witnesses they may be brought out.
Let no guilty man escape if it can be avoided. Be
specially vigilant — or instruct those engaged in the
prosecutions to be — against all who insinuate that
they have high influence to protect, or to protect
them. No personal consideration should stand in
the way of performing a public duty."

j i *l i„„ U. S. Grant.

July 2Qth, 75.

Throughout that summer of 187$ tne investiga-
tion went on. Indicted distillers, gangers and store-
keepers broke down and confessed. They implicated
higher officials — supervisors, collectors of internal
revenue, special agents, Treasury officials at Wash-
ington. Day by day the "Great Whiskey Ring"


Grant's Letters

scandal was the leading news feature in the papers.
Urgent pressure was brought to bear upon President
Grant to retire from his Cabinet Secretary of the
Treasury Bristow who was pushing the exposures.
For months it was unsuccessful. In August an ex-
amination of telegraph files at St. Louis and Wash-
ington brought to light messages in the handwriting
of General Orville E. Babcock, the President's secre-
tary, signed with an assumed name and addressed
to ringleaders in the conspiracy. It became public
information that the grand jury was considering the
fresh evidence and that the indictment of Babcock
was impending.

On the 24-th of September President Grant came
to St. Louis. He remained four days and went on
to Des Moines to attend the annual encampment of
the Grand Army of the Republic. The following
month Grant directed his business representative in
St. Louis "to close out all his personal property,
and to rent or lease out the farm and to give posses-
sion upon perfecting the lease." This was done.
"The Grant Farm" became a reminiscence. Grant
traveled much and made his home in the East. He
seldom came to St. Louis. He took little or no more
interest in White Haven.

These letters of Grant are in the manuscript col-
lection of Mr. W. K. Bixby, through whose courtesy
the Franklin Club now publishes them. They gain
much interest and significance when their relation-
ship, in point of time, with the Whiskey Ring is
recalled. W.B. S.


Grant, the Boy

Grant f the Boy

Second Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant reported
for duty at Jefferson Barracks the 30th of Sep-
tember, 1843. Young West Pointers in that per-
iod were called upon at graduation to express
their preference for branch of service; also for
the regiment to which they wished to be assigned.
They gave first and second choices. Grant's first
choice was the dragoons, as the cavalry was then
called. He missed that and was assigned to his
second choice, the 4th Infantry. Notwithstand-
ing his service was to be with a foot regiment, he
brought from his Ohio home to St. Louis his
horse, saddle and bridle.

Grant was called "The Tanner Boy" by one
of his biographers. In his Memoirs he writes of
his boyhood: "While my father carried on the
manufacture of leather and worked at the trade
himself, he owned and tilled considerable land.
I detested the trade, preferring almost any other
labor; but I was fond of agriculture and of all
employment in which horses were used."

When he was seven or eight years old he drove
the team which hauled wood from his father's
fifty acres of forqst to the house and the shops.
Others loaded and unloaded, but the small boy
handled the team. From the time he was eleven
years old he "did all of the work that was done
with horses" on the farm. As one of his com-
pensations for the work he was allowed, occasion-
ally, to take a horse and ride away fifteen miles
to visit grandparents in an adjoining county.

Grant, the Boy

Once the boy went seventy miles with a two-
horse carriage to take some people to Chillicothe
and drove back alone.

He made other trips with the horses. One of
these was to Flat Rock in Kentucky. At Flat
Rock he saw a fine saddle horse and offered to
trade for it one of his father's horses which he
was driving. The owner of the saddle horse
wouldn't consider the trade until he learned that
the boy was allowed to do about as he pleased
with the horses. Grant was then fifteen. The
owner frankly said he did not know that his
horse had ever had on a collar. The boy was
willing to take the chance and the bargain was
made. Grant got the saddler into harness and
hitched him to a farm wagon for trial. It was
evident that the horse had never been broken to
harness, but Grant thought he could manage,
and with ten dollars "boot" in his pocket started
to drive the seventy miles home. He made good
progress until a vicious dog jumped out in the
road. The horses ran; the new one "kicked at
every jump he made." The boy recovered con-
trol and stopped the team before damage was
done. He thought he had quieted the horses,
but as soon as he started they began kicking
and running. This second runaway came to an
end on the edge of a steep embankment twenty
feet high, with the green horse trembling from
fright. As often as Grant tried to start there was
more plunging and kicking. The boy got out,

Grant, the Boy

took a large colored handkerchief — it was called
a bandana in those days — and blindfolded the
horse. In this way he reached Maysville where
he borrowed a driving horse from a relative and
led his saddle horse the rest of the way.

u Lys" Grant was the identical boy in a horse
story which has since become an American stable
classic. The boy was sent to buy a colt. His
father told him to offer twenty dollars first and
raise to twenty-two and a half and then to
twenty-five if he couldn't buy cheaper. When
the boy got to the place he said to the owner:
"Papa says I may offer you twenty-dollars for
the colt; but if you won't take that I may offer
you twenty-two and a half; and if you won't
take that I may give you twenty-five." Grant
was that boy. He admits it in his Memoirs:

"This story is nearly true. I certainly showed
plainly that I had come for the colt and meant
to have him. I could not have been over eight
years old at the time. This transaction caused
me great heart-burning. The story got out
among the boys of the village, and it was a long
time before I heard the last of it. Boys enjoy
the misery of their companions, at least village
boys in that day did, and in later life I have
found that all adults are not free from the pecu-
liarity. I kept the horse until he was four years
old, when he went blind, and sold him for twenty
dollars. When I went to Maysville to school,
in 1836, at the age of fourteen, I recognized my

Grant, the Boy

colt as one of the blind horses working in the
tread-wheel of the ferry-boat."

When Grant came home for his furlough after
two years at West Point there was awaiting him
a young horse that had never been in harness.
The father remembered the son's favorite recrea-
tion and provided for it in this way. Two years
later Grant returned home a second lieutenant
of infantry. He immediately ordered his uni-
form. It was a time of "great suspense," he
says, until he could "get in that uniform and see
how it looked." He frankly admits that he
wanted his old schoolmates, "particularly the
girls," to see him in it. In later life Grant was
thought to be rather careless of personal appear-
ance. A picture, an old daguerreotype, taken
when he was a young officer and smooth shaven
gives an impression of Grant altogether different
from the pictures taken during and after the war.

The young lieutenant in his brand new uni-
form quickly came to grief. This is another
horse story and of his own telling. Soon after
the suit came home from the tailor's, Grant
"donned it and put off for Cincinnati on horse-
back." He rode slowly along the streets of the
city, imagining that every one was looking at
him. A little boy, bareheaded, barefooted, with
trousers held up by one suspender and a shirt
that had not seen a washtub for weeks, shouted
shrilly to him: "Soldier! will you work? No
Sir-ee; I'll sell my shirt first." Grant says:
"The horse trade and its dire consequences were
recalled to mind."


Grant, the Lieutenant

Grant, the Lieutenant

Extraordinary fondness for horses was one of
the marked characteristics of Grant. It began
in his early boyhood. It grew with him to man-
hood. It is shown in the series of letters this
book contains. Indirectly it led to Grant's court-
ship and marriage. Basely it was treated as a
weakness and abused in the attempt to smirch
the great soldier's name.

At Jefferson Barracks in 1843, Grant was under
the command of General Stephen Watts Kearny,
afterwards the Mexican war hero. If the young
lieutenants attended roll calls and drills punc-
tually, they might go where they chose when off
duty. Kearny required no written applications
for leave. He did not care to know where the
lieutenants were going or how long they intended
to stay, if they returned in time for duty. To the
horse, saddle and bridle brought from Ohio,
Grant turned for favorite recreation. He rode
out from the Barracks into the suburbs of St.
Louis and soon found his way to White Haven,
the home of the Dents. In Grant's class at West
Point was Fred T. Dent, son of the owner of
White Haven. During their last year at the
Academy, Grant and Dent roomed together.
The young Ohio lieutenant was welcomed. His
rides to White Haven were frequent. An older
daughter of the house of Dent, Miss Julia, had
been at boarding school in St. Louis. She was
visiting relatives, Colonel John O'Fallon's fam-
ily, when Grant began his rides to White Haven.

Grant, the Lieutenant

After Miss Julia returned home it was noticed
that the lieutenant came more frequently. There
were walks and rides and visits to neighbors.
Grant became well known in the Gravois com-
munity. If the 4th Infantry had remained at
Barracks this situation, Grant says, "might have
continued for some years without my finding out
that anything was the matter with me." But in
the spring of 1844, agitation over the annexation
of Texas and threatened trouble with Mexico
became serious. The 4th Infantry was ordered
to Red River. Grant was on leave visiting his
Ohio home when his regiment left. He hurried
back to St. Louis, got a few days longer leave
from Lieutenant Ewell, who was afterwards a
famous Confederate general, mounted a horse
and rode over the familiar route from the Bar-
racks to White Haven. Gravois creek was boom-
ing. At that time there was not. a bridge the
entire length of the creek. Ordinarily the flow
of water wasn't enough "to run a coffee mill," as
Grant described it. When the lieutenant reached
his usual fording place, the water was over the
banks and running swiftly. Grant stopped and
thought. Casually recalling that experience in his
Memoirs he makes, in simple, homely expres-
sions, a revelation of that trait which was to
astound the world a few years later. When, as
the general, he moved toward Richmond by the
left flank and sent back word to Washington,
"We will fight it out on this line if it takes


Grant, the Lieutenant

all summer," he was only reiterating what he
thought as he sat on his horse at the edge of
unfordable Gravois creek.
"One of my superstitions had always been when
I started to go anywhere, or to do anything, not
to turn back, or stop until the thing intended
was accomplished. I have frequently started to
go to places where I had never been and to which
I did not know the way, depending upon making
inquiries on the road, and if I got past the place
without knowing it, instead of turning back I
would go on until a road was found turning in
the right direction, take that, and come in by the
other side."

This "superstition" was applied twenty years
later when Grant tried first one route and then
another to get into Vicksburg until he had com-
pletely circled the supposed impregnable strong-
hold of the Confederacy and compelled surrender.
He struck into the Gravois, was carried down
stream, kept his horse headed to the west and
climbed the other bank. But he was wet to the
skin when he reached White Haven. The re-
sourceful Miss Julia promptly produced a suit of
her brother's clothes. Sitting in the borrowed
garments, which were a bad fit, Grant told of the
discovery he had made when he learned that he
had been ordered away from Jefferson Barracks.
The young lady modestly admitted that she had
felt "a depression of spirits" for which she could
not account when the regiment left. They


Grant , the Lieutenant

parted with "an agreement." That was in May,
1 844. The "agreement" continued until the 22nd
of August, 1848, when it was fulfilled. During
the more than four years Grant saw Miss Dent
only once; that was in May, 1845, when he came
back to St. Louis on a short leave and got the
consent of the parents to a formal engagement.

White Haven was given its name in memory
of the old home of the Dents in Maryland. The
original White Haven was a grant from King
Charles to the ancestors of the Frederick Dent
who came to Missouri in 1815. White Haven on
the Gravois road consisted of nearly 1,000 acres.
Dent bought when land was cheap. It is history
that one of the large estates near White Haven
was acquired in the pioneer period by a trade of
whiskey for land on the basis of one gallon of
whiskey for each acre of ground.

Grant returned with his regiment from Mexico
in the summer of 1 848. He obtained four months
leave of absence, came to St. Louis and was mar-
ried on the 22nd of August to Miss Julia Dent,
who was described in a St. Louis paper as "a lady
of refinement and elegant manners." The Dents
were Southerners originally but had lived for
many years on the large estate southwest of the
city. They owned slaves and farmed on an ex-
tensive scale. At the same time the head of the
house, Colonel Frederick Dent, dealt in land
claims. He acquired possession of an old Span-
ish claim which he tried to enforce against a


Grant, the Lieutenant

considerable portion of Carondelet, afterwards
annexed to St. Louis. Colonel Dent was pressing
this claim at the time of the marriage and for
several years after that event. He was finally
defeated and took the loss with a good deal of

The marriage of Lieutenant Grant to Miss
Dent took place at the Dent town house on
Fourth and Cerre streets. The house was not in
the most fashionable part of the city but in a
very respectable locality, near the Sacred Heart
convent and the French market. Chouteau
avenue, with its mansions, was only a short dis-
tance. The wedding ceremony was followed by
dancing which continued until midnight. Offi-
cers from the Barracks were present. One of
them was Longstreet, afterwards the Confeder-
ate general. Military marriages between army
officers and St. Louis girls were frequent in those

Grant was assigned first to Sackett's Harbor
and then to Detroit. In 1852 his regiment was
ordered to the Pacific Coast. Mrs. Grant and
the boy, Frederick Dent Grant, who became a
major-general in the United States Army and
died in 1913, came to the home in St. Louis to
remain until the husband and the father could
arrange to have them join him in California. The
4th Infantry was ordered to Fort Vancouver on
the Columbia river, where potatoes were selling at
sixteen cents a pound. There Grant's knowledge


Grant, the Lieutenant

of horses came into play again. The lieutenant
bought a team which had crossed the plains
and was very poor. Under his care the horses
recuperated. While Grant broke the ground,
three of his fellow officers dropped and covered
the seed potatoes. This was to be a speculation
that might show the way to bring out the family
to the Coast. The crop nourished and promised
enormous yield. Grant tells the result:

"Luckily for us the Columbia river rose to a
great height from the melting of the snow in the
mountains in June, and overflowed and killed
most of our crop. This saved digging it up, for
everybody on the Pacific Coast seemed to have
come to the conclusion at the same time that
agriculture would be profitable. In 1853 more
than three-quarters of the potatoes raised were
permitted to rot in the ground, or had to be
thrown away. The only potatoes we sold were
to our own mess."

On the 5th of July, 1853, Grant reached his
captaincy and joined his company at Humboldt
Bay, California. In 1854 ne resigned from the
army. He had been separated from wife and
children three years. He resigned because, "I
saw no chance of supporting them on the Pacific
Coast out of my pay as an army officer."

In 1850 Mrs. Grant came home to St. Louis
from Detroit where Grant was then stationed.
Fred Dent Grant was born at St. Louis, in May
of that year. He was given the name of his

Grant, the Lieutenant

maternal grandfather. There was a domestic
reason why Mrs. Grant did not accompany her
husband when the 4th Infantry was sent rather
suddenly to the Pacific Coast in June, 1852.
Mrs. Grant went first to the home of her hus-
band's people at Bethel in Ohio where, in July,
Ulysses, the second son, was born. When the
mother and baby were able to travel, Mrs. Grant
returned to St. Louis and remained with the
Dents until her husband left the army. Colonel
Dent's negroes named the baby "Buckeye," be-
cause he was born in Ohio. That was shortened
to Buck by which Ulysses was known even after
he grew to manhood. In his family letters Grant
spoke of this second son as Buck. He called him
Buck to the last days. The two younger children
were born in the four years on the farm; Ellen, or
Nellie, as she was called later, was born in the
summer of 1855, and Jesse Root, named for the
paternal grandfather, was born in the winter of

There is a Jefferson Barracks tradition of Grant
told to illustrate his fearlessness. The lieutenant
was drilling his company when his commanding
officer came by with some other officers and asked :

"Where are the rest of your men, Lieutenant?"

"Absent, by your leave, sir."

"That is not true."

Grant turned to the sergeant and told him to
take command; then putting the point of his
sword to the officer's breast said:


Grant, the Lieutenant

"Unless you apologize at once for this insult I
will run you through."

The officer apologized. There are recollections
of Grant's grit in the Gravois settlement. One
night a bad man of the neighborhood became
boisterous at a dance. Grant told him to be
quiet. The bad man talked back. Grant kicked
him out the door and into the road.

Some teamsters met Grant and a neighbor at
a narrow place in the road. Grant was on the
way to the mines with a load of props. The
teamsters, relying on numbers and strength,
crowded Grant and his companion into the ditch.
Grant seized a club and with "Come on!" led the
way to an attack which routed the teamsters.

In the social circle of which Jefferson Barracks
was the center, Grant, during his lieutenant days,
was called "the pretty little lieutenant" and
"the little blue-eyed beauty." He was not only
smooth-faced but he had "a clear, pink and white
complexion." These descriptions do not suggest
Grant the farmer, Grant the general, and Grant
the President. They accord well with the his-
torical fact that when the 4th Infantry officers
got up amateur private theatricals to while away
the time, they cast Lieutenant Grant for the part
of Desdemona, and he played it.

Grant was a man of hardly average height, but

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