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Julia B. Dent Weds Ulysses S. Grant in 1848
Civil War General & 18th President

by Gary Telford


Julia Boggs Dent was a third cousin of James B. "Ben" Dent and Strother E. Dent who settled at Riverside, Woodruff County, Arkansas after the Civil War in 1865. They all descended from Peter Dent (1693-1757) and Mary Brooke Dent (1709-1781) of Maryland.

Julia was the wife of the 18th U.S. President, Civil War Union Lieutenant General, Ulysses Simpson Grant who was born (Hiram Ulysses Grant) April 27, 1822 in Pt. Pleasant, Ohio. His parents were Jessie Root Grant (1794-1873) and Hannah Simpson Grant (B. 1800) who were married June 24, 1821 in Pt. Pleasant, Ohio. Grant was no great scholar and was uninterested in his family's tanning business. His father therefore obtained his entry to West Point in 1839 (into which he was mistakenly enrolled as Ulysses Simpson Grant -- an appellation that he subsequently retained), where he spent four unhappy years excelling in little but horsemanship.

Julia's parents were Col. Frederick Fayette Dent who was born October 6, 1787 in Cumberland, Allegheny County Maryland and her mother was Ellen Bray Wrenshall who was born about 1793 in St. Louis, MO. Frederick and Ellen married December 22, 1814. Frederick died December 15, 1872 at the White House in Washington, DC. Ellen died January 7, 1857 in St. Louis, MO. Julia's father, Col. Frederick Fayette Dent, was a fur trader operating along the Mississippi River. He became quite wealthy and developed a copied southern plantation named "White Haven", outside of St. Louis. Julia Dent was born in St. Louis, MO, the fifth of seven children. Using slave labor the plantation became a very profitable enterprise. Julia attended the Misses Mauros boarding school in St. Louis for seven years which catered to daughters of other affluent parents and graduated at the age of seventeen.

Young Ulysses S. Grant Her oldest brother, Frederick Dent Grant, was a friend of Ulysses S. Grant from his days at West Point. They were both stationed at Jefferson Barracks, near White Haven and a romantic relationship developed as he was a frequent guest at the plantation. Julia and her handsome lieutenant became engaged in 1844. A long courtship ensued, first by separation of four years as a result of the absence of Grant who was called away by the Mexican American War and then the lack of consent by her father who considered Ulysses "simply too poor". Finally, they were married at the Dent House on August 22, 1848 in St. Louis, MO. Grant's family refused to attend because of the presence of slaves owned by her father.

Posted to Fort Vancouver on the West Coast in 1842, Captain Grant found separation from his family too much to bear and resorted to drink, he resigned from the Army in 1854.

Julia endured hard times, not being accepted by Grant's family and years of poverty after Grant resigned from the Army and being unable to find work. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Julia and Ulysses lived in a small house in Galena, Illinois where he worked in his father's leather shop for small wages while trying to support four children. The Civil War saw Grant returning to military duty. He volunteered for the Union Army and in 1861 was appointed Brigadier General of the volunteers by President Lincoln. His early success included the capture of Fort Donelson and Fort Henry in 1862, after which he was created Major General of volunteers. Victory at Chattanooga in 1863 resulted in his appointment to the rank of Lieutenant General, and in 1863 Grant assumed command of the Union Army. The later part of his military career comprised a punishing campaign against Robert E. Lee and the army of Northern Virginia, and after Lee surrendered at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, Grant was lauded for his magnanimity.

The following year congress awarded a fourth star, making him the first full General of the Armies in American History. After the Civil War, in 1867 Grant served as secretary of war following Johnson's dismissal of Stanton, but resigned after five months.

Ulysses and Julia Grant Their fortunes brightened. Throughout the War, Julia Grant was a familiar sight joining her husband near the scene of action and often staying in his tent. She rejoiced in the fame showered upon her victorious husband for his exploits during the conduct of the war. At the War's end, Julia traveled with Ulysses throughout the North, where they were showered with gifts from people desiring to see the War hero. They were even given a house in Galena. Grant was nominated and won election to the presidency in 1868. After so many years of hardship and stress, Julia entered the White House in 1869 to begin, in her words, "the happiest period" of her life. Julia gave lavish parties and receptions. Grant was re-elected in 1872 - largely thanks to the continuing adulation of the populace. Although he unsuccessfully sought a third, unprecedented, term in 1876, and again in 1880, Grant effectively retired in 1877. Upon the completion of two terms in 1877, they embarked on a two-year world tour which resulted in a state of insolvency. He tried being a stockbroker which resulted in a more dire financial strain. He faced financial ruin and was reduced to selling his swords as war souvenirs. Congress restored his rank and voted him a salary. He was very ill. He displayed the first symptoms of throat cancer in 1884. The General always displayed an excessive use of tobacco. A cigar in his mouth was his trademark. One June 16, 1884, suffering from extreme discomfort from his cancer, it was decided to accept an offer from a wealthy friend to go to Mount McGregor, New York, a mineral springs resort and stay in a small cottage which he owned. Ulysses stricken with cancer and heavily in debt was convinced to pen a book about his life, Personal Memoirs. He completed this work July 19, 1885 just four days prior to his death on July 23, 1885. This book produced the largest cash advance ever recorded in the publishing field at that time. Grant died there in the front room of the little cottage where he had been bedridden. General Grant's body was placed on a train and taken to New York City. On August 8th, his funeral procession stretched for seven miles through the streets of New York City to Riverside Park, where a temporary vault had been constructed. President Grover Cleveland led some 60,000 marchers while a million people lined the route. Both Union and Confederate Generals acted as pall bearers.

The proceeds from the book along with a widow's pension enabled Julia Grant to live in comfort, surrounded by her four children: Frederick, Ulysses, Ellen and Jesse and many grandchildren.

Grant's wife, Julia was so devastated by her husbands death that she was unable to attend the funeral.

Contributions from around the nation raised enough money ($600,000) to construct the hugh (150 Ft. tall gray granite) present day mausoleum tomb located in Riverside Park, overlooking the Hudson River, New York, NY. It was designed by John H. Duncan. Finally on April 27, 1897, with Mrs. Grant present, it was dedicated after a parade witnessed by over a million people.

Mrs. Grant died on December 14,1902 in Washington, DC. She had attended in 1897 the dedication of Grant's monumental tomb where she was laid to rest beside her husband.

The mausoleum was made a national memorial in 1959.

Their children were:
(1) Frederick Dent Grant who was born May 30, 1850 in St. Louis, MO. He married Ida Marie Honore on October 28, 1874. She was born June 4, 1854 in Louisville, KY. Frederick died April 11, 1912 in New York and Ida died 1930 in Washington, DC.
(2) Ulysses Simpson Grant Jr. who was born July 22, 1852 in Bethel, Ohio. He married Josephine "Fannie" Chaffee on November 1, 1880 in New York. She was born January 16, 1857 in Adrian, Michigan and died November 10, 1909 in San Diego, CA. Ulysses married the second time to Mrs. America Will Workman in 1913. She was born 1881in Santa Barbara, CA and died October 29, 1942 in San Diego, CA; Ulysses died September 25, 1928 in San Diego, CA.
(3) Ellen Wrenshall Grant who was born July 4, 1855 in Washington, DC. She married Algernon Charles Frederic Sartoris on May 21, 1874 at the White House, Washington, DC. He was born August 1, 1851 in London, England and died February 3, 1893 in Capri, Italy. Ellen married second Frank Hatch Jones on July 4, 1912 and both died August 30, 1922 in Chicago, IL. .
(4) Jesse Root Grant was born February 6, 1858 in St. Louis, MO. He married Elizabeth Chapman September 30, 1880 in San Francisco, CA. She was born January 10, 1858 and died February 28, 1945 in San Diego, CA. Jesse married second Lillian Burnes on August 26, 1918. She was born 1864 in Maryland and died July 1, 1924 in New York. Jesse died June 8, 1934 in Los Altos, CA.