What do you know about Ulysses S. Grant? Victorious commander of the Union troops in the U.S. Civil War: Check. Eighteenth President of the United States: Yep. Devoted lover: Huh??
President Grant and his wife Julia Dent Grant sustained a long love affair throughout their lives. What better love story to share in time for Valentine’s Day?
Ulysses and Julia’s romance began at White Haven, the Missouri plantation owned by Julia’s parents. In 1843, while stationed at a nearby Army barracks, the young Lieutenant Grant visited the farm where his West Point roommate had grown up. He was immediately charmed by Julia and often made the 12-mile ride to White Haven to visit her several times a week.
Unfortunately for the young couple, their courtship was marked by long periods of separation while Grant was on assignment for the Army. So they turned to letter writing as their sole method of declaring their love. Although sadly no correspondence from Julia to Grant survives to this day, we are lucky to have numerous letters that Grant sent to his beloved, and his devotion to her is obvious.
When Grant was stationed in Louisiana and Texas in preparation for the coming war with Mexico, he wrote Julia in 1844 “of the depth and sincerity of my love for you.” Writing from Texas the following year, Grant told her “for my own part I would sacrifice everything Earthly to make my Dear Julia my own forever.”
Even during the height of battle, his feelings for her were as strong as ever: “…in the midst of grape and musket shots, my Dearest Julia and my love for her are ever in my mind.” And in that same letter, Grant assures her “I am getting very tired of this war, and particularly impatient of being separated from one I love so much, but I think before I see another birth day I shall see Julia, and if she says so, be able to call her my own Dear for ever.” Grant’s wish eventually came true. The couple was married at White Haven in 1848.
Though Julia was able to travel with Ulysses to some of his Army postings, they still remained apart for much of their early marriage. It is thought that these ongoing separations was one reason Captain Ulysses Grant resigned his commission from the Army in 1854 and returned to White Haven to be with his wife and young children.
To learn more about the love story of Julia and Ulysses, watch A Thousand Kisses, the short video about their early life that JNPA helped produce for the National Park Service.
You can also read many of Grant’s letters to his wife in My Dearest Julia, available in our online store or at our bookstore at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site.