Quite naturally, shy Lieutenant Grant lost his heart to friendly Julia Dent, and made his love known, as he later said, "in the most awkward manner imaginable." Her father opposed the match, saying that Grant was too poor, but Julia answered that she was poor herself. The poverty on her part came from a slave-owner's lack of ready cash.
Born in 1826, Julia Dent had grown up on a plantation near St. Louis in a southern atmosphere. In memoirs prepared late in life - unpublished until 1975 - she pictured her girlhood as, "one long summer of sunshine, flowers, and smiles . . ." She attended the Misses Mauros' boarding school in St. Louis for seven years among the daughters of other affluent parents. A social favorite in that circle, she met "Ulys" at her home, where her family welcomed him as a West Point classmate of her brother. Soon she felt lonely without him, dreamed of him, and agreed to wear his West Point ring.
Julia and her lieutenant became engaged in 1844, but the Mexican War deferred the wedding for four long years. Their marriage met every test. Like other army wives, "dearest Julia" accompanied her husband to military posts. But when he was ordered to the West in 1852, she went to his parents' home in Galena, Illinois. Grant resigned his commission two years later to end the separation. After a failed business venture, the family - including four children - returned to Galena. When the Civil War called Grant to duty, Julia joined her husband near the scene of action whenever she could.
After so many years of hardship and stress, she rejoiced in his fame as a victorious general, and entered the White House in 1869 to begin, in her words, "the happiest period" of her life. With cabinet wives as her allies, she entertained extensively and lavishly. Upon leaving the White House in 1877, the Grants made a trip around the world that became a journey of triumphs. Julia proudly recalled details of hospitality and magnificent gifts they received.
But in 1884 Grant suffered yet another business failure and they lost all they had. To provide for his wife, he wrote his famous personal memoirs, racing with time and death. Julia was enabled her to live in comfort, surrounded by children and grandchildren, until her own death in 1902. In 1897, she had attended the dedication of Grant's monumental tomb in New York City where she was laid to rest. Her own chronicle of their years together ends with a firm declaration: "the light of his glorious fame still reaches out to me, falls upon me, and warms me."
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