ULYSSES S. GRANT.
Milton Bona, "U.S. Grant at Vancouver," Clark County History. 1974. Vancouver: Fort Vancouver Historical Society, 1974. p. 421-439.
If young Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant had been master of his own destiny he probably would never have become commander of the Union Forces in the Civil War, nor Andrew Johnson's acting secretary of war, nor, least of all, the 18th President of the United States. Instead, had he been able to follow his own desires as expressed many times during his tour of duty at Fort Vancouver, Grant would have become a farmer and a country gentleman in or near Clark County.
A careful reading of his letters to his wife Julia,* written by candlelight at Vancouver in 1852 and 1853, discloses that he was enraptured with the Pacific Northwest, saw great opportunities here to make a fortune from farming, and carried on a "selling campaign" in his letters home.
Consequently, during the year he was here, he engaged in a number of speculations, including his well-publicized potato farm, in an effort to raise enough money to send for his wife and their two sons, the youngest of whom he had never seen. Many of these money-making schemes ended in failure, and Grant lost considerable sums of money making loans to fellow officers and investing in a general store on the post, whose proprietor skipped the country.
In addition to farming and money-lending, Grant traded in horses, hogs, cattle, salt pork and cord wood for river steamers, and engaged in a chicken venture that ended in disaster.
Finally, homesickness, frustration and lack of money caused him to give up his plans to live on the West Coast, resign from the army and return to his family in Missouri.
Assuming that he would have been more successful as a farmer here than he was in Missouri, he probably would have paid much less attention to a civil war 3,000 miles away, the news of which often took a month or six weeks to reach Vancouver. As it was, in Missouri he was a financial failure, due largely to bad luck, and was forced to ask his father to give him a job as a clerk in the family's leather goods store in Illinois.
As a youngster he had hated his father's tanning business, and this distaste was transferred to the retail store. It was a great blow to Grant's pride to have to ask to be "taken in" to the store so he could provide for his family, now grown to four. Consequently, when hostilities broke out between the North and South, Grant immediately offered his services to the war department, which ignored him.
Finally he went to work in the office of the Illinois Volunteers and eventually was given the temporary rank of colonel and assigned to command the volunteer 21st Infantry.
The rest of Grant's career is well known. As a colonel of volunteers his talents as a military strategist and leader of men came to the attention of President Lincoln, who rapidly advanced him through the permanent ranks of brigadier general and major general to the highest position in the army, that of lieutenant general. Thus in the span of less than four years Grant rose from a broken and disappointed store clerk to the top military commander in the War between the States and a national hero.
Grant had had a fine record in the Mexican War, but when his regiment, the Fourth Infantry, was ordered to the West Coast in 1852, the commander, Lt. Col. Benjamin L. E. Bonneville, objected to Grant being appointed regimental quartermaster. One of the officers wrote later that the French-born Bonneville objected because of "something that occurred in Mexico." It was all very vague and was never brought into the open because the other officers came to Grant's support.
Historians later wrote of Grant's heavy drinking, and a drinking episode may have been behind Bonneville's objections. However, fellow officers and his own housekeeper at Fort Vancouver later denied that he was a slave to the bottle. Rather, he would go on a binge with other officers two or three times a year, probably because of his homesickness and longing for his wife. But such stories persisted even when he was in command of the Union forces, and when he was a candidate for the presidency.
In his personal memoirs Grant wrote about the trip to Vancouver:
My regiment spent a few weeks at Benicia Barracks [in California] and then was ordered to Fort Vancouver, on the Columbia River, then in Oregon, Territory. During the winter of 1852-53 the territory was divided, all north of the Columbia River being taken from Oregon to make Washington Territory.
It is now 9 o'clock at night and in a few minutes we will be on our way for Columbia Barracks where we will arrive about breakfast tomorrow.
Steamer only stops there long enough to land us there will be no time to give you any impressions that I may form of the place. There are however many passengers aboard who are acquainted with the place and they all coincide in saying that it is as pleasant a place as there is in the country. The country is certainly delightful and very different from the same latitude in the Atlantic States.
Here, I am told ice scarcely ever forms to a greater thickness than one inch, although we are about one degree north of Sacket [t] Harbor New York.
Astoria-A place that we see on maps, and read about, is a town made up of some thirty houses. (I did not count them) situated on the side of a hill covered with tall trees, looking like pines, with about two acres cleared to give way for the houses. There is nothing about the place to support it only that it is near the outlet of the Columbia River and they have a custom house, distributing post office for the Territory, and a few pilots for vessels coming into the mouth of the river...
Prices of all kinds of supplies were so high on the Pacific Coast from 1849 until at least 1853-that it would have been impossible for officers of the army to exist upon their pay, if it had not been that authority was given them to purchase from the commissary such supplies as he kept at New Orleans wholesale prices. A cook could not be hired for the pay of a captain.
The cook could do better. At Benicia, in 1852, flour was 25 cents per pound; potatoes were 16 cents; beets, turnips and cabbage, 6 cents; onions, 371/2 cents, meat and other articles in proportion...
Although Grant had been given the rank of brevet captain for meritorious services in his Mexican War, he drew the the salary of a first lieutenant, his peacetime rank. Grant was next in line for promotion to captain whenever someone in the regiment of that rank resigned. Grant's $50 a month plus allowances (a total of $80 a month) was not adequate to support a family at the inflated prices of food on the West Coast, so Grant left his pregnant wife and small son Fred behind in Missouri.
Some other officers brought their families and the rough voyage to Panama and the overland crossing of the isthmus caused serious illness and death among many of the dependents, especially children. Grant expressed his gratitude in several letters to his wife that she and Fred had not been subjected to this suffering and probable death of the youngster.
When Grant arrived in Vancouver on Sept. 20, 1852, on the steamer, Columbia, the post had been named Columbia Barracks in concert with a move to rename the nearby village Columbia City.
The name Vancouver met with disfavor from American settlers who were largely anti-British and who resented the fact that the boundary treaty of 1846 had allowed the English Hudson's Bay Company to remain and do business on American soil. However, the name change did not stick; the town was later renamed Vancouver and the army post Fort Vancouver, and finally, Vancouver Barracks.
Grant's first letter to his wife from the Pacific Northwest was penned on board the Columbia under date of Sept. 19, and datelined Astoria, Oregon."
In his next letter, dated Oct. 7, Grant chided "my dearest Julia" for not writing to him. But he quickly explained that her letters probably went to some other address, since she couldn't know where he was presently stationed. He expressed hope that the next mail (three weeks hence) would bring several letters.
"I am very much pleased with Vancouver," which he said was about the most populous part of Oregon. He estimated that there were only about 15,000 People in the entire territory. He told how immigrants were pouring in after suffering great privations on their westward journey. A great many widows had arrived in Vancouver penniless, having lost their husbands on the trail.
Grant revealed to Julia that he had already made $1,500 in a speculation, that of going into partnership in a store with one Elish E. Camp. "This enabled Camp to buy a house on credit and a few goods to sell. The business was so profitable that Camp bought out Grant for $1,500. Grant wrote that he was very foolish in accepting the deal, as his share of the profits would have been no less than $3,000 a year. Camp later skipped the country owing Grant $800.
In his next letter, datelined Fort Vancouver O. T., Oct. 30, 1852, Grant wrote an impassioned plea concerning his lack of mail from his wife, which was a sample of others he was to write in the months to come:
"Another mail has arrived and not one word do I get from you either directly or indirectly. It makes me restless dearest, and much more so because I now know that I must wait two more weeks before I can possibly hear. I can write you nothing until I hear from you and learn that you, and our dear little ones, are well. Just think, our youngest is at this moment probably over three months of age, and yet I have never heard a word from it, or you, in that time. I have my health perfectly and could enjoy myself here as well as at any place that I have ever been stationed at if only You were here."
In the same letter Grant reported that he had "made something dearest for us (including our children) already," and had great plans for making more money. He said he had been up to The Dalles and bought a number of oxen, cows and hogs from immigrants who had stopped there on their way to western Oregon. He made arrangements for the cattle to be fattened up during the winter, so that he could sell them for a profit in the spring. "If I should loose [sic] one fourth of my cattle I would then clear at least one hundred Percent," he wrote. He also told how he had bought a horse which someone had already offered him a down payment of $100.
On the subject of horses Grant was one of the army's best informed officers. He learned to ride when he was 3 years old. His West Point jumping record stood for 50 years and he was rated the finest horseman in the corps. Later as depot quartermaster at Vancouver he purchased hundreds of horses from Indians and settlers for army and survey part work.
One story is told how Grant became the only President in history to be arrested for speeding down Pennsylvania Avenue-at the reins of a team of horses. When the mounted policeman recognized whom he had stopped he began to apologize, but Grant insisted on being issued the ticket, which he later paid like any other citizen. In his Dec. 3 letter to Julia Grant he was ecstatic.
He had received four letters from his wife and one from Clara, a friend of Julia's, on the last boat, and had learned for the first time that the second child was a boy named Ulysses. "If I could hear Fred talking it would do me a great deal of good," he added. These letters were the first word from Julia since he had left home six months before.
His letter quickly turned to pecuniary matters, informing Julia that if he collected all that was owed to him he would be $1,800 ahead. He told about the celebrated potato patch of about one hundred acres, cleared and fenced off, about a mile east of Grant's quarters, which he planned to cultivate with Captains Thomas L. Brent, Henry D. Wallen and Thomas R. McConnell. Grant had leased the land in his own name, and he said it was four times as much as he could get seed for.
He said he and his partners expected to raise 30 acres of potatoes and the rest in oats. Pointing out that it is necessary in this country for a person to help himself in every way possible, Grant said he could not possibly live on less than $150 a month, aside from clothing and incidentals, without earning something on the side.
In his next letter, dated Dec. 19, Grant discussed living expenses at greater length and wrote about the bad weather. The steamer, he said, came here first with the mail and then went up the Willamette River some 15 miles [an exaggeration] to Portland, "the largest town in the territory, though an insignificant little place of but a few hundred inhabitants." He described the economy of the area in these words: So far as I have seen, Timber stands close to the banks of the river free for all.
Fred was an abbreviation for Frederick, so Grant almost always put a period after the name. The rest of his punctuation and spelling did not measure up to this meticulous practice. He was a good speller, as evidenced by correctly spelling words in one letter and incorrectly in the next, but like many letter writers of his time, he did not consider consistency in spelling an important virtue.
Wood is worth five dollars a cord for steamers. The soil produces almost double it does any place I have been before with the finest market in the world for it when it is raised. For instance, beef gets fat without feeding and is worth at the door from seventy to one hundred dollars per head, chickens one dollar each, butter one dollar per pound, milk twenty five cents per quart... and everything else in the same proportion...
I could not mess alone for less than one hundred dollars per month, but by living as we do, five or six together, it does not cost much over fifty... If your brother does not come out there is no telling when I am to see them [the children] and you. It cannot be a great while however .because I would prefer sacrificing my commission and try something [else] to continuing this separation. My hope is to get promotion and then orders to go to Washington to settle my accounts. If you, Fred. and Uys. were only here I would not care to ever go back [home] only to visit friends...
In his next letter he told of the severe winter, with the river frozen over, and how he and Capt. Rufus Ingalls, (the assistant division quartermaster who had built the original army installation at Vancouver) had crossed the river on the ice. Then he described his quarters:
I am situated quite comfortable as any body here, or in the Territory. The house I am living in is probably the best one in Oregon (see picture). Capt. Brent and Ingalls and their two clerks, Mr. [George] Bomford and myself live together. Maggy cooks for us and Getz assists with the house.* Every one says they are the best servants in the whole Territory. Living together as we do I suppose board, wages, and servant hire does not cost us over 61 dollars per month each...
Before receiving this letter Julia had written asking about Grant's quarters, so in his letter of Jan. 4, 1853, he elaborated:
... The plan is very much the same as yours [her parents' home near St. Louis] only a little larger with higher ceilings, and a piazza on three sides, upstairs and down... But you must not think of the balance of the quarters are like this; far from it. They are what are called temporary buildings having been put up in great haste with round and green logs, floors of rough green plank. They are very cold at present but they will be made comfortable next summer. I live where I do in consequence of being Commissary and Q. Master.
Among the "temporary" log buildings was the nucleus of today's U.S. Grant Museum, which was occupied by Col. Bonneville, Grant's commanding officer, and served as regimental headquarters. The house Grant lived in had been prefabricated, or at least presawed, on the east coast and the materials shipped around the Horn to Vancouver. It is amusing to note that the deputy Pacific Division quartermaster, Capt. Ingalls, saw to it that his own department had the first permanent building on the post. Later a building of similar architecture was erected nearby for quartermaster clerks. Meanwhile the hot-tempered Col. Bonneville and several successors had to put up with the log house, although Ingalls saw to it that when the logs and rough floors had dried out, the cracks were chinked to keep out some of the cold.
There was a good excuse for such plush quartermaster living quarters. Visiting dignitaries and heads of government survey parties were put up in the quartermaster's house, as there was no hotel in the village. Furthermore, the food and drink consumed by visitors might better be buried in the quartermaster's accounts than in the commanding officer's.
At any rate Grant, when he later was given the added duties of depot quartermaster, entertained Brevet Capt. George McClellan, who led a railroad survey party in the Pacific Northwest under the direction of the first Washington Territorial Governor, Isaac Stevens.* McClellan led one party north and northeast, passing through Fourth Plain (then a village), Yacolt Prairie and through timber to the Cascade Mountains near Mt. Adams; then into the Simcoe Valley and on north, along the east ridge of the Cascades; then via Naches Pass to Fort Steilacoom on Puget Sound.
A second party went up the Columbia River and surveyed a water level route.
This fine quartermaster house was located about 500 feet north of today's "Old Apple Tree" on the Camas highway. In his memoirs Grant commented that the house was but a stone's throw from an improvised hospital the Hudson's Bay doctor had set up outside the stockade to treat Indians for smallpox. Grant's description of Indian life, their man-killing "sauna" baths and their decimation by white man's diseases, deserves reading in the original.
The misunderstanding about the present-day Grant Museum apparently had its start when Grant, a national hero, became President. In 1906, General Henry C. Hodges, retired U.S. quartermaster general, wrote to a Major Boutelle at Vancouver Barracks his comments on a story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on the subject of Grant's military career on the West Coast. Hodges was a lieutenant in Grant's Fourth Infantry Regiment and was post adjutant at the time.
... These two officers (Ingalls and Depot Quartermaster Brent) were living in the house near the river, where I lived in 1868-69 and Grant being a (West Point) classmate of Ingalls and R.Q.M. was invited to live with them. He did so and never lived in any other house so long as he was at the post ... Richardson (the P.I. writer) is perfectly correct in what he says of Grant's residence.
The big house on the hill, and about to be torn down, was the house occupied always by the commanding officer of the post. Major Hathaway of the artillery was in it on our arrival [in 1852]... Grant never lived in it.
However, as regimental and depot quartermaster Grant certainly had many dealings with the regimental command and was often in the building. Since Grant was Vancouver Barracks' only "alumnus" to become President, it seems perfectly proper to use the building for the U.S. Grant Museum. What misleads people, including present-day newspaper reporters and not a few important historians, is the term "Grant House." This it is not.
In his next letter to his wife Grant gave Vancouver climate a big buildup. He said it would surprise people as far south as St. Louis to witness the pleasant weather and farmers ploughing their fields in January. (Evidently the bitter winter came to a quick end with a better than average spring.) Grant told of his hopes for a promotion soon when one of his fellow officers planned to resign.
After that, he said he would go to Washington, D.C., to settle his accounts "and when I return, bring you with me." In the following letter he said his opinion of Vancouver was still unchanged, and related again the fertility of the soil and the fact that cattle could be pastured all winter and still remain fat.
In a letter dated Feb. 15, 1853, Grant acknowledged his wife's "long sweet letter" and his delight over hearing so much about their two sons. He wrote how glad he was that Julia and Fred had not come with the regiment to Vancouver. "As it is, Fred. is a strong healthy boy. Had he come he no doubt would now be in his grave."
He recounted how some 20 or more children of Fred's age and younger had made the voyage, 17 died in the Isthmus of Panama of disease, mostly cholera, and the other three died later. The last to go was Capt. Wallen's son who had died a few weeks before. Julia knew the Wallens when she and Grant, as newlyweds following the Mexican War, were stationed at Sackett's Point, N.Y., and Detroit, Mich.
Evidently Julia had written about being teased over Grant's opportunity to make love to Spanish girls in Vancouver. In his next letter Grant commented that those teasing her were "desperately ignorant" of history not to know that there probably was never a Mexican or Spaniard in this part of Oregon.
At the conclusion of the letter Grant confessed having loaned $200 to an officer who had been transferred and who had failed his solemn word to return the money by the next mail.
On March 4, Grant wrote that he was very tired and sore from his farming, and had just finished sowing barley, "every grain with my own hand." He revealed that in addition to potatoes, he and his partners would plant onions and also a few acres of corn. He continued to paint a rosy picture of his finances after the harvest and after payment of some $2,000 due him from personal loans, admitting, however, that some of them probably would never be paid.
This fiscal report to Julia was intended to explain why he had not sent more money home. Julia, who came from a wealthy home, was trying to make do on $50 every other month, presumably being sent her by an officer who had bought some securities from Grant. Reporting about rumors of the discovery of gold at Grand Ronde, Grant reiterated that "if you and our little boys were here I should not want to leave here for some years to come," but expressed fears that he might be promoted to some company away from here before he was ready to go. Realism was now beginning to overshadow his dream of staying here permanently.
Grant was eloquent again about the mild winter weather at Vancouver and "the wild scenery." He reported that Capt. Brent had been transferred to Fort Hall and that he, Grant, was given the added duties of depot quartermaster. Now he was in charge of a blacksmith shop, tin shop, saddler's shop, carpenter's shop and some 200 pack and harness mules, "all without additional compensation." He also wrote that Lloyd Brooke, his quartermaster clerk, had given Grant a pony for son Fred that he could ride when the family was reunited in Vancouver. (Fred was already learning to ride on his Grandfather Dent's farm where he and his mother and brother Ulysses had gone to live. Fred eventually became a fine horseman like his father and followed a military career.)
Grant's March 19 letter repeated that if he could only get a promotion to captain, he could send for his family, and reiterated that "there is not a more delightful place in the whole country" than Vancouver, where everybody was robust and healthy. (Grant himself had gained considerable weight and had grown a beard, an adornment which he evidently retained until his death.) He mentioned again his supply of cord wood and the fact that he had his own horse and wagon to haul it in.
In addition, two of his partners and Grant jointly owned two drays which he figured would bring in $10 to $15 a day of added income. He asked Julia if she was receiving the $50 payment for the securities, and if not, he would send her "a hundred or two dollars."
On March 31 a letter from Julia upset Grant badly. "You speak of not joining me on the coast in a manner that would indicate that you have been reflecting upon a dream which you say you have had until you really imagine it is true," he wrote. He admonished her not to write in such a vein again. "It is hard enough for us to be seperated so 'far without borrowing immaginary troubles." He said he was doing all he could to save money not only to bring his wife and boys to Vancouver in comfort, "but to enable you to be comfortable after you get here."
Then, shifting his tone, he became enthusiastic about his farming, and said he had learned that by doing it himself he could do as much and do it better than if he had hired it done. Also, those he did hire would do a third more work when he worked beside them. He added that he was surprised that he could run as straight a furrow now as he could 15 years ago. "I never worked before with such pleasure either, because now I feel sure that every day will bring a large reward."
In May Grant made a trip to California to testify at a court martial of a lieutenant who had been dishonest with his payroll records, but the officer resigned his commission and the charges were dropped. In his next letter Grant revealed that while in San Francisco he made arrangements to do a lot of business in commissions if he stayed in the West. In a subsequent letter he explained that he was to watch the markets in the Vancouver area and make purchases for the bay area firm when prices looked right. They would furnish the capital and make the sales and divide the profits with Grant.
With this letter he enclosed a deed for the land "located with my land warrant" for Julia to sign before a commissioner. These warrants were rights to public lands that the government issued to soldiers as an incentive not to desert. The warrants were negotiable and many were listed on stock exchanges. When Grant left the army he had two warrants to a total of 320 acres of land that he sold for $360.
In the same letter Grant also revealed the great misfortune that had befallen his potato patch. The Columbia River flooded the farm, destroyed all the grain, onions and corn and about half the potatoes. The cord wood on the river bank floated away and had to be restacked at considerable expense. When the flood receded, so did Grant's dreams of making a killing in the food and grain markets, and probably his desire to become a citizen farmer of Clark County. In his memoirs written 30 years later, he was more philosophical about the disaster:
... Our crop was enormous. 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 the 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...
Julia had asked about E. E. Camp, the post trader, with whom Grant had been in partnership. "The poor fellow could not stand prosperity," Grant replied. It seems that the more money Camp made the more parsimonious he became. Finally he could not bear to let money go even to replenish his inventory. So he took off one day leaving Grant holding the bag for $800.
The June 15 letter mentioned Grant's promotion to captain and the fact that he was being transferred to Fort Reading, California in October. His dream of farming in Clark County had come to an end, but Grant did not comment on it in his letter. He also wrote how busy he was outfitting George McClellan's survey party.
In his next letter to Julia, dated June 28, Grant added that he had purchased within a few days 200 horses for the McClellan party, which was to be split up, one going northeast into the mountains, the other up the Columbia River. The flooding of the river made transportation so difficult that Grant had to hire some Indians to back pack all the provisions for the party going up river, to the portage at the Cascades, some 45 miles upstream.
Ever the optimist, Grant reported to Julia that when the flood receded he found "several thousand potatoes" that could be harvested, which old settlers had assured him would bring a good price. Grant was still unaware of the glut of potatoes that was soon to hit the market. He also told Julia that while he was in California he purchased a quantity of salt pork which he sold at a profit in the Vancouver area.
He and an unnamed partner had cleared $400. Another lot of pork was still en route, which would clear each partner about $600.. He also reported he had a man out buying hogs for shipment to California, which would clear him another $ 1,000.
In his July 13 letter to Julia Grant said he had a large quantity of pork on hand that had increased in value $10 a barrel. This would help buy dresses for Fred and Ulysses; "but what interests me most is to know how it is to let their pa see them wear them, and their ma to put them on to advantage."
This was Grant's last letter to Julia from Vancouver. His next was dated Jan. 18, 1853 (he meant 1854) from Fort Humboldt, Calif. There was no direct mail service to Grant's new post, and he underwent three months of loneliness without a word from home.
Late in March he acknowledged receipt of "one solitary letter," written nearly six months before. The Fort Humboldt assignment was a boring one, and Grant's efforts to get a leave to go back east were unsuccessful. Finally on April 11 he acknowledged receipt of his commission as a captain in one letter and in another letter resigned from the army effective July 31. Grant was finally given a leave of absence and left in May for Missouri.
A scant ten years later Grant was a Civil War hero in the North; 15 years later he was elected President of the United States. When a person exposes himself to politics, he risks the wildest kind of rumors, half truths and lies. In Grant's time the opposition press was seldom reluctant to print these stories, often as gospel truth.
There were many stories about Grant's drinking, which were refuted in later years by his associates. Henry C. Hodges wrote that Grant was by no means a drunkard; he merely went on two or three sprees a year, "was always open to reason, and when spoken to on the subject would own up and promise to stop drinking, which he did."
Probably the most vicious story concerned a girl Grant was supposed to have fathered with an Indian woman who hung around the post. In her memoirs, Delia Sheffield, who served as cook and housekeeper after Maggy Getz's husband completed his enlistment, scotched this one.
During all the early years of my life there, not one word did I ever hear against his character; he was one of nature's noblemen. Not until 1868, when General Grant was a candidate for the Presidency, did we hear the baseless story of the Indian daughter. I know it to be absolutely false, for this Indian girl was born a few months after our arrival in Vancouver.
Obviously "a few months" meant too few to accommodate the normal period gestation.
The editor of Mrs. Sheffield's memoirs, had a logical explanation for the story:
It has occurred to me that a confusion in identity of names may have aided the circulation of this slander. Richard Grant, the Hudson's Bay Company trader at Port Hall, through which most of the early Oregon emmigration passed, was known as "Captain" Grant to the emmigrants who dubbed everyone in a position of authority in those days "captain." Richard Grant was married to a woman of Indian blood, and had children of Indian blood. He was often at Fort Vancouver.
Mrs. Sheffield related many anecdotes about Grant and observations about his character, his love for his family and his faithfulness to Julia.
When she was learning to cook for the bachelors in the quartermaster's fine house, Grant expressed a desire for some "sweet butter." So Delia saved some cream, churned it into butter and added sugar instead of salt. When Grant tasted the product he commented with a twinkle in his eyes: "Well, this is the sweetest butter that I ever tasted."
Grant was fond of wild game, which he would put in a bucket and hang in the well for three or four days before allowing it to be cooked. When a local farmer presented Grant with a swan, the captain said he wanted to cook it himself. After the swan was properly aged "he took possession of the kitchen and baked it to perfection."
When Grant was transferred to Fort Humboldt he gave Mrs. Sheffield his "famous" cookbook, his feather pillows and a number of other articles.
On one occasion Grant was attending a play in the little theater on the post, and the purser of a river boat created a drunken disturbance. Grant quickly walked to where the man was sitting, grabbed him by the collar and administered the "bum's rush." Said Mrs. Sheffield: "He had a true soldier's love of order."
After the potato failure Grant and Capt. Wallen engaged in a speculation that Grant did not report to Julia. The two officers had Delia Sheffield's sergeant husband buy up all the chickens within a 20-mile radius, which were shipped live in crates to San Francisco in a chartered steamer. The chickens all died on the voyage and the venture was a dead loss.
In her memoirs Mrs. Sheffield testified further:
Often, of a winter's night, when we were seated around the fire, he would tell me of his wife and children and how he missed them. I never saw him angry, but when occasion demanded it, he was very firm. His manners, dress and style of living were simpler than those of any other officer in the garrison. In manner he was unassuming and approachable, and his language was always plain and straight forward.
Despite the scandals of his administration Grant retained much of his popularity. With their uncanny collective wisdom, the people knew instinctively that Grant himself was a good man, and blamed his friends for betraying him. When Rutherford B. Hayes succeeded him in the presidency, Grant and his family made a triumphant trip around the world, which the American public followed with avid interest.
The Grants were received by the crowned heads of the world with all the pomp and circumstance of reigning monarchs.
On his return to the United States, Grant made one stop in Washington Territory at Vancouver, in mid-October of 1879. The commander of the Department of the Columbia, Gen. 0. 0. Howard of Vancouver and the territorial governor and legislature went to Astoria to receive the Grant party. At 6 o'clock in the evening the steamer St. Paul approached the government wharf (about where the present Coast Guard dock is now located) and the 21st Infantry fired a 21-gun salute.
Five companies of infantry were drawn up in line of battle on the plain north of the wharf with the regimental band. Two hundred Vancouver citizens armed with torches formed a blazing reception line from the wharf to the troops.
After the formalities on board, the former president was escorted to the troops who presented arms as the band played "See, the Conquering Hero Comes," and the spectators cheered loud and long. The troops immediately wheeled into column and the dignitaries entered carriages and paraded up Main Street to 10th (now Evergreen Boulevard) and through the west gate of the Barracks to Gen. Howard's residence.
Along this parade route many bonfires had been lighted to provide illumination and countless candles glowed in paper Chinese lanterns to impart a festive air. A newspaper account mentioned that Providence Academy and the residence of one C. H. Whitney were especially well lighted and decorated.
As the procession approached the Howard residence a display of fireworks suddenly burst from all sides of the building lighting up the surrounding Barracks buildings and lending "enchantment to the scene," in the reporter's words.
Inside the house, the former president and his party were introduced to the wives of the public officials and army officers, who had remained behind to engage in polite small talk and missed all the excitement. Gov. Elisha P. Ferry welcomed Grant and gave a "chamber of commerce" type speech concerning the economic growth of Washington Territory.
Ferry was not missing an opportunity to get in a plug for statehood which Congress continued to postpone for fear of upsetting the political balance of power in the Congress.
In his response Grant picked up the Governor's cue and admitted that until now he had not visualized the territory as a candidate for statehood. He pointed out that while stationed here for a year he had not penetrated north of Vancouver very far and had no idea of the economic potential. He concluded by saying: "From your statement I have no doubt of your soon becoming a state, and we can't have too many [states] in this latitude." "Soon" timed out to be more than ten years.
The party returned to the ship at 10 p.m. for the night. Next morning at 9 Gen. Grant appeared at the public park where he spoke briefly to a large crowd and shook hands with more than a thousand men, women and children, according to the local newspaper account.
Then he returned to the wharf where the City of Salem had brought over the Portland reception committee. On the way to Portland the St. Paul ran aground on Swan Island bar and it took nearly an hour to pull her off. The same newspaper reporter observed slyly that the steamer had found "ample depth of water to reach Vancouver."
When Grant returned home the politicians tried to promote him for another term as President, but prejudice against a third term prevented his nomination. In 1881 the Grants moved to New York City where the general invested everything he had in a banking business.
Three years later the bank went bankrupt; two of the partners had stolen most of the assets. Now penniless, Grant took to writing his memoirs while suffering from throat cancer. He completed the two volume work five weeks before he died in 1885. The memoirs were a huge financial success. A wave of sympathy over his misfortunes, and admiration of his literary race with death restored much of the popularity that Grant's administration had eroded, and funds were raised for a great tomb on Riverside Drive in New York where his remains were laid.
All that Grant had ever wanted from life was a loving family, a comfortable home and a successful farm where he could raise horses and work up a good sweat behind the plow. Had he been able to do what he wanted in 1853, he may well have become a solid and respected gentleman farmer in Clark County and would never have suffered through the gyrations that his career ultimately took, from abject poverty to the pinnacle of fame and back to poverty again.
To the careful historian, Grant's unfortunate eight years in the White House do not take away any of the man's qualities, even his misplaced trust in his friends. He had never learned the first rule of Politics: "to trust completely no one, not even one's own mother," and for this the historians put his entire career under a cloud. To residents of Clark County, however, Gen. Grant continues to be Vancouver Barracks' most distinguished "alumnus" whose memory is preserved in the museum that bears his name on officers' row.
U.S. GRANT BIBLIOGRAPHY
"Captain Sam Grant" by Lloyd Lewis. Little, Brown & co., Boston, 1950.
Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant,,, vol. 1, Charles L. Webster & Co., New York, 1885.
The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant,,, vol. 1, (1837-1861), edited by John Y. Simon, Southern University Press, 1967.
Letter from Henry C. Hodges, U.S. Army, retired, to Major Boutelle, dated Buffalo, N. Y., November 17, 1906. Typed copy on file at Fort Vancouver Historical Society.
"Reminiscences of Delia B. Sheffield," edited by William S. Lewis, Washington Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XXV, No. 1, Jan., 1924.
"The Vancouver Independent" Oct. 16, 1879.
Milton Bona, "U.S. Grant at Vancouver," Clark County History, 1974. Vancouver: Fort Vancouver Historical Society, 1974. p. 421-439.