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[13]

Chapter 2:

    • In the army.
    • -- frontier service. -- characteristics as a young officer. -- in Texas. -- the Mexican war. -- his first battle. -- coolness and bravery at Resaca de la Palma. -- a steady, plucky officer. -- appointed regimental quartermaster. -- Joins Scott's army. -- tact, energy, and perseverance. -- not content with quartermaster's duties. -- Participates in battles. -- conspicuous gallantry at Chepultepec. -- brevet first Lieutenant and brevet captain. -- his reputation earned by merit and service, not by Favoritism. -- return to the United States. -- married. -- his fortunes shared by his wife; the higher honors yet to be shared. -- ordered to the Pacific coast. -- service in Oregon. -- promotion. -- Resigns. -- a Farmer in Missouri. -- careless independence. -- a patriot, but no politician. -- Enters the leather business with his father and brother. -- a higher destiny reserved for him.


When Grant received his first commission, the little army of the United States was occupied chiefly on the western frontier, a few troops only garrisoning the more important forts along the Atlantic seaboard, and on the shores of the Great Lakes. The Fourth Infantry was stationed on the western frontier to protect settlers from the Indians. The hostility of some of the Indians occasionally made the duties of the troops somewhat active, though no engagements occurred, and no very long marches were made. The duties of this' service, however, were of no little advantage to the young officer, who was always ready to learn by experience, faithful to the details of his duty, and willing to work. Though the routine was tedious [14] and irksome, nothing was neglected, and every opportunity of acquiring solid information upon matters connected with his profession was improved. As an officer he was the same good-natured and unassuming but firm, persevering, and reticent youth that he had been as a cadet at West Point. He was esteemed by his comrades and superiors as a young officer of moderate ability, but of undoubted pluck, perseverance, and self-reliance. In the ordinary duties of the army in time of peace, even on the frontier, he was not likely to become distinguished, nor to rise except by the slowest promotion. But those qualities for which he was justly esteemed were such as are needed in emergencies, and the value of Which can be best proved by the inexorable demands of war.

In 1845, when the annexation of Texas threatened to involve the country in war with Mexico, the Fourth Infantry was sent to Texas, where it afterwards formed a part of General Taylor's “Army of observation.” Grant at this time was commissioned as full second lieutenant, and transferred to the Seventh Infantry; but at the request of the officers of the Fourth he was soon restored to that regiment. The advance of the Mexican army into Texas, where it besieged, Fort Brown, precipitated the war with Mexico. General Taylor marched from Corpus Christi to the relief of the beleaguered fort, and encountered a large Mexican force on the march, when the battle of Palo Alto took place, May 8, 1846. Grant was with his regiment upon that field, and discharged his duties with a steadiness which was commended by his comrades and honorably mentioned by his superiors. The next day [15] the more severe battle of Resaca de la Palma was fought, and the young lieutenant showed his quality as a soldier by his cool and persistent bravery. Those solid qualities, which in time of peace seemed to be of little account in a junior officer, began to reveal them-selves and prove their value.

The Fourth Infantry remained with General Taylor till after the capture of Monterey, and participated in all the battled of old “Rough and ready's” campaign, except that of Buena Vista. Grant's position as a cool and plucky officer was well established in his regiment, while his methodical attention to his duties were recognized by his superior officers, and led to his being placed upon the regimental staff as quartermaster. His regiment was among those detached from General Taylor's command, and sent to join the larger army under General Scott, which was to advance from Vera Cruz to the city of Mexico. His duties as regimental quartermaster, on a campaign like this into the heart of the enemy's country, were arduous and responsible, and required great tact, energy, and perseverance. They were discharged in a manner creditable to his administrative ability and his indomitable energy. But he was not satisfied with the faithful discharge of these most important duties; he desired to share in the dangers of the battle-field also, believing that “the post of danger is the post of duty.” He participated in the bloody battles of Molino del Rey and Chepultepec, and was so conspicuous for his gallantry and successful service in the latter battle, where he bravely led a gallant charge, that he received honorable mention from General Worth, and was made brevet first lieutenant, [16] and subsequently brevet captain, the latter commission dating from September 13, 1847, the date of the last-named battle.

Grant earned his reputation and his promotion in this Mexican campaign by his own solid abilities and actual achievements. He was unknown beyond his own regiment, was no pet at headquarters, and was not regarded by influential officers as a young man “of great promise” whom they desired to advance. Nor had he shown simply a temporary dash and enthusiasm, which at times are desirable on the battle-field, but are not always to be relied upon for good results. He was distinguished for cool and steady bravery, that inspired his men with confidence, and a persistency that overcame all obstacles. The substantial services which he rendered by these qualities were conspicuous to those about him, and were thus brought to the notice of superiors who had never heard of him. They were duly acknowledged by those superior officers, but nothing more than simple justice was done. It could not be said in his case that he received honorable mention or promotion either because he was a favorite with his superiors, or had made a brilliant display of bravery under the eye of the commanding general.

When the Mexican war was ended, and the victorious army returned to the United States, the Fourth Infantry was stationed at different posts on the northern frontier along the Great Lakes. While thus stationed, awaiting recruits to fill up the ranks thinned by death and discharges, the officers of the regiment enjoyed furloughs, after their long and arduous service. At this time Grant, still holding the rank of lieutenant, [17] though a captain by brevet, married an accomplished and excellent lady, Miss Julia T. Dent, daughter of Frederick Dent, Esq., a merchant of St. Louis. Mrs. Grant has happily shared her husband's fortunes from the time when she married him, simply a lieutenant, till by his merits he has reached the highest military position ever given to an American officer; and it is to be hoped that she will share with him those higher honors which the American people desire to bestow.

In 1849 the Fourth Infantry was ordered to the Pacific, and a battalion to which Grant was attached was stationed in Oregon. While there he reached the rank of captain by regular promotion. In command of one of the posts of that region he faithfully discharged his duties, as in all his previous positions. But it was a time of profound peace, which promised to be of long duration, his duties were chiefly those of mere routine, promotion was slow, and active service of any kind was not likely to be required of him. He desired to provide more adequately for his wife and family, and under circumstances of less constraint to them. He therefore resigned his commission in 1854, the year following his promotion, and returned home to enter the pursuits of civil life.

He became the owner of a farm at Gravois, a few miles from St. Louis, and devoted himself to its cultivation. It was not altogether a new business for him, for in his boyhood he had learned much of the work of a western farm, and how to turn his hand to useful employment. He was not afraid to work himself, nor to lend a helping hand even to a black laborer. Quiet and unassuming still, he was not above his business, [18] and was quite as content to be called Farmer Grant as Captain Grant, though generally known by the latter title. He carried the produce of his farm to market himself, and might often have been seen driving his laden team through the streets of St. Louis or other river towns, and loading or unloading his wagon with a careless independence of all observers. He was reticent and modest, attended to his own affairs, and never troubled himself about those of other people, unless his advice or opinion was sought. He cared little for politics, and still less for parties, though he always felt the genuine patriotism which he had manifested by his service in the field. But with all his rough work, and his neglect of affairs which engross so much of the attention of men in this country, he did not forget his old studies, or the culture of his mind.

Thus he lived for some years, plodding on with characteristic perseverance in an occupation which, however honorable, was not always remunerative. But in 1860 he embraced the opportunity of entering what promised to be a more lucrative business, and engaged in the leather trade with his father and brother at Galena, Illinois. This was another business for which he was fitted by his early experience in his father's tannery, as he was also fitted for any business by his characteristic perseverance and fidelity to duties. He brought to it his usual quiet energy, and the plans of a well-disciplined mind, and was undoubtedly an acquisition to the firm. What he might have been in this new pursuit it is impossible to say, except that he [19] probably would have been successful; for still, as when a boy, he knew no such word as fail. But it was reserved for him to show his real merit and ability on a wider and more important field, where his natural characteristics and his early training should have full force in the service of his country. Before he had a fair opportunity to show his business talent he was called to those higher duties.

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