he was twenty-one, and five feet seven inches high, but bulky no longer.
A threatening cough had reduced him to one hundred and seventeen pounds,--his weight four years earlier, though he had grown six inches. For a time his hours were fairly free; and he made the acquaintance of a classmate's sister, Miss Julia Dent
, living in the neighbourhood.
affairs called his regiment to Louisiana
in the following May, he found that he regarded Miss Dent
as more than an acquaintance; and they became engaged.
Before the end of the month he was in camp near the Red River
on high ground, so healthy that they named it Camp Salubrity; and presently he was cured of his cough, and developed a reddish beard that is described as being much too long for such a youth.
General Richard Taylor
, of the Confederacy
remembers him at this time as “a modest, amiable, but by no means promising lieutenant in a marching regiment.”
could scarcely have held this estimate after Molino-del-Rey and Chapultepec
In the months of peace preceding, whether in Louisiana
or at Corpus Christi
's thoughts still saw the goal of a professorship; nor was his heart in the Mexican War
, when it came.
He pronounces it “unholy,” and he writes: “The Southern Rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican War
. Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions.”
This forty years retrospect is consistent with his letter after Cerro Gordo
: “You say you would like to hear more about the war . . . . Tell them I am heartily tired of the wars.”
On the intellectual side, his letters read stark and bald as time-tables.
, are nothing to him. But his constant love of
nature leads him to remark and count the strange birds of the country; and he speaks of the beauty of the mountain sides covered with palms which “toss to and fro in the wind like plumes in a helmet.”
This poetical note rings so strangely in the midst of his even, mat. ter-of-fact words that one wonders, did he not hear some one else say it, and adopt it because he thought it good?
It was his habit to do this.
It is thus that many years later the famous “bottling up” of Butler
came to be so described.
Yet, though his heart was not in this war, he shone in its battles.
He was in all fights that he could be in, and in several that he need not have been in. For after the capture of Vera Cruz
he was appointed regimental quartermaster; and this position puts an officer in charge of the trains, and furnishes him with a valid reason for staying behind with them.
never did, however,
but was always in the thick of the action.
He was commended in reports, brevetted first lieutenant for distinguished service at Molino-del-Rey (but deaths in that battle brought him full first lieutenancy), and for “acquitting himself most nobly” at Chapultepec
he received the brevet of captain.
Yet these honours do not show him so much out of the common as what quietly happened between him and General Worth
at San Cosme
He had found a belfry which commanded an important position of the enemy; and to the top of this he, with a few men, had managed to get a mountain howitzer.
Presently General Worth
observed, and sent a staff officer for him — Pemberton
, of Vicksburg
Worth “expressed his gratification at the services the howitzer in the church steeple was doing, . . . and ordered a captain of voltigeurs to report to me with another howitzer. . . . I could not tell the general that there
was not room enough in the steeple for another gun, because he probably would have looked upon such a statement as a contradiction from a second lieutenant.
I took the captain with me, but did not use the gun.”
Here in his prompt and perfect sagacity stands the future Grant
Thus ends this chapter of his life, and in it he may be said to have hit the mark.
His careless dress and modesty had not entirely hidden the man beneath them.
And now follows a darkening time, in which he misses the mark altogether.
War had forced him to exert himself.
When war stopped, he stopped also.
His ease-loving nature furnished no inward ambition to keep him going; and so, in the dead calm of a frontier post, he degenerated.
This drifting and stagnation filled thirteen years, but is not long to tell.
In July, 1848, he left Mexico
with his regiment.
He was a
brevet captain, and twenty-six years old. In August he was married.
As quartermaster, the regiment s new headquarters at Detroit
should have been his post that winter; but a brother officer, ordered to Sackett's Harbor
, preferred the gayety of Detroit
, and managed--one sees the thing to-day often enough — to have Grant
sent to Sackett's Harbor
, and himself made acting quartermaster at Detroit
This meanness was righted by General Scott
in the spring; and in later days Grant
, having the chance to even things with the brother officer
, did not take it, but stood his friend.
In June, 1851, Sackett's Harbor
became regimental Headquarters; and Grant
was there for twelve months, when he was ordered to the Pacific
by way of the Isthmus.
On account of her health, Mrs. Grant
did not go with him. He passed the next year on the Columbia River
, at what is now Fort Vancouver
, where he was both post
and regimental quartermaster.
One last year he spent as captain of F Company, Fourth Infantry, at Humboldt Bay
Then he left the army, resigning July 31, 1854.
Such were his moves and removes.
Of his doings the tale is equally brief.
He was known for his exploits with horses.
Otherwise he was unknown save to the very few brought by chance or duty into familiarity with him. To provincial blood and environment he added an extraordinary personal powerlessness to express himself or go through his manners.
In fact, he had no manners, which is far better than having bad ones, to be sure; and a certain something in him seems to have held even the most familiar at a distance.
But even Georgetown
found him wanting; and this social dumbness did not wholly wear off until he had been twice President
and had travelled round the world.
Either great strain or great ennui may drive a strong, resourceless man to drink; and both at different times visited Grant
, and overcame him. It has been plainly written, but is seldom remembered, that his head in these days was singularly light: a strange thing in such a temperament, but well authenticated.
Very little was too much for him. Never to touch liquor was his only safety.
How he left the army is conflictingly told.
He could scarcely be expected to explain it himself.
It is only the Franklins and the Rousseaus who can be as impersonally candid as that.
's version closely tallies with what is still reported on the coast.
's commandant asked for his resignation, which was not to be forwarded to Washington
, but held in escrow, so to speak, that he might pull himself together.
He could not, and the plain truth is that he drank himself out of the army.
He departed into an era that was to be one of deepening gloom, remarking, “Whoever hears of me in ten years will hear of a well-to-do old Missouri
Expecting money at San Francisco
, he did not get it. Sixteen hundred dollars were also owed him by the post-trader at Vancouver
He saw the man again, but the dollars never.
The chief quartermaster
of the coast found him penniless and forlorn, and helped him to go East.
In New York he was generously helped by Buckner
, who had ascended Popocatapetl with him. In the autumn he is seen working as a labourer on his father-in-law's farm near St. Louis
With his own hands he builds a cabin on some of this land, and names it “Hardscrabble.”
It is recorded that every animal about his farm was a pet. In 1858 he sold his farm at auction.
He went into real estate
, and next into the custom-house, and was even an auctioneer, it is said.
army friends came to visit him, for he retained their regard; and, with overalls tucked in his boots, he would dine with them at the Planter's House
Personally lonely, he was also out of sympathy with St. Louis
politics; and although the events of the world had at length begun to stir his strong brains, and he had opinions, not only about slavery, but also about the Italian
war, and studied maps and newspapers minutely, his comments were received with indulgence; for his audience, looking at the man, could scarcely look for wisdom from him.
There came a time when he walked the streets, seeking employment.
So painful was it all that those who knew him preferred to cross the street rather than meet him. Can any one gauge the despair of a man who, little as he studied himself, must have known how far below himself he was living?
In March, 1860, Grant
went to weigh
leather and buy hides for his father's branch store in Galena
He was paid six hundred dollars at first, and later eight hundred.
But this did not support his wife and four children.
He went to the war in debt, which he paid from his first military savings.
In 1866 he refused his inheritance, saying that he had helped to make none of his father's wealth.
This must be remembered in considering Grant
's acceptance of presents in acknowledgment of his military services.
The year at Galena
was more than ever isolated.
His quiet judgment, however, seems to have been wide-awake.
He went to hear Douglas
during the campaign of this year, and, being asked how he liked him, answered, “He is a very able, at least a very smart man.”
And from having been a Democrat--so far as he was definitely anything political — his change of view dates from this occasion.
caused him to rejoice over Lincoln
Except his vote for Buchanan
, his single political manifestation previous to this had been to join the Know-Nothings at St. Louis
, and attend one meeting.
But now he had listened to Douglas
, and preferred Lincoln
; and South Carolina
The state of the country became his one thought.
It is interesting to reflect that South Carolina
, the first state to leave the Union
, sent one man in thirty-eight to the Revolution, while Grant
's ancestral state, Connecticut
, furnished one man in seven, or five times as many.
furnished one in twenty-eight.