Life went on for me, I fell madly in love (of course!) got married and had two children in two years. I really didn’t have much time to think about General Grant. Then, one day, I saw an ad in the T.V. Guide for the Ken Burns documentary about the Civil War. I had missed it years ago, and told my husband I wanted to make a special effort to watch it this time.
When they started talking about General Grant, I waited breathlessly for them to mention his wife. Sure enough, they said “He adored her,” in a knowing voice. They never said such things about anyone else in that brutal war, but General Grant’s special love for his wife was always brought up.
My interest in General Grant was reignited, and I decided to get a book about him. I bought “The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant,” and from the first page, I had this eerie feeling that General Grant was speaking directly to me. Even in his writing, there is a feeling of loneliness…a loneliness that could only be filled by the love of his wife.
I read about the battles, the generals, the great moments in American History. But even more striking than the battles, what began to unfold for me were the details of a romance that was achingly beautiful.
Without his wife, Grant became “emotionally crippled” and began to drink. It was necessary to keep her there with him in the Army Camps and near the battlefields. Of all the Union generals, he alone was capable of defeating Robert E. Lee and winning the war. Mrs. Grant’s presence was absolutely necessary for the Union to defeat the South.
General Grant’s wife was from the South! Her family lived on a plantation and owned slaves! Her upbringing represented everything General Grant was duty-bound to destroy. Yet, if she was not with him during the war, he began to drink.
At some point, Julia Grant had to make a choice…her world, or her husband.
Hey Brooks, I think you should get on board as the historical adviser for the film version. What an odd example of Civil War Memory.