Julia Grant

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This article is about the wife of U.S. President Ulysses Grant. For other uses, see Julia Grant (disambiguation).
Julia Grant
First Lady of the United States
In office
March 4, 1869 – March 4, 1877
Preceded by Eliza McCardle Johnson
Succeeded by Lucy Webb Hayes
Personal details
Born Julia Boggs Dent
January 26, 1826
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Died December 14, 1902(1902-12-14) (aged 76)
Washington, D.C., U.S.[1][2]
Resting place Grant's Tomb
Spouse(s) Ulysses S. Grant
Relations Frederick Tracy Dent (brother)
Occupation First Lady of the United States
Religion Methodist

Julia Boggs Dent Grant (January 26, 1826 – December 14, 1902), was the wife of the 18th President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant, and was First Lady of the United States from 1869 to 1877.


Julia Boggs Dent was born at White Haven plantation west of St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Colonel Frederick Dent, a slaveholding planter and merchant, and Ellen Wrenshall-Dent. All her life, she suffered from a medical condition called strabismus (cross-eyed). In memoirs prepared late in life—unpublished until 1975—she pictured her girlhood as an idyll: "one long summer of sunshine, flowers, and smiles".[citation needed]


Julia attended the Misses Mauros' boarding school in St. Louis for seven years among the daughters of other affluent parents. She excelled in art and voice. A social favorite in that circle, she met Ulysses at her home, where her family welcomed him as a West Point classmate of her brother Frederick. She soon felt lonely without him, dreamed of him, and agreed to wear his West Point ring.[citation needed]

Engagement and marriage to Grant[edit]

Grant proposed several times. When Julia finally accepted, they were sitting on the front steps of her beloved childhood home, White Haven, a picturesque plantation. In 1844, they embarked on a 4-year engagement, delayed by the Mexican-American War, during which they saw each other only once. They married on August 22, 1848 at White Haven when Julia was 22 and Ulysses was 26. Neither of their fathers approved of the match – hers because Grant's career-soldier prospects seemed bleak and his because the Dents were slaveholders. Grant's parents refused to attend the wedding but did accept Julia eventually.[citation needed]

The Grants' marriage was often tried by adversity and it met every test, as the couple gave each other lifelong loyalty. Like other army wives, "dearest Julia" accompanied her husband to military posts, where she passed uneventful days at distant garrisons. When he was ordered West in 1852, she returned to his parents' home. Grant resigned his commission 2 years later, ending that separation. When farming and business ventures in St. Louis failed, he took his family back to his home in Galena, Illinois in 1860.[citation needed]

The Grants had three sons and a daughter:

Civil War[edit]

Grant was working in his father's leather-goods store when the Civil War called him to a soldier's duty with his state's volunteers. Throughout the war, Julia lived at Walter Place, an Antebellum mansion in Holly Springs, Mississippi.[3] When Confederate General Earl Van Dorn raided the house, he was not permitted by the pro-Union owner to enter before she went outside.[3]

Julia Grant with daughter Nellie, son Jesse, and her father Frederick Dent
Ulysses S. Grant, Jr.
Frederick Dent Grant in 1908

First Lady[edit]

After many years of hardship and stress, Julia rejoiced in her husband's fame as a victorious general and she entered the White House in 1869 to begin, in her words, "the happiest period" of her life.[citation needed] With Cabinet wives as her allies, she entertained extensively and lavishly. The social highlight of the Grant years was the White House wedding of their daughter in 1874. Contemporaries noted her finery, jewels, and silks and laces. After four years of war, an assassination, and an impeachment trial, Washington was ready for a little levity, and Julia obliged. She offered a full array of events and became a popular hostess. She planned lavish state dinners, where guests enjoyed expensive wines and liquors.

As First Lady, it was suggested to Julia that she have an operation to correct her crossed eyes, but President Grant said that he liked her that way.[4]

After the Presidency[edit]

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. A highlight of the trip was an overnight stay and dinner hosted for them by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle in England. They also enjoyed a swing through the Far East, being cordially received at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo by the Emperor and Empress of Japan.

In 1884, Grant suffered yet another business failure and they lost all they had. To provide for his wife, Grant wrote his famous Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant in 1885 while racing against time from cancer and death. Funds garnered from her husband's memoirs coupled with her widow's pension enabled her to live in comfort, surrounded by children and grandchildren, until her own death in 1902 at age 76.

Julia Grant became the first First Lady to write a memoir, though she was unable to find a publisher, and had been dead almost 75 years before The Personal Memoirs of Julia Dent Grant (Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant) was finally published in 1975. She had attended in 1897 the dedication of Grant's monumental tomb overlooking the Hudson River in New York City. She was laid to rest in a sarcophagus beside her husband. She had ended her own chronicle of their years together with a firm declaration: "the light of his glorious fame still reaches out to me, falls upon me, and warms me."


  1. ^ "Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant Dies in Washington", The New York Times, December 15, 1902.
  2. ^ National First Ladies Library. First Lady Biography: Julia Grant.
  3. ^ a b Kirkpatrick, Marlo Carter (2010). Mississippi Off the Beaten Path: A Guide to Unique Places. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 18. 
  4. ^ King, Gilbert E. (February 14, 2012). "General Grant in Love and War". Smithsonian.com. 

External links[edit]

Honorary titles
Preceded by
Eliza McCardle Johnson
First Lady of the United States
Succeeded by
Lucy Webb Hayes