Lloyd Lewis describes life in Detroit for U.S. Grant and gives great insight into those early days for the young officer. Enjoy!
“Although he would declare in later years that Army life had never been agreeable to him, the Detroit days were happier than any he had known since he first put a uniform on. Delighted at home with Julia, he was with horsemen when away from it. Retired officers, lieutenants from the post and the sporting element of the city met at the whisky barrel in the departmental sutler’s store on Jefferson Avenue. “French ponies” which ran wild in meadows near town provided steeds for the races which were the chief amusement of the populace. Presumably Sam Grant drank moderately with the others, and certainly raced Nelly at breakneck speed along the streets…
With winter, horse racing took on new fascination-rough-shod horse drawing cutters on the River Rouge along a course which ended at such taverns as Mother Weaver’s, near the foot of Twelfth, or “Coon” Ten Eyck’s near the hamlet of Dearborn. Drinking was common at the social affairs in homes of retired army officers and old French families, where post officers were entertained. Ulysses and Julia attended the weekly cotillions in the Michigan Exchange Hotel. She danced; he did not. The quartermaster clerk, Friend Palmer, saw Grant “stand around or hold down a seat all evening,” always “ready to join the boys when they went out ‘to see a man.’ ” Palmer, however, “never saw him under the influence of liquor…
Julia began to drop out of the dances as the winter of 1849-1850 passed; she was pregnant, and with the spring she sat with Ulysses on the back piazza of their cottage, looking at the garden and presumably holding hands as they were so often seen to do later in their lives. As the expected arrival of the baby, late in May, drew near, Julia went home to St. Louis and Ulysses moved in with Gore, Mrs. Gore and their small son. “
Regarding Grant, himself, leaving Detroit, Lewis notes this:
“The departure came in the spring of 1852, when orders took the regiment to the Pacific Coast…”
Thus, Grant’s days of residing in Detroit had ended. He didn’t know it then, but his future would yield great things. One can’t help but wonder if he didn’t, at times, look back on his years in Michigan and long for those times.