Just outside of St Louis, a young Second Lieutenant and recent graduate of West Point was stationed at Jefferson Barracks in 1843. His roommate at the Academy was Frederick Dent, who happened to grow up just a few miles away on a local plantation named Whitehaven. Grant loved the family atmosphere and became a weekly visitor. At the time, the Dent’s younger daughter, Julia, had been away at boarding school. Upon her arrival, Grant became a daily visitor.
The couple married four years later. Julia’s family owned slaves and farmed their acreage. Julia often stayed at Whitehaven while Grant was moving from assignment to assignment. But the couple missed each other passionately… Many of their letters are on display here. Ulysses finally decided to leave the military and return to Whitehaven to become a gentleman – farmer. But droughts and low prices led him to take his family back to his hometown of Galina, Illinois, to enter the family business there. The beginning of the Civil War led Grant to reapply for military service… Without the war, Grant would have pretty much failed at his vocational choices. The Civil War led him back to what he as destined to do.
After his two-term stint as a President, Grant initially planned to return to Whitehaven. He wanted to convert the property into a horse breeding farm. But returns on his investments were not enough, and the Grant family retired to New York instead. As a side note, Mrs Bear and I, as newlyweds, looked down from our window on New York’s Upper West Side at Grant’s tomb. This visit filled in a lot of the gaps in my knowledge of Grant’s life journeys. A surprise visit to the site that a General Grant always considered his true home.