U.S. Grant and Son: Meeting Lincoln

The quintessential General Grant

Little Fred

Frederick Dent Grant (1850-1912) was the oldest son of Ulysses S. Grant. His earliest memory of his father may have been when he was four, and he and his two-year-old brother were playing on the porch of their grandparents’ house in St. Louis, MO, when a tired and dusty rider appeared, saw the boys, dismounted quickly and ran up the stairs two-at-a-time, scooping a boy in each arm and smothering them with kisses. Their mother, hearing noises out front, came to check. Her husband, an army captain she hadn’t seen for two years, was home. Finally.

Ulysses and Julia Grant vowed they would never be separated again for more than a few weeks, and never were.

Boy Fred

Young Fred Grant

At ten, with two brothers and a sister, Fred and his family, now complete, moved to Galena, IL. They were there less than a year when the Civil War began. West Point trained ex-captain Ulysses S. Grant was the only person in town with military experience and was asked to train a volunteer regiment, which he did. Elihu Washburne, his Congressman, and pal of President Lincoln, took an interest in his constituent, and mentored his career.

Fred Grant and his brother Buck, and his sister Nellie.

Some months later, rank and promotion gained, Grant began his illustrious military revival. Boggling any modern mind, Julia Grant begged her husband to “take Fred with him,” believing her eldest son could learn much at his father’s knee. Further boggling any modern mind, now-Colonel Grant agreed.

So at age eleven, Fred Grant went off to war, and for the most part, remained with the army for four years. Naturally, when danger was imminent, his now-Brigadier General father wired his wife, and put Fred on a train to his mother. Fred LOVED being with the army. He learned to march and drill, improved his horsemanship, his marksmanship, and ate grub like the rest of them. The soldiers LOVED him, and considered him a manly fellow.

After now-Major General USG became the Victor of Vicksburg, and shortly thereafter the Savoir of Chattanooga, President Lincoln believed he had finally found “his general.” He sent for Grant, who he had never met, and planned to promote him to the rank of Lieutenant General, unbestowed since George Washington.

The entire Grant family spent considerable time with the army.

U.S. Grant & Son

President Lincoln.

Naturally when the POTUS summons, you go immediately. Barely packing essentials, General Grant took a train to Washington with a very small entourage, and thirteen-year-old Fred. They arrived tired (no sleeping facilities on board) and grimy, and went directly to the Willard Hotel, considered the best in town. The capital was awash with military brass, but Grant was a “western” general, and few in Washington had ever seen him.

The Willard Hotel

Grant asked the desk clerk for a room, and was disdainfully told that he had only one –  in the attic. The General agreed, and signed the ledger, writing, U.S. Grant & Son, Galena, IL. That was it. No rank, no nothing. But the clerk, upon reading the entry, immediately found “room at the inn.”

Grant & Son went up, washed up, rested a bit, and then went downstairs for dinner. They were given a small table and ordered their meal. There was a buzzing of whispers and comments, and finally a man began pounding his knife on the table to get attention. He rose and announced an illustrious guest dining there: General Ulysses S. Grant. Everyone stood and shouted enthusiastically, “Grant! Grant! Grant!”

According to Fred, “My father arose and bowed, and the crowd began to surge around him; after that, dining became impossible and an informal reception was held for perhaps three-quarters of an hour, but as there seemed to be no end to the crowd assembling, my father left the dining-room and retired to his apartments.

The most famous illustration of the first meeting of Lincoln and Grant

Some time later, Grant & Son were escorted to the White House for a reception. It was an impressive first meeting. The extremely tall, lanky President beamed a warm smile, took Grant’s hand in both of his, saying, “I am most delighted to see you, General.” The two men talked for a few minutes, and then Lincoln escorted his guest-of-honor into the large East Room, to present him to a “crowd which surrounded and cheered him wildly… eager to press his hand. The guests present forced him to stand upon a sofa, insisting that he could be better seen by all.”

Lincoln quietly gave Grant a copy of the brief speech he planned to make at the formal ceremony the following day, adding that a few brief words from the new Lieutenant General would be in order. According to Fred, when they returned to the Willard Hotel, an enormous crowd had assembled and remained for hours.

The next day, at 10 a.m. Grant & Son returned to the White House for the small formal ceremony in the Red Room. Following the President’s brief remarks, the new General of the Army made a few brief remarks as well, ending with “I feel the full weight of the responsibilities now devolving upon me, and I know that if they are met, it will be due to those armies, and, above all, to the favor of that Providence which leads both nations and men.”

General Frederick D. Grant – a striking resemblance

1909: ….& Son

1909 was Lincoln’s centennial year, with celebrations and speeches throughout the country. Nowhere was it celebrated more enthusiastically as in the Windy City. Chicago rolled out a huge array of demonstrations for Illinois’ favorite son. On the program was General Frederick D. Grant, the young fellow who had accompanied his father to meet the President. He was now the second highest ranking officer in the United States Army.


Grant, Julia Dent – The Personal Memoirs of Julia Dent Grant: (Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant) – 1975, G.P. Putnam’s Sons

MacChesney, Nathan William (ed.) – Abraham Lincoln; the tribute of a century, 1809-1909, commemorative of the Lincoln centenary and containing the principal speeches made in connection therewith.

Porter, Horace – Campaigning With Grant – Mallard Press, 1991



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