title: My Dearest Julia: The Wartime Letters of Ulysses S. Grant to His Wife A Library of America Special Publication
genre: historical non fiction
published: October 18, 2018 by Library Of America
first line: My Dear Julia
The Civil War’s greatest general as you’ve never seen him before—a revealing collection of letters written by Ulysses S. Grant to his wife Julia, introduced by Ron Chernow.
Ulysses S. Grant is justly celebrated as the author of one of the finest military autobiographies ever written, yet many readers of his Personal Memoirs are unaware that during his army years Grant wrote hundreds of intimate and revealing letters to his wife, Julia Dent Grant.
Presented with an introduction by acclaimed biographer Ron Chernow, My Dearest Julia collects more than eighty of these letters, beginning with their engagement in 1844 and ending with the Union victory in 1865. They record Grant’s first experience under fire in Mexico (“There is no great sport in having bullets flying about one in every direction but I find they have less horror when among them than when in anticipation”), the aching homesickness that led him to resign from the peacetime army, and his rapid rise to high command during the Civil War.
Often written in haste, sometimes within the sound of gunfire, his wartime letters vividly capture the immediacy and uncertainty of the conflict. Grant initially hoped for an early conclusion to the fighting, but then came to accept that the war would have no easy end. “The world has never seen so bloody or so protracted a battle as the one being fought,” he wrote from Spotsylvania in 1864, “and I hope never will again.”
I purchased a copy of My Dearest Julia: The Wartime Letters of Ulysses S. Grant to His Wife this summer while visiting Grant Cottage. This is a collection of 84 letters that Grant wrote to his wife Julia while he was in active service. The letters begin while he and Julia were engaged and he was fighting in the Mexican American War and go on through the Civil War up until his final letter to Julia that he wrote at what is now known as Grant Cottage.
I’m a history buff and I find anything Civil War related to be really interesting. I’m a fan of Ulysses S. Grant, he’s a fascinating historical figure. What makes him a favorite is that when I first started reading and learning more about him, his love for his wife Julia and for his family really stood front and center.
I enjoyed this collection of his letters because they provide a first hand/in real time account of what was going on during these battles. I found it fascinating that Grant was taking the time to write these letters to his wife from battlefields, with everything that was going on around him. I suppose writing to her was therapeutic for him during immensely stressful and scary times. The first letters were written during his 2 year engagement to Julia, and you see him really focusing on her getting her parents permission to marry him and he keeps bringing up his speaking to her father about it. You can tell Grant was worried her family wouldn’t approve of him. As the letters go on they are married with children and the loving tone of the letters is the same, but he’s worried about her and the children and he’s always writing about seeing them, whether Julia can visit him etc. He sends her money he wants her to make sure the children have a good teacher and are learning etc. You see Grant as a father and husband in these letters.
I found this to be a great collection, I’m glad Julia saved the letters. I wish the publisher would have included maybe a note as to where the letters were taking place. I wound up googling certain dates for context. For example, each letter starts with Grant naming the date and place: “Tacabaya Mexico, January 9th 1848”, so I would search dates and places to get an idea of where Grant was at that time and what was going on. I wouldn’t be able to rate someone’s letters, but I’d give this a 5 out of 5 because you get an intimate and interesting glimpse into Grant’s personal life. You also see what a great writer Ulysses S. Grant was. The last letter included is one of Grant’s final ones to Julia when he knew the end was near and it once again shows you how till the very end Grant was all about his family. Do I have a slight Ulysses S. Grant crush? Perhaps.
“I hope dearest that you had a very pleasant trip. I know that you have thought of me very often. I have dreamed of you several times since we parted.” Detroit Michigan April 27th 1849– My Dearest Julia: The Wartime Letters of Ulysses S. Grant to His Wife, p. 65
In going away now I feel as if I had some one else than myself to live and strive and do well for. You can have but little idea of the infulance you have over me Julia, even while so far away.” N. Orleans Barracks La. July 11th 1845– My Dearest Julia p. 19
“I feel proud of the Army at my command. They have marched day and night, without tents and with irregular rations without a murmur of complaints. I write in very great haste.” Grand Gulf Miss. May 3rd 1863– My Dearest Julia p. 121
“The world has never seen so bloody or so protracted a battle as the one being fought and I hope never will again. The enemy were really whipped yesterday but their situation is desperate beyond anything heretofore known. To loose this battle they lose their cause. As bad as it is they have fought for it with a gallantry worthy of a better.” Near Spotsylvania C. H, Va. May 13th 1864 – My Dearest Julia p. 133
Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I purchased my copy of My Dearest Julia: The Wartime Letters of Ulysses S. Grant to His Wife.