We’ve looked at General Grant’s wife Julie a little bit before, but she came up again recently while I was reading Michael Kauffman’s American Brutus while researching a possible timeline on the Lincoln assassination for Newslines.org (their first historical post!).
That terrible April night in Ford’s Theater, General and Mrs. Grant were supposed to be there with the Lincoln’s, rather than the young couple who actually appeared. So soon after Appomattox, as Kauffman puts it, “General Grant, and not Lincoln, was the evening’s chief attraction.” We know now that Booth was focused on the president, but this wasn’t at all clear at the time.
The Grant’s had, at the last moment, instead
gone home to Burlington, New Jersey. General Grant and his wife were at a public dinner in Philadelphia, Kauffman says, when someone slipped him a note informing him of the assassination attempts on Lincoln and Secretary Seward.
Did Grant quietly excuse himself and leave the table? No, he quietly showed the note to Julia, and they left the table together. Due to security precautions (since Grant might have been a target at the theater and no one yet knew the extent of the conspiracy), after the general and his wife went home to New Jersey, it took roughly a hundred people to get him back to Washington safely and quickly.
I was awed by the woman’s composure at such a terrible moment, but not surprised. She had, after all, run the Confederate batteries at Vicksburg with her husband and some of her children on April 16, 1863.
Anyway, when somebody gets a little snarky over Victorian women and their vapors, just say, “Julia Grant.” What a strong, intelligent lady she was!