|C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the Worlds Best Literature.|
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.
|By Ulysses Simpson Grant (18221885)|
|AT West Point I had a classmate,in the last year of our studies he was room-mate also,F. T. Dent, whose family resided some five miles west of Jefferson Barracks. Two of his unmarried brothers were living at home at that time, and as I had taken with me from Ohio my horse, saddle, and bridle, I soon found my way out to White Haven, the name of the Dent estate. As I found the family congenial, my visits became frequent. There were at home, besides the young men, two daughters, one a school-miss of fifteen, the other a girl of eight or nine. There was still an older daughter of seventeen, who had been spending several years at a boarding-school in St. Louis, but who, though through school, had not yet returned home. She was spending the winter in the city with connections, the family of Colonel John OFallon, well known in St. Louis. In February she returned to her country home. After that I do not know but my visits became more frequent: they certainly did become more enjoyable. We would often take walks, or go on horseback to visit the neighbors, until I became quite well acquainted in that vicinity. Sometimes one of the brothers would accompany us, sometimes one of the younger sisters. If the 4th Infantry had remained at Jefferson Barracks it is possible, even probable, that this life might have continued for some years without my finding out that there was anything serious the matter with me; but in the following May a circumstance occurred which developed my sentiment so palpably that there was no mistaking it.|| 1|
| The annexation of Texas was at this time the subject of violent discussion in Congress, in the press, and by individuals. The administration of President Tyler, then in power, was making the most strenuous efforts to effect the annexation, which was indeed the great and absorbing question of the day. During these discussions the greater part of the single rifle regiment in the armythe 2d Dragoons, which had been dismounted a year or two before, and designated Dismounted Rifleswas stationed at Fort Jessup, Louisiana, some twenty-five miles east of the Texas line, to observe the frontier. About the first of May the 3d Infantry was ordered from Jefferson Barracks to Louisiana, to go into camp in the neighborhood of Fort Jessup, and there await further orders. The troops were embarked on steamers, and were on their way down the Mississippi within a few days after the receipt of this order. About the time they started I obtained a leave of absence for twenty days to go to Ohio to visit my parents. I was obliged to go to St. Louis to take a steamer for Louisville or Cincinnati, or the first steamer going up the Ohio River to any point. Before I left St. Louis, orders were received at Jefferson Barracks for the 4th Infantry to follow the 3d. A messenger was sent after me to stop my leaving; but before he could reach me I was off, totally ignorant of these events. A day or two after my arrival at Bethel I received a letter from a classmate and fellow lieutenant in the 4th, informing me of the circumstances related above, and advising me not to open any letter postmarked St. Louis or Jefferson Barracks until the expiration of my leave, and saying that he would pack up my things and take them along for me. His advice was not necessary, for no other letter was sent to me. I now discovered that I was exceedingly anxious to get back to Jefferson Barracks, and I understood the reason without explanation from any one. My leave of absence required me to report for duty at Jefferson Barracks at the end of twenty days. I knew my regiment had gone up the Red River, but I was not disposed to break the letter of my leave; besides, if I had proceeded to Louisiana direct, I could not have reached there until after the expiration of my leave. Accordingly, at the end of the twenty days I reported for duty to Lieutenant Ewell, commanding at Jefferson Barracks, handing him at the same time my leave of absence. After noticing the phraseology of the orderleaves of absence were generally worded, at the end of which time he will report for duty with his proper commandhe said he would give me an order to join my regiment in Louisiana. I then asked for a few days leave before starting, which he readily granted. This was the same Ewell who acquired considerable reputation as a Confederate general during the Rebellion. He was a man much esteemed, and deservedly so, in the old army, and proved himself a gallant and efficient officer in two warsboth in my estimation unholy.|| 2|
| I immediately procured a horse and started for the country, taking no baggage with me, of course. There is an insignificant creek, the Gravois, between Jefferson Barracks and the place to which I was going, and at that day there was not a bridge over it from its source to its mouth. There is not water enough in the creek at ordinary stages to run a coffee-mill, and at low water there is none running whatever. On this occasion it had been raining heavily, and when the creek was reached I found the banks full to overflowing, and the current rapid. I looked at it a moment to consider what to do. One of my superstitions had always been when I started to go anywhere, or do anything, not to turn back or stop until the thing intended was accomplished. I have frequently started to go to places where I had never been and to which I did not know the way, depending upon making inquiries on the road, and if I got past the place without knowing it, instead of turning back, I would go on until a road was found turning in the right direction, take that, and come in by the other side. So I struck into the stream, and in an instant the horse was swimming and I being carried down by the current. I headed the horse towards the other bank and soon reached it, wet through and without other clothes on that side of the stream. I went on, however, to my destination and borrowed a dry suit from my (future) brother-in-law. We were not of the same size, but the clothes answered every purpose until I got more of my own.|| 3|
| Before I returned I mustered up courage to make known, in the most awkward manner imaginable, the discovery I had made on learning that the 4th Infantry had been ordered away from Jefferson Barracks. The young lady afterwards admitted that she too, although until then she had never looked upon me other than as a visitor whose company was agreeable to her, had experienced a depression of spirits she could not account for when the regiment left. Before separating, it was definitely understood that at a convenient time we would join our fortunes, and not let the removal of a regiment trouble us. This was in May 1844. It was the 22d of August, 1848, before the fulfillment of this agreement. My duties kept me on the frontier of Louisiana with the Army of Observation during the pendency of Annexation; and afterwards I was absent through the war with Mexico provoked by the action of the army, if not by the annexation itself. During that time there was a constant correspondence between Miss Dent and myself, but we only met once in the period of four years and three months. In May 1845 I procured a leave for twenty days, visited St. Louis, and obtained the consent of the parents for the union, which had not been asked for before.|| 4|