Ulysses S. Grant Jr., Buck to the family, was born on this day in 1852. By this time his father was on his way to California with the 4th Infantry Regiment and a party of about seven hundred wives and children. The 4th was stationed briefly at Fort Columbus on Governors Island before their trip. Quartermaster Grant went briefly to the District of Columbia to see about supplies. While he was in Washington, Henry Clay—the Great Compromiser—died there, bringing things to a standstill. An empty-handed Grant returned to New York City and the regiment sailed for Panama on July 5.
Remember, the canal did not come into being until Theodore Roosevelt picked up where the French had failed. The Panama Canal opened in August 1914 at almost the same moment the Great War was starting. Instead travelers crossed the Isthmus by mule and wagon. To say that it was a hazardous journey would be an understatement. That is why Ulysses and Julia decided she and young Frederick, just two, would not make the voyage. Instead, they would go to Bethel, Ohio and then Missouri. It is a good thing they didn’t; one hundred people in the 4th Infantry’s party died of cholera. The pregnant Julia and the toddler Frederick might well have become two more victims. Instead Julia gave birth to young Ulysses in Bethel. Lieutenant Grant did not learn this until the mail finally reached the 4th Infantry at Fort Vancouver (Columbia Barracks) just before the new year.
(images/top, unknown photographer, taken in St. Louis (Cowan’s Auctions) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; bottom, Library of Congress)