In 1852 the 4th Infantry, along with its quartermaster, Captain Ulysses S. Grant, was sent to the recently established United States military post at Vancouver, Oregon Territory. Grant’s wife, Julia, was pregnant with their second child and, though she wanted to go, her husband determined the journey would be too dangerous. Thus began a painful two year separation for the young couple. Grant spent fifteen months at the Pacific Northwest post. Despite some historians’ contention that Grant was miserable during this time, his letters to Julia actually indicate that he liked Vancouver, if only he could find a way to bring her there as well. This was not to be however, and he was eventually transferred to Fort Humboldt on the northern California coast where he spent four lonely months before resigning his commission and returning to his family in Missouri.
In 1879, after more than two years traveling around the world, Julia and Ulysses Grant, now a famous General and former President, returned to the United States by way of San Francisco. From San Francisco they sailed up the coast. In her Memoirs Julia recounted her experience:
On our arrival in Portland, we were happy in meeting and being welcomed by many old acquaintances, who entertained us with cordial hospitalities. We were greatly interested in our visit to Fort Vancouver, where General, then Captain, Grant was stationed so long. His little house, now protected by a substantial fence, was pointed out to us as an object of interest. Our ride up the Columbia River was enchanting. The beautiful scenery on both sides of this broad, majestic river; the view in the distance of Mount Hood, lifting high his hoary head; the very, the more than pleasant, the delightful company of old army friends made this visit one to be remembered.
It would take a volume or a poet to tell all one feels when one first visits our beautiful Far West. The magnificent, the infinite sweep of plain; the majesty, the magnitude of the mountains; the very forests here are heroic in their grandeur; and the Pacific – one must fall prostrate on first beholding its majestic grandeur. How its billows rush on, gathering force and height (and rage too, it seems) as they near the limit of “Thus far shalt thou go and no farther”; then they lift higher and higher their wrathful heads and with one great bound fall broken and sobbing at the feet of those calm, majestic mountains.
And I must add here too that this grandeur was not confined to the mountains, the plains, the great forest, the fruits and the flowers, but the men and women also were of a superior character and physique. This could not have been imagination on my part. Surely with such surroundings one must become godlike. Nor do I wonder now that General Grant had hoped with such anticipation for a station on the Pacific slope.
If Julia’s description of the Pacific Northwest seems exaggerated then you have never been there. What is truly remarkable is that she had just spent more than two years circling the globe, had seen its wonders, and still was obviously overwhelmed. Grant’s “little house” sadly is no longer there. The above image is from this very interesting website: http://www.columbiariverimages.com/Regions/Places/vancouver.html