American Presidents

Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant

In the following letter, cadet Grant describes the life and environment of the West Point Academy to his cousin R. McKinstry Griffith.

Military Academy
West Point N.Y.
Sept. 22d 1839

Dear Coz.

My pants sit as tight to my skin as the bark to a tree and if I do not walk military. that is if I bend over quickly or run. they are very apt to crack with a report as loud as a pistol.
I was just thinking that you would be right glad to hear from one of your relations who is so far away as I am so, I have put asaid my Algebra and French and am going to tell you a long story about this prettiest of, places West Point. So far as it regards natural attractions it is decidedly the most beautiful place that I have ever seen; here are hills and dales, rocks and river; all pleasant to look upon. From the window near the Hudson; that far famed, that beautiful river with its bosom studded with hundreds of snow sails. Again if I look another way I can see Fort Putnam frowning far above; a stern monument of a sterner age which seems placed there on purpose to tell us of the glorious deeds of our fathers and to bid us remember their sufferings-to follow their examples. In short this is the best of all places-the place of all places for an institution like this. I have not told you half its attractions. here is the house Washington used to live in-there Kosisuseko used to walk and think of his country and of ours. Over the river we are shown the dueling house of Arnold, that base and heartless traiter to his country and his God. I do love the place. It seems as though I could live here ferever if my friends would only come too. You might search the wide world over and then not find a better. Now all this sounds nice, very nice, "what a happy fellow you are" you will say, but I am not one to show fals colers the brightest side of the picture. So I will tell you about a few of the drawbacks. First, I slept for two months upon one single pair of blankets, now this sounds romantic and you may think it very easy. But I tell you what coz, it is tremendeus hard. Suppose you try it by way of experiment for a night or two. I am pretty shure that you would be perfectly satisfied that is no easy matter. But glad am I these things are over. We are now in our quarters. I have a spleanded bed and get along very well. Our pay is nomonally about twenty eight dollars a month. but we never see one cent of it. if we want any thing from a shoestring to a coat we must go to the commandant of the post and get an order fer it or we cannot have it. We have tremendous long and hard lessons to get in both French and Algebra. I study hard and hope to get along so as to pass the examination in January. this examination is a hard one they say, but I am not frightened yet. If I am successful here you will not see me fer two long years. it seems a long while to me. but time passes off very fast. it seems but a few days since I came here. it is because every hour has it duty which must be performed. On the whole I like the place very much. So much that I would not go away on any account. The fact is if a man graduates here he safe fer life. let him go where he will There is much to dislike but more to like. I mean to study hard and stay if it be possible. if I cannot-very well-the world is wide. I have now been here about four months and have not seen a single familier face or spoken to a single lady. I wish some of the pretty girles of Bethel were here just so I might look at them. but fudge! confound the girles. I have seen great men plenty of them. let us see. Gen Scott. M. Van Buren. Sec. of War and Navy. Washington Irving and lots of other big bugs. If I were to come home now with my uniform on. they way you would laugh at my appearance would be curious. My pants sit as tight to my skin as the bark to a tree and if I do not walk military. that is if I bend over quickly or run. they are very apt to crack with a report as loud as a pistol. my coat must always be buttoned up tight to the chin. it is made of sheeps grey cloth all covered with big round buttens. it makes me look very singulir. If you were to see me at a distance. the first question you would ask would be. "is that a Fish or an animal"? You must give my very best love and respects to all my friends particulaly you brothers. Uncle Ross & Sam'l Simpson. You must also write me a long. Long letter in reply to this and till me about every thing and everybody including yourself. If you happen to see my folks just till them that I am happy, alive and kicking.

I am truly your cousin
and obedand servant


[The above letter is reproduced exactly as written and was obtained through the archives at the Library of Congress]

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