Meeting Grant’s Great-Great-Grandson

Me and Grant's descendant, John Griffiths

Me and Grant’s descendant, John Griffiths

Last month, while giving a talk for the Friends of Wilderness Battlefield on Grant’s Last Battle, I had the chance to meet one of Ulysses S. Grant’s descendants: great-great grandson John Griffiths.

John and his two sisters are the children of Julia Grant Griffiths. Julia (named after her maternal great-grandmother) was the daughter of Ulysses S. Grant III, the eldest son of Frederick Dent Grant, Ulysses S. Grant’s eldest son. Or, laid out a little more directly:

Ulysses S. Grant –> Fred Grant –> Ulysses S. Grant III –> Julia Grant Griffiths –> John Griffiths

Griffiths recalled a photo of the family seated on the front porch of Grant Cottage in upstate New York, taken during Grant’s last days. “There are two children seated in the front of that photo,” Griffiths told me. “One of them, a little boy dressed like Little Lord Fauntleroy, I knew very well. That was my grandfather.”

Grant Family

The other child was Griffiths’s great-aunt, Julia Dent Grant, who later went on to marry into Russian nobility. As Princess Cantacuzène, she wrote a detailed account of her grandfather’s last days as part of her memoir, My Life Here and There.

“My grandfather always wore a slight frown in those days, which grandmama would smooth out in passing with her tiny, beautiful hand,” Julia wrote of those last months. “He always gave her a smile then, and the cloud of trouble for the moment was raised.”

Young Julia’s brother, Ulysses III—John Griffiths’ grandfather—was three at the time the photo was taken. In 1949, Ulysses III returned to Grant Cottage as an adult to revisit the scene of his grandfather’s last days.

Griffiths, as a child, visited the cottage shortly thereafter. “I have only been to Grant’s Cottage once and it was back in the early 1950s,” he told me. “So, I don’t remember any thing about it, except that I think that my mother, two sisters, and I had our photo taken on the front steps.”

Talking with John, I’m struck by something his great-aunt wrote about their famous ancestor. “Only the eyes glowed or grew deep with humor and intensity . . .” she recalled, saying they “reflected sentiments and responded instantly with sympathetic light to what was going on round him.”

John, beneath the wide brim of his tall sun hat and nearly buried under his own beard, had those same sorts of eyes: alive, expressive, intense.

I often meet the descendants of soldiers who fought in the war, but not often do I meet the descendants of specific people I’ve written about. I’ve had a descendant of Stonewall Jackson hear me tell the tale of his last days, and now I’ve had a descendant of Grant hear me tell the tale of his last days. These are meaningful connections to me, linking my work back to the very real people who lived those poignant stories that I love to share so much.

Grant (and Jackson) should not exist to us today as the marble men history sometimes remembers them as: they were fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers.

And their family stories are still very much alive.

*    *     *

Griffiths, who now lives near Fredericksburg, Virginia, was profiled by the local newspaper, the Free Lance-Star, back in 2009.

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21 Responses to Meeting Grant’s Great-Great-Grandson

  1. Gene says:

    Courtland Preston Creech Freeman is GG Granddaughter of Stonewall. You met her 16 March 2013 at NC Civil War RT. I’ve sent you a photo

    • Thanks, Gene! I linked back to a story I wrote about that meeting. That was such a delightful evening and a real highlight of my Civil War career–not only because I meat Courty and her husband but because of the warm hospitality you and the NCCWRT showed me. What a great bunch of folks!

  2. ncatty says:

    Remarkable. Same size, same posture.

  3. Thomas R Place says:


  4. Morgan says:

    He is my aunt’s very close friend we all reenact together

  5. Janet Chase says:

    Thank you so much for your feature of Grant’s g-g-grandson. I often wonder about descendants of the people I read so much about – where they are now, do they have any Civil War memorabilia, or recollections that have been passed down through the generations. I think this would be a wonderful topic for a future blog.

  6. Irene says:

    Is this true

    … Ulysses S. Grant was the 4th cousin 1 time removed to FDR?

    Thank you

  7. Lindsay says:

    My grandmother just passed Monday and she was a direct descendant.

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  9. I am told by my father William Neater his mom’s mom was a Grant and her uncle was US Grant. ? No sure how validate this clam?

  10. Henry Fleming says:

    Left arm akimbo, I assume it was a natural stance, wonder if that’s a “Grant” thing.

    • Brianna Grant says:

      It’s a grant thing, everyone on my fathers side has the same sort of stance as they all did.

  11. Randall Cooke says:

    My 3 siblings and I, are a diluted relation through his niece “Lucy Grant”

  12. Amani Scott says:

    I am a descendant of Ulysses S. Grant as well. I believe he’s my deceased great grandmothers cousin. So interesting to see!

  13. John Pryor says:

    One of Grant’s descendants worked in Glastonbury CT years ago at what was our town’s best camera shop. It and he have unfortunately moved on.

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  15. Steven C Vowell says:

    I believe that my son has a peace of furniture that Ulysses Grant had hand made for his for a wedding present. Nice peace. Would love to Sale it.

  16. Vicki says:

    I have an old book which looks like an album of the Grant Farm. Not sure what to do with it.

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