Young Frederick Grant Goes to War

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Andrea Warren
Giving Voice to Children in History


     Would parents willingly send their twelve-year-old son to war? During the U.S. Civil War, that’s exactly what General Ulysses Grant and his wife, Julia, did. Of course they expected Frederick to stay safely behind Union lines—only Frederick wasn’t the type to miss any excitement, and he ended up paying a big price for that.

         It wasn’t unusual for officers to have a family member with them, for they often faced separations that could last months or even years. Grant knew the campaign to silence Confederate cannons along the Vicksburg, Mississippi waterfront that were preventing Union ships from taking control of the Mississippi River was going to be a long one. He was a devoted family man and became depressed if away from his wife and four children for very long. Julia suggested their eldest son keep Grant company. Frederick, who wanted to make the military his career, was thrilled.  

         I learned about Frederick while researching my book Under Siege! Three Children at the Civil War Battle for Vicksburg. He joined a boy and girl who were inside Vicksburg as my eye-witnesses to Grant’s brutal forty-seven-day siege in 1863 of that little river town.

       And what an eye-witness he was! As the general’s son, he had his own uniform and pony. He accompanied Grant during daily troop inspections and shared his tent at night. He knew he was supposed to stay in camp, but he was so eager to be part of the action, and several times he put himself in harm’s way. That ended when he foolishly rode into battle, only to be shot in the leg by a Confederate sniper. Frederick realized that if his leg were to be amputated—common treatment for a bullet wound–he’d never be a soldier. Even though his leg became painfully infected, doctors were able to save it. But in his weakened condition he became ill with typhoid fever, a common camp disease. 

       He was still recuperating in his father’s tent when Grant received word of Vicksburg’s surrender. Frederick limped outside to excitedly announce the Union’s victory to the troops.   

       Luckily, Frederick fully recovered. He returned to school and later served as his father’s private secretary while Grant was President of the United States. He also joined the army, rising to the rank of general: the siege of Vicksburg had taught him a hard lesson about what it took to be a military man.

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Ulysses S. Grant, wife Julia and their children Frederick (standing), Buck, Nellie, and Jesse. Credit: Library of Congress
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Frederick (seated, fourth from left in the oval), with his father (standing in the middle) and his officers. Credit: Library of Congress

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Period photographs, engravings, and maps extend this dramatic story as award-winning author Andrea Warren re-creates one of the most important Civil War battles through the eyes of ordinary townspeople, officers and enlisted men from both sides, and, above all, three brave children who were there.  One of those children was Frederick Grant. Click here for more information about the book and all of the awards it has won.

Andrea Warren is also a member of Authors on Call.  Bring her into your classroom via interactive video conferencing.   Here’s where you can learn more about her and her programs.


MLA 8 Citation
Warren, Andrea. “Young Frederick Grant Goes to War.” Nonfiction Minute, iNK Think Tank, 16 Nov. 2017, www.nonfictionminute.org/ young-frederick-grant-goes-to-war.

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