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As It Was: Ulysses S. Grant Resigns While Assigned to Fort Humboldt

Before he was a Civil War hero and President, Ulysses S. Grant spent a miserable assignment in 1854 at Fort Humboldt near Eureka, Calif.  Fresh from the battlefields of the Mexican War, the young Army captain often joined the remote outpost’s other bored officers in drinking whiskey and playing poker.
Only 32 when he arrived after a brief assignment in Northern Oregon, Grant missed his wife and two young sons terribly.  Depressed and homesick, Grant reportedly drank less often than other officers, but couldn’t hold his liquor.  

Grant’s commanding officer badgered him about military dress and protocol, and after threatening a court martial for drunkenness, Grant resigned.  Grant’s memoirs say he left the army to be reunited with his family, but at least one historian suggests there is “overwhelming evidence … he resigned from an alcohol problem.”  The incident may have kindled his lifelong reputation as a drunk.

Grant found the countryside beautiful and considered making it his future home, but the Civil War intervened and he never returned to the West.

The site of Fort Humboldt, abandoned and left to decay in 1870, is a California State Park today.


Sources: Chernow, Ron. Grant. New York, Penguin Press, 2017, pp. 39-282; Miller, William M. History Snoopin', True Tales of Oregon and Northern California. William M. Miller, 2018, pp. 244-45.

Sharon Bywater of Ashland, Oregon grew up in Southern California. She taught English literature and writing at Syracuse University in New York, where she also wrote and edited adult literacy books and published freelance articles in local media. Later, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked as an international telecommunications policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has Master’s degrees in English and Communications Management.