The Story of Ulysees S. Grant


September 21st, 2017


One legend has it that he was incarcerated for drunkenness, in either the old Benicia Barracks or the newer Benicia Arsenal guardhouse. Another myth relates that the “young lieutenant” was subjected to a “little trial” in which, according to variations, he was either acquitted or convicted and incarcerated – or not. Another story has him reprimanded in California by his superior officer for drinking on duty.
One version states that Grant replaced Lt. William Tecumseh Sherman at the Benicia Arsenal and was incarcerated in the Arsenal Guardhouse for 30 days because he was drunk and fired a cannonball at Martinez.

So, what are the facts?
Well according to books I’ve read such as “Grant” by Jean Edward Smith and “The Trial of Grant” by Charles G. Ellington, the stories about Grant having been tried and incarcerated in Benicia or anywhere else are absolutely false. When ordered to California in 1852 after leaving Panama on his way to Benicia with the 4th infantry, he was the regimental quartermaster. He was also a bit of a drinker. That part is true and he was also a very decorated war hero. But he lost a lot of equipment to theft and accidents, such as pack animals falling into rivers. At the close of his Benicia duty, he faced an official Board of Survey not a trial “to investigate and report upon the losses and damages to public property” that had occurred in Panama under Grant’s charge as the regimental quartermaster. Such a board was a normal military administrative device to determine liability for the loss of $1,350 worth of supplies… Or maybe he did get drunk and fire cannons at Martinez. Maybe this entire story is crap? Maybe we’ll never know.

Delivered to the brethren, this date, September 21st, 6022
by “Who Me”
John A. Sutter Chapter historian
Submitted by NGH Paul “Sparks” Laue on October 12th, 6022