“When I was seven or eight years of age, I began hauling all the wood used in the house and shops. I could not load it on the wagons, of course, at that time, but I could drive, and the choppers would load, and some one at the house unload.
“When about eleven years old, I was strong enough to hold a plough. From that age until seventeen I did all the work done with horse, such as breaking up the land, furrowing, ploughing corn and potatoes, bring in the crops when harvested, hauling all the wood, besides tending two or three horses, a cow or two, and sawing wood for stoves, etc., while still attending school.
“For this I was compensated by the fact that there was never any scolding or punishing by my parents; no objection to rational enjoyments, such as fishing, going to the creek a mile away to swim in summer, taking a horse and visiting my grandparents in the adjoining county, fifteen miles off, skating on the ice in the winter, or taking a horse and sleigh when there was snow on the ground.
“While still quite young I had visited Cincinnati, forty-five miles away, several times, alone; also Maysville, KY, often, and once Louisville. The journey to Louisville was a big one for a boy of that day.
“I had also gone once with a two-horse carriage to Chilicothe, about seventy miles, with a neighbor’s family, who were removing to Toledo, OH, and returned alone; and had gone once, in like manner, to Flat Rock, KY, about seventy miles away. On this latter occasion I was fifteen years of age.
“While at Flat Rock, at the house of a Mr. Payne, whom I was visiting with his brother, a neighbor of ours in Georgetown, I saw a very fine saddle horse, which I rather coveted, and proposed to Mr. Payne, the owner, to trade him for one of the two I was driving.
“Payne hesitated to trade with a boy, but asking his brother about it, the latter told him that it would be all right, that I was allowed to do as I pleased with the horses. I was seventy miles from home, with a carriage to take back, and Mr. Payne said he did not know that his horse had ever had a collar on.
“I asked to have him hitched to a farm wagon and we would soon see whether he would work. It was soon evident that the horse had never worn harness before; but he showed no viciousness, and I expressed a confidence that I could manage him. A trade was at once struck, I receiving ten dollars difference.
“The next day Mr. Payne, of Georgetown, and I started on our return. We got along very well for a few miles, when we encountered a ferocious dog that frightened the horses and made them run. The new animal kicked at every jump he made. I got the horses stopped, however, before any damage was done, and without running into anything.
“After giving them a little rest, to quiet their fears, we started again. That instant the new horse kicked, and started to run once more. The road we were on, struck the turnpike within half a mile of the point where the second runaway commenced, and there there was an embankment twenty or more feet deep on the opposite side of the pike. I got the horses stopped on the very brink of the precipice.
“My new horse was terribly frightened and trembled like an aspen; but he was not half so badly frightened as my companion, Mr. Payne, who deserted me after this last experience, and took passage on a freight wagon for Maysville.
“Every time I attempted to start, my new horse would commence to kick. I was in quite a dilemma for a time. Once in Maysville I could borrow a horse from an uncle who lived there; but I was more than a day’s travel from that point.
“Finally I took out my bandanna—the style of handkerchief in universal use then—and with this blindfolded my horse. In this way I reached Maysville safely the next day, no doubt much to the surprise of my friend. Here I borrowed a horse from my uncle, and the following day we proceeded on our journey.”
Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, Part One, by Ulysses S. Grant, Charles L. Webster & Company, 1885–86
Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th U.S. President and Union general-in-chief during the Civil War, grew up in Georgetown, OH, the son of an Ohio tanner. After retiring from the Presidency, Grant became a partner in a financial firm, which went bankrupt. About that time he learned that he had throat cancer. He started writing his recollections to pay off his debts and provide for his family, racing against death to produce a memoir that ultimately earned his family nearly $450,000. Soon after completing the last page, in 1885, he died.