March 09, 1878

Ulysses S. Grant Comments on the Refugees – Many, Bulgarian Jews – Who Have Fled to Constantinople Before Russian Invaders

Autograph Letter Signed
6 pages
SMC 1849

General Grant's arrival in Constantinople had been fairly well timed, as it occurred but a few days after the treaty of San Stefano.

  -John Russell Young, Around the World with General Grant (New York: American News Company, 1879), p. 346

“After a most pleasant visit up the Nile, back through the Suez Canal, then to Jeppa [Jaffa] and out to Jerusalem,” Grant reports, they have travelled “up to Smyrna, and from there to Constantinople – where we spent five days”, to have reached Athens “on our way to a different civilization.” Constantinople, however, is on his mind, Grant having been struck by scenes of the refugees – many of them, Bulgarian Jews – who had fled the notoriously anti-Semitic Russian invaders during the just-concluded Russo-Turkish War:

I found the authorities in Constantinople looking and feeling very gloomy, but the appearance of a successful foe immediately outside the gates of the city did not seem to effect the population generally. In a small portion of the city is stowed away in the Mosques and public buildings, probably more than a hundred thousand refugees, men women and children who have fled to the capital before a conquering army. They are fed entirely by charity and mostly by foreigners. What is to become of them is sad to think of. Beside these many tens of thousands have been shipped to places in Asia Minor and turned loose upon the inhabitants.

His reception, however, “not withstanding the surroundings was cordial” and involved the offer, by the Sultan, of the gift of an Arabian horse – the initial decline, then acceptance of, and subsequent concern for its shipping, are detailed at length. This gift, which Grant rather hoped, for all the burden of it, would actually not come to pass, did: and so began the Arabian breed in North America.

Of special interest here is Grant’s opening allusion to his visit to Jaffa and Jerusalem – where he had hoped to calmly see the sights but was instead, treated as a conquering hero.

Autograph Letter Signed, 6 pages, octavo, Athens, Greece, March 9, 1878. To Alfred Torbet, Consul at Paris.
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