Ulysses S. Grant: A Dedication to a Civil War Hero

Grant’s Tomb , Dedication, April 27, 1897











Ulysses S. Grant was celebrated as America’s greatest Civll War hero.  Read the story of  how a nation paid tribute to his life as a general and president of our country.

You will read of his human qualities that made him famous and infamous at the same time.  Vintage photographs and digital reproductions will add to the storytelling in honor of his legacy. You will view his monument and meet his family of which he deeply cared and loved.

The family of Grant had many location choices to rest his final remains, but in the end, it was narrowed down to New York City. Ulysses S. Grant’s temporary resting place was designed and constructed within ten days of his death, July 23, 1885. A seven mile funeral procession made tribute to Ulysses S. Grant  through New York to Riverside Park and his original tomb. This tomb kept his remains until a suitable monument was built in his honor.

1885, Grant’s Tomb was temporary for 12 years until 1897.

The funeral was attended by numerous dignitaries; presidents (Hayes and Arthur), the entire Congress, and nearly every living figure who had played a prominent role during the Civil War. Civil War veterans from both North and South took part; General Winfield S. Hancock and pallbearers; General William T. Sherman, General Phillip H. Sheridan, and Admiral David D. Porter, as well as former Confederates; Generals Joseph E. Johnston, and Simon B. Buckner. Grant’s remains were placed in a temporary vault in Riverside Park.

Grant’s Tomb –interior and exterior views


On April 27, 1897, the 75th Anniversary of Grant’s birth, Grant’s Tomb and final resting place was dedicated, by President William McKinley and Horace Porter; he served as lieutenant colonel in the Union Army during the Civil War, as personal secretary to General and President Grant. Both men addressed the enormous crowd.
In December of 1902, Julia Dent Grant died and was interred beside her husband in a twin sarcophagus.
The 18th President of the United States was an iconic figure of his time, and in tribute to his greatness, the people of America donated money to build Grant’s Tomb, as the largest mausoleum in North America. It reflected the honor and respect that Americans felt for their beloved General and U. S. President.

His pain and suffering ended with his death, very few understood the degree of discomfort and agony that was caused by his simply drinking a glass of milk. The cancerous tumor in his mouth was very sensitive to eating or drinking. The doctors prescribed a painkiller for his throat that provided only temporary relief from the pain. He battled the illness with the will of a warrior; knowing the financial importance of a finished volume of his written memoirs would be to his family.
He fought his battle against a disease much like he did as a soldier, aggressively, determined, and straightforward. He never surrendered to his illness until he finished his writing. At that point, he surrendered “unconditionally” to his fate. The conditions in which he resisted his illness can be viewed in the context of today’s science. He was afflicted by a one two punch of addictive diseases, briefly discussed below.

During his days, little was known about the chemical dependency and adverse effects that stemmed from alcohol and nicotine addiction. People blamed one’s addiction on religious and moral reasons. Medical science and popular opinion were void of any scientific explanation for addiction. It was believed that punishment would relieve one of the demons causing such harmful effects. In the absence of formal punishment, society used guilt and shame in an attempt to rid one oh his or her addiction.

Grant was famous and infamous at the same time; because of his conflicting character traits and alcoholic disease. On one hand,  Grant was famous for his victories; Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, The Wilderness Campaign, Spotsylvania, and the surrender of Lee at Appomattox, Va. Now on the other hand, throughout the war his drinking was infamous, President Lincoln was a defender against Grant’s critics. There were complaints; that he was a butcher, incompetent, and a drunk. Grant’s drinking was common knowledge amongst his officers. Fortunately his excessive drinking did not impede most of his military decisions.

Lincoln’s response to Grant’s critics after the victory at Vicksburg. ” I will send a barrrel of whiskey to every General in the Army.”

He was especially criticized, at the victory of Vicksburg, when he ordered the release of captured Confederates to return home in exchange for a promise– that they would never again fight for the Confederacy.

Despite the scandals that arose during his presidency, Grant was never personally involved with any of them. He was infamously resented by Southerners for his role in “Reconstruction” and the passage of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution. Grant had a disdain for politics, and he had an unwillingness to play the political game in Washington, D.C. He was an enigma of his own doing; as he was viewed by the press and others as a chameleon.

In closing,  Grant remained a modest man and soldier. He was calm, loyal, and intelligent.  He understood how to discipline and command his troops. His ability to lead was learned from General Zachery Taylor, his commanding officer, during the Mexican War. His calmness was acquired from training horses, he was the “horse whisper.”

1867 Chromolithograph of Ulysses Grant by Fabronius, Gurney & Son. — Image by © CORBIS

Today, he is most remembered for being the commander of the victorious Union Army.  He left us with a strong legacy of an aggressive and a determined leader. As the history of his role in the war is revisited, it is hoped that his memory will be seen –for not how he fought the war, but for how he ended the war– with respect and honor. Our nation shall never forget one of our greatest American heroes—Ulysses S. Grant.

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