The Great General Died a New Yorker

With the passing of Ulysses S. Grant's last surviving great-grandson, we pause to remember

By Gabe Pressman
|  Thursday, Mar 10, 2011  |  Updated 6:55 AM EDT
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The Associated Press story from Kansas City was brief. It read:

"Ulysses S. Grant V, the last surviving great-grandson of the nation’s 18th president, died Wednesday in a southwest Missouri home brimming with memorabilia from his great-grandfather. He was 90.”

The first Ulysses S. Grant was a national hero. Appointed by Abraham Lincoln as General-in-Chief, he led the Union armies to victory in the Civil War.  One setback for Grant during that war was the bloody Battle of Shiloh. Grant’s critics wanted Lincoln to remove him but the President refused. “I can’t spare this man,” Lincoln declared. “He fights.”

As President, Grant weathered some scandals in his administration. But his personal integrity and honesty were never questioned.

His had a strong relationship with New York after the Civil War. It was here that he fought his last battle, against throat cancer, and completed work on his memoirs. Mark Twain, a good friend, called this effort “the most remarkable work of its kind since the commentaries of Julius Caesar.”         

Grant died at 63 in a cottage in Mount McGregor in New York’s Saratoga County. He was surrounded by members of his family in the house filled with artifacts from his life.  A train draped in black carried his body south. As it passed West Point, the whole undergraduate battalion of cadets stood at present arms.

In New York City his body was laid to rest in “Riverside Park, where the largest mausoleum in North America, Grant’s Tomb, was constructed.” Grant and his wife Julia,  ultimately were laid to rest there.

The Ohio-born president had an inspirational influence on the men he sent into battle. He became an apostle of peace after the Civil War, holding out the olive branch to other nations and, in domestic politics, championing the rights of African-Americans and Native Americans and advocating civil service reform.

He ended his days as a New Yorker. And he embodied the traits of generations of New Yorkers, before and after he lived -- toughness, strength, tenacity.

It’s easy to relate to the great-grandson who has just passed away. The monument in Riverside Park celebrates a New Yorker who shaped our history -- and upheld our highest values.  

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