who's buried in Grant's Tomb?
Answer: Grant -- and his wife, Julia Dent Grant.
What is Ulysses S. Grant's real name?
Not what you think.
John Y. Simon, editor of the Grant papers, says he was christened Hiram Ulysses Grant. His schoolmates called him "Useless." Grant realized, as he pounded nail heads into his trunk in the shape of his initials, that they spelled H.U.G. He decided to reverse his first two names. He was appointed to West Point as Ulysses S. Grant by a congressman who knew his mother's maiden name was Simpson. West Point said that if the congressman appointed him as U.S. Grant, he'd have to serve as U.S. Grant. Anyway, his fellow cadets called him Sam. The Confederates called him "Unconditional Surrender Grant."
On this date 100 years ago, Ulysses Grant, having won his battle to finish his memoirs, lost his fight with death.
At his funeral cortege, Aug. 8, 1885, 1.1 million people watched while 40,000 mourners marched for five hours. Grant himself once said, "The one thing I never want to see again is a military parade."
Last year 970 historians ranked Ulysses Grant as one of the five worst presidents, just above Warren G. Harding.
In 1935, the 50th anniversary of his death, historian William B. Hesseltine wrote that Grant was "peculiarly ignorant of the Constitution . . . inept in handling men" and "dogs didn't like him." Grant himself explained, in his last message to Congress, that he'd "made errors of judgment" because he lacked "previous political training."
Even Simon says: "He passed unnoticed in a crowd; he looked like a man who might deliver wood in St. Louis or . . . clerk in Galena." When he came to Washington to accept command of the armies of the United States, the Willard Hotel clerk didn't recognize him and gave him a room in the attic. In a new exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery is a photograph of another soldier, John Chester Buttre, for years misidentified as Grant in publications at home and abroad.
Washington, where Grant's summer White House still stands on a high ridge on R Street in Georgetown, and his great-great-grandson still works, is today the center of observances of the centennial. Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.) and Rep. Kenneth Gray (D-Ill.) will speak on their state's famous son from 11 to 11:30 a.m. today in the Capitol Rotunda. The U.S. Army will honor its first four-star general at 2 p.m. at the Grant statue at the base of the west front of the Capitol, across from the Botanic Gardens. The Portrait Gallery's exhibit, "U.S. Grant, the Man and the Image," opens today.
Grantmanship, now that the requisite century has passed, is on the march again. The man who is counted as one of the country's greatest generals and one of its worst presidents is being reevaluated by history, primarily with evidence from 200,000 documents collected for "The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant," published by Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
"They appointed me to the task in 1962 when I was in my twenties, in the hopes I'd live to finish them. I hope to wind them up in about 25 volumes, about 1996," says Simon, 52. Volume 13, covering Nov. 16, 1864, to Feb. 20, 1865, and Volume 14, Feb. 21-April 30, 1865, when the Civil War was ending, have just been published. Simon, vice president of the 70-member Ulysses S. Grant Association (life membership $100), spoke at the National Archives last night and wrote an essay in the lively and scholarly catalogue by James G. Barber accompanying the Portrait Gallery's exhibit.
Among the stories Simon says are true:
*Grant told his father he wouldn't go to West Point. When his father said he had to go, Grant prayed his steamboat would sink or his train would wreck. After serving in the Mexican War, Grant resigned from the Army, according to gossip at the time, because he drank. Simon says it is still a matter of dispute "whether at that time he drank more than necessary to maintain his standing as an officer."
Grant had a different story: "When I resigned from the Army and went to a farm I was happy. When the rebellion came, I returned to the service because it was a duty . . . I never went into a battle willingly or with enthusiasm. I never want to command another army. It was only after Donelson that I began to see how important was the work that Providence devolved upon me. I did not want to be made lieutenant-general . . . I don't believe in strategy in the popular understanding of the term . . . I never held a council of war in my life."
On the other hand, the man who did not like war was the first to command an army by telegraph, as the many cipher wires in the Papers show. "The laws of successful war in one generation would insure defeat in another," Grant said.
Major Gen. Henry Halleck, who once tried to get him cashiered, said, "In boldness of plan, rapidity of execution, and brilliancy of results, these operations will compare most favorably with those of Napoleon about Ulm." Grant, Simon says, "always had an aversion to Napoleon."
Lincoln, upon being told Grant drank, retorted: "I wish all my generals drank from his bottle."
*For years, "college survey courses . . . conventionally closed the first semester with the Civil War. Students learned about a skillful general one semester and an inept president the next, but they always had a brief vacation to blur the discrepancy," Simon says.
If you went through the exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery with historian-curator James Barber or his catalogue, you would know:
*Grant, at West Point, painted a watercolor of a horse and wagon that hung in President Reagan's room in George Washington University Hospital after the March 1981 assassination attempt, and now hangs in the exhibit along with another early work. After West Point, he gave up art, as did Edgar Allan Poe, another West Point artist.
*Grant pawned his gold hunting watch and chain on Dec. 23, 1857, for $22. (Note the pawn ticket in the show.) After he learned from a newspaper of his commission as brigadier general, he didn't have a uniform and had to borrow $500 for a horse.
*In all his photographs and most of his oil portraits in the exhibit, his hat is pushed to the back of his head and/or his hair falls over his forehead. His wife, upon seeing his photograph during the Civil War, made him trim his beard.
*One staff officer described him as wearing "an expression as if he had determined to drive his head through a brick wall, and was about to do it."
After Grant resigned from the Army in 1854, a fellow West Point officer, Simon Buckner, lent him money for a hotel and a train ticket. In 1862 Buckner, then a Confederate general, surrendered Fort Donelson, Tenn., to Grant. In 1884 Buckner offered him a loan when Grant lost his money again. Grant refused.
After Appomattox, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee would hear no bad word spoken against Grant. The Union general, who had not fought a gentleman's war, concluded a chivalrous peace: Lee didn't have to surrender his sword, officers could keep their mounts and sidearms, and even privates were allowed to keep their horses for the spring plowing. In a lithograph in the show, the two generals, portrayed at Appomattox in the McLean House, look embarrassed.
When Grant came to the White House for a reception in 1864, a reporter wrote: "Ladies suffered dire disaster in the crush and confusion; their laces were torn and crinolines mashed, and many got upon sofas, chairs and tables to be out of harm's way or to get a better view." A lithograph in the exhibit shows a more decorous crowd. As for dancing, Grant said, he "could dance if it were not for the music."
Lincoln wouldn't promote Grant to lieutenant general until he was assured that Grant wouldn't run against him for president. Admiral David D. Porter wrote, "Grant could not be kicked into the presidency, he don't like anything but fighting and smoking, and hates politics as the devil does holy water."
Lincoln invited the Grants to share their box at Ford's Theatre on April 15. Julia Grant didn't like Mary Lincoln, so they declined.
When Grant campaigned for the presidency, one senator said, "As quick as I'd talk politics, he'd talk horses." On the night he was elected, a friend said, he "showed more interest over a game at cards."
In the White House, he named as his staff old Army cronies, but his wife replaced the quartermaster in the kitchen with an Italian steward.
Julia Dent Grant didn't like to be photographed head-on because she was cross-eyed, as you can see in a rare photograph in the exhibit. She wanted to have surgery for the problem. Ulysses Grant protested, saying a husband wants his wife to look always as she did on her wedding day. The Grants, said Barber, had an attachment "like a man and his shadow on a sunny day."
When the Grant family toured Europe in a triumphant procession after he left the White House (see the photograph from Karnak, Egypt), Grant reputedly said in Venice, "It would be a fine city if they drained it."
Grant borrowed $150,000 from William Vanderbilt to invest with Ferdinand Ward -- who absconded with it. Grant, despite Vanderbilt's offer to release him from the debt, repaid him not only by selling his property, but by also giving him his presentation swords, a pair of elephant tusks from the king of Siam and his 1 3/4-pound gold medal awarded by Congress. Eventually Vanderbilt gave them to Julia and she gave them to the Smithsonian. A sword and the medal are in the Portrait Gallery show.
The Grant finances were saved by Mark Twain (the exhibit shows him as a fine and humorous-looking man), who encouraged Grant to write his memoirs. The two volumes, hailed even today as splendidly written, earned his family a half million dollars.
Grant smoked 20 cigars a day for most of his life. He died of throat cancer.
When the artist who made Grant's death mask wanted to charge Julia Grant $17,000 for it, Twain paid it.
The exhibit will be at the Portrait Gallery through Nov. 11. It then will be exhibited in Austin, Tex., at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, Jan. 10-May 4, 1986. The Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation funded the catalogue.