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More of Don's
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Presidents' Places: Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant Birthplace
Okay, let's get this straight. His parents named him Hiram Ulysses Grant, but called him Ulysses or Lyss. "Ulysses arrived at West Point and discovered that the congressman who appointed him, in doubt about his name, had used his middle name first and had used his mother's maiden name (Simpson) for a middle name." The registrar, rather than changing the paperwork, in effect changed Lyss' name. "In time, Ulysses accepted U. S. Grant as his true name, insisting that his middle initial stood for 'nothing.' His family and Ohio friends continued to call him Ulysses; the other cadets nicknamed him 'Uncle Sam' for his initials, soon shortened it to 'Sam.'"*

You may have heard him referred to as "Ulysses Simpson Grant"; that was not his name, but he did have a son named that.

Anyway, this little cottage in Point Pleasant, Ohio, a village on the Ohio River east of Cincinnati, is where the future Civil War General and President of the United States was born.

He lived in Point Pleasant and nearby Georgetown relatively happily until his father made him work in the tanner's shop; Lyss hated that. Then his father got him an appointment at West Point. Lyss didn't want to go, but he couldn't disobey his father, so he went.

Lyss had some successful times and some unsuccessful times, in the army and out of it. From 1852 to 1855 he was stationed at Columbia Barracks (later renamed Vancouver Barracks), an important frontier outpost in Vancouver, Washington. Below is the parade ground, and the Grant House, on Officers' Row in Vancouver; Lyss never actually lived in this building, but he did work in it. It was the commanding officer's house when Grant was stationed there; after his presidency it was renamed Grant House. It was a log building -- still is, but much remodeled. It is the only building of the time remaining on Officer's Row.

The parade ground at Vancouver BarracksGrant House, Vancouver, Washington

Grant House at ChristmastimeJudge Lancaster Columbia House

Lyss also was a guest at the home of Thomas Lancaster, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Oregon, at Columbia House, a few miles north of Vancouver on the mighty Columbia River.

Lyss was not a good soldier; constantly in trouble and drinking heavily, he left the army and returned to his family in St. Louis, Missouri, to live with his wife's family, the Dents.

Whitehaven, home of the Dents and Grants; officially Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site

The Dents were rich by the standards of the day, owning 20 slaves and a large farm. The family home was not large, but relatively comfortable. It is built of vertical logs -- an unusual method of construction -- with rough-hewn logs forming the rafters. The summer kitchen was in a separate building out back; this helped keep the house cooler on those hot Missouri summer days. The winter kitchen was in the basement; this kept the house somewhat warmer in winter, and also the food stayed warmer when it was carried upstairs than it would have if it had had to be carried outside.

Basement, where the kitchen was

At one point Lyss built a log house (below) for himself, his wife Julia, and their children. However, his wife refused to live in it, so they continued living with his inlaws.

The Grant Cabin

When the Civil War came along, Grant rejoined the army, eventually leading the Union forces to victory.

Here is the McLean house in Appomattox Court House, Virginia, where Lyss accepted Lee's surrender, effectively ending the Civil War.

The McLean house

To the left are the chair and table where Lyss sat; at the right are the chair and table where Lee sat. Thus endeth the Civil War.

The living room of the McClean house

The good people of Galena, Illinois, where the Grants had lived prior to the war, gave him this house as a token of their gratitude and esteem.

The Grants' Galena, Illinois, home

The Grants lived in this house until he became President of the United States in 1869. After his presidency, he and Julia lived in this home part of the time until he died.

Dining room
The Dining Room
Sitting Room
The Sitting Room
The Bedroom

Ulysses S. Grant's Galena, Illinois, neighborhood
What the General would see
when he looked out the window
(more or less).

But the Grants did not really enjoy living in Galena; it was a letdown after the euphoria of the presidency and world tours where he was greeted as royalty. So they lived in New York City most of the time.

After his death, Grant's Tomb was erected. Julia specified that the tomb was to have no tourist facilities whatsoever -- no rest rooms, no benches, no fountains, no nothing -- except the tombs for the General and herself. She wanted people to visit there just to honor her husband. I think there actually are some benches outside, but they might not be on the same property.

Grant's Tomb; officially, General Grant Memorial

Mural in Grant's Tomb

Inside the dome of Grant's Tomb

Tombs of General Grant and his wife Julia
Tombs of Ulysses S. Grant and Julia Dent Grant

And to the question, "Who is buried in Grant's Tomb?" there is no single answer. One answer, of course, is Grant. Another is Grant and his wife. Still another, nobody; they aren't buried, they're entombed.

*, quoting Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant (N.Y., 1885), I, 35.


All photos on this site ©Donald L. Mark 1973-2007   Back to "Presidents' Places" Index