One of the images that hangs high over Ulysses S. Grant’s sepulcher is an image of a handshake. It’s an idealized painting of Grant and Lee at Appomattox, sealing their deal. A handshake was a man’s word. It’s the way good men did business.
The handshake serves as a perfect metaphor for reunion: two men, like two warring factions, come together in a gesture of agreement. One might daresay call it a gesture of peace.
The mural—one of three mosaics added in 1966 by artist Allyn Cox—adorns half-moon lunettes high in the tomb’s dome. Along with Appomattox, another depicts Grant on horseback at Vicksburg and Grant on Missionary Ridge at Chattanooga. One might wonder by their shape whether the half-moons are rising or setting, but all events clearly depict Grant on the rise. While Appomattox might be the moment he’s best remembered for, he did ascend all the way to the presidency.
Peace remains the order of the day at Grant’s Tomb. Grant’s words, inscribed above the door, serve as a reminder: “Let us have peace.”
Perhaps we’re still working at it. If more of us took time to shake on things—and mean it—we’d go a long way to fulfilling that vision.