On a visit with the wife to New York City over Thanksgiving, between Radio City Hall and the Rockettes, the Macy’s Day Parade, and the lights and glamour of Times Square, we snuck up to what is referred to as “Uptown.” There, resting on the banks of the Hudson River, sits a large granite mausoleum. Inside this classically styled crypt lies the remains of one of America’s greatest military heroes: Ulysses S. Grant.
Maintained and interpreted by the National Park Service, General Grant National Memorial contains the remains of Ulysses S. Grant and his wife Julia.
Grant died on July 23, 1885, after a fight with throat cancer that lasted nearly a year. He had literally finished his memoirs just days earlier, a project he undertook to save his family from destitution after he fell victim to a financial scam.
Grant’s funeral took place on August 8, 1885 and the former president was laid to rest in a temporary vault; the building of the permanent memorial was completed twelve years later, on the 75th anniversary of Grant’s birth, April 27, 1897.
Julia passed away on December 14, 1902, and was interred beside her husband.
A visit today to the memorial includes a sojourn to the newly refurbished visitor center down the hill and across the street from the mausoleum. The mausoleum itself is, without saying, the main attraction, though.
On the first floor, the top of all four walls are painted with murals depicting different scenes from the life of General Grant. When we looked in the two display rooms, a large map of the battles of the war donned the walls, and battle flags represented different military organizations were on display. One can also look down on the red granite coffins of Grant and his beloved wife.
Taking the steps down to the bottom floor, a round viewing hallway wraps itself around the platform where the caskets lay. Cut into the walls are five openings where busts of Union generals whose friendships or careers intertwined with Grant’s. A bust of William T. Sherman is there, along with Phil Sheridan, George Thomas, James McPherson, and Edward Ord. Conspicuously missing is George Meade.
Outside, etched into the front of the mausoleum between two angels, are four words that resonated from the small Virginia town of Appomattox where, in April 1865, Grant rose to the epitome of American military greatness when he accepted the surrender of his vanquished, yet very proud, counterpart, Robert E. Lee and his veteran band of Southern stalwarts: “Let Us Have Peace.”
It’s a simple saying, but one with a powerful message, which every American, every visitor, can take to heart today.
Information for the article, and information to plan your own visit to the memorial, can be found at www.nps.gov/gegr