Last month I had the chance to visit Grant’s Cottage State Historic Site in upstate New York. I tried to go once before, but missed it as the site has limited hours. This time while in the area I was determined to get there (even if it meant leaving my travelling companion Mark Wilcox behind – which would not have been a huge sacrifice…).
I knew little about Grant’s stay, other than he was focused on finishing his memoirs before throat cancer claimed him. He was determined to complete the project to ensure financial help for his family after his death. Talk about motivation!
To me, Grant has always been tenacious, a trait that I admire. He was a problem solver, he figured things out. Thinking about how to rally his army at Shiloh, how to crack the defenses of Vicksburg, how to resupply his army at Chattanooga, or how to come to grips with Lee’s army in Virginia, Grant always found a way. The road might be hard and the costs high, but he persevered. Only someone with real determination could do all that.
I assumed the Grant family permanently moved into the cottage atop Mount McGregor near Saratoga Springs, and that he stayed here a long time before his death in 1885. In fact, he only was at the cottage for just over a month, and it was a temporary arrangement, he still owned his residence in Manhattan.
The site was great! Nice museum, good exhibits, and a great tour of the rooms (though I did see way too many Chris Mackowski books…). I had fun sitting in the spot on the porch where the General did, and brought a copy of my ECW book, To The Bitter End, to pose with. I thought it was appropriate. Sitting in the same place, I thought about his determination to finish the project.
What stood out to me more, though, was lingering in one of the rooms as the tour group was moving on, and looking out the window. It was a beautiful day outside and I saw the trees and green hillside. It struck me: Grant had this same view. Did he enjoy it too? Even as he knew he was dying? Did that scenery comfort him? What did he think about as he looked out that same window?
Sometimes we learn new facts when visiting a historic site, and sometimes we gain new, deeper perspectives too. If you are in the area, be sure to visit the Grant Cottage! For more information: www.grantcottage.org.