Hey everybody, today is Ulysses S. Grant’s birthday. Unfortunately I was not able to attend the ceremonies at Grant’s Tomb today. Last night I did visit the W. O. Partridge statue in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
This equestrian statue was designed by William Ordway Partridge. It is one of two Grants in Brooklyn, the other being under the arch at Grand Army Plaza.
The Union League Club of Brooklyn gave the statue to the city in 1896, eleven years after Grant’s death and one year before the opening of his tomb. “City” here means Brooklyn, not New York; our fair borough was its own municipality until the merger in 1898.
Technically the club donated the statue on Grant’s birthday, but the ceremony was actually held two days earlier, on the 25th . Most of the immediate Grant family, including Julia, were in attendance. The governor and mayors of Brooklyn and New York also shared the stage. Thousands were on hand for the parade, music, and speeches. General Horace Porter, who was doing so much in these years to make sure Grant’s mausoleum became reality, delivered the oration. A teenaged Ulysses S. Grant III—yes, the man who later chaired the United States Civil War Centennial Commission—pulled the cord to unveil the statue.
It was chilly and somewhat rainy that Saturday, but an April day in Brooklyn is always beautiful. This small garden is directly behind the statue.
The statue stands in front of the Union Club, whose cornerstone was laid in 1889. The building is a senior citizen home today. An employee leaving for the day told me they are often asked about the building and statue but were unaware of its history.
These terra cotta reliefs of Lincoln and Grant decorate the exterior. You can make these out if you look between the arches in the photograph of the Union Club entrance.
One word said it all a hundred and fifteen years ago.
Okay, it is not that rare a discovery but nonetheless an interesting piece of Grant memorabilia turned up in New York last week. Those who know me know that I love stories of Recently Found Long Lost Items.
(Source: Beinecke Rare Books & Manuscript Library, Yale University; Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
Grant’s 189th birthday is this coming Wednesday and the Park Service has scheduled a day’s worth of events at his tomb. The best news is that the Overlook Pavilion will be rededicated after an extensive renovation. The NPS has done a great job refurbishing the mausoleum after the dark years of the 1970s and 1980s. Things had gotten so bad with crime and graffiti that in the early 1990s the general’s descendants began talking of moving his and Julia’s remains to Illinois if something were not done. My wife and I went to Grant’s Tomb in the winter and I cannot recommend strongly enough that you visit.
Happy Easter and Passover, everybody. The Hayfoot and I went to the Cloisters last week and I thought I would share a few pics.
That is the George Washington Bridge in the background. As you can see spring wasn’t in full bloom, but it was nonetheless beautiful.
Enjoy your Sunday.
Those following the lead-up to the Civil War sesquicentennial in recent years know that the commemoration now underway is quite consciously a response to the shortcomings of the Centennial in the early 1960s. For those less aware, Ben Alpers at U.S. Intellectual History offers a lucid analysis.
(Hat tip Susan Ingram)
For reasons that are easy to understand most of the Civil War focus is on the South, which makes sense being that the majority of the fighting took place there. It is helpful to remember, though, that the Civil War can be found all around us. Here are a few examples within walking distance of my home.
Major General Henry Halleck
Two of the four Union Generals-in-Chief are interred in New York City. Halleck is in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery and Grant in Manhattan. Winfield Scott is just up the the Hudson at West Point.
The dog is a nice touch.
Halleck’s son is next to his mother and father.
William Marcy Tweed
“Boss” Tweed was the political powerbroker who almost derailed Colonel Washington Roebling’s Great Bridge in the 1870s. Roebling was a staff officer under General Gouverneur Kemble Warren and later married his sister.
Abolitionist and newspaperman Horace Greeley
Upset with corruption in the Grant Administration Greeley ran against the incumbent as a third party candidate in 1872. Greeley lost in a landslide and died shortly thereafter, but it is testimony to his prominence that he rests atop his own hill.
The pen is mightier than the sword
Three quick stories of my Civil War. Find yours.
The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation Inc. held its tenth annual Family Heritage Awards last Wednesday. This year’s recipients were Senator George Mitchell, Martina Navratilova, Joe Torre, and the foundation’s first chairman, Lee Iacocca.
I don’t know if the numbers are large enough to call it a mass movement but something interesting has been underway for at least a decade now: African-Americans are returning to the South decades after the Great Migration to the urban North, sometimes even returning to their ancestral lands. It should be less surprising than it sounds. The Rust Belt has been losing jobs and people to the Sun Belt for decades now. Why shouldn’t African-Americans be part of the demographic trend?
Hey everybody, today is tax day but there is still reason to be happy—National Parks Week starts tomorrow. Many of the 394 parks are free year round, but this week there is no entrance fee at any of the sites. Moreover, permits and activity fees may also be waived or reduced at many locations. With the Civil War sesquicentennial now in full swing, the kids out of school, and spring in full bloom I cannot think of a better time to visit your natural and historical treasures. Hiking, bird watching, ranger tours, films, and lectures are just some of the things you can do at your parks. Yours truly will be at Ellis Island this Sunday doing his thing. I have been looking forward to seeing this just-opened exhibit for some time.
Explore your heritage.
We will see if there is a round three, but at least for now the casino initiative in Gettysburg has again been struck down. I cannot say how happy I am. This was very close. I remember talking about it with some locals last summer when my wife and I were there and their telling us that the town was split almost evenly down the middle.
I have been to Civil War battlefields and national parks in all regions of the country and can say anecdotally that the number of African-Americans I have seen over the years has been quite small. With the evolution of scholarship and interpretation that has taken place in recent years, I am confident this will change.