Ulysses S. Grant Jr., 1852-1929

Julia Dent Grant with Frederick and Ulysses Jr. in St. Louis, 1854. Lieutenant Grant was in the Pacific Northwest at the time and had not yet met his second son. This daguerreotype was discovered in 2016 and sold at auction in Cincinnati for $18,000.

Ulysses S. Grant Jr., Buck to the family, was born on this day in 1852. By this time his father was on his way to California with the 4th Infantry Regiment and a party of about seven hundred wives and children. The 4th was stationed briefly at Fort Columbus on Governors Island before their trip. Quartermaster Grant went briefly to the District of Columbia to see about supplies. While he was in Washington, Henry Clay—the Great Compromiser—died there, bringing things to a standstill. An empty-handed Grant returned to New York City and the regiment sailed for Panama on July 5.

This photograph of travelers crossing the Isthmus of Panama was taken in the early 1900s. The 4th Infantry crossed in much the same way over half a century earlier. One out of seven who made that trip died of cholera. This danger is why Ulysses and Julia decided the family would instead go to Bethel and then St. Louis.

Remember, the canal did not come into being until Theodore Roosevelt picked up where the French had failed. The Panama Canal opened in August 1914 at almost the same moment the Great War was starting. Instead travelers crossed the Isthmus by mule and wagon. To say that it was a hazardous journey would be an understatement. That is why Ulysses and Julia decided she and young Frederick, just two, would not make the voyage. Instead, they would go to Bethel, Ohio and then Missouri. It is a good thing they didn’t; one hundred people in the 4th Infantry’s party died of cholera. The pregnant Julia and the toddler Frederick might well have become two more victims. Instead Julia gave birth to young Ulysses in Bethel. Lieutenant Grant did not learn this until the mail finally reached the 4th Infantry at Fort Vancouver (Columbia Barracks) just before the new year.

(images/top, unknown photographer, taken in St. Louis (Cowan’s Auctions) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; bottom, Library of Congress)

Remembering Brooklyn’s G.A.R. Post 327

G.A.R. Post 327 marker, Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery

The Grand Army of the Republic was the premier fraternal organization for Union Civil War veterans. Returning soldiers founded the GAR just after the war and over the next several decades hundreds of thousands of men who had worn the Union blue joined posts across the nation to socialize, perform charitable works, and advocate for medical care and military pensions. One of the most active was Post 327 of Brooklyn, New York. Post 327 included men from such regiments as the 14th Brooklyn that fought at Antietam, Gettysburg, and elsewhere. The 327 also included many men who had served under Grant and Meade in the Overland Campaign and Siege of Petersburg, some of the toughest engagements of the war. These veterans marched and spoke regularly at Decoration Day commemorations, Fourth of July picnics, and other events, sometimes with Grant in attendance.

At Mount McGgregor on the morning of July 24, 1885, the day after the general died, representatives told Frederick Dent Grant that the post was changing its name to U.S. Grant Post 327 in tribute to their former commander. They were also in Mount McGregor to provide escort for General Grant as he made his way to his final resting place in Manhattan. Not surprisingly, men of U.S. Grant Post 327 participated in General Grant‘s funeral in 1885 and again at the dedication of the Tomb in 1897.

U.S. Grant Post 327 was still going strong in the early decades of the twentieth century, speaking to children at schools, marching in parades and, increasingly, symbolizing the passing of an era. As with other posts across the nation, their numbers were dwindling quickly until finally in the 1920s and 30s just a few remained. Many Civil War veterans who joined Post 327 are today buried in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery. Often these soldiers’ headstones are marked with circular tablets like the one we see here. I was in Green-Wood recently and wanted to share this image I took of a tablet marking a Union soldier’s headstone. Some of these markers are over a century old but, as we can see, are still quite legible. Note General Grant‘s likeness in the center of the tablet.

Sunday morning coffee

I’m listening to it rain as I have my coffee and get ready to start the day.

A few weeks back at the Grant’s’ Tomb visitor’s center a patron asked me where the Amiable Child monument was. I had to confess that I did not know. When I asked one of the rangers they said it was abut 100 yards north on the west side of Riverside Drive. Last week I took a different path to the subway and lo and behold there it was. I found this to be a striking monument, especially when juxtaposed with the imposing Grant’s Tomb just down the street. Apparently this is one of only three private graves in New York City. That this four year old who died in 1797 is down the street from resting place of the 18th president makes the monument more poignant.

I imagine many walkers along Riverside who pass this every day during their daily constitutional think of this as “their” monument, so remote and tucked out of the way as it is. I wonder how many will notice today that the date on it is July 15, 1797.

Enjoy your Sunday.

The funeral of General Ted Roosevelt, July 14, 1944

General Theodore Roosevelt funeral, July 14, 1944

For reasons that I and others have discussed today, July 14 is an important date in Roosevelt family history. Less well-known than the fact that Quentin was killed in France on Bastille Day 1918 is that General Ted Roosevelt was buried on this day in 1944. General Theodore Roosevelt died of a heart attack in France on July 12, five weeks after landing on the beaches of Normandy. I would go more into the story of General Roosevelt’s burial but we already have the narrative as told by the photographer who took the images we see above and below. PFC Sidney Gutelewitz happened to have his camera on his person when he saw Omar Bradley, George Patton and at least four more (other article say at least eight more) generals marching solemnly in the funeral. As Gutelewitz tell it, he did not know it was the funeral of General Roosevelt for another decade. Thankfully the images survived. The photographer turned them over to the United States Army Center of Military History.

General Omar Bradley attends the funeral of General Theodore Roosevelt, July 14, 1944. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle said: “The funeral procession was awe-inspiring for its solemnity and military simplicity.”

One note: many articles discussing Mr. Gutelewitz and his photographs have the funeral as happening in July 13, 1944, To the best of my knowledge–and I researched it pretty closely to check the discrepency–that is almost certainly incorrect. All of the contemporary accounts I read and watched have the funeral as happening on the evening of July 14. It is a lesson in always checking these types of details and not taking them at face value. Apparently twenty-six images of the funeral exist. I have only seen 5-6 online. Maybe next year they will do more with this for the seventy-fifth anniversary of General Roosevelt’s death.

(images/US Army Pfc. Sidney Gutelewitz)

More on Quentin

Quentin Roosevelt stone marker, Sagamore Hill

Quentin Roosevelt stone, Sagamore Hill

Thankfully there has been a great deal of interest in the life and times of Quentin Roosevelt this summer. Sagamore Hill for one is hosting a number of events and exhibits in this anniversary year of his death. Margaret Porter Griffin, author of The Amazing Bird Collection of Young Mr. Roosevelt, has a piece out today about the significance of Quentin. Above is the marker that Margaret mentions in her article. I took these photographs at the Theodore Roosevelt Association conference in October 2016.


Percy Grainger, 1882-1961

My good friend Molly Skardon, a fellow volunteer with the National Park Service here in New York City, wrote this guest piece about Percy Grainger, who was born this week in 1882. The musician and composer was already in his 30s when the war broke out in 1914. The next five years however would prove crucial in his personal and artistic development. Molly is uniquely suited to writing about Grainger. She has run the Oral History Project at Governors Island for many years and has interviewed many Army band musicians who were stationed on the island. She also works at Juilliard. New York City was the focal point for the American war effort, and even then becoming a nexus for the nascent jazz scene.

Happy Birthday to Australian musician Percy Grainger, born July 8, 1882. Grainger was pursuing an international career as a pianist and composer when the Great War began in Europe. Publicly criticized for not joining the British war effort, he sailed for America in 1915 and enlisted in the U.S. Army in June 1917, at age 34.

His first Army assignment was with the 15th Coast Artillery Band, stationed at Fort Hamilton, which is the ensemble pictured above. Grainger is the saxophonist in the center, above the small white X. Since it appears to have been chilly when the picture was taken, the time might be late 1917 or early 1918.

In June of 1918, Grainger came to Governors Island as an instructor in the program founded by the Institute of Musical Art (later part of what is now The Juilliard School) to train Army bandmasters and band musicians. Classroom instruction took place at the Institute, at Broadway and 122nd Street in Manhattan, and performing and conducting were taught on the Island.

Grainger was not particularly skilled on either the saxophone or the oboe, which he also played, but he was fascinated by wind, brass, and percussion instruments and wrote a great deal of music for them in various combinations, thus earning the gratitude of concert and military band players of succeeding generations. However, his most popularly known work is probably “Country Gardens,” an old English tune that he arranged for piano while at Fort Jay, as noted at the end of the published sheet music (“Written out, Fort Jay, Governor’s Island, N.Y., June 29, 1918”).

Grainger was discharged from the Army in 1919, and lived for the rest of his life in White Plains, New York just north of the city.

(image/Library of Congress Bain Collection)

JP Mitchel’s funeral, July 11, 1918

Here is some stunning footage of John Purroy Mitchell’s funeral at St. Patrick’s one hundred years ago today. Note Theodore Roosevelt and, I believe, Charles Evans Hughes, who ran against Wilson in 1916, walking behind the casket as the pallbearers take Mitchel into the cathedral.

John Purroy Mitchel, 1879-1918

Major John Purroy Mitchel in pilot gear, 1918

The have my article up and running over at Roads to the Great War about the life, times, and death of John Purroy Mitchel. New York City’s Boy Mayor was all of thirty-four when he became mayor in 1914. Initially he was an ally of Woodrow Wilson, who in 1913 had appointed him Collector of the Port of New York. Men like Chester Arthur had previously held the collectorship. Mitchel and Wilson soon had a falling out over what the mayor saw as the president’s poor leadership during the war. Soon, Mitchel was very publicly allying with friends like Theodore Roosevelt and Leonard Wood advocating for Preparedness. When he lost his re-election bid, Mitchel became a military aviator. He died in a flight exercise in Louisiana on July 6, 1918, one hundred years ago today.

(image/courtesy of Margaret Maloney via Wikimedia Commons)


New York City, July 1868

I would be remiss if I did not at least briefly mention that the Democratic National Convention began here in New York City 150 years ago today. This was the first presidential election since the end of the war, the assassination of Lincoln, and impeachment of Andrew Johnson. The Republicans had nominated Ulysses S. Grant in Chicago almost two months earlier. Grant would face the winner in the general election that fall. The Democratic field was wide open. President Johnson even sent a representative to take the pulse of the situation and see about maybe running. Few thought that Johnson would get the bid. Instead, George H. Pendleton of Ohio was the favorite coming in. Other leading prospects included Horatio Seymour of New York, Thomas A.Hendricks of Indiana, and Winfield Scott Hancock, one of the heroes of Gettysburg. The Democrats were meeting at Tammany Hall’s new wigwam on 14th Street that had been rushed into completion in time for the convention.

Very little actually happened at the wigwam on July 4, 1868. They did have a reading of the Declaration of Independence, which was a Tammany Fourth of July tradition. There was some talk about holding meetings that evening but that was quickly scuttled because of the holiday. This was all taking place five years after the victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. If you know your Gettysburg, you know that the Tammany regiment played a big role in that battle and has a prominent marker at the High Water Mark.

Most of the action that day took place a little farther south at the Cooper Institute. In a sort of shadow assembly, the Soldiers’ and sailors’ Convention was taking place there. Many former general were present including William B. Franklin and Henry Slocum. The preferred candidate here seemed to be Winfield S. Hancock. The South and West were widely represented at Cooper Union, just as they would be at the wigwam starting on July 5. In a precursor to the events that would transpire at the wigwam over the course of that hot week, Major General Ewing’s speech was a refutation of reconstruction.

In the next week I intend to go at least a little deeper into the convention held here in New York City 150 summer ago. Suffice it to say that the 1868 Democratic Convention was one of the most tragic and painful in American history. The only political gathering that may–may–have been worse in its ugliness was the convention in Chicago 100 years after it.

(top image/Library of Congress; bottom, title page of Ewing convention speech)