Like news outlets throughout the country the Brooklyn Daily Eagle was closely monitoring Ulysses S. Grant’s health and progress in the spring and summer of 1885. This is an excerpt from the June 16th edition of that Brooklyn newspaper. As we can see, it was 133 years ago today that Grant and his family traveled to Mount McGregor, outside Saratoga New York, to escape the heat here in the city. At Mount McGregor Grant would push himself to finish his Memoirs. Everyone knew that General Grant’s health was failing due to throat cancer and that it was a race against time.
William H. Vanderbilt, who had helped Grant financially after the collapse of the Grant and Ward investment firm the previous year, now put his personal railroad car at Grant’s disposal. Another Grant admirer, Joseph W. Drexel, was lending Grant and his entourage the use of a spacious cottage for the general to complete the draft in comfort and relative solitude. We stress “relative” solitude. Public interest in Grant was so ardent that a continuous stream of onlookers came out regularly to the mountain retreat to bear witness. From a respectful distance they might have seen Grant on the porch, hard at work with the writing and edits but looking up occasionally and waving in acknowledgment. On other days spectators might note the comings and goings of such dignitaries as Mark Twain or Simon Bolivar Buckner, Grant’s old West Point friend who went on to surrender to him at Fort Donelson during the Civil War. The ailing Grant and his editorial team worked diligently on the book over the next five weeks at the cottage. Grant died there on July 23rd, days after finishing the manuscript.