Grant's Final Victory: Ulysses S. Grant's Heroic Last Year
Charles Bracelen Flood
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As Grant continued his work, suffering increasing pain, the American public became aware of this race between Grant’s writing and his fatal illness. Twenty years after his respectful and magnanimous demeanor toward Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, people in both the North and the South came to know Grant as the brave, honest man he was, now using his famous determination in this final effort. Grant finished Memoirs just four days before he died in July 1885.
Published after his death by his friend Mark Twain, Grant’s Memoirs became an instant bestseller, restoring his family’s financial health and, more importantly, helping to cure the nation of bitter discord. More than any other American before or since, Grant, in his last year, was able to heal this—the country’s greatest wound.
Journal, Daily News, Brooklyn Eagle—swiftly appeared with their own stories, which were variations on the Times’s subheads: DYING SLOWLY FROM CANCER; GRAVELY ILL; SINKING INTO THE GRAVE; GEN. GRANT’S FRIENDS GIVE UP HOPE. Within twenty-four hours all the metropolitan papers had their reporters standing across the street from 3 East Sixty-sixth Street, assigned to a twenty-four-hour watch. Reporters from all the major East Coast cities soon joined them; within a week journalists came in from St.
from morning to night, he wrote ten thousand words—an effort that moved Twain to say, “It kills me these days to write half of that.” On March 20, Twain appeared with a gifted young sculptor named Karl Gerhardt, who had returned from studies at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris that Twain had been subsidizing. A few days before this, Twain had shown his protégé Gerhardt a photo of Grant, and from that the artist had swiftly produced a small clay bust that Twain found to be a nearly perfect
the spot.” (At the time Grant was a cadet, he was not fond of the academy. He was an indifferent student: in his Memoirs he wrote, “A military life had no charms for me, and I had not the faintest idea of staying in the army even if I graduated, which I did not expect.”) Despite all the forethought that had gone into planning this trip, the only way to reduce the sweltering heat in the Vanderbilt car was to open its doors and windows, which brought in cinders, soot, and smoke from the steam
rearrangement of existing sections. The next day, he worked for several hours out on the porch, sitting in the wicker armchair with a writing board that ran across from one of the chair’s arms to the other, and using a pencil and a pad of lined yellow paper. Although Grant took no notice of it, fifteen years before this day, on June 22, 1870, he had signed the document creating the Department of Justice. Until then, there had been the office of Attorney-General, which was authorized to hire
at 3 East Sixty-sixth Street 23 “I was nearing my seventh birthday”: Casey, 11–12. All quotations from Emma Dent Casey are from this recollection. It should be noted that in the full sentence beginning, “I was nearing my seventh birthday,” I have changed “that bright spring afternoon in 1843” to read “that bright . . . afternoon.” I do so because other evidence suggests that Grant did not in fact arrive at Jefferson Barracks until the autumn of that year. It is also possible that his first visit