General Ulysses S Grant dies The career of a soldier and a president (1885)

General Ulysses S Grant dies: The career of a soldier and a president (1885)

Major General Ulysses S. Grant in uniform

General Ulysses S Grant is dead, and none more figure of heroic mold stands in the pantheon of American Liberty.

The patient, purified and dauntless spirit that vanished from the sight of man this morning will henceforth live imperishably in the memory of the Republic. Like gold from a furnace of the refiner, the character of our greatest soldier emerges from the crucible of disease cleanse from every infirmity and fitted to circulate as sterling coin in the moral exchanges of the world. To describe the event as a public calamity, or invite the American people to bow down in sorrow, would be to use the language of thoughtless conventionalism.

In the presence of a career, dazzling with splendid achievements, brought to a close under every circumstance that could elevate the heart, allay the animosities and sweeten the sympathies of mankind, there is small room for lamentation.

When the promise of youth is nipped in the bud, when genius is smitten to the dust in the press and middle of lofty adventures, when the pillar of a people’s hopes fall in the very hour when its sustaining strength can least be spared, grief may well appear. But no promise of dawning life has perished unfulfilled in the case of Ulysses S. Grant; What he was born to do has been fully accomplished, and every hope that rested upon his sword in days gone by is now an invincible guardian of the land.

What now becomes the people is to pay to his memory the honors reserved for their most illustrious benefactors, draw from the manner of his death as well as from the shining deeds of his meridian manhood lessons and inspiration for the future, and exult in the priceless possession of a man who, having shown his countrymen how to wear with modesty the garlands of a smiling fortune, has shown them also how to bear with manly composure the most painful afflictions, and remain unshaken in the presence of death.

1866 Ulysses S. Grant, half-length portrait

Great soldiers have not always been good men. The instances are not few of successful captains, who, after seeking the bauble, reputation, even at the cannon’s mouth, and looking unmoved on the agonies of thousands slaughtered to cement a throne, shrunk and trembled like cowards in the stillness of their chambers when brought face to face with the final adversary.

MORE: The Civil War nears its end: Lee surrenders to Grant (1865)

Today, however, with the news of our great field marshal’s death we can also, with a pride nobler than any field of blood can justify, invite our sister nations to contemplate the serene behavior of our most representative citizen when called upon to enter the valley of the shadow.

To sum up the character rightly estimate the services of General Grant to the Republic cannot be done at a time like this. The public has no ear for his weaknesses; there is still uncertainty as to the bearings of several of his important transactions and the perspective of time is indispensable to a right perception of his proportions. Eulogy, we need hardly say, is not history, and history cannot be written while the vision of the writer is affected by the mists of temporary favor or transient animosity. The clear, cold light of unimpassioned inquiry is required, and this light illumines no epoch while the men who formed it survive upon the earth.

The Civil War is better understood today than it was a decade ago, and it will be better understood twenty or fifty years hence than it is now, who have seen several very flashy reputations reduced to more modest colors, and others who had been darkened by calumny set right again in an honorable light.

When, however, every reasonable allowance is made for the impartiality of the future, enough is evidently secure already, so far as General Grant is concerned, to warrant us in assigning him a high place among the great soldiers of the world, and the first place among the soldiers who have figured on the American continent.

Ulysses S. Grant, full-length portrait, wearing military uniform, sitting on a horse

We produced many men capable of handling regiments, corps and even single armies with great skill, but it is questionable whether, in addition to Grant, we reared any soldier capable of coordinating the efforts of widely separated bodies of men, covering the whole field of operations by his plans and beating the enemy in all his diversified shapes as a unit.

It was no the least of the weaknesses of the South that it at no time had the advantage of commanding genius thus comprehensive. From the outset till the end of the struggle there was chaos in the South, the preposterous doctrine of secession reproduced itself in the counsels of the army, rendering the generals blind to the interest of the whole Confederacy in their zeal for the defense of this or other State, and beguiling them with victories which, as they tended in no degree to weaken the North was a mere waste of men and material.

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Grant’s title to stand in the list of great captains is justified by what he accomplished in this relation alone. He gave unity to the operations of all the Northern armies; he engaged the adversary by concert at every point; he knew how to make the advantage of numbers effective; he made it impossible for the dislocated forces of his opponents to interact for their common benefit. In this sense, it is true that he and he alone subdued the rebellion. He was the one indispensable man.

His fame rests not upon the capture of Vicksburg or the destruction of Lee, brilliant as these achievements were. It is based upon the indisputable fact that he gave intelligent direction to the operations of a million men removed from each other by mountains and rivers and brought them to bear by the central influence of his genius with crushing effect upon the whole shell of his enemy.

When to the compass of mind indicated by this vast exertions, we add as an account of his own deeds as a commander presentation on the field, and consider with what skill he selected his lieutenants it is difficult to see how the tribute due to leaders of the first order is to be denied to him.

That he was essentially a soldier will, we assume, be conceded by very intelligent person now. There was a time when political partisanship sought to thrust upon him the honors of statecraft, as in more recent times knaves persuaded him to lend his name to their business adventures; but it is now clear enough that Nature never equipped his frank, generous, ample and courageous mind for the sinuosities of politics.

Ulysses S. Grant seated color portrait

He had no taste for the subjects which chiefly concern the council chamber in times of peace, and was less qualified by nature and habit to guard against the hypocrisy which always besets civil power could not have been found on the face of the earth. This has been abundantly probed to the satisfaction of intelligent Americans, and in the proof lies the one and only defense of him needed against transactions which threatened to blot most foully the fair shield of his unstained martial fame.

After every abatement enough remains undisputed to place General Ulysses S Grant side by side with the noblest figures of the Republic. Differing from them all in some respects, as each differs from the other, he fitly passes into the immortal company of Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Jackson and Abraham Lincoln. Generous to a fault, loving his friends with an unreasoning devotion, most kindly in all the rounds of daily life, he is pre-eminently our type of inflexible courage in the field, courage in the sphere of daily duty, courage in the presence of death.

He was of a magnanimous strain, and not the least of his honors is in this, that, touched by his magnanimity, won by his knightly bearing in the hour of his triumph over them, his honor will find no more zealous guardians than the Southern soldiers who yielded up their arms to him at Appomattox.

Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in military uniform 1865


Death of Ulysses S Grant at Mount McGregor This Morning — July 23, 1885

General Ulysses S Grant died at 8:08 this morning. At 9 o’clock last night, one of General Grant’s physicians conceded with some caution that the patient might survive until July 23. His meaning was that the sick man might yet be living when midnight should mark the new day.

The physician’s indication, it was not a prognostication, was borne out and more. The General passed into the first hour of the day, he saw its light at sunrise, and through the early morning hours, he still survived. The advent of July 23, however, marked a change in General Grant’s condition which was significant. The chill at the extremities was increasing and the use of hot applications to keep warmth in the extremities and vital parts were resorted to. They were of some avail, but the artificial warmth was without power to reach the cause or stay the results of dissolution, which began on Tuesday evening and had been progressing steadily, though gradually.

Hypodermics of brandy were frequently given to stimulate the flagging physical powers, but later this failed to affect the patient, whose vitality and physical forces were so far spent as to furnish no footing of rebound. Indeed, the efforts of the medical men were being made because none could stand by inactive and without the trial of any expedient that might prolong life an hour or a minute. The physicians believed that the patient might reach the extreme ebb of his strength at one o’clock this morning, and the approach of the hour was anticipated with intense anxiety at the cottage. It passed, however, and the general, resting upon his back and propped up by pillow, lay upon the cot bed in the parlor, as yet living, but growing weaker.

Lieutenant General Ulysses S Grant

The inevitable close of the General’s long sickness seemed more and more imminent; the feeble pulse beats had worn themselves by their rapidity to a fluttering throb that could not be gauged beneath the finger of the physician. the body was being worn out by its own life currents, so rapidly was its coursing through the veins. Repeatedly the brandy was entered beneath the skin of the General’s arm, but despite its waning influence the respiration’s had quickened from 44 to the minute during the evening to a point of labored breathing that was painful to the friends who grouped and bent near the sick man.

Two o’clock had been passed and the evidence of approaching death were multiplying. the increasing respiration’s were not along mere rapid, but more shallow. The lungs and the heart were giving away. So weak had General Grant grown at 3 o’clock, he was unable any longer to clear the gathering mucous from his throat. It accumulated and remained and as four o’clock drew on and the daylight came a point had been reached when expectoration was impossible; there was not left enough strength, and from 4 o’clock on there was in the throat the significant rattle of mucous that was filling the lungs and clogging the throat.

At 3 o’clock, the General asked for water. At 4 o’clock the breathing was quickened and reached 50 to the minute. An hour later the respiration had reached 60, and between 5 and 6 o’clock the fingernails had become blue and the hands further evidenced the progress of numbness at the extremities; and at every breath, the mucous clogging in the throat was growing more noticeable. It is not known that General Grant uttered a word after asking for a glass of water at three o’clock.

Ulysses S. Grant photograph

Ulysses S. Grant: The End.

Shortly before eight o’clock this morning, while the family was preparing for breakfast, and doctors were discussing the patient’s chances on the piazza of the cottage, Henry, the nurse, who was with the General, stepped hurriedly out of the sick room and going to where the doctors were standing, informed them in a whisper that he thought the end was near.

The doctors hastily went to the room and at a glance took in the situation. They quietly ordered the nurse to summon the members of the family to the sick room at once. Mrs. Grant, Mr. Jesse Grant and wife, U. S. Grant, Jr., and wife and Mrs. Colonel Grant instantly answered the summons. Colonel Fred Grant was now the only member of the family absent, having strolled off around the grounds. Servants were sent in search of him but he entered the sick room of his own accord before anyone had succeeded in bringing him the news of his father’s approaching dissolution. Colonel Grant took a seat at the right-hand side of the bed of the dying man, placing his left arm on the pillow above his father’s head.

Close by the bedside sat Mrs. Grant, intensely agitated, by but bravely suppressing her emotion and appeared calm. She leaned slightly upon the bed, resting upon one elbow and gazing with eyes blinded with tears into the General’s face. There was, however, no sign of recognition in his pallid features. He was breathing fast and with slightly gasping respirations. Mrs. Sartoris leaned upon the shoulder of her mother and witnessed with pent-up emotion the ebb of a life in which she had constituted an element of pride.

Ulysses S. Grant uniform portrait c1866

The scene was a quiet one. The General was peacefully and painlessly passing into another world. At a little distance behind Mrs. Grant and Mrs. Sartoris stood the three physicians, Douglas, Shrady and Sands, silent spectators of a scene with but for their efforts would doubtless have occurred months ago.

Jesse Grant and U.S. Grant, Jr., stood opposite their mother at the other side of the bed; nearby at the foot of the cot and close by Jesse was Mr. N. E. Dawson, the General’s confidential secretary and stenographer. At the foot of the bed stood Mrs. U. S. Grant, Jr., and by her side Mrs. Colonel Fred Grant and Mrs. Jesse Grant.

These three gazed directly down into the face of the General, while their eyes became suffused with tears. The sad expression of their faces flatly reflected the intense anguish of their feelings. Now and then they stole a glance at Mrs. Grant who, with bowed head, was intently watching the face of her dying husband. Not a word was spoken and the and the stillness of the room added to the impressiveness of the sad scene.

Mrs. Grant several times affectionately stroked the face, forehead and arms of her dying husband and seemed utterly beside herself with despair at the thought of her approaching separation by death from the man with whom she had passed so many pleasant years of wedded happiness. Dr. Douglas several times felt the pulse of the patient who was now quietly passing away, but his dwindled to a point beyond detection. The respiration grew momentarily more and more quickened, by his face reflected no pain, and although at first his breathing seemed labored it gradually became weaker and with but little effort.

Toward the end, as if by sudden impulse, Mrs. Grant arose from her seat by the bed and seizing both of General’s hands within her own pressed them, and leaning over kissed him on the forehead.

At this, a few convulsive sobs were heard coming from the direction of where U.S. Grant, Jr., stood, but these were speedily repressed, and a solemn stillness again came over the room.

At eight minutes past eight, the end came. The patient gave no evidence of extreme pain, but passed quietly away.

1885 Ulysses S. Grant

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