There’s a new Grant biography out, and this review makes it sound like a worthwhile read. Personally, I’m not sure I need another biography, his memoirs are well written and informative enough to provide me with most of the details of his life worth knowing. I did, though, love this summary of the Grant’s Tomb quandary: How did he end up buried in New York, and in a crappy part of town, at that?
That his tomb is there in the first place is typical of Grant’s poor judgment about matters off the battlefield. If it had been placed in Washington, it would be a gleaming national tourist attraction, perhaps placed close to the Lincoln or the Jefferson memorial, where he belongs, but the president and Mrs. Grant did not care for Washington, D.C. Galena, Ill., was eager to have Grant’s tomb, but the Grants did not think Galena was the right place to bury America’s most successful general and did not look back with pleasure on the years during which Grant, having resigned from the Army and failed at several professions, worked as clerk in his father’s harness store in Galena wrapping parcels and was ridiculed as the town drunk. Grant rejected West Point, his alma mater, because regulations precluded Mrs. Grant from being buried beside him when her time came, and since Grant was never happy when separated from Julia (he did not drink when they were together), he was unwilling to be separated from her in death. They chose New York City instead, and with the mournful lack of judgment that afflicted Grant whenever real estate or money were concerned, they made the mistake of believing that the Upper West Side was the coming neighborhood and with its view over the Hudson was sure to be the most elegant part of the city, the equivalent of Paris’s 16eme arrondisement or London’s Belgravia, not imagining that they were consigning their remains to a part of New York that would become famous for gang warfare and drug dealing, where no sensible person goes out for a walk at night.