Capitol marks anniversary of Ulysses Grant’s death

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Thousands of people came through the New York State Capitol to pay respects to General Ulysses S. Grant after he died at a Wilton cottage in August 1885.

The body of Ulysses S. Grant arrived at the New York State Capitol on August 4, 1885. From 6:45 p.m. until 10 a.m. August 5, 1885, thousands paid respect as they passed by his body.

On Wednesday, historian Stuart Lehman gave some insight into the somber day, including reading from Grant’s memoir.

In his memoir, Grant stated he didn’t want to write, but agreed to it after he lost his fortune and finding out he was sick. Lehman said that’s how his body ended up making a stop in Albany.

Grant moved to New York City after his presidency and lost his money in a stock market Ponzi scheme.

“Then a few months later, he discovered he had throat cancer and only a few short months to live,” Lehman explained.

Needing to regain finances, Grant agreed to a publishing deal with his friend and author Mark Twain who got him writing in New York City.

“By early summer 1885, NYC was too hot and crowded; too many people were visiting for him to work on his memoirs, so friends gave him use of a cottage up in Wilton, N.Y.,” Lehman said.

Grant finished his memoir 21 days before his death. From the cottage about 50 miles away, his body was placed on a train for his funeral in New York City. It stopped in Albany overnight.

“It was met by the tolling of bells, by cannon firing,” Lehman said. “People had decorated their houses and had decorated the Capitol.”

A procession of more than 5,000 came up State Street hill. Then thousands of people paid their respects. Records state anywhere from 47,000 to 80,000 people were there.

After the thousands passed through, Grant was taken back down State Street to the train station on Broadway. The train also stopped in West Point, but his body didn’t leave the train until his August 8 funeral in New York City.

Grant’s memoir is still in print.

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