Ulysses Simpson Grant died on July 23, 1885, in Wilton, N.Y., after a long, agonizing struggle with throat cancer. He was only 63 years of age. Barely three weeks previously, he had written the following brief letter to his physician, Dr. J. D. Douglas. The text here is from Anecdotes and Reminiscences of Gen'l. U. S. Grant, "compiled by an old soldier" (identified as Frank Harrison)(1885).
"I ask you not to show this to anyone, unless the physicians you consult with, until the end. Particularly, I want it kept from my family. If known to one man the papers will get it and they (the family) will get it. It would only distress them almost beyond endurance to know it, and, by reflex would distress me.
"I have not changed my mind materially since I wrote you before in the same strain. Now, however, I know that I gain strength some days, but when I go back it is beyond where I started to improve. I think the chances are very decidedly in favor of your being able to keep me alive until the change of weather towards winter. Of course there are contingencies that might arise at any time that would carry me off suddenly. The most probable of those is choking. Under the circumstances life is not worth the living.
"I am very
glad thankful to have been spared this long, because it has enabled me to practically complete the work in which I take so much interest. I cannot stir up strength enough to review it and make additions and subtractions that would suggest themselves to me and are not likely to suggest themselves to any one else. Under the above circumstances, I will be the happiest, the most pain I can avoid. If there is to be any extraordinary cure, such as some people believe there is to be, it will develop itself. I would say, therefore, to you and your colleagues, to make me as comfortable as you can. If it is within God's providence that 1 should go now, I am ready to obey his call without a murmur. I should prefer going now to enduring my present suffering for a single day without hope of recovery. As I have stated, I' am thankful for the providential extension of my time to enable me to continue my work. I am further thankful, and in a much greater degree thankful, because it has enabled me to see for myself the happy harmony which so suddenly sprung up between those engaged but a few short years ago in deadly conflict. It has been an inestimable blessing to me to hear the kind expression towards me in person from all parts of our country, from people of all nationalities, of all religions and of no religion, of Confederates and of National troops alike, of soldiers' organizations, of mechanical, scientific, religious and other societies, embracing almost every citizen in the land. They have brought joy to my heart, if they have not effected a cure. So to you and your colleagues I acknowledge my indebtedness for having brought me through the valley of the shadow of death to enable me to witness these things.
"U. S. Grant."
"Mt. McGregor, N. Y., July 2, 1885."