Ulysses S. Grant's Galena, Ill.

James N.

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Part I
Julia Grant Park.jpg

The town of Galena as seen from the front yard of the Grant Memorial Home State Park; First Lady Park containing a statue of Julia Grant is in the foreground. The large building with a tower at right is the local High School, built when attendence at one accounted for something!

"In April, 1860, men stood on the levee watching the steamer 'Itasca' while she nosed her way up the tortuous current of the Galena River; as she swung up to the wharf, attention was attracted to a passenger on the deck wearing a blue cape overcoat. As the boat struck the landing this man rose and gathered a number of chairs together, evidently part of his household furniture. 'Who is that?' asked one man of a friend on the river bank. 'That is Captain Grant, Jesse Grant's oldest son; he was in the Mexican War - he is moving here from St. Louis,' was the reply.

Capt. Grant took a couple of chairs in each hand and walked ashore with them. His wife, a small alert woman, followed him with her little flock ( four children, Frederick, Ulysses, Jesse, and daughter, Nellie ). The carrying of the chairs ashore signified that Ulysses Simpson Grant had become a resident of Galena."


So wrote the poet Hamlin Garland in his Life of Grant about the Grant family's arrival in a town that still likes to point up the association, relatively brief though it proved over succeeding years. Whether any of it is true or an invention, the fact remains that Grant was only a citizen for a year prior to the outbreak of war, earning $600 per annum in a leather goods store owned by his father ( who continued to reside in St. Louis ) and run by his brothers. Grant worked as both a clerk and travelling sales representitave during that year, after which he would've become a full partner had war not intervened.

The Galena to which he arrived was an anomaly: a bustling Mississippi River port not actually ON the Mississippi! It had begun as an important lead-mining community ( galena is the ore which containes lead ) spread out along both banks of the Galena River, once a tributary of the Mississippi, but now merely a silted-up lake. Like another of my favorite Victorian towns, Jefferson, Texas, its main transportation outlet changed, leaving the community to wither, thereby preserving its Nineteenth Century archetecture from subsequent "development". Today Galena is a wonderful place in northern Illinois to visit and enjoy its slow-paced charm, good restaraunts, and many bed-and-breakfast accomodations.

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The above ca. 1836 Dowling Trading Post and House is said to be the oldest in Galena and is a downtown museum set between later Nineteenth-Century brick buildings. Like most other frontier communities, Galena was swept by fire and eventually rebuilt mostly in brick. Not all have fared well; the one standing vacant below looks good from the outside but has many problems hindering its restoration.

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These two stately homes have fared better and are now two of the many bed-and-breakfast operations in town: Above is the Captain Harris Guest House, built ca. 1836 by the captain of a riverboat, but subsequently much renovated and added-onto, where I stayed; below, the nearby 1840's Steamboat House, built in the style appropriately known as "Steamboat Gothic."

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Next time in Part II, U. S. Grant in Galena.
 
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James N.

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Part II - U. S. Grant in Galena

Galena Trip 2008 011.jpg


This modest yet substantial residence, built in the 1840's on the hillside overlooking the town of Galena was home to Ulysses S. Grant and his family at the beginning of the Civil War; there are two opposing ways to look at it in regards to Grant's success as a businessman, or lack thereof. True, it was an uphill hike to get to it from the business district down in the valley on both sides of the waterfront where the Grant Leather Store was located; but it was also well-away from the bustle and noise of the town. I didn't recognize it at first when I saw it on my visit in 2008, because most representations show it with a wooden porch that was surely added later. As you can see, the rented house was plenty large and comfortable enough for Grant, his wife Julia, and their four children. Strangely, there are NO indications of the historical importance of this structure - Galena seems to concentrate rather on the later residence that is now a state park.

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U. S. Grant was only one of a dozen Galena citizens who became Union generals or officers and several were his friends and neighbors who he took with him when he went to war. Two of them lived next door to each other a short distance from Grant's house. Above is the residence of the young Galena lawyer John A. Rawlins who served throughout the war as his chief-of-staff, eventually rising to the rank of Brig. Gen. and later serving in President Grant's cabinet as Secretary of War until his untimely death in office of consumption. To its right is the similar-but-shabby and unrestored home of county court clerk William R. Rowley who served as Brig. Gen. and Provost Marshal on Grant's staff until his retirement. Other Galena generals included John C. Smith, original colonel of the 45th Ill. "Lead Mine Regiment"; Augustus L. Chetlain; and Jasper Maltby. Other local notables who served on Grant's staff included civil engineer and Seneca Chief Ely S. Parker, Grant's military secretary at Appomattox; and Dr. Edward Kittoe who served as Lt. Col. and medical director of the Army of the Tennessee.

Grant House.jpg


This home was built in 1857 on the more "genteel" east side of the river and was also at or near the summit of the ridge overlooking the town. In 1865, the citizens of Galena bought and presented it to Grant in hopes he would continue to reside among them. Unfortunately, he only stayed briefly on-and-off, using the house as his campaign headquarters during his successful election of 1868. He was then off to Washington for two terms as President, next embarking on a two-year trip around the world, following which he again returned to Galena. In 1881, the Grants finally left Galena for good, moving to New York City, but renting it out to trusted friends who maintained the property and its furnishings. Today it is maintained by the State of Illinois as the Grant Memorial Home State Park.

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Many of the furnishings in the house are original to the period of the Grant's occupation. In 1904, Gen. Frederick Dent Grant, eldest son of Ulysses and Julia, presented the home and its contents to the city with a clause in the bequest stating, "This home of our father's General U. S. Grant, is presented to the city of Galena as a memorial. It is to be kept as nearly as possible as it was when he resided in it, with his pictures and furniture placed as they were at that time." These two photos are of the first floor dining room; the wallpaper is reproduction. Notice especially the portrait of Julia above the mantel.

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Grant Saatue.jpg


Also on this side of the river but nearer downtown is Grant Park with the statue of Grant Our Citizen showing him at the end of the Civil War. Unfortunately for his legacy, his presidency tarnished his postwar image, likely inspiring the sculptor and backers of this 1892 memorial to show him at the zeneth of his career. On this side of the base are inscribed the names of Grant's battles: Shiloh, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, Spotsylvania, Petersburg, and Appomattox:

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Next time, Part III - Grant's Patron, Elihu Washburne
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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I enjoyed this very much, thank you for taking the time to make a kind of series on the subject! Super photos and synopsis- as usual, kind of like when diane jumps in on something, there are things I've never bumped into before EVER, makes for great reading. I never had heard Grant included so many of these local men on his staff- the names really jump out at you, don't they?

Seems to highlight to me anyway, that he certainly was no pauper, solely dependent on the kindness or charity of others to glue together a living. It's how the short bios tend to read.Like I said, this has never made any sense at ALL- a ' Life ' handicapped man joins the army, poof, he's a star. THEN 2 term President? Just no. Makes me wonder if part of Grant's problem with all the re-written history is his lack of tendency to blow his own horn- maybe did not care what folks were saying, who knows?

Hmm. Wonder if Julia liked that painting? I realize she was not a beauty queen, but seems to me most artists would highlight a woman's attractive features, down-play what is not - as much as they can get away with and still have to resemble the sitter. You get a LOT more business, interpreting portraits that way. This person did not seem to share that perspective. The painting looks like photos of Julia, but not attractive, wierd to say. Maybe voted for the other guy?
 

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Part III - Grant's Patron, Elihu Washburne

Galena Trip 2008 015A.JPG


Galena was the most important community in northern Illinois due to both the lead mining industry and its resultant growth as a shipping and commercial center. As county seat of Joe Davis County it was also the local political hub. Before Grant, it's most famous and powerful resident was U. S. Congressman for the district, Elihu B. Washburne, whose impressive Italianate mansion is now another Illinois State Park. According to local lore, the new Joe Davis' Guards were drilled here on the grounds by then-retired Captain Sam Grant before he left for Springfield seeking a higher commission for himself - likely the reason he didn't seek a position in the local unit.

Galena Trip 2008 016.jpg


Washburne was a native of Maine and a long-time resident of Galena who began as a law student and lawyer. A member of a family that included governors, senators, and industrialists, it was only natural for him to also enter politics. When the war began, he was an early champion of the career of his constituant Grant, whose career he followed and furthered as much as possible from his national office. He stood by Grant in down times like after Shiloh, when he was much criticized for being unprepared and surprised by the Confederate attack; as well as the highpoints like Fort Donelson, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga, extending so far as visiting Grant at his headquarters in the field: he was even present at the surrender of Vicksburg. One of Grant's good qualities, even though it would miscarry later once he was President, was steadfastness towards his friends and faithful supporters. During his Presidency he rewarded Washburne's loyalty by appointing him U. S. Minister to France.

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Above is the study in the Washburne House, which like Grant's is filled with the personal possessions of its owner; notice the marble bust of Washburne at right and the George Catlin painting of local Sac-and-Fox Indian Chief Black Hawk above the writing desk. Below is the library, where on election night in Nov., 1868, candidate U. S. Grant waited with Washburne and other friends and supporters for the news that he had been elected 18th President of the United States, writing his telegram of acceptance on the small desk in the corner.

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The photo below was taken in Greenwood Cemetery at the western edge of Galena and shows in the foreground the grave of Samuel Simpson Grant, younger brother of the General, who died in Galena of consumption on Sept. 13, 1861, at the beginning of the war and unfortunately before any of his brother's victories. In the deep background is a large white obelisk, barely visible to the immediate left of the Grant memorial marking the grave of Elihu B. Washburne, who continued to reside in Galena until his own death.

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U. S. Grant's residency in Galena was relatively brief, from April, 1860, until leaving for war a year later ( though Julia and the children continued to reside in their rented home on the hillside when not visiting the General in camp during periods of inactivity by the army ), returning again briefly at war's end before resuming duties as General-in Chief of the Army in the Johnson administration prior to his own election as President. After his round-the-world tour following his Presidency, the Grants spent the years 1879 - 1881 here in Galena before finally moving to New York State, where Grant died July 23, 1885.
 
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patbold

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I really enjoy your photos. I have one question though. How in the world did you manages to take them without any people in them. As many times as I've been to Galena I have yet to get a picture without crowds. Galena is a very popular tourist spot and not just for the history.

Good job!
 

James N.

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I really enjoy your photos. I have one question though. How in the world did you manages to take them without any people in them. As many times as I've been to Galena I have yet to get a picture without crowds. Galena is a very popular tourist spot and not just for the history.

Good job!

Carefully!

Actually, I was lucky - I visited with an old friend who has retired in St. Paul, Minn., and had already visited Galena and knew his way around. It was beautiful early October weather in mid-week, so well-after school had started again, my favorite time for travel. There were a few problems, however: like our current National mess, the State of Illinois was facing insolvency at the hands of its crooked and incompetent governor Rob B. ( who currently resides in prison there! ) and it wasn't at all certain that either the Grant House or the Washburne House would be open! In fact, I seem to remember them being open only on alternating days, so one small staff could be at one or the other; fortunately, this wasn't a problem for us.

There was a bit of some kind of utility construction going on in Grant Park, limiting my camera angles somewhat, but nothing serious. Here are a couple of additional shots taken there showing a British-made Blakely rifled cannon that was supposedly used by the Confederates against Ft. Sumter in 1861; and a 1914 German Krupp artillery piece that was a trophy brought back at the end of WWI, including my friend Mike to show its scale.

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patbold

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We go up to Galena 3 or 4 times a year. We've even been there in the middle of Jan when the temp was around zero and the windchill was minus something; and there were still a lot of people on the streets.
You were lucky as Galena has a fall festival of some sort sometime in October. That's usually wall to wall people.
 

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Galena Trip 2008.jpg

Other nearby towns also have connections to Ulysses S. Grant: Above is the Wisconsin House Stage Coach Inn in Hazel Green, Wisc., a short distance north of Galena and just across the state line. It's now a charming bed-and-breakfast where I also stayed on this trip, but as a former stage coach inn was reputedly visited by Grant during one or more of his business trips. Part of his duties as an employee of his father's leather goods store was as a travelling salesman ( what we today would call a sales rep ); the Galena store was a retail outlet and Grant was supposed to gain additional wholesale outlets for their products. Apparantly Grant liked this part of his job because it got him out of the store and into the countryside which he apparantly preferred. Below is another b&b operation just across the street, the Empire House.

Galena Trip 2008 002.jpg
 

James N.

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diane

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I enjoyed this very much, thank you for taking the time to make a kind of series on the subject! Super photos and synopsis- as usual, kind of like when diane jumps in on something, there are things I've never bumped into before EVER, makes for great reading. I never had heard Grant included so many of these local men on his staff- the names really jump out at you, don't they?

Seems to highlight to me anyway, that he certainly was no pauper, solely dependent on the kindness or charity of others to glue together a living. It's how the short bios tend to read.Like I said, this has never made any sense at ALL- a ' Life ' handicapped man joins the army, poof, he's a star. THEN 2 term President? Just no. Makes me wonder if part of Grant's problem with all the re-written history is his lack of tendency to blow his own horn- maybe did not care what folks were saying, who knows?

Hmm. Wonder if Julia liked that painting? I realize she was not a beauty queen, but seems to me most artists would highlight a woman's attractive features, down-play what is not - as much as they can get away with and still have to resemble the sitter. You get a LOT more business, interpreting portraits that way. This person did not seem to share that perspective. The painting looks like photos of Julia, but not attractive, wierd to say. Maybe voted for the other guy?


Lol! That painting is not the most flattering but it may be the most accurate. Julia was no beauty but then again, she stayed married to a man who smoked two dozen cigars a day! :sick: They really had a love affair - right to the end he looked out for her, too, and spent just about his last day on earth finishing his memoirs so she wouldn't go hungry.
 

James N.

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Seems to highlight to me anyway, that he certainly was no pauper, solely dependent on the kindness or charity of others to glue together a living. It's how the short bios tend to read.Like I said, this has never made any sense at ALL- a ' Life ' handicapped man joins the army, poof, he's a star. THEN 2 term President? Just no. Makes me wonder if part of Grant's problem with all the re-written history is his lack of tendency to blow his own horn- maybe did not care what folks were saying, who knows?



What biographers - even sensitive modern ones - seem to stress is the humiliation Grant must've felt at leaving the Army under the cloud of alchoholism, having to ask his father for a job, and not even being made at once a partner in the firm. Since Grant is close-mouthed on the subject and Julia positively ignores any intimation of it in her own memoirs, it's impossible to determine the truth in these allegations and the extent they may have been a bother. The fact that Grant liked his "travelling salesman" duties is seen as evidence of his distaste for the business; if I were in his place, I know which I'd prefer! It is known that Grant, an animal lover, hated the tannery where he grew up, supposedly one reason he was happy to get away to West Point! But the tannery itself was nowhere near the Galena store; Jesse Grant seems to have been a hard character who approached everything from a "strictly business" point of view, making it - in my mind at least - seem less like condemnation that he would put his own son on a period of "probation".

No doubt Grant had his moments of self-doubt about his future, and probably there were town gossips that talked about him behind his back; but that's normal everywhere. Since Grant's greatest "problem" appears to have been drinking, and Julia and the children were the known antidotes for that, it's unlikely any of his neighbors had anything tangible to talk about. Had the war not intervened, Grant would likely have continued as a solid small-town businessman and family man, probably eventually with his own branch of the Grant family leather business like his brothers. Though Grant is actually one of the war's more "accessable" characters, far more than The Marble Man, Lee, Galena seems to me the place to get to know him best, much moreso than at any of his relatively sterile battlefields, even here at Vicksburg.

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Since Grant's greatest "problem" appears to have been drinking, and Julia and the children were the known antidotes for that, it's unlikely any of his neighbors had anything tangible to talk about.
I think this misstates the issue. Grant had a problem with alcohol as in a low physiological tolerance (which I share), but he controlled it well. One drink had a great effect and he knew it. To be sure, when separated from Julia he became depressed.

I say Grant's greatest problem was in placing trust in the wrong people as was demonstrated in his presidency and his personal finances.
 
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What biographers - even sensitive modern ones - seem to stress is the humiliation Grant must've felt at leaving the Army under the cloud of alchoholism, having to ask his father for a job, and not even being made at once a partner in the firm.
I think the humiliation was worse than that. When he landed in New York after his resignation from the Army he had to ask Simon Bolivar Buckner for a loan. In St. Louis he was selling firewood on the street and ran into James Longstreet who loaned him money.

I can't help but speculate that these experiences made Grant an all-or-nothing commander. One fiction author described it as not doing it for the Union or his men, but for himself.
 

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...I say Grant's greatest problem was in placing trust in the wrong people as was demonstrated in his presidency and his personal finances.

I agree wholeheartedly, but that comes after the pre- and early-war period I'm considering here. His Galena friends did well by him for the most part, possibly sowing the seeds of the later problem.
 
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ole

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I agree wholeheartedly, but that comes after the pre- and early-war period I'm considering here. His Galena friends did well by him for the most part, possibly sewing the seeds of the later problem.
His later problem was most likely exacerbated by his solo stay in California; the rest of it was likely due to a low tolerance.

Most of the "Grant was a drunk" is based on statements by sensation-seeking yellow journalists (yes, we have them today, as well).
 
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