Grant is the best known of the presidents we are discussing. A military hero perhaps better known than any other, his name is a household word. Born in Point Pleasant, Ohio, on April 27, 1822, he came of a family of middle-class means. There is virtually nothing of religion or church affiliation in the Grant family history. Jesse Grant, his father, was not a church member and does not seem to have ever attended church. Grant received the best education Ohio had to offer and was later appointed to West Point. There he finished in the middle of his class, ahead of Jefferson Davis and well ahead of many who became well-known Civil War generals.
Grant's first assignment was a post in Missouri outside of St. Louis. There he met a well-to-do planter, Frederick Dent, and soon became enamored of his daughter Julia. Both Julia and Grant loved horses and spent many happy hours together riding about the Dent estate. (Later the Busch family bought the Dent place and today that is the place where the Clydesdales are raised.) Grant went off to the Mexican War and did not marry until he returned. He felt that the Army was too trying for his wife, and also he was concerned about the pay of a lieutenant, so he resigned.
The Dents were Methodists and Grant soon formed the practice of going to church regularly with Julia. Hamlin Garland tells of an incident in Point Pleasant that almost finished Grant with religion for all time. He and Julia went to church and, as was common in most Methodist churches at the time, the service ended in a riotous emotional exhibition of glossolalia. Grant fled in horror, and it was years before Julia could get him back, but he did return, and while he was president they attended the Metropolitan Memorial Church in Washington.
Grant never joined a church, but he was active in the Sons of Temperance. This was a men's organization that lobbied for prohibition in various state legislatures. His close association with this group is difficult to understand because he drank whenever he wished. While there is no evidence to indicate that he drank to excess, the decanter was always at hand.
Grant's administrations were the worst in American history up to that time. Corruption was the rule of the day - Reconstruction in the South, big city graft, violence in the West, and pillaging and plundering in the national government. While historians cannot find Grant a participant in this era of evil, nevertheless his friends certainly helped themselves liberally to the Federal treasury.
Grant caused some consternation in Washington by appointing his sergeant as butler of the White House. Things reached such a point that people were soon referring to the White Barracks.
After two terms (the people still held to the old military hero) Grant retired and went to live in New York City.
There he formed partnership with a man named Ward - a stockbroker. This was another business failure, even worse than some Grant had previously experienced as a civilian. Thousands of stockholders were ruined; no one blamed Grant, for he knew nothing about the stock market and Grant himself was ruined. Penniless and in great distress. Grant took all of his ceremonial swords to Cornelius Vanderbilt and asked him to buy them or to lend him money with these as collateral. Vanderbilt refused and told him not to worry. Businessmen in New York raised $250,000 as a trust fund and Grant lived on the interest. (At that time there was no pension for a president and Grant could not claim military retirement because he had resigned his commission and Congress refused to restore it to him. However, Congress finally did - five months before Grant died.)
Grant developed cancer of the mouth and throat. The doctors sent him up to Mt. MacGregor in the Adirondacks for rest, recuperation, and treatment. People from all over the nation came to pay their respects and to wish him good health. One day a former pastor. Dr. John P- Newman of the Metropolitan Church in Washington, D. C., called on Grant and asked to be alone with him. W. E. Woodward gives the following account: When Dr. Newman entered the sick room he found Grant fast asleep. Going over to the washstand, he procured water and baptized the general. Then he inducted him into the Methodist Church. After leaving the room. Dr. Newman called a press conference and announced that the general had had an eleventh-hour conversion, had accepted Christ, and had joined the Methodist Church.
Grant’s daughter-in-law, the wife of Ulysses S. Grant, Jr., and daughter of Senator Chafee of Rhode Island, re-called the press and said, "Nonsense."
Grant ' s funeral was one of the most spectacular events in the history of a city renowned for spectacular events. General Winfield Scott Hancock was Grand Marshal, Dr. Newman conducted the funeral service, generals marched two abreast - one in blue, one in gray - and the procession lasted all day.
Related albums • See other albumsReligion In The Lives Of The American Presidents
Related peopleGen Ulysses Simpson Grant