|New York, NY||August 15, 2004|
The nomadic Ulysses S. Grant considered three locations for his interment. One was Illinois, because it was the state where he received his first general’s commission. Another was West Point, New York, where he graduated from the military academy in 1843. Though he preferred “this above others,” he ruled out West Point in the end because cemetery regulations would not permit his beloved wife, Julia Grant, to be buried at his side. The third location was New York City, because its residents “befriended me in my need.” Influenced by Mayor William R. Grace in the days following her husband’s 1885 death, Julia Grant selected New York — specifically Riverside Park on the Upper West Side. An elaborate tomb was erected there, and Mrs. Grant attended the 1897 dedication.
The former first lady lived five years beyond the tomb’s dedication. After her passing in 1902, her remains were placed in a red granite sarcophagus beside her husbands, thus fulfilling his written desire that they be laid to rest together. The name “Ulysses S. Grant” is carved into the lid of the repository on the left, and “Julia D. Grant” is carved into the one on the right. This image shows the aerial perspective of the lower level crypt, seen through the circular opening on the ground floor of the General Grant National Monument.
My family of four journeyed to Manhattan’s Morningside Heights neighborhood to see Grant’s Tomb in August 2004. Julia Grant was the eighth deceased first lady I visited, while her husband was my tenth late president. Only my father and I ventured down into the crypt, though, a matter which I hope to elucidate in a memoir in the future.
Without my mother and sister this go-around, my father and I revisited Grant’s Tomb in May 2011. I am posed at the heads of the sarcophagi in this image, so Julia is on the left and Ulysses is on the right. The necessity of using flash photography inside the mausoleum depends on the weather and time of day, as the structure largely relies on nature light instead of artificial lighting.
Sources Consulted and Further Reading
Picone, Louis L. The President is Dead! The Extraordinary Stories of the Presidential Deaths, Final Days, Burials, and Beyond. Rev. ed. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2020.