Monday, July 16, 2012

GRANT'S COTTAGE near Saratoga Springs, NY

Grant's Cottage

General Ulysses S. Grant brought overwhelming force to defeat the Confederacy and to preserve the Union. From May 4 to May 7, 1864, General Grant led the Union forces in the Wilderness Campaign.  Although he did not win the battle, he also did not retreat, thereby winning a strategic victory.  He then led his troops on to Spotsylvania Courthouse where the next battle of the overland campaign against the Confederacy took place. 
 With grit, determination and mental focus he fought almost continuously until Lee’s final surrender on April 12, 1865 at Appomattox Courthouse where the Confederacy’s struggle to secede from the Union ended.  There Grant displayed his magnanimity, allowing Robert E. Lee, a fellow West Pointer, to walk away defeated but a free man. To allow the healing process to begin, Grant told Confederate officers they were free to go home along with their horses and mules. "The Confederates were now our countrymen, and we do not want to exult over their downfall."
Death Bed
Clock stopped at moment of death
 Note  found in Grant's pocket

Grant’s character on the battlefield was mirrored in the last two weeks of his life. A New York financier friend invited Grant, accompanied by his family, servants and physician, to use his comfortable cottage high on Mount McGregor, near the resort of Saratoga Springs. In dreadful pain and dying from a large cancer in his jaw and throat, in precise penmanship, Grant hand wrote the last three chapters of his autobiography.  The writing was a task he had taken on at the behest of his friend and admirer, Mark Twain, in order to restore his family’s lost fortune.  He wanted both to tell the story of the War and also give his wife financial security — admirably accomplishing both goals with the same grit, determination and absolute mental focus he had shown in battle during the Civil War. Grant completed his autobiography in the few days remaining to him, from his arrival on June 16, 1885 to just before his death on July 20,1885.       

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


On a warm sunny day on the front lawn of the brick town hall, formerly the high school, 400-500 citizens gathered with an especially large number of veterans from WW II through the War in Afghanistan.  All had come together to honor the memory of those who had fought in the nation’s battles including the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, WW I, WW II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the First Iraq War, the Second Iraq War, and finally the War in Afghanistan. This long list reflects the great sacrifices.  Clearly, the price of liberty is dear. 

In a broad semi-circle in front of the town hall stood five flagpoles -- with the Stars and Stripes placed highest in the center. Around this same semi-circle were four pairs of granite slabs engraved with the names of the men and women from the towns of Chester and Pottersville who had served in the military during America’s wars beginning with the Revolution.  A very long list of local men served in the War of 1812, whose battles were centered in Northern New York, up and down Lake Champlain.  One resident served in the Mexican War. The greatest number fought the totalitarian threat in World War II.  The Afghan War struck our area hard with a recent death, designated on the granite with the simple letters - KIA, killed in action.

Coming to honor their comrades from the past and the present were groups from local chapters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.  They stood as tall and as straight as their ages would allow, many holding flagpoles, with the red, white and blue unfurled.  Only a few remain from the Greatest Generation that fought in WW II -- one neighbor and hero had landed at Omaha Beach in Normandy and fought his way inland to liberate one of the concentration camps; present were many who had fought in Vietnam.   

Tears flowed as the bagpipers piped, as the bugler blew Taps, and as the vocalists sang our National Anthem, America the Beautiful, God Bless the USA, and Let Freedom Ring.  Finally, we had a flyover:  a military bi-plane from the 20’s and a P-34 from the 30’s, both with bright white stars on the underside of their wings. 

Although the speakers spoke, it was not their words that moved us most; it was the presence of the friends and neighbors brought together with one purpose —to honor our past and present heroes, some of whom gave their lives but all of whom were WILLING to give their lives for our nation, so that we could live in liberty and our nation could continue as the “last best hope of earth.” *

·      President Abraham Lincoln, Annual Address to the U.S. Congress, 1 December 1862.