The 18th President Ulysses S. Grant – the youngest man yet to be elected to that office and the Union General that negotiated the surrender of the General-in-Chief of the Confederate Army, Robert E. Lee, ending the Civil War – was a compassionate and forward-thinking man.
Married to Julia Dent Grant, and the father of four children, Grant lived in poverty for most of his early years. A graduate of West Point Military Academy, Grant served bravely in the Mexican-American war and later resigned from the military in search of other means of supporting his family. Unsuccessful in several different ventures, including farming, Grant brought his family to Galena, IL to work at his family’s leather goods shop run by his brothers.
Responding to a call from then President Abraham Lincoln, Grant joined the Union Army, moving up in rank until reaching the rank of General-In-Chief of the Union Armies (Lieutenant General). This rank had only been awarded twice before.
Following the Civil War, Galena greeted the return of its hero with thunderous crowds of people honoring his leadership and fortitude. The grateful people of Galena gave the Grants a home in appreciation for his service to the country. It was in Galena – in the home of his friend, Congressman Elihu Washburne – that Grant learned of his first election as President of the United States.
As President, Grant continued to champion the rights of all people through policies and programs. Using the Reconstruction Act, Grant moved to crush the Klu Klux Klan; created the Justice Department to enforce the civil rights for recently freed slaves; created innovative Native American policies in an attempt to create peace and assimilate the Native Americans into civilization and ultimately citizenship; obtained the ratification of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution; and supported the women’s suffrage movement.
Following an unsuccessful bid for a third term, Grant and Julia embarked on a world tour advocating peace and diplomacy. He became the first president to circumnavigate the world for diplomacy.
The Galena – Jo Daviess County Historical Society is celebrating President Ulysses S. Grant’s Bicentennial Birthday on the weekend of April 29th through May 1st, with programs that will educate audiences and honor the memory of this extraordinary man. The activities begin on Friday with an “After Hours Lamplight Tour” of the Grants’ post-Civil War home and the Elihu Washburne House – both Illinois Historic Sites. The tours will be led by volunteers for the historical presentation group “Women of Courage and Commitment” and will include greetings at the home from President and Mrs. Grant, portrayed by re-enactors Scott and Peggy Whitney.
Saturday will begin with an Old Fashion Pie Auction at 11 AM. The Grants and The Galena Generals will be on hand for pictures with the winning bidders. Beginning at 12:30 PM, the Grants’ pre-Civil War home, located on Hill Street, will be open to the public; a presentation by General and Mrs. Grant will be performed at 1:30 PM outside of the home. Tours will be conducted by Daniel and Sandra Hurt, the owners of the property. The Galena – U.S. Grant Museum and the Old Blacksmith Shop are offering free admission all day Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 AM to 4:30 PM. Don’t forget to stop at the Museum Gift Shop where all Grant related books will be discounted for the weekend only!
Saturday evening will include a Community Celebration Dinner at historic Turner Hall, catered by The Workshop. Immediately following the dinner, a one-act play titled Mr. U.S. Grant: A Man and a Patriot! featuring Daniel Haughey will entertain the diners and others that wish to join for the program only. The program is funded through a grant from the Illinois Humanities Council’s Road Scholar Program. A silent auction of exciting Galena-area adventures will be held throughout the evening to benefit of the Historical Society.
The final event will be a reception and celebration for the opening of the Galena – U.S. Grant Museum’s new interactive digital exhibit “Peace in Union,” made possible through a grant from the Dubuque Racing Association and Doug and Terry Hilgendorf. The John and Margarete Cooke Military Hall on the second floor of the Museum will open an expanded Galena Generals exhibit.
For further information, times, and details for these events, please call the Historical Society at (815) 777-9129 or visit GalenaHistory.org/events.