Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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July 23rd
Grant’s Memoirs
In 1884 Ulysses S. Grant, former general of the Union armies and president of the United States, suddenly found himself penniless and humiliated. His brokerage firm, Grant and Ward, had  collapsed with the discovery that his partner, Ferdinand Ward, was a crook who had stolen investors’ money. Sixty-two-year-old Grant, an honorable and beloved man, was devastated.

And it got worse. That fall he consulted a doctor about a nagging soreness in his throat. The expression on the specialist’s face told Grant the news was bad. “Is it cancer?” he asked. It was, and there was little hope of survival.

Grant quickly made a decision. He had never wanted to write his memoirs, but he realized that would be the best way to provide for his wife, Julia, and his family. If the book sold well, they would have some financial security when he was gone. His friend Mark Twain agreed to publish the work.

So Grant started writing, in a race against death. “My family is American, and has been for generations, in all its branches, direct and collateral,” he began. The Grants moved to the Adirondack Mountains, hoping the mountain air would make him more comfortable. Every day he sat on the porch, propped in a chair, barely able even to swallow, suffering from intense pain in his throat, but writing steadily.

He wrote mainly of his military career, but also of his confidence that Northerners and Southerners would once again be fast friends. “I cannot stay to be a living witness to the correctness of this prophecy,” he wrote, “but I feel it within me that it is to be so.”

Grant finished the manuscript on July 18, 1885. Five days later, on July 23, he died. The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant was a huge best seller, providing large royalties for the general’s widow. Written in clear, unadorned prose, it remains a classic of American literature.

American History Parade
1715
Massachusetts authorizes the building of the Boston Light, the first lighthouse constructed in America.

1885
Ulysses S. Grant, the eighteenth U.S. president, dies in Mount McGregor, New York.

2000
Tiger Woods wins the British Open at age twenty-four, becoming the youngest golfer to win a career Grand Slam (the Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open, and British Open).
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
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