By Mark Frost, Chronicle Editor
Ulysses S. Grant spent the final 36 days of his life at a cottage on top of a mountain, Mount McGregor, in Wilton between Saratoga Springs and South Glens Falls.
He was dying of throat cancer — and on a mission to finish volume two of his memoir, not just to detail for posterity how his Union Army won the Civil War but to provide for his then impoverished family.
The hero general and two-term U.S. President succeeded beyond bounds. His memoir — published by Mark Twain, who twice visited Grant at the cottage — is still in print today, and is widely regarded as the best presidential memoir ever written.
And it restored the Grant family’s prosperity, which Ulysses had lost to a Ponzi scheme. On the tour I took last Sunday, guide Diana O’Brien said Grant’s wife Julia was paid $450,000. Diana said that’s equivalent to $11-million today.
The house — a State Historic Site — is open inside only by private tour, included in the admission fee — which is adults $6, seniors $5, children 6 to 18 $5, free for kids under 5 and active military.
Judging by the tour I took — and another I briefly listened in on — they’re led by people, mostly volunteers, who take the task seriously and truly appreciate U.S. Grant.
Grant was beloved in his day as the general who saved the Union — and esteem for him has risen amid recent biographies that value his achievements and truth of purpose beyond a presidency that faltered.
Our guide Diana called Grant America’s second great Presidential champion of civil rights. She said Lincoln was the first and Lyndon Johnson was the third.
Grant Cottage is open Memorial Day weekend to Columbus Day. Through Labor Day it’s open Wed. to Sun., 10 to 4, plus Tuesdays during racing season. Then it’s open Labor Day Monday and Sat.-Sun. 10 to 4 through and including Columbus Day.
Here are two of the many special events:
- Sunday, July 21, 1 p.m. — Grant Remembrance Day will have reenactors depicting Grant, family and close friends.
- Sunday, Sept. 8, at 1 p.m. — A visit with General and Mrs. Grant.
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