Hospice at Drexel cottage — Part 3
This is the latest in a series of posts about the last weeks in the life of Ulysses S. Grant, as reported in The Morning Star of Glens Falls.
Ulysses S. Grant’s second week at the Drexel cottage on Mount McGregor began in triumph.
Grant, who had been essentially unable to speak for days due to throat cancer, dictated ten pages of his memoirs between 10 a.m. and noon on June 24, 1885.
“The dictation was in a whisper, but sufficiently audible for the stenographer,” The Morning Star of Glens Falls reported the next day.
The Rev. Newman proclaimed it a mountaintop miracle of the magnitude of Moses — just the kind of recovery the parson had foretold a few days previously.
Dr. Douglas said a change in climate helped the recovery.
“Gen. Grant could not have lived in New York until this time with weather such as when he left,” the physician said. “He was sinking very rapidly there, and that was why we had to hasten the time of his leaving, which was originally timed for today.”
In the afternoon Grant worked more on his memoirs, using a pad and pen.
“The general confined himself to the cottage all day, the weather, though clear, having been too cold for him to venture on the veranda.”
The temperature ranged from 60 to 65 degrees during the day, and was 58 at nightfall.
“Indeed, the family have kept close to the fireplace much of the day, and visitors and residents on the mountain have walked around in the sunshine with overcoats on, closely buttoned up.”
Glens Falls area residents followed Grant’s condition through continued coverage in The Morning Star, the local daily morning newspaper.
On the afternoon of June 25, Grant received a telegram with a lengthy greeting from the Grand Army of the Republic encampment meeting at Portland, Maine.
Dr. George F. Shrady, a consulting surgeon, arrived at Mount McGregor.
“During the evening the general became quieted and cheerful. Dr. Shrady sat with him,” The Morning Star correspondent reported. “The general had greeted Dr. Shrady with manifest pleasure, and his presence in the evening had an inspiring effect. Quite a long conversation was had between them, the general carrying on his part of it in writing.”
At around 3 p.m. June 27, Dr. Douglas sat down next to Grant on the Drexel cottage porch.
“This is the best day you have had since you have been here, is it not?” he asked.
“Decidedly,” Grant confirmed.
It had been a whimsical day as Grant got out and around the grounds, riding in his new roller chair.
“It is a small buggy, supported by springs that rest upon a set of wheels arranged like those of a tricycle, two large ones under the body and a small one in front,” The Morning Star reported.
Harrison, Grant’s servant, pushed Grant up the slope toward the hotel and bluff.
“It was hard tugging, and the general was amused. At length the brow of the mountain was reached, and the vehicle stopped for the general to enjoy the scene.”
Harrison whirled Grant around the hotel piazza.
“He (Grant) repeatedly lifted his hat in response to similar salutations.”
The best day carried over into the best night.
“I have had the best night I have had for weeks. From about 11 up to 5 o’clock I was scarcely awake, and when I was, I required nothing to relieve pain,” Grant wrote after awaking on June 28.
Dr. Douglas was pleased.
“This morning his voice was so clear that the doctor, from his room, heard the general talking with his nurse, and at 11 o’clock today the patient’s voice was quite audible.”
Grant rested inside the cottage until mid-afternoon.
“At 3 p.m., he appeared on the piazza. The rain, which began in the morning, had ceased and the sun broke through the clouds. With the family about him, the general busied himself with the Sunday morning papers.”
On June 30, W.H. VanCott, a prominent local Republican, began canvassing Glens Falls for advance purchase of the memoir Grant was writing.
“He was successful in securing several orders for the work,” The Morning Star reported the next day. “The life of the great hero is something with which every citizen should be acquainted, and this can be done in no better way than by reading a history written by himself.”
At Drexel cottage, a few miles away, Grant was working on the memoir, as he neared completion of a first draft.
“It was 3 p.m. when the general was dressed and left his room to enter the cottage parlor, where a cheerful log fire was blazing on the hearth. He then began writing in the line of his book.”
Also, Grant wrote a note to reassure his family and friends.
“Do as I do. I take it quietly,” he wrote. “It I knew that the end was to be tomorrow, I would try to get rest in the meantime.”
The newspaper correspondent stayed dutifully on assignment outside the cottage, with little more to report.
“Toward evening rain fell, and at 9 o’clock the temperature was 57 degrees at the cottage.”
Click here to read the most recent previous post in the series.