Hospice at Drexel cottage — Part 4

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.

Mark Twain came to Mount McGregor, where the writer’s friend, Ulysses S. Grant, was dying from throat cancer, and proclaimed the mountain’s eastern lookout a scenic wonder.

“I came near going away without knowing about the view from that lookout,” Twain told an Albany Argus reporter, according to a July 3, 1885 report in The Morning Star of Glens Falls. “I should not have missed it for anything: for, in connection with its historic associations, I consider that it presents the grandest scenery that I know of in America.”

Twain was at Mount McGregor to pick up the latest draft of Grant’s memoir and take it to C.L. Webster, the publisher.

He informed the Grant family that 300,000 advance copies had already been sold.

Sculptor Karl Gerhardt, who would sculpt a death mask of Grant, also was at the mountain.

Glens Falls residents followed Grant’s condition through continuing coverage in The Morning Star, the local morning daily newspaper.

Grant spent several hours on the morning of July 1 working on his memoirs.

“A dreary day with rain part of the time, has made outdoors the reverse of attractive and enabled Gen. Grant to put to his credit further rest and quiet,” The Morning Star reported.

Grant’s family, his physician, and Grant himself, were optimistic.

Grant even raised the possibility that at some point he might be well enough to return to New York City.

“The atmosphere enables me to live in comparative comfort while I am being treated, or while nature is taking its course with my disease,” he wrote. “I have no idea that I should not have been able to come here now if I had remained in the city. It is doubtful, indeed, whether I would have been alive.”

Yet from Washington came a conflicting report about Grant’s condition.

Frederick Tracy Dent, brother-in-law of Grant, had issued a statement on July 1: “I am afraid that Gen. Grant will not last many days. I received information from his family that the cancer has commenced to inflame the jugular vein, and death is the question of a few days, in the opinion of his physician.”

The widely published statement ruffled feathers at Drexel cottage.

Mrs. Grant, “much annoyed,” denied the statement outright and wrote to her brother expressing her dismay.

“The weather (on July 2), which has been dreary and bleak most of the time for a week, is what has kept the general indoors,” The Morning Star reported. “A gentleman who has seen him nearly every day since he has been here said that he really believed the chances for his living until fall were excellent.”

July 3 was a quiet day.

“Gen. Grant held his own through the day. He was at work from the time he awoke in the morning until noon, writing brief estimates of men in civil life with whom his military duties connected him. Then he rested for an hour or so, after which he came out on the cottage porch, where he sat from 2 until 3 o’clock.”

In the afternoon Grant received a letter from a former Confederate soldier who wished him well.

Click here to read the most recent previous post in the series.

Freelance history writer and documentary film producer from Ticonderoga, NY