Maury Thompson

Jan 27, 2021

3 min read

Hospice at Drexel cottage — Part 5

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, dying from throat cancer at Mount McGregor, rested on July 4, 1885 and took stock of a milestone in his memoir writing.

“The last week’s work on the book had so ended that the general felt much relieved as to its program,” The Morning Star reported on July 7. “He had begun to think the work of gathering the different portions of his book together was making slow headway, but he found on Saturday evening that the book was nearly completed, and what still remained to be done would be finished after the matter had returned in galley proofs.”

Grant slept well that night, and awoke on July 5 feeling refreshed.

“Through the twelve hours ending at 8 o’clock, Sen. Grant had slept nearly eight or nine hours. Then he took food and was treated by the doctor, but he was not dressed and dozed on at intervals through the forenoon.”

Shortly after noon Grant dressed and settled in on the piazza to read the Sunday New York newspapers, while his family ate lunch at the hotel.

“He wore his skull cap and above it his black silk hat, his feet were covered with knitted slippers, a white silk handkerchief bound his neck loosely, a heavy fringed blanket was thrown over his lap.”

U.S. Sen. Jerome Chaffee of Colorado, the father-in-law of Grant’s son, was visiting.

“The opportunity was improved by visitors to the mountain, at once satisfying their desire to see Gen. Grant, and at the same time enjoy a stroll on the perfect Sabbath day that came in bright and clear.”

Grant kept his activity low-key again on July 7.

“Gen. Grant passed a comparatively easy afternoon,” The Morning Star reported. “He wrote a paragraph for his book before leaving the room. He then showed himself on the porch once or twice, but for only a moment or so at a time.”

There was celebration when Grant walked onto the porch at 5 p.m. and handed his doctor a note.

“The pain left me entirely, so that it was enjoyment to lie awake, but I put the enjoyment from the mere absence of pain.”

On the morning of July 8, Grant sat with his wife on the veranda, enjoying the warm air.

“A board was placed across the arms of the willow chair in which he sat, and using this as a desk, the sick man wrote a considerable time,” The Morning Star reported the next day. “He wore a black suit, silk hat, and white handkerchief about his neck.”

Visitors to the mountain remarked that Grant did not look sick.

“Indeed, from a distance of twenty yards, the general’s appearance is little changed from that of a year ago,” The Morning Star correspondent wrote. “A closer approach, however, discloses the traces of disease and suffering.”

At 1:30 p.m. Dr. Douglas checked in on his patient.

Grant wrote on his pad that he had been reading newspapers since noon, and had just finished.

“’I think your voice is clearer,’ remarked the doctor, when the general attempted to speak. ‘Yes, my voice is better today. I spoke above a whisper two or three times this morning,’ replied the general.”

Douglas attributed the improvement in voice to a reduction in the dosage of cocaine Grant was receiving for pain.

At 9 p.m., Grant wrote, “I have had an easy day, indeed.”

Grant was too weak on July 10, 1885 for a mountain top reunion with a former captive.

“The afternoon passed with Gen. Grant quietly,” The Morning Star reported. “He was awake most of the time, but seemed disposed to remain in his sick room and rest.”

But the next day he had energy enough to meet for about an hour in his sick room with former Confederate Gen. S.R. Buckner and his wife.

Buckner and Grant had been classmates at West Point, but their friendship was tested when Grant captured Buckner at the fall of Fort Donelson.

Buckner was the first Confederate general that Grant captured during the Civil War.

The weather set an ominous mood for the reunion.

“At 3 o’clock rain fell in torrents with thunder and lighting,” The Morning Star reported. “The general slept through the storm until 4 o’clock, when Dr. Douglas awakened him to give food and treatment.”

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