If you believe, as I and many others
do, that the Civil War would not have been won by the North but for
U.S. Grant, then a visit to his boyhood home in our own State of
Ohio at Georgetown, about ten miles north of the Ohio River and 40
miles east of Cincinnati, will be inspiring, informative and
I made the trip
on March 11, 2017 in conjunction with renowned Civil War historian
Ed Bearss’ presentation to the U.S. Grant Homestead Association
“Grant in the Wilderness” in Georgetown’s historic “Gaslight
Theater”. This venue has become virtually a Mr. Bearss annual
pilgrimage to Georgetown this time of year.
On a sunshiny but brisk winter day
sans snow, the small town was certainly evocative of what it must
have been like during Grant’s childhood. In his Memoirs Grant states
“I was born on the 27th of April, 1822, at Point Pleasant, Clermont
County, Ohio. In the fall of 1823 we moved to Georgetown, the county
seat of Brown, the adjoining county east. This place remained my
home until the age of seventeen, when in 1839, I went to West
Smartly preserved, the two story
red brick home itself sits a few blocks from the town square at a
slightly lower elevation relative to the square. It is open to the
Public. As told by Ulysses, his father Jesse R. Grant “carried on
the manufacture of leather and worked at the trade himself” at the
tannery, a stout, white structure that is now a private residence
across the street; easily visible but not open to the public.
Quite apparent from the visit:
Ulysses himself did not enjoy tannery work at his father’s business.
Paradoxically scholars assert that his work at the family business
created a lifelong aversion to bloodshed – ironic in light of his
future role in command of Union Armies at many of the most violent
battles of the Civil War. He was labeled by some of the press and
other critics of the time as a “butcher”.
Ulysses S. Grant's home in
On view in Grant’s home are the
original quarters and bedroom where the family slept, as well as a
later addition in which Ulysses had his own bedroom. His father
Jesse was in Grant’s words “from my earliest recollection, in
comfortable circumstances, considering the times” and the home is
furnished and decorated with period objects reflective of that
standing. A visitor can easily imagine sitting in one of the rooms
in the early 1800’s on the south side of the home and looking
through windows at the scene of the tannery’s prosperous business
activity unfolding across the street.
Two other themes of Grant’s early
life stood out as part of visiting the home. First, U.S. Grant as a
boy thoroughly enjoyed horses and became an expert equestrian - that
being one of the only distinguishing features during a mostly
lackluster academic career at West Point. In wartime, his personal
mount figured prominently in at least two battles. At Belmont, Grant
was courageously the last man at the end of an organized retreat as
his troops evacuated down steep banks to the Mississippi River onto
awaiting steamboats. Grant skillfully maneuvered his sliding horse
bottom down on the bank and onto a single, narrow wooden plank - and
then at a trot into the waiting vessel – all within firing range of
Confederate General Polk and his troops. On another occasion, during
an intense rain storm at the start of the Battle of Shiloh, muddy
footing unfortunately caused his mount to collapse and fall heavily
on Grant’s foot. The injury necessitated that the General be on
crutches for the remainder of the battle.
Second, young Grant also enjoyed
the nearby Ohio River, escaping there for recreation whenever he
could elude his duties at the Tannery. He also must have observed
the many commercial vessels using this all important transportation
artery of the time. I have been involved in many a discussion at our
Roundtable on Grant’s prowess in amphibious operations and his
strategic understanding of the use of rivers to his military
advantage. This advanced level of skill was exceptional and unique
for a Non Naval military officer of the time. One cannot discount
that his frequent boyhood trips to the Ohio River might well have
subconsciously embedded this later war talent into his psyche.
A statue of U.S. Grant proudly
overlooks the town Square where the North’s most important General
and future 18th President must have passed on foot innumerable
times. The statue is modest but impressive, much like the man
Most of what can be seen in the
Georgetown area related to U.S. Grant is nurtured by the previously
mentioned U.S. Grant Homestead Association. The organization can be
further explored online at
www.usgrantboyhoodhome.org. If you visit Georgetown, check ahead
as times vary when Grant’s home is open.
Grant - Personal Memoirs of U.S
.Grant & Selected Letters 1839-1865; 1885; by Ulysses S. Grant; 1990
Edition by Literary Classics of the United States, Inc.
Civil War: A Narrative, Vol. I
“Fort Sumter to Perryville”; 1958; by Shelby Foote; Vintage Books a
Division of Random House New York
Shiloh: Bloody April; 1974; by
Wiley Sword; William Morrow & Company, N.Y., N.Y.
Grant: As Military Commander; 1970; by Sir James Marshall-Cornwall;
1995 Edition Barnes & Noble, Inc.