Tuesday, October 10, 2023

From Letchworth, NY, to Brunswick, Maine

 The casualty numbers listed above, 294 fatalities out of 1,414 who served in one regiment, the First New York Dragoons, are a reminder of the war's horrifying cost. I'd barely heard of Todd's Tavern, a cavalry engagement in Grant's Overland Campaign between the much bloodier battles of Wilderness and Spotsylvania. 
The wife took the photo of me in a red shirt taking the photo above, of one of the informative tablets at base of the impressive obelisk which memorializes the regiment in Letchworth State Park. I'd never been to the park before and hadn't known the monument was there, just stumbled across it on August 5 this year, when we happened to be in Western New York. (I was actually feeling a bit guilty about failing to attend the annual reunion on that date of the 154th New York Infantry, the "Hardtack Regiment", held this year in Delevan.)
This week it's off to Brunswick, Maine, where I have been before to visit the home museum of General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. On Thursday evening I'll be speaking to the Joshua Chamberlain Civil War Round Table at 7 o'clock in the Brunswick Library, mostly about James Montgomery: Abolitionist Warrior. Be there or be square.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Man of Peace


Frank Scaturro speaks at Grant Cottage on Saturday about President Grant's peacemaking efforts. Scaturro is an author whose books include President Grant Reconsidered (1998), and a lawyer who played a key role in the restoration of Grant's Tomb.

As president, Scaturro said, Grant resisted political pressure to wage war against both Spain and Britain, and submitted U.S.-British disputes to international arbitration which set a far-reaching and positive precedent.

He also talked about the book published earlier this year, Grant at 200: Reconsidering the Life and Legacy of Ulysses S. Grant, which he co-edited with Chris Mackowski. They both contributed essays to it, along with others including every living U.S. president, Grant scholars John F. Marszalek and Ronald C. White, and Ben Kemp, Grant Cottage operations manager. 

I asked Scaturro about the successes and failures of Grant's peace policy toward American Indians, to which he gave a long and well-informed reply.

On international relations, I think Grant's two-term presidency has much in common with those of two other former generals, Washington and Eisenhower. All three knew well the horrors of war, and in part for that reason tried hard, for the most part successfully, to keep the nation at peace during their years in office.   

Friday, September 22, 2023

Revolutionary Days

Photos taken September 22 with our newish dog Bella. That date in 1777 was three days after the first battle of Saratoga and a couple of weeks before the second. American gunners from these heights would have been watching for any sign of a British advance southward -- i.e. from the left in these east-facing pics -- along the Hudson River road.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

A Day at the Races


Ulysses S. Grant famously loved horses, and after the war was no stranger to Saratoga Springs. So I'll be setting up shop, signing and selling my books, at Saratoga Race Course tomorrow with Mike Lesser from Grant Cottage, which will get half the proceeds. Tomorrow being Friday, August 25, the day before they run the Travers. Gates open at 11.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

RIP Jeannie Woutersz


After the recent accidental death of honorary Grant Cottage board member Treat Williams, the loss of Jeannie Woutersz (pronounced Waters) hits closer to home, although since she was 93 years old it can hardly be called unexpected.

Jeannie was a solid working board member for many years, which she fitted in with a full range of other commitments.  I can't remember when I met her, but we got better acquainted when I was on the Grant Cottage staff as site interpreter for a couple of seasons in 2009-10. Since then I would run into her from time to time at events or at the cottage. We'd discuss and argue in friendly fashion about this and that -- board and regional politics, local history, preservation and journalism. It was always a pleasure.

I didn't know she had died until yesterday, when I was volunteering at the cottage and Ben Kemp told me. He said Jeannie had taken lately to spending more time sitting on the porch there.

 Fortunately I had time, when my shift ended, to go down the hill to Gurn Springs Cemetery on Ballard Road for the last service. I found the grave of legendary Grant Cottage caretaker Suye Narita Gambino, who died in 1984, and her husband Anthony. (They were the hosts when my girlfriend -- now wife -- Barbara and I first visited the cottage in 1983.) Suye was a good friend of Jeannie. 

Then the family and other mourners arrived, including a couple of board members I knew. I joined in some prayers, and in scattering earth over the urn which contained Jeannie's ashes when it was placed below ground level.

A life well lived.

Friday, June 16, 2023

Juneteenth at Grant Cottage


(Reginald Adams with his mural in Galveston, Texas)

My friend Steve Trimm (portraying Grant) and I will be doing a program at Grant Cottage on Monday. That's June 19 -- Juneteenth -- which will be the focus of our presentations. My PowerPoint lecture (with Q&A) will be more about Gordon Granger than this essay I wrote and posted here last year, but along the same general lines. Steve's presentation is at noon, mine at 1 p.m. See here:

Jun 19 2023 The History Behind Juneteenth - Monday, Jun 19, 2023 - Saratoga Springs, NY Events

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

RIP Treat Williams


I had the honor of giving the fine actor Treat Williams, who died Monday as the result of a motorcycle accident, his first tour of Grant Cottage on July 10, 2014. He was a pleasant, interested and knowledgeable visitor.

 Diana O'Brien, on left in photo, was then dressed as the poet Emily Dickinson for a program, and is now a board member of The Friends of Grant Cottage. Williams became an honorary board member and spoke at last year's fund-raiser. He also wrote and performed a one-man play about Ulysses S. Grant.

From Letchworth, NY, to Brunswick, Maine

 The casualty numbers listed above, 294 fatalities out of 1,414 who served in one regiment, the First New York Dragoons, are a reminder of t...