tv The Presidency Ulysses Grant Capitol Hill Bicentennial Ceremony CSPAN June 5, 2022 3:03pm-3:41pm EDT
everyone for joining us in today's ceremony and have a wonderful evening. good morning. today we gather with joy to honor president ulysses s grant who fought to preserve the union in battle? and fought as president. to preserve the values of our country. we are so excited to be here. for those of you who don't know the united states capitol historical society is the congressionally chartered nonprofit organization. dedicated to sharing the story
of the capital and those who work there in a manner that inspires informed patriotism. today as we celebrate three significant events all related. the 200th anniversary of ulysses grant's birth. the 100th anniversary of this grant memorial and the dedication of the incredible restoration of this monument that was finished in 2020. we have a distinguished group of speakers. senator roy blunt our hero who i'm going to introduce first architect of the capitol brett blanton who oversaw the restoration and oversees the capital and distinguished historian ron white. so now you know, what's going to happen.
let me present to you our first speaker. senator roy blunt built on his background as a public service servant a university president and history teacher. and the people of missouri elected him the united states senator in 2010. he shares the senate republican policy committee. he's the ranking member of the senate rules committee. he's on the senate appropriations committee the ranking member of the appropriate and if that's not enough, he's also on the senate commerce committee the transportation science and transportation and the senate select committee on intelligence. so we're lucky that he's here with us for a hot minute. and we want to be thankful to the people of southwest missouri who overwhelmingly elected now our senator, but first to the house of representatives seven times. when roy blunt went to the house of representatives he was the
elected majority whip earlier in his career than any other member of congress. he came to the senate and was immediately included in senate leadership. one of the things that people are all saying. is center blunt? we're so sorry you're retiring because we know you want a life, but we surely enjoy what you have added to the life of the senate and to the life of the historical society. so maybe those four children and six grandchildren will get more time with you. but today talk to us about president grant. well, thank you jane and in terms of having a life, i'm an incredibly fortunate man and one of the great opportunities i've had is to serve in public office
particularly to serve in the house. and then the senate to be in leadership in both places and i intend to make the most of every day of the rest of this year and then see what happens after that. just like ron white's book. i'm always ready for the next chapter and i did that as i read the american ulysses and ron white was one of i think one of the three historians that really have restored general grant to his place in history. ron white's book hw brands book the subtitle, which was the man who saved the union if that doesn't say everything that needs to be said, i don't know how i'd say it and of course ron cherno's book and then to be here in the restored. the restored grant monument that hasn't gotten the attention it deserved over time. in fact yesterday. we were driving somewhere else and one of my staff asked where is the grant monument? and i said, well, that's right down there by that reflecting
pool at the base of the at the base of the capitol and brett blanton who went to the naval academy with my son matt responsible for restoring this monument to one of our great army heroes, but one of our great military he rose and i think ron white and others have made the case the great president and an important time. and i want to talk about that a little bit. but first, let me talk about my two sponsors of the grant resolution honoring the the bicentennial of his birth the ann wagner from st. louis who represents dent home in st. louis whitehaven, which is a national park because of the grant association. with whitehaven and then my other good friend of shared brown and when i went to share this and i've got a missouri reason for this in addition to a personal reason but certainly is
an ohio when you should have a reason to want to be the the other sponsor of this bill and he was glad to do that. i think he'll have some remarks virtually a little bit later the grant missouri history is really pretty deep his first appointment after his first to posting after after west point. was that jefferson barracks, which was the first posting for an awful lot of of graduates of west point and his roommate fred dent his roommate from west point was there as well and so he wound up going with his roommate to whitehaven a place where his roommate had grown up and at the maybe the he would i think have said the most important moment of his life met fred grant fred dent's sister julia and a few years later there married and his life is always better and more stable
and more focused when julia when julia dent julia grant is around and that proved true for the rest of his life and the rest of their life together. they spent quite a bit of time at whitehaven five years living that living there, but even as president grant spent a lot of time at whitehaven they established a stable that still there today his mastery and love of horses was very much evident at whitehaven and then on grant's farm where eventually the house he built at whitehaven is moved named it with some humor, i guess hardscrabble farm and it's the only house the only house standing house and maybe the only house built by hand by an american president and you could go to that location there. the grants didn't live there very long, but he built that house and lived in that house and still standing today.
so, you know that's important grant comes back to the army as world as the civil war starts another, missouri moment for him is a bad the first battle. he really commands northern, missouri. and a steering during that battle ron white that i think he discovers that however many concerns he had about meeting the enemy the enemy was just as concerned about meeting him and he never forgot that as he began to move forward and it moving forward he got in that northern, missouri service his first notice that he personally got that he had been appointed to a general's position was reading in a paper called the daily, missouri democrat, and that's when grant found out that he was going to be general grant and of course was from then on the civil war story i think is well told but it's better told over
time and better told by the three people. i mentioned one of whom is going to speak here after me so i don't want to get in too much detail about what i think is what i know about about general grant we've got somebody here who most everything about general grant and is going to talk about that. but when i see this statues sort of grant huddled on that horse. and by the way, people who saw general grant on a horse whether it was at west point where he's he did unbelievable things in horsemanship or during his entire career at the battle of belmont. he wrote a horse back the last person to get on the boat that they were using to to move the army. he wrote a horse down the gangplank, which is almost impossible to do but general grant was was truly a master of horsemanship, but here on a horse huddle sort of against all of the elements when i see this i always think of that moment that i've read about it shiloh. we're at the end of the first
day of shiloh where the army had been surprised grant had been previously injured and was not as connected the day before his he might normally be to what was going on there. the had been surprised had a really bad. first day grant was at the end of the day in the dark sort of leaning against a tree that under some light rain and sherman comes up and says, well, we really they really we really had a bad day today or something like that and grants response as he's huddled there under that tree is we'll whip them tomorrow though. and he always was able to look toward the future and never according to sherman and others never never really upset in the middle of the battle. he could keep his wits about him when everybody else had lost theirs and it made him truly a great general and that's it was under some dispute frankly at the centennial of the civil war
but by the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the war the true great generalship of grant was was more deeply appreciated than it had been and because of these three books i mentioned i think grant's presid. seen in a different way than it was after the really the the return of of a sense of the lost cause and the birth of the nation if you if you didn't respect effort at reconstruction. which was incredibly important in the in the eight years after the war if you didn't expect if you didn't appreciate the effort at reconstruction, you couldn't appreciate grant. and reconstruction was demonized particularly under the wilson administration that movie that was shown at the white house the birth of a nation and grants reputation suffered for more than 50 years after that in my
after that demonization in my opinion. in fact driving over to dad said well, when was the when was the bill passed to create the grant memorial which was dedicated a hundred years ago at the grant centennial. and the was 19 and one. where where americans were still referring to grant as one of the three great presidents? you know if you look back and read the the history of reconstruction where everything that grant did was wrong and everything the government did was wrong it. you wouldn't believe that years decades after his death. many people including theodore roosevelt during his presidency would refer to washington lincoln and grant as the three great presidents now, that is not somebody who for in on the centennial of his birth would have been held in disrepute but
still greatly respected. i'm glad to see the monument restored. i'm glad to see grants reputation being reviewed. nobody is perfect. and grant certainly would have understood that he wasn't perfect either. but as we look in a different view at the lost cause narrative of the civil war as we look at a different way of the importance of reconstruction as we look at the sadness and the wilson administration where the federal workforce is resegregated we have reason to think about grant in a way that these great historians have presented what i think is a much more appropriate story of grant and so here we are at a at a restored monument at a time when president grant is being viewed in a way that general grant was generally always viewed. i'm glad to see those things happen. i'm certainly glad to be here
with you today. and wagner sherrod brown and i yesterday sent a letter to the secretary of defense asking that grant be given the rank of of the armies only two people have ever had that rank one was pershing after world war one and one was washington given to washington as part of the bicentennial in 1970 in 1976. it would seem to me that the bicentennial of grants birth would be exactly the right time to bestow that rank on this person in hw. brand's words the man who saved the union i am delighted to be able to be here today. thank you to all of you. thank you senator blunt. it is such an honor to have a
historian in the senate. senator blunt mentioned senator brown from my home state of ohio who is the companion sponsor and we do have video remarks which will be included in the video that you'll be able to look at from our website. and so let me just bring you a couple words from his remarks that you'll be able to see if you take your program. there's a little qr code and that'll take you to our website. and so you'll be able to see where you will eventually get the entire video of today. senator blunt said 200 years ago. president grant a son of ohio was born in point pleasant and raised in georgetown, ohio before going on to serve his nation with honor and distinction. as you know grants exemplary leadership in the battlefield could only be overshadowed by his commitment to a more just
nation for all americans during the reconstruction era. his life is a lesson in perseverance. despite the many setbacks he faced in his professional and personal life. he never quit his integrity propelled him to command our union army and ultimately to be the leader of our nation as the 18th president. and so we appreciate senator brown for his involvement in this event virtually. and now i have the honor to present to you. the architect of the capitol j brent blanton he is the 12th architect of the capitol. on december 20th, 2019 the united states senate confirmed mr. blanton. and on january 16th 2020. he was sworn in as the architect
of the capitol by supreme court justice. john roberts jr. can you imagine the time that he came to be the architect of the capital mr. blanton as the alc was we call him is responsible for facilities management and operation not just of this capital building. but for the care and improvement of 570 acres of grounds and operation maintenance of 18.4 million square feet of buildings, including the house and senate congressional office buildings the capital visitor center. the library of congress the united states supreme court the thurgood marshall judiciary building and all of the outdoor sculptures such as the one that is preserved today. senator blunt talked about mr. blanton's work and his education at the naval academy it is my
honor to present to you. brett blanton architect of the capitol thank you for that warm. welcome. good morning, and thank you for being here. i'm honored to join senator blunt, miss campbell mr. white. and members of the united states capitol historical society in celebrating the 200th anniversary of president grant's birth and the 100 anniversary of this memorial. now i'm not going to talk about president grant. and i do agree that he is one of the greatest presidents in our union and i will also acknowledge as well that i firmly believe that he did save the union and we would not have a capital complex like we have today if it wasn't for president grant not only was he a great
leader in the military, but he was a great leader for our nation and i'm truly honored to be here. as many, you know, this memorial was sculpted by henry merwin schrady over the course of 20 years. not only is a testament to president. but it's also recognized as the largest equestrian monument in the united states. the arctic capital or aoc assumed care for the grant memorial in 2011. over a five-year period which concluded in 2020 we have undertaken meticulous conservation effort to bring the monument back to its original splendor. in a combined effort by aoc's talented in-house staff and contractors we work diligently to remove disfiguration corrosion and stains. restore missing and broken pieces and to refurbish the original marble. we utilized finally powdered
calcium carbonate. as a microabrasion of media to painstakingly clean the bronze to model the original color and finish. we also had to recast and replace over on 150 missing pieces of the statue. in addition to referencing the bronze components. and marble pedestals, so that viewers can appreciate the subtle detail of the original sculpture. we replicated the lamp posts of the original design by edward, pierce casey. who was the architect of the memorial's pedestal? across the capital we continually work hard to preserve these treasured monuments. every day i am struck by the skilled work taking place by aoc employees. who are preserving and maintaining these prices works of art? i appreciate your support and recognize and recognition of everybody here. thank you. for joining together with the ceremony.
thank you, mr. blanton for your work and your words. and now we have the highlight of our day. everyone who spoken has talked about ron white. ron white distinguished historian author of two new york times bestselling presidential biographies the one we've talked about today american ulysses the life of ulysses s grant and also the author of a lincoln a biography i could go on about his work and his words. but i think maybe what we need to do now is to listen to ron white. tell us about why we come together to honor president grant today. dr. white how delightful and
what an honor is to be here with you today and all those who will be watching us online grant is rising in 2022. i'm not referring simply to this marvelous statue. but in the c-span presidential historian surveys four have been done in the 21st century. they're done each time. there is a change of american presidents and in those four surveys grant has risen 13 places. 13 places dwight eisenhower has risen four places in second place. so what i'd like to do today is to just give two photographs so to speak of grant the general and as senator blount referred
to grant the president. the story that really intrigues me and many of you know, this story is the first time. that grant arrived in washington he came to accept president lincoln's invitation to now lead the combined union armies. it was march 8 1864. he and his son arrived at the baltimore and ohio railroad station. he took a carriage arrived at what was then called willard's hotel? walked to the front desk and asked for a room. and the desk keeper there said a room. do you not understand where you are? this is the finest hotel in washington dc. this is the middle of the civil war. let me see what i can do. so finally he said to general grant i would like to offer you a small room on the top floor. and general grant in his typical way said that will be fine. he said please sign the
register. he signed the register and when he turned it around and the desk clerk saw general grant and and galena, illinois he turned pale. he gasped. why didn't you tell me who you were? and if i might intercede by asking ourselves how many celebrities politicians sports figures entertainment figures would have said don't you know who i am, but of course, that's the last thing that general grant would ever have said. so now he looked underneath the duster that he was wearing. he saw he was wearing a blue union uniform. he almost always were a private's uniform the only way you knew his rank was the stars on his shoulder. he handed general grant an envelope which was an invitation to the white house that evening to meet president lincoln for the first time. i think that story just captures so much of who grant is we don't 19th century didn't often use the word humility.
they used the word self-effacement and grant to me is so compelling by his self affacement. so let me tell two stories. it i think really capture who he is. now if grant was offered the command of the union army by president lincoln. we have to remember that he was not yet offered command by the union soldiers for behind his back. they whispered. you've not met bobby lee. you've not met bobby lee. you've been out in the minor leagues which they in turn be meant shiloh vicksburg, chattanooga. not met bobby lee. four times the union army had entered into virginia four times. it had retreated in disreal disarule. so they were willing to wait and see who would grant be. on may 4 he started what would become known as the overland campaign? riding his tall horse. cincinnati 17 hands high not with any particular dress.
that would make him outstanding to the soldiers who watched and waited for him. he crossed the rapidan river and entered into what's called the wilderness, i've walked the wilderness it said area of scrub oak forest where grants 2 to 1 advantage in military artillery horses really was of no effect. and so he walked plunged into the wilderness. we later on use the term friendly fire. well, friendly fire began to take place that day as men falling out of formation shooting at what they thought might be the enemy. sometimes we're shooting at their own men. and then and then the forest caught fire it began to burn and men were burned to death or they shot themselves killed themselves before they would be burned to death. so at the end of the second day grant had suffered more
casualties than he expected. you've seen the lincoln movie. you know that president lincoln was sitting off and in telegraph office waiting to hear. was taking place but the confederates had severed the telegraph lines. so president lincoln and others in washington not know know what was taking place. at the end of the second day a general union general rode into the camp and said i know what lee is going to do. he's going to do this and that and he's going to divide us and he's going to and grant who is often called grant the silent. grant the sphinx sitting there he rose slowly. he raised himself up and he said i am heartily tired of hearing what general lee is going to do. it almost seems like some of you think he's going to turn a double somersault and land on both sides of our ranks. i want us to decide what we are going to do. well shortly after that a
veteran news person said i will give a thousand dollars. for anyone who's willing to get through the confederate. and give the word to present lincoln and young henry wing 24 years of age said i will make that effort. but before he did, so he walked over to general grant and he said is there anything that you would want me to say to president lincoln? and general grant a man of few words simply replied with these six words, please tell president lincoln there will be no turning back. there will be no turning back. one of the great joys after my public biography of grant was published was to meet general david petraeus. frank scaturro is here today who was president of the grant monument association tomorrow evening the grant monument association will present a colloquy in new york hosted by general petraeus and in conversation with ron charno and myself general petraeus ranks
grant as the greatest american general with no comparison. he will tell the worry, we've done a convocation at west point together how he read grants memoirs as he prepared to lead the surge in iraq, and then he asked his generals his leaders to read grants memoirs because grant is this person there will be no turning back. well as senator blunt mentioned in his fine remarks grants star fell. the lost cause came forward quickly after the civil war put forward by both confederate generals and by newspaper editors arguing that the the best side had lost the more christian side the more chivalrous side and they lost only because they were overwhelmed by the larger union army the industrial might of the north and that butcher grant. and then as the south goes forward, we've been recently learning and reading about how
monuments were raised in the south at the end of the 19th century. no one was willing to celebrate general ulysses s grant who willing to stand up for the freedmen. so one of the things that i think we've done most in the last 15-20 years is try to restore a grant's presidency restore his presidency. there's many many aspects of that presidency that we could talk about today. and is inaugural address. he says we have to have a new policy for american indians. we've treated them badly. he negotiates a treaty with england. it was a great anglo-phobia anxiety because england had helped build confetti confederate rating ships. he understood that england going forward into the 20th century would become our greatest ally and he wanted to settle that treaty with them and begin that friendship. but most importantly was his standing up for the freedmen the freed men and women. there's a biblical verse about how we grow weary and well doing and how even although the public
republicans had passed the 13th 14th and 15th amendments by the time grant becomes president the republic and party was becoming weary and well doing let the south build solve that problem the klu klux klan was founded in 1866 originally simply a fraternal organization, but now we would call it today a white supremacist terrorist organization. and as those klugs clan men who would rape beat hang african americans would be prosecuted would be caught by police or military. 36% of the union military in the south were african-americans because they entered the military later than the white soldiers. they were routinely let go by local courts by state courts, so grant steps forward and says if this is what's going to take place, i want to use i will use the power of the federal
government to prosecute the klu klux klan. what's so interesting in our american history the democratic party in the 19th century. is the party of state's rights the republican party of the 19th century was the party of a strong central government and the reason the klan went after african-americans. why because they knew that they would vote overwhelmingly for republicans in local state and national office. so grant in his presidency stands for them frederick douglass who had a kind of a not quite sure attitude towards abraham lincoln campaigned for grant in both 1868 and 1872. and i conclude the story of his presidency by this to me remarkable story. in 1872 after his resent reelection a group of african americans from philadelphia came to thank him. they said to him you are the
first president elected by the whole people. they wanted him to know that he was the practical establishment of our republic. gun theories grant responded in your desire to obtain all the rights of citizens. i fully sympathize. he spelled out what he meant a ticket on a railroad or other conveyance should entitle you to all that it does other men. i wish that every voter of the united states should stand in all respects alike. it must come. it would be 90 years before it began to come grant was the last president to stand up for african americans. senator blunt in his remarks mentioned the first plan to build this wonderful monument theodore roosevelt in 1900 offered the words that he said, but i'm going to go further than what he said this morning.
theater roosevelt said of all the the living dead the three greatest americans are george. washington abraham lincoln and ulysses s grant but he didn't stop there. he went on to say of second rank or benjamin franklin. alexander hamilton andrew jackson of second rank so this is the way theodore roosevelt understood ulysses s grant in 1900 i'm so pleased that in 2022. we are restoring him to his rightful place as my editor said when we talked about doing a grant biography don't you think grants do for an upgrade? yes, he is. thank you very much. dr. white you are as good a
storyteller in person as you are when you read the book. president grant comes alive both in the challenges and in the opportunities today we gather as part of our understanding of public memory the capital historical society is dedicated. to ensuring that our public memory is presented in a way to inspire inform patriotism? mr. blanton, thank you for your work. thank you for your creation and dedication to recreate this statue to the glory it belongs. we thank senator blunt for sponsoring us to be here for sponsoring the legislation. we thank senator brown. congresswoman ann wagner and we thank each of you.
this event would not be here if it was not for the incredible dedication of the staff. united states capitol historical society i stand here but i didn't do all this work. so i want sam and charice everybody wave your hand who's on the staff, giannis, donna? and we can only operate because we have an incredibly dedicated board and so many of our board members are here with us today. wave your hands jean. okay. all right everybody. we hope that this our first imperson event in 25 months. will be the beginning of new opportunities. one of the silver linings of the pandemic is that we learned how to livestream. so those of you are here great
those of you who are here virtually great and everybody will be able to get this. go and watch it at another time. today we honor president grant. as a military leader. who fought to preserve the union? as a president who present fought to preserve the values of our union. and thank you all for being here. and being part of this effort. have a great day.