I know that’s an old joke, but I thought of it while reading about how August 8 was the 135th anniversary of Ulysses S. Grant’s funeral. With all the talk about the statues of Confederate generals, I thought General Grant should have equal time.
According to the print edition of The Writer’s Almanac (http://www.garrisonkeillor.com/radio/twa-the-writers-almanac-for-august-8-2020/):
His body had lain in state in City Hall for two days, and thousands filed past to view the former president and Civil War hero. The New York Tribune reported, “Among the thousands was many a true and honest soul who came to take a last glimpse of the features of the man whose character and actions have become the precious inheritance of the Nation.” On August 8, 1885, people across the country awoke to tolling bells, and many communities held their own memorial services. One and a half million people attended the funeral itself; the line of mourners that followed his funeral procession stretched for seven miles. The procession included three presidents, and former Confederate and Union soldiers alike. Grant’s body was carried to a temporary tomb in Riverside Park, where it rested for 12 years while the money was raised to build a permanent mausoleum. At the end of the fundraising campaign — the largest ever, at that time — 90,000 people from around the world had contributed more than $600,000. It’s the largest tomb in North America, and one of the largest in the world. As impressive as it was, many Americans agreed with a newspaper editorial: “the Union [is] His Monument.”