Former Union General and President Ulysses S. Grant died in 1885, leaving behind memoirs, letters and other papers. In 1962, during the Civil War centennial, the Ulysses S. Grant Association was formed to collect those papers and publish them.
But they needed a home. What would be the perfect place to house this collection? Why Mississippi, of course!
The papers found a home at Mississippi State University because of the school’s Giles Distinguished Professor of History, Dr. John F. Marszalek, who replaced Dr. John Y. Simon as Executive Director and Managing Editor of the Grant Papers project. The papers were transferred south in 2008.
I found out about this unusual site for Grant’s collection when attending the Mississippi Book Festival this summer in Jackson and paused at the university table. Mississippi State having a presidential collection isn’t uncommon, but it is for a state that doesn’t relate to said president — or has a former violent disagreement with, for that matter. For instance, the University of Tennessee houses the Andrew Jackson and Andrew Johnson presidential papers, two men who hailed from Tennessee, and Texas A&M is home to the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library, a man born in Massachusetts but who lived in Texas.
Today (Oct. 23, 2017), Marszalek, David Nolen and Louie Gallo will launch their book, “The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant,” at Square Books in Oxford, Miss. An informal reception begins at 5 p.m., followed by the author's presentation at 5:30 p.m., with book signing both before and after the reading/talk.
Their book is the first complete annotated edition of Grant’s memoirs and it represents Grant’s thoughts on his life and times through the end of the Civil War—including the antebellum era and the Mexican War—and his perspective on battlefield decision making, according to the publisher’s statement. His two-volume memoirs, sold door-to-door by former Union soldiers in the 19th century, have never gone out of print and were lauded by Mark Twain, Gertrude Stein, Matthew Arnold, Henry James and presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
As for the library, visitors may access the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library Collections or the Congressional & Political Research Center Collections of the MSU Libraries Special Collections department from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or by calling (662) 325-7679. All 32 volumes of The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant are available in most major libraries and are now available online and searchable via the library’s Grant website.
Some of the items featured in the Presidential Library exhibit include:
- A letter First Lady Julia Dent Grant wrote about the White House wedding of daughter Nellie.
- Grant White House china reproductions.
- Prints and portraits including ones of Mrs. Grant's father, Frederick Dent; President Grant's mother and father.
- A reproduction of General-President Grant's death mask.
- A rare, grand "salesman's sample" book of photographs from Grant's 1885 funeral featuring the work of some of the era's finest photographers, Matthew Brady, L.C. Handy, and Frederick F. Gutekunst.
- A desk originally in the U.S. Supreme Court used by two justices on the bench during Grant's presidency.
- A love seat and chair featuring designs commemorating Grant's military role in Mississippi created by Annie Coggan-Crawford, a former MSU professor in the College of Architecture, Art and Design.