After decades of neglect, the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial has finally been restored to its full glory, following more than ten years of fundraising efforts. Birds and weathering had really done a number on it, and vandals had defaced it and made away with parts over the years, but all that has been undone. With a long period of planning followed by two-years of careful work — the memorial was cleaned up, repaired, new parts were crafted, and everything was finally finished a few months ago.
Readers not familiar with Grant are to be forgiven if they are a bit hazy on the knowledge that he was the final Union Army general (out of four) responsible for ending the US Civil War (1861-1865) and preventing the Confederate States from splitting the Union apart. He and his men were also given credit for keeping the Confederate forces from nearly sacking DC in 1864 (during the Battle of the Monocacy), which nearly happened a couple of other times during the conflict.
Truly — unless one actually visits some of these battlefields and other local historic sites related to the Civil War — it’s difficult to realize just how close the fighting was to the place where I took the photograph for this post (Confederate forces could actually SEE the Capitol dome from their positions on at least one occasion). I’ve lived in both Washington, DC (capital of the Union), and Richmond, Virginia (capital of the Confederates), and both cities are ringed with battlefields, old forts, earthworks, and other evidence of the conflict — some well-preserved and others not. There are even some places in Richmond — which was completely destroyed by the end of the war — where the damage has never been restored, to keep as a reminder of that terrible time.
Being from Idaho (admitted as a state in 1890), I don’t have any stake in the ongoing North versus South Civil War sympathizing that goes on to this day (Think it’s the ancient past? Think again. The last person to receive a Civil War pension is actually still alive and you can read about her here.) — though I wish it would end, as it’s just as divisive now as it was back then.