Grant's quick stop sets
[Editor's Notes: US Grant was the fourth 19th century president to visit Portsmouth after James Monroe, James K Polk and NH-born Franklin Pierce. After the Civil War, locals were sharply divided on the presidency of Ulysses S Grant (1822-1885). Was the 18th president a drunken dullard or a capable Reconstructionist leader? That depends on which Portsmouth newspaper one read when Grant breezed through town in a luxurious Pullman car with 200 members of his entourage. A Civil War hero, General Grant had almost been with Lincoln that fateful night at Ford's Theater. Instead he went on to become a two-term president, defeating NH notable Horace Greeley in his second term. Grant's famous tomb in New York City is the largest mausoleum in the country and, as the links below show, Grant still has a large devout following among history buffs. Grant's latest fictional incarnation was played by actor Kevin Kline in the movie version of "Wild, Wild, West." The film, like most of Grant's presidency, was not a hit with most critics. -- JDR]
As is still often the case, presidential visits to Portsmouth, NH are just "whistle stops" as the chief executive moves on into Maine from the nation's capital. President George Bush used Portsmouth's military airfield as his own landing spot for regular visits to nearby Kennebunkport, Maine. And so it was back in 1871 when President Ulysses S. Grant zipped through.
On October 17th President Grant was heading to the opening ceremonies for the European and North American Railroad. City officials under Mayor Joseph B. Adams gathered at the City Building (site of Fleet Bank in Market Square today) at 9:30, then headed to the railroad depot. Mrs. Grant, the president's daughter Nellie and more than 200 others were in the official party. The train was made up of two Pullmans, a smoking car, a baggage car and a passenger car. All this was drawn by the "splendid engine America." Surprisingly, neither of the two daily papers, the Chronicle and Portsmouth Times, devoted much space to the event -- and it's from the Journal of October 21 that most of the story comes.
The Pullman Arrives
On Grant himself, the reporter wrote:
The Journal goes on to list the key government secretaries, military generals and railroad magnates in the presidential party. The party were joined here by ex-Governor Goodwin and a delegation of officials from the Navy Yard. As the train reached Portsmouth bridge a salute was fired from the battery. At Kittery, just across the Piscataqua River, the president was welcomed to the "Pine Tree" state by General James A. Hall. Between this city and Portland dinner was served in the forward car for the general company, while an elegant repast was served for the president and his suite in his private car. The only stopping place was Berwick Junction.
The Opposition View
President Grant came back through the city three days later but without even a pause. However, on August 16, 1873, Grant again whistle-stopped in Portsmouth bound for Augusta. President Grant arrived on the new Pullman car "Mystic" with the usual dignitaries and his children Miss Nellie Grant, (who was dressed in a plain black traveling suit), Ulysses and Jesse. Decked out again in flowers, the train had made the trip from Boston in an hour and 26 minutes. The president bowed to the crowd from the rear of the train
By Ray Brighton
ULYSSES S. GRANT LINKS
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