Ulysses S. Grant Memorial

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Ulysses S. Grant Memorial
Louis T. Rebisso
Lincoln Park
Bronze figure on an arched masonry setting
50 x 15 x 10 ft. 
Chicago Park District

Have you ever seen this giant equestrian statue of General Ulysses S. Grant while riding along Lake Shore Drive? It is enormous, and its base is the size of a small building. At the dedication of the monument in 1891, President Henry Harrison made a speech in which he described Grant as “a tower of strength and confidence in the crisis of our Civil War.” Grant, who lived in Galena, Illinois, prior to the Civil War, entered the army as a Union colonel. He quickly worked his way up the ranks, becoming the Commander General of the Union armies in 1864. During the next year, he led a grueling, brutal final campaign through Virginia, which culminated in Confederate defeat at Petersburg and Richmond, and the surrender of Lee’s army at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. The war officially ended three days later. After the war, Grant was revered as a hero. He went on to serve as the Secretary of War and two terms as President of the United States from 1869 to 1877. Within days of Grant’s death in 1885, tens of thousands of people began donating dimes, quarters, and dollars to commission a monument in his honor. When the sculpture was dedicated in 1891, more than 200,000 people attended the Lincoln Park ceremonies. Participants included Grant’s widow and relatives, members of his regiment, cabinet members from his presidency, as well as several governors and senators. Not everyone thought the sculpture by Italian immigrant Louis T. Rebisso resembled the Northern general, but Grant’s own son thought that it was accurate. Grant is shown on the horse he rode into battle—named “Cincinnati”—a Kentucky thoroughbred. 

1. Do you think that a giant statue of a man calmly sitting on a horse suggests Grant’s leadership? Why or why not?

2. By the time this statue was dedicated, the Civil War had been over for decades, and Grant had been a two-term President. Yet, it shows Grant in a scene from the Civil War. Why do you think the artist chose this way of representing him?

3. If you compare the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial to the Phillip Henry Sheridan Monument, a smaller equestrian statue of another Civil War hero, which do you think is the better tribute?  Why?

Further reading:
"Web-based Guide to the Chicago Park District’s Fountains, Monuments, and Sculptures, 2010." http://www.cpdit01.com/resources/planning-and-development.fountains-monuments-and-sculptures/Lincoln%20Park/Ulysses%20S.%20Grant%20Memorial.pdf

Chicago Park District