Grant’s two terms as President were marred by scandal, and as a Civil War general he was derided by some as a soulless butcher who attacked relentlessly, without regard for casualties. Yet when Grant was living, he was revered — because the people of his time recognized that he not only assembled and then led the team of generals that had the fortitude to see the Union through to ultimate victory, but also that his easy terms of surrender and his gentle treatment of the former rebels helped the nation to quickly overcome the deep divisions caused by our bloodiest war.
Grant’s Tomb, located along Riverside Drive near the Columbia University campus, gives a sense of how he was beloved by his contemporaries. It is a huge mausoleum with a columned dome and other classical features, reached by a wide path shaded by trees along each side. The inscription above the entrance reads, simply, “Let Us Have Peace.”
Grant and his wife lie in red granite coffins in an open crypt at the well of the Tomb. If you stand at the foot of their coffins and look up, you can see a representation of the famous scene of General Grant graciously greeting Confederate General Robert E. Lee before accepting the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House. It seems fitting that the scene that is visible is not a depiction of a battle or some other feat of arms, but rather the simple handshake greeting that began the process of reunification of a war-torn land.