An issue of “Harper’s Weekly” once depicted Ulysses S. Grant as a bulldog. President Abraham Lincoln is quoted as ordering Grant “hold on with a bull-dog grip, and chew and choke as much as possible.”
Today, Mississippi State University stands as the home of the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library, and John F. Marszalek, Ph.D spoke to the West Point Rotary Club on Thursday about the ironic journey the archives took from Southern Illinois University to MSU in 2008.
“It was fate,” Marszalek quipped regarding the above quote and political cartoon.
Marszalek also noted that Stephen D. Lee, a Confederate general who fought against Grant at Vicksburg later served as the first president of Mississippi A&M College, now Mississippi State University.
While Grant did serve as the 18th President of the United States from 1869-1877, Marszalek points out that he gained his household name status as commanding general of the Union forces during the American Civil War, gaining most of his notoriety from his campaigns in Mississippi.
“It was his great victory at Vicksburg that made him a household name,” Marszalek said.
When scholars first began to piece together an exhaustive collection of Grant’s writings, it was relatively unknown at the time how prolific the two-term president was with the pen.
“We just finished volume 32, and we have begun work on his memoirs,” Marszalek said, adding later that the 32 volumes of letters comprised about 20 percent of what the library has on Grant. “It’s an amazing thing. If you want to do research on Ulysses Grant, there’s one place in the world you should come and that’s Mississippi State University.”
Marszalek delivered a brief overview of the thousands of documents contained at the Mitchell Library on MSU’s campus, including letters written by Grant and some that were written to the late president.
“We believe we have a copy of every known letter Grant ever wrote, and we believe we have a copy of every letter that was ever written to Grant,” Marszalek said of the 15,000 feet of linear material that is on hand for researchers and the general public’s viewing.
The Grant library also contains thousands of donated books written about the general and politician that date from 1862 until this month.
“It took a lot of effort and a lot of people working to get this done,” he said. “Mississippi State did an excellent job of demonstrating that they were going to protect this material and open it to scholars and the public.”
Marszalek pointed out that very few Presidential Libraries exist independently, and that most independent Presidential Libraries archive 19th Century presidents.
Marszalek has served as Executive Director and Managing Editor of the Ulysses S. Grant Association and the “Papers of Ulysses S. Grant” project since 2008.
Marszalek is currently the Director of the MSU Distinguished Scholars Program. He has written over 150 articles since acquiring his Bachelor’s Degree from Canisius College in 1961.
He has written and edited 11 books as well.
For more information on the Presidential Library, visit: www.usgrantlibrary.org .
Marszalek was the guest of Rotarian Jim Crum.