Monday, May 3, 2010
The National Park Service, in conjunction with the United States Military Academy at West Point, marked the 188th birthday of Ulysses S. Grant with a special ceremony inside General Grant National Memorial on Tuesday, April 27th.
The annual event is a way for the academy and the NPS to honor a man who was both a noted general and the president who signed the legislation to create Yellowstone National Park, a radical idea in its time. This year’s ceremony not only honored his battlefield accomplishments, but Grant’s support of some of the major Civil Rights legislation in post-Civil War America – the 15th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1875. He work to quell violence against African Americans and to ensure all minority Americans of their basic human rights were also noted.
The day’s speakers included Ulysses Grant Dietz, great-great grandson of Grant, who shared the family’s view of its remarkable ancestor, and Brigadier General William E. Rapp, Commandant of the Corps of Cadets, United States Military Academy, whose brief remarks spoke volumes of his admiration for Grant. The ceremony concluded with wreath laying ceremony accompanied by a 21-gun salute and “Taps” in honor of one of West Point’s most renowned graduates.
In addition to the ceremony, the day featured re-enactors portraying soldiers from the Civil and Mexican-American wars, an encampment, black powder rifle demonstrations and the firing of a Civil War era cannon. Nearly 100 schoolchildren gathered on the plaza in front of the memorial to witness the demonstrations.
“While the National Park Service and the U.S. Military Academy provided the framework for this event, the NPS received tremendous support from the local community, said Tom O’Connell, chief of operations for Manhattan Sites, which oversees General Grant NM. “Savona Bailey-McClain, the executive director West Harlem Art Fund served as our emcee; Rev. Johan Johnson, Ph.D., rector of St. Martin’s/St. Luke’s Episcopal Parish offered the invocation and the benediction; and Darlene Robinson, of the Interchurch Gospel Choir sang the National Anthem. This is just one example of how the site is working with the communities in Northern Manhattan in order to help our neighbors -- young and old --build strong relationships with their local national parks.”