1865 August 26: General Grant Visits Prescott
The Prescott Journal of August 26, 1865, covered the supposed visit of General Ulysses S. Grant. The Journal never confesses up to their ruse, but The Polk County Press of September 2, 1865, fills us in on the joke:
A JOKE.—The Prescott Journal has a lengthy account of Gen. Grant’s reception at Prescott and the leading spirits are all hugely complimented for the masterly manner in which they performed their different parts. The fun of it is, the General was asleep when the boat passed Prescott, and they did not see him at all.
G E N. G R A N T !
HIS RECEPTION HERE.
Great Enthusiasm Manifested
Remarks by the General, Incidents, &c.
Yielding to the solicitations of the patriotic people of Prescott and St. Paul, Gen. U.S. GRANT, who it will be remembered has been somewhat prominent in connection with the late war, has taken a trip “up the river.”
His reception here was brilliant beyond anything in the previous history of this city, and must have been flattering to the great chief, as it was creditable to ourselves. We can give but a brief outline of the reception, which occurred about 12 o’clock last night.
A scandalous rumor having been put in circulation that the great strategist would attempt to flank this town by going up the channel on the other side of the island, Mr. Mecham [Edgar A. Meacham] was detailed to occupy that channel with a barge. The sagacious soldier did not attempt to flank him, and so the noble Itasca moved straight for our levee.
As the boat came in sight, the blocks on the levee were brilliantly illuminated, bonfires were kindled, and the cannon thundered a welcome. The Democratic levee did itself honor. Nessel had out two rows of Chinese lanterns the whole length of his Hotel, with appropriate mottoes. Beardsley [Joseph W. Beardsley] and Lyford each held aloft a torch, formerly owned by the McClellan club ; while Charley Barnes, his face radiant with joy, had his office gaily illuminated, and stood on the sidewalk with a kerosene lamp in each hand.
As the boat neared the levee, the Glee Club under the lead of Prof. Billings sang,
“Lo, the conquering Hero comes.”¹
Music has charms, in fact it is “the pla_ spel of the sole,” and the music brought Gen. Grant to the bow of the boat. As the boat landed and the plank was run out, he was greeted with three rousing cheers. He attempted to come ashore, but had lost his ticket, and Clerk LEWIS would not let him off without paying his fare, so he leaned against the capstan while the
SPEECH OF WELCOME
was delivered, by Mr. J. M. McKEE, Esq., formerly a prominent officer in the Home Guards. Mr. McKEE stroked his manly beard with becoming dignity and said he felt proud to welcome this great chief to Prescott. He had never before had the pleasure of seeing the victorious leader, as imperative business had kept him from visiting the sunny South during our recent trouble. He made some further appropriate remarks, and closed by telling the General that he could get cigars of excellent flavor at the Book & Variety Store.
Gen. Grant made no speech in response, but easily and gracefully leaning against the capstan,² he indulged in a running talk, the substance of a portion of which we give. He thanked Mr. McKee for the pleasant remarks he had made, especially about the cigars, and told him he might send him a box as a sample. He said that he had heard of many of McKee’s suggestions about the war, and they had been of great service to him. Though he had never before seen but a few of the manly faces before him, yet he had been a careful reader of the “Family Paper,” and felt well acquainted with us all. He asked to be introduced to Dr. Beardsley, and told the Dr. that those Co. Seat resolutions of his, were a very wrong and wicked thing, but he supposed his heart was nearer right than his head, and no doubt he repudiated them now. He forgave him, since he had taken Richmond, (O. T.)
The Gen. was then introduced by his request, to Chas. L. Barnes. Said he, “Squire Barnes, is it true, as I hear that you are going for negro suffrage !” Chas. replied that it was. The Gen. congratulated him, and advised him to fight it out on that line. Said he, “Esq. Barnes, you are young yet, and can still do a great deal to elevate an oppressed race.”
The Gen. then enquired for Barnard, and was told that he had gone to St. Paul, when he replied, “all right, I shall see him there. I understand he was powerful on recruiting.”
The General evidently wished to talk with several others, but just at this time Capt. Webb rang the bell, and said that boat was going to St. Paul, so the General broke of [off?] his remarks, and retired to his room, which was C, ladies’ cabin.
The demonstration was an imposing one, and well calculated to flatter the General, and impress him with a sense of the grandeur of the Northwest.
1. From George Frederic Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus.
2. A capstan is a vertical-axled rotating machine developed for use on sailing ships to apply force to ropes, cables, and hawsers.