By Michael Tanasi
Located inside of the Connecticut State Capitol building in Hartford is a bronze plaque, known as a memorial tablet, that is dedicated to Ulysses S. Grant. Ulysses S. Grant was a general during the Civil War and the eighteenth president of the United States. The Connecticut Division of the Sons of Veterans, USA (an organization composed of male descendants of Union soldiers, sailors, and marines) commissioned the tablet which was placed in the capitol on October 1, 1916, and officially unveiled three days later.
ULYSSES SIMPSON GRANT A GRANDSON OF NOAH GRANT WHO WAS BORN IN TOLLAND, CONNECTICUT AND SERVED IN THE WAR OF THE REVOLUTION; HE WAS A DIRECT DESCENDANT FROM MATTHEW GRANT, ONE OF THE FIRST SETTLERS OF THE TOWN OF WINDSOR. THIS TABLET IS PLACED BY THE SONS OF VETERANS, U.S.A.. OF THE CONNECTICUT DIVISION, AS A TOKEN OF THE REGARD IN WHICH THEY HOLD THE SERVICES AND MEMORY OF THIS DISTINGUISHED GRANDSON OF THE STATE.
Sons of Veterans, USA
According to a 1935 Hartford Courant article, the Sons of Veterans was founded in 1879 in order to “perpetuate and keep alive the memory of those who gave their lives and their efforts that our country might live,” and was open to all men aged 18 or older who were descended from Union sailors, soldiers, or marines who served in the Civil War. The Sons of Veterans was later officially recognized by the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) at their National Encampment in Denver, Colorado. At the GAR National Encampment in Baltimore in 1882, the GAR authorized the creation of the Connecticut Department of the Sons of Veterans. In 1926 the group officially changed their name to the “Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.”
The History of the Tablet
A document entitled, “Proceedings at the Unveiling of the Ulysses Simpson Grant Memorial Tablet,” details the history of how and why the tablet was created. Charles H. Bissell, delegate to the Sons of Veterans, raised the idea of creating a memorial to General Grant. In his report he requested that the Division Encampment authorize the appointment of a committee to plan and raise money for a monument in honor of Ulysses S. Grant to show the “regard in the Sons of Veterans of the Connecticut Division hold the services and memory of that distinguished grandson of our State, Ulysses Simpson Grant.” The report mentioned that Grant was the grandson of Noah Grant, who lived in Connecticut and fought in a Connecticut company during the Revolutionary War, and a descendant of Matthew Grant, one of the first settlers of Windsor, Connecticut. The encampment authorized the formation of this committee, and on December 1, 1914, Division Commander Allen T. Pratt appointed Charles H. Bissell, Charles W. Roberts, and Ralph M. Grant as members of this committee. The committee issued a report at the 1915 Division Encampment at New Britain suggesting that the monument be a bronze tablet that would be placed in the state capitol, and the committee also showed a full-sized drawing of the tablet’s design to the Encampment. The Encampment approved this suggestion and authorized the committee to raise money to fund the tablet. At the 1916 Division Encampment at New Haven, the committee reported that they had raised half of the money necessary to pay for the tablet and Division Commander William H. Hart suggested that the Division contribute $50 (equivalent to roughly $1,071 in modern currency) from their treasury to help pay for the tablet. The Encampment approved this request and the remainder of the tablet’s cost was paid for through pledges. The Division received the completed tablet from the Gorham Company in June of 1916 and placed the tablet in the state capitol on October 1st of that same year.
Unveiling the Tablet
The tablet was officially unveiled at 2:30 pm on Wednesday, October 4, 1916, before a 350-person crowd that included state officials and members of the Grand Army of the Republic, Woman’s Relief Corps, Sons of Veterans, Sons of Veterans’ Auxiliary, and Daughters of Veterans. Lieutenant Governor Clifford R. Wilson, at that time acting governor of Connecticut because Governor Marcus H. Holcomb was not in the state, gave a speech at the unveiling ceremony. Robert T. Alcorn, Division Commander of the Connecticut Division of the Sons of Veterans, presided over the unveiling ceremony while the Rev. James J. Dunlop, D.D., pastor of the Fourth Congregational Church in Hartford, led the prayer. After the prayer, Charles H. Bissell gave a brief speech and officially presented the tablet to Lieutenant Governor Wilson. Then the tablet was unveiled by Faith Grant, the 10-year-old daughter of Ralph M. Grant (a former commander-in-chief of the Sons of Veterans, a member of the committee that oversaw the efforts to create and raise funds for the tablet, a descendant of Matthew Grant, and a distant relative of Ulysses S. Grant). The closing address was delivered by the Rev. Dr. Harmon P. Rockwell, D.D., pastor of the Center Congregational Church in Hartford.
Michael Tanasi is a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in history at Central Connecticut State University.
This article was published as part of a semester-long graduate student project at Central Connecticut State University that examined Civil War monuments and their histories in and around the State Capitol in Hartford, Connecticut.