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A great-great-grandson of Ulysses S. Grant makes his home in Spotsylvania County--and re-enacts as a Confederate
Date published: 5/3/2009
BY LAURA MOYER
One hundred forty-five years after Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant fought to a draw at the Battle of the Wilderness, one of his great-great-grandsons lives quietly a few miles away in a suburban townhouse.
John Grant Griffiths is a retired federal employee, a self-taught expert on military weapons, and an occasional Civil War re-enactor.
More often than not, Griffiths dons the gray uniform of a Confederate private.
What would his great-great-grandfather, victorious Union commander and 18th president of the United States, think of that?
Griffiths has answered that question before.
"All I can say is, he's not here."
And Griffiths, 70, is.
A bachelor, he has chosen to live for the past 22 years in Spotsylvania County, in the heart of Southern territory, and it suits him.
Work drew him first. After many years as a draftsman for the federal government, he parlayed his extensive knowledge of military weapons into a career change and became curator of ordnance for the former Air-Ground Museum at Marine Corps Base Quantico. He filled that role from 1987 until his retirement in 1998.
And then he just decided to stay.
He's a member of the Rappahannock Valley Civil War Round Table and the Friends of the Wilderness Battlefield, and he re-enacts as either a Confederate or a Union soldier.
He doesn't do battles much anymore because it's hard to get up after falling on the field, but he still enjoys the living-history side of things.
"I turn out once in a while, stand around with my hands in my pockets, drink beer and have a very relaxing weekend," he said with a grin.
He's content to be a private, with no desire for an officer's insignia. And he feels a lot of empathy and respect for the unsung Confederate and Union soldiers he channels in the 21st century.
Young John Griffiths was in fourth grade and flipping through a family photo album when he saw a picture of Ulysses S. Grant and asked his mother about it.
"She said, 'That's your great-great-grandfather. He was President Grant.' I was thrilled."
The president's oldest son, Frederick Dent Grant, was the father of several children, including Ulysses S. Grant III, who was the father of Griffiths' mother, Julia Grant Griffiths.