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Grant's descendant at home in the South
A great-great-grandson of Ulysses S. Grant makes his home in Spotsylvania County--and re-enacts as a Confederate

 John Grant Griffiths examines a bust of Ulysses S. Grant, his great-great-grandfather. A Spotsylvania County resident for the past 22 years, Griffiths enjoys Civil War re-enacting--and often serves on the Confederate side.
PHOTOS BY MIKE MORONES/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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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.

SELF-TAUGHT EXPERT

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.


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AGE: 70 HOME: Spotsylvania ANCESTRY: Great-great-grandson of Union Gen. and President Ulysses S. Grant BACKGROUND: Grew up in Northern Virginia, has lived in Spotsylvania since 1987; curator of ordnance for former Air-Ground Museum at Marine Corps Base Quantico from 1987 until his retirement in 1998 INTERESTS: Military weapons; Civil War, Revolutionary War re-enacting