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Grant's descendant at home in the South page 3
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.
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Date published: 5/3/2009


Not only could Griffiths handle the necessary cataloging, he was an expert in the subject matter.

"He really knew it all," Smith-Christmas recalled.


Griffiths' Spotsylvania living room is wall-to-wall books, and about a quarter of them are about Grant.

The room is hardly a shrine. A print and a small bronze bust are the only Grant likenesses on display.

Griffiths doesn't own much Grant memorabilia, just some of the president's personal rose medallion china that was divided among many descendants. Griffiths' share includes a cup and saucer he has never once drunk from.

He has read a lot about Grant, enough to conclude that the negative assessment of the general's life and career is unfair.

He doesn't believe, for example, that Grant was an alcoholic. As a young officer out west, Grant chose not to drink because he realized that even one drink affected him too much, Griffiths said. His bad reputation probably came from a clash with a superior officer.

"He put that behind him when he came back east," Griffiths said.

It's unfair, too, to blame Grant for sacrificing soldiers' lives to win the war.

"You have to realize that when you are a general, you're going to command people and people are going to be killed," Griffiths said.

And unlike more popular generals in history, Griffiths said, "Grant wasn't flamboyant. As a matter of fact, he was kind of dull."

But dull didn't mean inflexible.

After fighting Lee to a draw at the Battle of the Wilderness, Grant refused to retreat, an unexpected move that proved strategically stunning.

And then he just kept going.

It helped, of course, that he had the industrial strength of the country behind him.

But Griffiths believes Grant's push in the final year of the war leading to the Confederate surrender at Appomattox wasn't merely a triumph of superior resources.

Grant, he says, outgeneraled Lee.

"He was willing to adapt and change his plans," Griffiths said.

The great-great-grandson modestly disavows the personal characteristics that helped his ancestor distinguish himself.

"I lack certain aspects of his temperament--his patience," Griffiths said. "I tend to panic when things don't work out right. He was cool and collected."

Laura Moyer: 540/374-5417
Email: lmoyer@freelancestar.com

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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