In the Lord's Army: The United
States Christian Commission,
Soldiers, and the Union
David A. Raney
AIDED BY A CRUTCH, the aged warrior hobbled to the front of the platform to address a throng of curious and admiring well-wishers. The multitude of nearly ten thousand had gathered in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, on an August afternoon in 1884 for a reunion of the United States Christian Commission and other Civil War benevolent organizations. Speaking only with the greatest of effort and in a voice that faltered, the old hero thanked the Christian Commission for the extensive good it had performed on the field and in the hospital during the late war. "I had special opportunities," said he, "to know of service rendered, of consolations administered by the side of deathbeds; of patient, unwavering attentions to the sick; of letters written to the mourning parents of noble sons." The general's voice cracked and tears began streaming down his cheeks. Ulysses S. Grant could go no further. Overcome with emotion, he was helped to his seat amid thunderous applause. Sadly, Grant's public appearance that day was his last; in less than a year, throat cancer claimed the life of one of America's most celebrated war heroes.1
The Christian Commission to which Grant referred was formed in November 1861, by representatives from several northern branches of the United States Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA).
1New York Tribune, August 4, 1884; Philadelphia Record, August 3, 1884; Jersey
City Evening Journal, August 5, 1884; Robert Ellis Thompson, ed., The Life of
George H. Stuart (Philadelphia: J. M. Stoddart, 1890), 312–13; William S. McFeely,
Grant: A Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1981), 495–96.