In June of 1885, former President and Civil War Hero, Ulysses S. Grant, retreated to Mt. McGregor in the Adirondacks to fight his last fight. Battling throat cancer, Grant weakened considerably in the last few weeks, he was still able to write his memoirs before passing away on July 23, 1885.
On August 5, 1885, soldiers from the 5th Artillery, were dispatched to Mt. McGregor and would become part of history. Batteries comprised of the 5th Artillery stationed in New York at the time, were a band company. Musicians. Their mission on August 5, 1885, was to guard and march the President’s body from the Adirondacks to his resting place in Riverside Park in New York before being moved to the General Grant National Memorial (Grant’s Tomb) in 1897.
George W. Huff first enlisted in the US Army in July of 1878, at only 17 years old even though his father died during the Civil War (July 9. 1862.) Yet, the legacy of service was long and proud for the Huff family as George’s great grandfather, Edmund Huff reportedly served in the American Revolution in Pennsylvania.
On July 21, 1885, George W. Huff married Mary Murphy in Manhattan, NY, only two days before President Grant passed away. Less than a month after his wedding, the young soldier, along with thousands of other military personnel, three living presidents, and a number of Civil War generals marched from Wall Street to Riverside Park in Morningside Heights. The entire funeral procession, which took place from August 6-8, was attended by nearly 1,750,000 people.
On August 8, 1885, “Batteries E and K 5th Art left park at 7:30 and 8…for NY City to participate in the funeral procession of Gen. Grant at NY City…returned to their proper station Fort Schuyler.”
I wonder if George and his company played taps or some other military eulogistic song at any point during the procession or upon their final stop at Riverside Park. It would seem like the artillery companies with the band were selected as part of the honor guard for a reason and that would be to play music.
My great great grandfather may be a side-note to history and pales in comparison to President Grant, but it must have been an amazing honor to take part in such a moment in history. My 2nd great grandfather, George Washington Huff, would serve in the US Army for another 17 years before passing away at the young age of 42. However, for 25 years, his entire adult life, he served this country and though there was no funeral procession for him when he passed, when a hero dies, we all will remember.