149 Years ago August 7th 1869
Although George Washington spent time in Newburgh (more time in Newburgh at Washington’s Headquarters than any other Headquarters during the Revolutionary War) Ulysses S. Grant was actually the first sitting President to visit Newburgh on August 7th, 1869. Although this occurred in the City of Newburgh this event was big for Villagers far and wide. With only four days for planning after receiving notice the wheels were set in motion.
The Steamer Martin picked up the President at West Point and the entire procession arrived shortly at Newburgh and disembarked.
The Weekly Telegraph August 11, 1869 describes an incredible scene along Water St., Broadway, and Grand St. leading to Washington’s Headquarters.
“A very picturesque line, and a very pretty scene thenceforth it was. The procession would have looked well anywhere, but it appeared to particularly good advantage of Newburgh, the site and plan of which is calculated to set off and redeem the meanest pageant. The scene was simply picturesque, and the people were excited only by curiosity. In the train of the President and Mayor were, besides the firemen and members of various lodges, two or three huge wagons laden with young girls attired in white dresses set off by colored ribbons. They were, of course, the most charming objects in the street, and cheers, withheld while the dignitaries of the day were passing, gushed out in volumes as they went by. Turning from Water street up Broad street (Broadway), the procession ascended to Grand Street, the crack avenue of the city. This street—an avenue of dwellings—is laid out along the verge of almost the highest ground on which the city is built.
It is shaded by magnificent elms, maples, and oaks, and down the vistas of the streets leading to the riverfront, glimpses are had of the Hudson, its sails, and the opposite shores. The procession escorting the President, approaching under the elms down this avenue,- was “as beautiful as a picture.” The whole view down the declivity was like a picture; the people, having
seen the procession pass below, were ascending up every cross street to see the sight over again on the summit: and their hurry, the colors and fashions of their garments, blown about by the breeze, people descending anon from their doorways to join with the throng, tumbles, and little like mishaps on the route, and the cries and movements of children, were all interesting to one’s eyes and ears.”
But the people were not entirely pleased when the President did not rise to the Podium at Washington’s Headquarters but instead chose to just enter the building without speaking.
Grant Visiting Washington’s Headquarters. From Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper August 28, 1869
“And there stood the old stone house, with its sloping roof, just as ‘Washington left it (barring the new paint and divers improvements), and the shed sheltering some links of the historical chain sunk in the Hudson to keep the Britons below. It was a lively, interesting scene. This was the culminating public goal of the procession. Great expectations and singular preparations were made to receive the President becomingly. The escort halted outside; the carriages rolled in and stood awhile in the grounds, so that Mr. Grant could be looked at by the tallest spectators present; and a salute was fired from cannon to the President of the United States. No cheering. Complaints were loud and numerous because the President did not quit his carriage and climb the stand near the house, so that the people could see him. While these complaints arose, the President’s carriage suddenly shot up to the main entrance of the house known as Washington’s Headquarters. Three minutes later, the President and all his party, accompanied by the Mayor, invited guests and reporters, were buried in that edifice, out of sight and hearing of the disgusted populace.”
The Weekly Telegraph, perhaps a little “Tongue in Cheek” summed up the visit as: “The President and those accompanying him expressed themselves highly pleased with their reception and entertainment, and promised to call and see us again. Should the former do so, there will be an opportunity for immortal honor to fall upon the brow of some other Mayor and Common Council.”