Restoration of General Grant's Cabin at
When Ulysses S. Grant became General-in-Chief
of the United States Armies in March of
1864, three years of bitter warfare had
passed, yet the Civil War was no closer
to a conclusion than it had been in 1861.
After leading the Army of the Potomac through
battles at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania
Court House, and Cold Harbor, Grant transferred
the army to the south side of the James
River in an effort to seize Petersburg.
When four days of bloody frontal assault
failed to capture the city, however, he
ordered the army to open siege operations
the next nine and one-half months, General
Grant had his headquarters at City Point,
Virginia, eight miles behind Union lines.
A small port town at the confluence of the
James and Appomattox Rivers, City Point
had been connected to Petersburg by a railroad
prior to the war. Its strategic position
next to the railroad bed and the rivers
offered Grant easy access to points along
the front. In addition, the location provided
convenient transportation and communications
with Fort Monroe, Virginia, and Washington
D.C. in the rear. When he arrived at City
Point on June 15, 1864, Grant established
his headquarters in a tent on the east lawn
of Dr. Richard Eppes' home, Appomattox Manor.
his tent overlooking the James River, Grant
issued orders to Union Armies throughout
the nation, coordinating their movements
to ultimately defeat the South. When General
Philip Sheridan battled Confederate forces
in the Shenandoah Valley and William Tecumseh
Sherman marched through Georgia toward the
sea, Grant relentlessly tightened his grip
on Petersburg. He continued to hammer at
Lee's position throughout the summer and
fall of 1864, gradually extending his lines
farther to his left in an effort to sever
the Confederate Army's lines of supply and
thereby drive it from the city. In November
1864, Grant and his staff moved from the
tent into log cabins constructed for them
and prepared to endure the long, cold winter.
Final victory would have to wait until spring.
History of Grant's Cabin
Grant's cabin was built in November 1864
and is the only remaining structure standing
today from a series of 22 log cabins erected
on the east lawn of Appomattox Manor. Despite
the fact that General Grant's cabin was
erected as a temporary barrier against the
long cold winter of 1864-65, it managed
to withstand the harsh conditions it was
subjected to over the years. The cabin has
endured Catergory III hurricane force winds,
termite infestations, and has even been
used by the homeless for shelter at one
time. The cabin has been dismantled and
reconstructed three times and now sits on
its original location in Hopewell, Virginia.
The cabin is now owned and managed by the
National Park Service at Petersburg National
cabin is a primary focal point in the interpretive
theme of the City Point Unit of Petersburg
National Battlefield. General Grant commanded
the entire Union Army from this headquarters
cabin during the later months of the Civil
War. The cabin's exterior is part of the
cultural landscape and provides a visible
link from the Union occupation of 1864-65
through the present day. The interior of
the cabin is furnished with reproduction
period furniture, clothing, and artifacts
known to be in the cabin during Grant's
occupation. Preserving the historical integrity
of Grant's cabin is a primary goal of Petersburg
Essentially, the overall condition of Grant's
cabin was good, but it was classified to
be in fair condition as the result of aggressive
termite infestation during the summers of
1996 and 1997. Termite damage to the right
side of the doorjamb was originally noticed
during routine inspection in the spring
of 1996. Despite certain treatment plans,
the termites continued to cause further
destruction on the cabin the following summer.
The severity of the damage became evident
in the latter part of 1998 when the cabin
also showed signs of decay due to structural
restoration work on Grant's cabin became
a reality through the generous contributions
of the National Park Foundation and the
Aurora Foods Inc., makers of Log Cabin syrup.
Aurora Foods has made a long term commitment
to enhancing the National Park experience
through the National Park Foundation's "Restoration
of America's Log Cabins" program. Their
partnership with the National Park Service
has enabled Petersburg National Battlefield
to preserve one of our country's most significant
historical resources, General Grant's cabin.
project to restore Grant's cabin actually
began with treating the live termite infestation
during the summer of 1999. A portion of
the floor was removed to allow access to
the crawlspace below. The soil around the
perimeter of the foundation was then treated.
After a short period of time, the floor
was repaired and the cabin was reopened
as an exhibit for the following winter.
the winter, materials were secured for the
next phase of the project. Red Oak and Yellow
Pine logs were cut by a local sawyer to
meet exact specifications and were then
delivered to the site. In March, the cabin's
furnishings were treated and the old alarm
system was removed. The existing windows
were also removed for much-needed replacement.
major log replacement began on April 5,
2000. The first step of the project was
an identification and detailed condition
assessment of every log in the structure.
After this process, a specific treatment
for each log was prescribed and logs needing
replacement or consolidation were removed.
Replacement logs were hand-hewn using a
combination of both modern and period tools.
It took a number of different experiments
to find a series of techniques that created
the exact look and tool marks of the original
logs. The logs marked for restoration were
consolidated with epoxies and re-installed.
New logs were soaked in a liquid borax solution
to help protect them against attack by fungus,
rot and insects.
next phase of the project consisted of the
replacement and repair of the front door
jamb, as well as the entire north elevation
gable. Stainless steel wire mesh was placed
between the logs to give them a firm bond.
After the completion of the log restoration
step, the new windows were painted and installed,
and the trim on the rear quarters door was
repaired and replaced. The last phase of
the work was a pressure washing and cleaning
of the entire exterior, including the roof.
Finally, the furnishings were moved back
inside and Grant's cabin was re-opened to
the Restoration Was Important
The restoration of Grant's cabin preserved
both the physical structure of this log
cabin and the stories held within its walls.
Rather than reside more comfortably in Appomattox
Manor, Grant chose to live with his men
and to wear the same simple uniform. Though
it was rustic and primitive, this headquarters
cabin constituted the control point and
focus of a mammoth military war effort.
In addition to being a command center controlling
all war fronts through telegraphic communication,
City Point fulfilled their logistical needs
with its great supply depot, rail and shipping
terminus, and field hospitals.
and his staff received many notable visitors
at the headquarters during their ten-month
stay, including high-ranking political and
military figures from both the North and
South. For Grant, the most pleasurable visits
were those of his wife and children, who
actually resided in the cabin with Grant
for several months. The most famous and
important visitor was President Abraham
Lincoln. Lincoln's second visit began on
March 24, 1865, and lasted two weeks. During
that time, Lincoln met with Grant, General
William T. Sherman, and Admiral David D.
Porter aboard the President's ship, the
River Queen to discuss the military situation.
This meeting established the basis for the
noble surrender terms to be offered the
conquered Confederate Armies by Grant and
log cabin witnessed the final events of
the American Civil War. In it, General Grant
sat at his desk in an overcoat and a broad-brimmed
hat, writing a letter to one of his generals.
Within its walls, a warm reunion took place
between Grant and his wife, Julia, and his
son, Jesse, who visited him at City Point
during the course of the war. The cabin
stood strong, as a great general coordinated
the efforts of the entire United States
Armies to bring the bitter Civil War to
a close. Thanks to the recent renovation
work done to General Grant's Civil War headquarters
cabin, it still stands ready for visitors.
Come visit City Point to learn more about
the great moments in America's history that
took place within its walls.