The Restoration of General Grant's Cabin at City Point
Petersburg National Battlefield

Grant's Headquarters
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 against it.

For 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.

From 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.

The 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 Battlefield.

Grant's 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 National Battlefield.

Restoring Grant's Cabin
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 deterioration.

The 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.

The 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.

During 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.

The 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.

The 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 park visitors.

Why 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.

Grant 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 Sherman.

Grant's 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.