General Ulysses Grant was named General-in-Chief of the Army in March 1864, Historian Jean Edward Smith wrote: "The White House had designated a welcoming committee to meet the train and escort him to his hotel, but the arrangements fell through and no was on hand when he arrived on the afternoon of March 8...."
He and his son Fred, 13, checked in Willard's Hotel on March 8, 1864. The travel-weary and unprepossessing union officer was not recognized on signing in and was assigned to an undesirable room on the top floor before the clerk read his signature. Grant simply did not look like the highest-ranking officer in the Union Army.
|Lobby of Willard Hotel|
A chant of "Grant! Grant! Grant!" was soon taking up by the diners, who rushed to his table to congratulate him. When it became evident that a peaceful dinner was out of the question, the general and his son retired to their room.
"That evening, as it chanced, was the occasion of the usual weekly reception at the White House, and thither General Grant went by special invitation," a reporter, Noah Brooks, wrote. "Thither too went throngs of people when it was known that he would be on view with the President. So great was the crowd, and so wild the rush to get near the general, that he was obliged at last to mount a sofa, where he could be seen, and where he was secure, at least for a time, from the madness of the multitude. People were caught up and whirled in the torrent which swept through the great East Room. Ladies suffered dire disaster in the crush and confusion; their laces were torn and crinolines mashed; and many got upon sofas, chairs, and tables to be out of harm's way or to get a better view of the spectacle. It was the only real mob I ever saw in the White House. It was an indescribable scene of curiosity, joy, and pleasure. For once at least the President of the United States was not the chief figure in the picture. The little, scared-looking man who stood on a crimson-covered sofa was the idol of the hour. He remained on view for a short time; then he was quietly smuggled out by friendly hands."