Next week, the U.S. Mint will release a new one-dollar coin to honor former president Ulysses S. Grant. You’d probably think that most New Yorkers under the age of twenty would have no interest whatsoever in the life of the Civil War general. But one city teen spends his working hours teaching about Grant. Alex Alper has more.
On a cold afternoon in Upper Westside Manhattan, Huascar Morrell walks down a marble staircase to the final resting place of Mrs. Ullysses S. Grant, President and Civil War legend.
“Alright so downstairs our crypt level, where you can get a closer look to bother sarcophagi which grant, as you first come inside the mausoleum is on the left hand side and his wife is on the right,” says Morrell.
Morrell is a 19-year-old criminal justice student at John Jay College. For the last 11 months he has worked at the General Grant National Memorial. He leads tours and answers visitor questions, on topics ranging from Grant’s alleged alcoholism to more mundane things.
“Where’s the bathroom. That is our number one question. But I’m very happy to tell people where it’s at,” says Morrell.
Grant was America’s 18th president. He made a popular general, but a less successful commander in chief. He served two terms and left office in 1877 poor and unpopular, after corruption scandals rocked his republican administration.
“He wasn’t very good at sizing up his friends. He was very good at sizing up his enemies. Under his presidency people said that he was kinda corrupt, that people under his cabinet were corrupt. This whole military model of not leaving a man behind or getting rid of your boys, that pretty much stuck with him,” says Morrell.
Morrell likes his job keeping watch over a dead president, but his fantasy is to protect a LIVING one — he wants to be a secret service agent. For now, his biggest challenge is keeping his work and his life in balance. Sometimes when he’s hanging out with his friend, he can’t resist talking about the general.
Sometimes I really do. Grant is contagious.