When Grant was dying, he considered plans to be buried in three places: West Point (where he graduated from the U.S. Military Academy), New York; Galena, Illinois (his hometown, and the state where he received his first commission as a General), and New York City. West Point was quickly ruled out because his wife wouldn’t have been allowed to be buried next to him.
Despite his poor Presidency, Grant was still a towering figure in the United States — definitely the greatest American at the time of his death and rivaling Washington and Lincoln to many Americans. Because of this, Galena, Illinois seemed to small for a monument to Grant’s heroics. There was briefly talk about having Grant buried at the Soldier’s Home in Washington, D.C., but Grant himself left behind reasons why New York was the most appealing final resting place for him.
After leaving the White House, Grant spent the last years of his life living in New York and, when bad investments and a crooked business partner left him bankrupt, the people of New York City chipped in and helped the Grant family in many ways. To Grant, the people of New York had treated him exceedingly well in his last few years, and he knew that the people of New York appreciated him.
Since New York was also the country’s biggest and most important city, it seemed fitting for the nation’s greatest military hero to be buried there. At first, there were plans to build a large tomb or mausoleum for Grant in Central Park, but it the site eventually picked is its current location overlooking the Hudson River. Many Americans today don’t understand why Ulysses S. Grant has such a massive memorial, but at the time of his death, Grant’s military heroics were second-to-none, including even Washington’s (to Americans who lived through the Civil War) and the people of New York built him a memorial the measured up to his legacy.