Grant landed in New York in 1854 poor and forlorn. One day he came into my office and asked for help. He had been staying at the old Astor House and his money was all gone and he had been unable to get anything to do and had no means to reach home. He asked for a loan in order to repay his bills at the hotel and reach his father in Southern Ohio.
I went back to the hotel with him and introduced him to the proprietor of the hotel whom I knew, and I said Captain Grant was a man of honor, and though in hard luck he would see that his bills were paid; I vouched of him and Grant wrote to his people in Ohio and received money shortly thereafter, enough to take him home.
I did not see him again until I met him at Fort Donelson. He came up to me there and after our greeting he said, 'I thought Pillow was in command.' 'He was,' I said. 'Where is he now?' 'Gone,' said I. 'Why did he leave?' 'Well, he thought you would rather have hold of him than any other man in the Southern Confederacy.' 'Oh no,' Grant replied quickly. 'If I had got him I'd let him go again; he will do us more good commanding you fellows.' This made us both laugh, for we remembered Pillow in the Mexican war. The Mexican war was our romance. We were just out of school and campaigning in a strange country, young fellows and it all made a profound impression on us. We remembered every phase of it and delighted to talk about it every time we met. The moment I saw him I said, 'General, as they say in Mexico, This house is yours.'
After I became his prisoner Grant tendered me the use of his purse. I did not accept it, of course, but it showed his generosity and his appreciation of my aid to him years before, which was really very little. I never gave a check to him, this is a forgery. I was in no position to help him at all. I see it stated that my check was for $1,000 and one time $10,000, but it was all a story. You have to be on guard against the uncertainty of tradition.
Grant was a regimental quartermaster during the Mexican War, a man of resource. He was not required to be in battle, but he always was in battle.
The facts of my calling upon Grant in 1885 at Mt. McGregor were these: I wanted him to know the Confederate soldiers appreciated his conduct at every surrender during the war, and after the war in Reconstruction days. My visit was purely personal. The first I realized of its meaning was when the newspaper men crowded around me in New York. Then I began to see the national significance of it. I declined to be interviewed, however and said it was a personal affair between Grant and myself. Soon after this a telegram came from Bishop Newman saying General Grant desires publicity given to your visit. I understood by that that Grant would be pleased to have the world know I called upon him, and I allowed an interview.
Grant said to me at this visit to Mt. McGregor, "The trouble is now made by men who did not go into the war at all, or who did not get mad till the war was over." He was alluding to the trouble of reconstruction.