AT WEST POINT TOGETHER - GRANT'S COURTSHIP - THE WAR AND AFTERWARDS
Gainesville, Georgia, July 23 - "He was the truest as well as the bravest man that ever lived," was the remark made by General James Longstreet, when he recovered today from the emotion caused by the sad news of General Grant's death. Gen. Longstreet lives today in two-story house of modern stone, three miles from Gainesville, where, amid his vines and shrubs, he was seen by The Times correspondent. He was dressed in a long and many colored dressing gown; his white whiskers trimmed in the fashion of Burnside's, and he looked little like the stalwart figure which was in the thickest of the fight during the bloody battles in the late war.
Longstreet told us, "Ever since 1839, I have been on terms of the closest intimacy with Grant. I well remember the fragile form which answered to his name that year. His distinguishing trait as a cadet was a girlish modesty; a hesitancy in presenting his own claims; a taciturnity born of his modesty; but a thoroughness in the accomplishment of whatever task was assigned him. As I was of large and robust physique I was accomplished at most larks and games. But in these young Grant never joined because of his delicate frame. In horsemanship, however, he was noted as the most proficient in the Academy. In fact, rider and horse held together like the fabled centaur.
In 1842 I was attached to the Fourth Infantry as Second Lieutenant. A year later later Grant was in the same regiment, stationed at Jefferson Barracks, 12 miles from St. Louis. The friendship formed had never been broken; but there was a charm which held us together of which the world has never heard. My kinsman, Mr. Frederick Dent, was a substantial farmer living near the barracks. He has a liking for army officers, due to the fact that his son, Fred, was a pupil at West Point. One day I received an invitation to visit his house in order to meet young Fred, who had returned, and I asked Grant to go with me. This he did, and of course was introduced to the family, the last one to come in being Miss Julia Dent, the charming daughter of our host. (Note: Longstreet's account of Grant's initial meeting with Julia differs from other primary sources who claim he was not present on that day.) It is needless to say that we saw but little of Grant during the rest of the visit. He paid court in fact with such assiduity as to give rise to the hope that he forever gotten over his diffidence.
Five years later, in 1848, after the usual uncertainties of a soldier's courtship, Grant returned and claimed Miss Dent as a bride. I had been married just six months at that time, and my wife and I were among the guests at the wedding. Only a few months ago Mrs. Grant recalled to me an incident of our Jefferson life that was connected with Gen. Grant's courtship. Miss Dent had been escorted to the military balls so often by Lieutenant Grant that, on one occasion, when she happened to go with him, Lieutenant Hoskins went up to her and asked, with a pitiful expression on his face, "Where is that small man with the large epaulets?"
In 1844, the Fourth Regiment was sent to Louisiana to form part of the army of observation. Here, removed from all society, without books or pamphlets, we had an excellent opportunity of studying each other. I like everyone else always found Grant quiet and doing his duty in a simple manner. His honor was never suspected, his friendships were firm, his hatred of guile pronounced, and his detestation of tale bearers absolute. The soul of honor himself, he never suspected others either then or years afterward.
He could not bring himself to look upon the rascally side of human nature... We frequently engaged in the game of brag and five-cent ante and similar diversions. We instructed Grant in the mysteries of the game, but he made a poor player. The man who won 75 cents in one day was esteemed a fortunate person. The games often lasted an entire day. Years later, I happened to be in St. Louis and there met Captain Holloway and some other army chums. We went into the Planters House to talk over old times, and it was soon proposed to have an old time game of brag, but it was found we were one short of making up a full hand. Then a poorly dressed man in citizens clothes came in and in whom we recognized as our old chum Grant. Going into civil life Grant had been unfortunate, and he was really in needy circumstances.
The next day I was walking in front of the Planters when I found myself face to face with Grant, who, placing into the palm of my hand a 5 dollar gold piece, insisted that I should accept payment of a debt of honor 15 years old. I peremptorily declined to take it, alleging that he was out of service and more in need than I. 'You must take it,' said he. 'I cannot live with anything in my possession that is not mine.' Seeing the determination in the man's face, and in order to save him the mortification, I took the money and shaking hands, we parted. The next time we met was at Appomattox, and the first thing that General Grant said to me when we stepped inside, placing his hand in mine was, 'Pete, let us have another game of brag, to recall the days that were so pleasant.' Great God! I thought to myself, how my heart swells out out to such magnanimous touch of humanity. Why do men fight who were born to be brothers?