Ulysses S. Grant




General Grenville Dodge (1831-1916)

Dodge was active throughout the Civil War and was the principal mover in America's booming railroad business. He was the primary motivation behind building the Union Pacific Railway after the Civil War, and in the late 1860's he became fantastically wealthy. Grant visited Dodge's opulent home in Council Bluffs, Iowa several times. Dodge wrote about Grant extensively in his later years and gave several interviews relating to Grant's character as a soldier and a man. Below are Grenville Dodge's recollections:

I got to know General Grant well in October, 1864, at his headquarters in City Point, Virginia. While at City Point I came in continual contact with Grant and General Rawlins (his chief of staff), but I had yet to learn what personal friends they were. It was their custom to sit out in front of the tents around the campfire of evenings until late at night, and a free discussion of the battles and movements was held, which gave a better insight into the operations of the army than could possibly be obtained any other way.

General Grant talked to me freely, told me of his attacks, his partial failures at the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor and Petersburg, and what he expected, and without saying so, let me to think that someone in each instance had been to blame. Finally I innocently asked him who was at fault. He quietly answered, without showing any disturbance, "that had not yet been determined." It reminded me of an earlier discussion I had had with Grant in Nashville, in March, 1864. He had just returned from his first meeting with Lincoln. We were all anxious to hear of his visit to the Army of the Potomac, and his opinion of it, and Sherman soon got him talking about it. He said it was the finest army he had ever seen. He said, however, that the officers told him, "You have not faced Bobby Lee yet," and as he said it, I could see that twinkle in Grant's eye that we often saw there when he meant mischief.

Now, at City Point, I saw the same twinkle in his eyes that I had seen at Nashville and Grant said, "I only claim that after the Wilderness, I took the initiative on the march towards Richmond and that the Army of the Potomac was not longer afraid of Bobby Lee." He had not forgotten our talk with us at Nashville. In the campaign from May 5, 1864 to Appomattox, Grant's army lost over 60,000 men, killed and wounded, and in prisoners and missing over 20,000 - a total of 82,000. This indicates the desperate fighting and appalling results. Under any other commander it would have brought about a halt and discouragement, but under Grant it simply meant more determined efforts. He knew that the enemy's losses were as great as his, and if he continued on the aggressive, sooner or later he would win.

In 1867, while I was building the Union Pacific Railway, General Grant suggested that I should take with me on one of my rail trips John Rawlins, who had been his ablest and most devoted personal friend. He thought the trip would benefit Rawlins who was failing in health (note: he had tuberculosis). The four months Rawlins and I were in camp together were delightful ones to me, for I listened to the story of Grant's campaigns, and no one could describe the chief as well as Rawlins did. He explained Grant's actions in great emergencies, meeting the great obstacles along the way, the almost insurmountable difficulties he had to overcome, but in all the dark days Grant never for one moment lost heart or faith, or doubted the result.

I continued to see Grant throughout his Presidency and he visited me several times with his wife and youngest children. In 1877, Grant started on his trip around the world and I was with him in Paris. Whenever he had an hour to himself, he would come up to my house on the Boulevard Houseman to sit and smoke his cigar, and have a complete rest. We were in the habit of going to the Champs Elysees and sit there watching the crowds. I had with me my youngest daughter, and General Grant would take her and go into the Punch and Judy shows and stay an hour or more with her, and seemed to enjoy it as fully as she did. He was more interested in the people, in what they did, than anything else, and was absolutely opposed to parades and reviews and never wanted to go near any army. He took no interest in military matters of any kind. His visits to the Champs Elysees seemed to be a great relief to him, and changed him from a great General to a simple boy.

During the time General Grant was writing his Memoirs in 1885, I was in the habit of visiting him when I was in New York, and sitting some hours with him. He would often read to me portions of what he had written and he had an extraordinary memory and proved it to me more than once. Grant seemed to maintain himself during the dictating of the last volume of his book by a strong will to live until it was completed. He had shown this determination in the field in times of war.

It is impossible to think of General Grant without mentioning his wife, Julia Dent Grant. She was a devoted wife and after every campaign she visited the General and was welcomed by everyone in his command. She had a kindly, gracious way that captured us. The officers who had annoyances and grievances that they could not take to the General, appealed to Mrs. Grant. She knew which to consider, and which she could not take up with the General, and many an officer could thank her for solving his grievances. We went to her with great confidence in what she could do. There as no soldier who did not love to see her with the army, and who did not regret her departure.

D uring General Grant's administration, his troubles and his sickness, she was always the same. She straightened out many little contentions. After General Grant's death I saw much of her, and was charmed with the great number of incidents she had stored away, and her great memory for what had happened. The nation will never know how much it is indebted to her loyal devotion, and it is a singular fact that in his own home Grant was uneasy and discontented when Mrs. Grant was away. He was devoted and loyal to her and she had a great hold upon his affections.

General Grant as a soldier was modest, retiring, unassuming and easy to approach. He seldom, if ever, showed anger. It was his determination in every battle that won the victory and when his battles are studied it is wonderful to see how he marshaled his forces. They prove that he had the genius for concentrating and fighting. He tied himself with hooks of steel to all those who served under him. People often say he was an enigma, but he really was not. One characteristic he had that is little commented on is that he was actually rather indolent. When we were living in camp and not on campaign, he was indolent. It was hard to get a reply to a letter or dispatch, or get any comfort from him, but the moment he got on his horse to lead a campaign it seemed as though he anticipated all events. His judgment seemed infallible, his decision was made instantly and the answer to a letter was ready the moment he read it.

Grant was so modest and so simple that his own greatness was absolutely forced upon from his very own acts. He was simple in his speech as well. Among his peculiarities of speech was saying "one thing or t'other," slurring the words together in a fashion. The great distinguishing qualities of General Grant were truth, courage, modesty, generosity and loyalty. He was loyal to every cause in which he was engaged - to his friend, his children, his wife and to his country. He absolutely sunk himself to give to other honor and praise to which he, himself, was most entitled. We shall not see his like again.

Note: Regarding Dodge's remark that Grant said "one thing or t'other." A supporting source for this statement can be found in the little known book That Grant Boy (1957, Clyde W. Park). The book accurately chronicles Grant's boyhood in Georgetown, Ohio, and on page 50 it is written: "His informal conversation included some localisms that identified him plainly with his rural background. 'Can't tell one from tother' and similar expression were uttered by him spontaneously and with entire naturalness. Such colloquial language was one of many ties with a past that he never wished to outgrow or forget."



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