Ulysses S. Grant




Excerpt from Charles Fowler's Patriotic Orations. NY: Eaton & Mains, 1910

Charles Henry Fowler

It is difficult to analyze General Grant because he is so simple and complete. Like Lincoln he like a sphere; approached from any side he seems always to project farthest toward you. Try to divide, and each section is like all the rest. Cut through him, and he is all the way through alike. He was essentially great in all great matters. General Sherman was once asked by General Rusling, "Why is it that you and Sheridan are always talking about what a great man General Grant is? The people think you and Sheridan are also great men." General Sherman replied, "The chief reason is because he is so. He is the only great military genius the war produced. I know more about books than Grant does. I know more about men and society than Grant does. I know what the books teach about fighting. But Grant has an infallible instinct for victory. Only his genius and his instinct for victory could teach him the things he did on the battlefield.

You can see his genius at Shiloh. Grant came to my tent at the close of the first day, about 10 o'clock and said, 'Sherman, what do you think of this day's work?' I said, 'We have been roughly handled.' Grant replied, 'Yes, but you must remember that we have not been idle.' Well, that's the difference between is. I saw that we had suffered, but not what we had inflicted. Grant saw both."

His memory was faithful and exact. On the field at Shiloh he rode by where two private soldiers were eating their rations. He stopped and said, 'Boys, do you have any to spare?" They said, "Yes, General, you are welcome." He dismounted, sat down, and shared their meal. In the early 1880's, nearly 20 years after Shiloh, an old soldier mounted the steps of a train and stepped onto the platform. General Grant saw him and immediately extended his hand. "McKenzie," he said, "do you remember dividing your rations with me at Shiloh?" I said to him one day: "General, I have heard that at your visit to Colorado, a driver ran his horses down the mountain to stir your nerves, but said after the drive, 'I did all I could do to stir Grant's nerves, but I couldn't stir them.' Is there any truth to that story?" He said, "I do not recalled any peril in the ride, but I do recall this: those horse leading that coach were a span of horses that had carried me over that road 12 years before, and I remembered them. I think that was good after all the things that had come to crowd them out. Don't you?" I thought so too.

I found Grant to be the most delightful, instructive and fascinating conversationalist and in later years, he was undoubtedly the best informed man in the world. He was also always truthful. In the White House one day he was busy and a stranger called. The man on duty, knowing that Grant was busy, said to the servant at the door, "Tell the gentleman that the President is out." Grant overheard it and said: "No, don't tell him that. Tell him I am engaged and must be excused. I never lie myself and I do not want anybody to lie for me."

I know of no more sublime picture than that of Grant in his advancing years, having been betrayed by friends, handing over his fortune, and his home, and his military treasures, to a man who could not possibly want them, simply because he was honest. It is one of the saddest pictures in history. Look at him. Old, war-worn, bidding farewell to his home and its many tokens, gathered from all over the world. See him stand before the portrait of his only daughter, taking his last look, with the tears running down his cheeks, then taking his wife on his arm and walking with her again down the path of poverty, and there sitting with a bandage around his change head, a horrible and mortal disease clutching his throat. My heart feels a great ache when I looked at him who had saved us all when we were bankrupt in treasure and in leaders, and see his thus beset by woes and wants. General Grant as as true a man as ever lived.

I once asked him, "Why do you endure silently? The people will believe what you say." He replied, "My habit of silence is naturally strong. Suppose I deny their falsehoods; it will not take long for witnesses to swear to them. Then the case apparently goes to the public for the evidence. No, I do not fear falsehoods, but if in the things they told the truth about me I would be alarmed and helpless."

General Grant under every test showed the finest qualities of human nature. God mixed him out of the best clay and he was improved by every successive mixing. President Johnson asked him, "At what time can Lee and Beauregard and other leading Rebels be arrested and imprisoned?" Grant replied, "Mrs. President, so long as these men remain at home and observe the terms of their prole you never can do so. The army of the United States stands between these men and you." Charles Sumner asked his cooperation in having a picture of Lee's surrender painted in the rotunda of the capitol. Grant said, "No, gentlemen. While I can prevent it there shall be no picture in the rotunda representing a surrender in which Americans are the humiliated parties." No wonder the South was the first to tender him the nomination of the Presidency. He was preeminently a man of peace.

A tender and touching word of his son, Colonel Frederick Grant, shows the estimate Grant put on rightful living. He told his son on his deathbed, "I had rather see you suffer as I suffer now than see you abandoned to any vice."



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