Ulysses S. Grant




Hamlin Garland Papers, Doheny Library, University of Southern California

M. Harrison Strong

Corporal M. Harrison Strong, of the 72nd Illinois Regiment, had fought under Grant at Donelson, Shiloh and Vicksburg, but never had close contact with the General until he was detailed to be acting adjutant on Grant's staff. The following are Strong's thoughts on the character of Ulysses Grant:

I was just a boy when I met General Grant in 1863. I looked at him and he impressed me as a gentleman the first time I saw him. He was a nice man, a good man, a gentleman in every sense of the word. He impressed me as a man of great power and of latent force, and a man who was very well balanced and never flurried. A man who who always knew exactly what he wanted to do without any hesitation.

The first days I would hand him dispatches and he would answer them rapidly, without being annoyed by outside conversation. He was never in a hurry. Let me give an example: Grant had a black body servant named Bill at this time and he annoyed me a good deal. He slipped in one day and stole my feather duster and ran away into the General's tent. I almost ran over General Grant in trying to get Bill. I said, "If you take that again, I will break your neck!" Grant was alone in his tent and never once looked up and never noticed us. He was above anything small and was wholly wrapped up in thought.

At night the General wouldn't sleep much. I would bring in dispatches and find him lying in bed, smoking. I know he was awake many times, waiting for a dispatch that he had to answer and he always did his duty. But he had the power to sleep whenever he wished and slept when it was convenient. Sometimes during the day when everything was going well, he would sleep as much as he wanted without being disturbed.

The General was a man of great vitality and was capable of tremendous endurance. He was physically powerful and I never knew him to be ill long. He impressed me as a small man, however. Sometimes I thought he had a drooping head and sometimes I thought not. There was nothing pompous about him and I never saw him button his coat, unless it was to keep out the cold. All through the war I never noticed him change at all, except to become a little sadder.

He was a great horseman and sat his horse as if he were part of the horse, all one figure. There was never a movement of any description that was not masterful and graceful. No one ever saw him disturbed in any way, that is, jolted or taken unaware on horseback, whether he was going fast or slow. He was a born horseman. He had a natural love for animals of all kinds and he was of kindly instincts, without being demonstrative at all, except to his family. He never abused an animal, never.

He impressed me as a real man, from first to last, but a man who carried weight in life. He felt a terrible responsibility and he expressed it in his face, in every feature. It is in every one of his pictures, in every line of his countenance. Sometimes Rawlins could be hasty with him. I have seen General Rawlins froth and rave and swear at Grant, and he was met with a kind, civil, pleasant reply. I do not think a man has ever lived who was as calm and nice as Grant.

Often I heard criticisms of him while at headquarters, and it jarred my ears almost like sacrilege. General Grant did not surround himself with people to help him command an army, because he did not require it. It was necessary to have a staff, but they never dictated anything to him. But I consider that General Rawlins is deserving of great praise and his memory should be respected. He was a very valuable man to General Grant and they were close. I know that neither fire nor water would have kept Rawlins from Grants side.

Grant was very sensitive as to how others treated him. I do not think anyone else was as observing and sensitive to the way he was treated. He said nothing of it and did not show it to others, but he felt it. He could be cozy and familiar on rare occasions. He was the changeless man and there was hardly any change in his personal appearance. When he was in the office and only one or two of us were there that had his confidence, he would unbend and be somewhat human. Ordinarily he did not seem to be quite human. His mind was wholly on his occupation and duties. He was nearly all the time under pressure and under restraint. He had a wonderful capacity for work, when it had to be done.

The only one I saw that was intimate with Grant aside from his wife and children was Rawlins. The relations that existed between Rawlins and Grant was intimate and personal. Rawlins had a love for Grant, his integrity and his abilities made him a model chief of staff. There was a perfect understanding between the two men. I never saw anyone slap Grant on the back or be familiar with him except Rawlins. For example, cigars were sent to Grant very often and sometimes when he had very good ones he would come into the office and pass them around. I have taken many from him. There was nothing boisterous about it. I would see that he wanted me to take more than I had, and I would take a handful.

Grant generally allowed the man with whom he was conversing to do most of the talking, but not altogether. He just stands apart - apart and distinct from any man I ever read of, or saw, or heard of, or know anything about. He was a man of destiny, out of the ordinary. He had a good sense of humor and when he would tell any of his little jokes, those present would laugh, but he was never boisterous and people weren't inclined to be boisterous around him. But yet he could be funny, laughable, but it seemed his very presence would bar people from taking any undue notice from the remarks he made.

Grant on the battlefield I will never forget. No man was as brave, as fearless or as reckless with his life. At Spottsylvania, I was standing about 20 feet from Grant. I was looking right at him and a shell passed directly over his head. I never could believe it, but the shell passed 3 inches from his ear. He just said, "Hudson, get that shell. Let's see what kind of ammunition they are using." He smoked right on, and never moved a muscle and it was a six pound shell. One of his greatest traits was his perfect willingness to accept responsibility - enormous responsibility - responsibility that any other man in the world would have been glad to get rid of. He was perfectly sure of himself. There was no such thing as failure for him.

Grant never mumbled, he spoke distinctly and he never lolled around to attract any attention. I never heard him raise his voice and he was always alert and the reputation he has of having a "lazy brain" is as far from the truth as you can get. I remember after Appomattox, Grant went out to see some Confederate friends and he came back into the office and said quietly, "Now for Mexico." I was a boy and didn't know what he meant and I did not repeat it for many years. There were four of us in the office and Grant was writing a dispatch and he suddenly looked up with a boyish smile and said, "More of Grant's luck."

Another thing that makes me want to hit someone is this notion of Grant the butcher. Nothing could be further from his character. It was exactly the opposite of what he was inside. His goodness was extreme. But he was always alone, totally alone and seemingly lonesome. He bore a terrific, awful responsibility all by himself.



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