NEW HEADQUARTERS *** On September 16, 1964, the files of the Grant Association arrived at the Morris Library of Southern Illinois University. One week earlier, the Board of Directors had voted to transfer headquarters from the Ohio State Museum.
John Y. Simon, executive director and managing editor, has joined the department of history at Southern Illinois while continuing his work for the Grant Association.
The Grant Association was organized in 1962 by the Civil War Centennial Commissions of Illinois, New York, and Ohio. It will complete work on the Grant Papers with the assistance of Southern Illinois University, the Illinois State Historical Society and Library, and other Illinois groups.
The Grant Association expects to have the first volume of the collected works of Ulysses S. Grant ready for publication next year. This volume will include all existing Grant correspondence from his youth to the outbreak of the [pg. 2] Civil War. All Grant letters will eventually be published in a series of approximately fifteen volumes.
The Grant Association is also preparing a new edition of Grants Memoirs and a comprehensive bibliography. It has published a Grant Chronology and will maintain the quarterly Newsletter.
WHAT HIS ENEMIES SAID OF GRANT *** The last newsletter contained the first installment of comments on his grandfather gathered by Major General Ulysses S. Grant 3rd. Below are extracts from a speech delivered on April 27, 1892 by Colonel John S. Wise, son of Governor Henry A. Wise of Virginia, and an officer in the Confederate Army.
Surely no Southerner would take more pleasure than I do in honoring the memory of General Grant, and no place could be more congenial than the city of Philadelphia.My experiences here, at the close of the war were rather unique. I escaped the surrender of General Lee by being the bearer of despatches from him to Mr. Davis. Hearing of Lee’s surrender I journeyed southward and joined Johnston’s army, surrendering with it at Jamestown, and being temporarily out of employment, my military ventures having somewhat miscarried, I came at once to Philadelphia, took up my domicile at the house of General Meade, who married my mother’s sister, foraged on the enemy, and reviewed from time to time, the returning armies of the Union.
Thus, in about two months, I had been in two Confederate and one Union army, and you will understand by that circumstance that I am not sectional or partisan in the [pg. 3] views I entertain as to the events then transpiring….
Dropping this view of personal reminiscence, and bearing in mind the lateness of the hour, let me say as a very humble representative of the Confederate soldier, that, in my judgment, the time has come, and a sufficient period has elapsed for the subsidence of passion, for people on both sides to realize much that they could not appreciate when inflamed by the angry passions of war. I think we may now philosophise somewhat as to the causes and the results of the great struggle which made Grant famous.
As nothing came out as I expected it would I sometimes amuse myself by thinking of what might have happened.
In the first place did it ever occur to you that any man who was on either side in that struggle might easily have been upon the other side?
That sounds absurd but it is not. Think how many Northern men were South and how many Southern men were North, merely through force of the accidental circumstances surrounding them at the outbreak of hostilities. Robert E. Lee and George H. Thomas, were Lieutenant-Colonel and Major respectively, of the same regiment. Both considered long and patiently which side they would take, and where their duty lay. On every theory of probabilities Lee was the man who would remain with the United States Army, and Thomas would go South. By every tradition Lee was a Federalist. The fame of his family had been earned in building up and sustaining the glory of the Union, for which his own blood had been shed in Mexico. He was the pet of General Scott, Commander-in-Chief of the Union Armies, and no favorite of Davis, or Bragg or Hardee, the leaders of the Confederacy. Above all, he was identified in every way with the feelings of that closest of all corporations in America, West Point, and had been taught to yield first allegiance to the Union. Thomas remained in the North. Lee went South. There was no telling, at that time, on which side men would fetch up. Pemberton [pg. 4] and Lovell, both Northern men, cast their fortunes with the South….
The Confederate soldier has come to know Grant as the conscientious, brave, pertinacious upholder of the Union cause, who, fighting to the death for his convictions, was free from all bitterness, and who, when his point had been fully carried, was anxious to forgive and to forget, and to build anew the fabric of fraternal love, without one reminiscent taunt or reproach.
I heard the distinguished Secretary of the Interior speak of Grant as he knew him in his youth. Like him, when I was a boy I knew Grant. But we made his acquaintance in different ways. I first heard his drums beat in the early morning as his interesting army lay in the mists that hung about the beleaguered lines of Petersburg. We believed him to be a mere military butcher, so recklessly bent on carnage that we even hoped his own troops would turn against him for their remorseless slaughter.
I have seen his legions move forward to our assault. I have seen them repulsed, and again have fled before them. He is my old and honored friend, our dearest foe. While war was flagrant we did not fully understand him. It was not until we surrendered to him that we realized how much of noble magnanimity and generosity was mingled with the stern, bloody pluck which crowned him victor.
It was a genuine surprise to see his old foemen, when, almost before they had completed their surrender to him, he seemed more anxious to feed his prisoners from the rations of his own men than he was to secure his captives.
When we expected harsh orders we heard the command that we retain our horses and our sidearms.
When civil prosecutions of our officers were attempted it was our old foe Grant who stood in the breach and demanded that his parole be respected.
And so as the years rolled by the Confederate soldier in his poverty learned to draw near to Grant as his friend, in full assurance that whoever else should chide him for his past there was one great generous heart who held the grimy Johnny Reb as second only to his own brave boys in blue, in right to claim his loving care and tenderness.
Thus it is, Mr. Chairman, that I, not as a citizen of the dead Confederacy, or with any lurking regret as to its fate, but as a true and loyal and loving citizen of the United State of America claim share in this demonstration with privilege of doing honor to myself and to my people, in honoring the memory of Grant.
We have the happiest, the freest, the best nation, that the sun shines upon in his course.
None love it more. None are truer in their allegiance. None more honestly earnest in the hope that it shall be united for all time to come–than the men from whose opposed ranks Grant carved his noble fame, the soldiers of the dead Confederacy.
NEWS NOTES *** The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War has contributed $800 to the Grant Association to further its publishing projects. *** At a meeting held on September 11, the National Historical Publications Commissions approved the following: “RESOLVED that the project for the publication of the papers of Ulysses S. Grant under the auspices of the Ulysses S. Grant Association and Southern Illinois University is regarded by the National Historical Publications Commission as a well-conceived documentary publication deserving of professional and financial assistance from all, in a position to give it.” *** Northwestern [pg. 6] University Press has published Grant, Lee, Lincoln and the Radicals: Essays on Civil War Leadership, edited by Grady McWhiney. This is the product of a Civil War Centennial Symposium at Northwestern and contains a discussion by Bruce Catton of “The Generalship of Ulysses S. Grant” in which Grant’s flexibility and clear overall view of the war explain his success. “The complaint that Grant succeeded only because he had superior numbers is pointless,” says Catton: “The superior numbers were part of the equation all along. It was Grant who took advantage of them…” The symposium also included “The Generalship of Robert E. Lee,” by Charles P. Roland; “Devils Facing Zionwards,” by David Donald; and “Lincoln and the Radicals: An Essay in Civil War History and Historiography,’ by T. Harry Williams. Vice President of the Grant Association. *** Lincoln’s Gadfly, Adam Gurowski, by Le Roy H. Fischer, published by the University of Oklahoma Press, is the first biography of this leading Civil War radical. Fischer, who began his scholarly career by editing Grant’s letters concerning his St. Louis farm, received the 1963 Literary Award of the Pennsylvania Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion for his study of Gurowski. *** Charles D. Tenney, Vice President of Southern Illinois University, has been elected to the Board of Directors of the Grant Association. Fred J. Milligan has resigned. George W. Adams, Chairman of the Department of History of Southern Illinois University, has been elected to the editorial board.
[pg. 7] GRANT AND LONGSTREET *** One year ahead of Ulysses Grant at West Point was James Longstreet, a tall Georgian who graduated third from the bottom of his class and then was assigned to the Fourth Infantry at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis. Nearby lived his kinsman, Frederick Dent, related to Longstreet’s mother, Mary Anne Dent, since they were descended from two brothers, George and Peter Dent of Charles County, Maryland.1 The Dents were a hospitable family with a comfortable estate, White Haven, a few miles outside St. Louis, and children close to Longstreet in age: one son, Fred, was at West Point in the class one year behind Longstreet.
After Longstreet had been in St. Louis for one year, the next West Point class provided additional officers for Jefferson Barracks. Fred Dent had gone elsewhere, but his roommate, a shy and frail brevet second lieutenant named Grant, soon was introduced to the comforts of White Haven. Grant made frequent visits and heard much about the Dent’s oldest daughter, Julia, who was spending the winter in St. Louis with friends of the family so that she could enjoy a fuller social life than could be found at White Haven. When she returned, she and Grant fell in love. Longstreet’s recollection that he introduced Grant to his future wife was probably incorrect; yet he had been a close friend of [pg. 8] both during their courtship.2
Grant and Longstreet were also together when the Fourth Infantry was sent to the Southwest before the Mexican War. Longstreet remembered the theatricals designed to break the tedium at Corpus Christi in which Grant was to play Desdemona until the proposed Othello insisted that an actress be brought from New Orleans.3
Grant’s first opportunity to meet Longstreet in battle would have come at Chattanooga in 1863 had not Bragg unwisely detached his force for a drive on Knoxville. By the end of the year Bragg had been thrown back into Georgia while Longstreet still caused consternation in Tennessee. Grant’s Christmas visit with his wife in Nashville was cut short by news of Longstreet. “Now Ulysses,” said Julia, “you know that you are not going to hurt Longstreet.” “I will if I can get him,” was the reply, “he is in bad company.”4 But Longstreet was able to rejoin Lee with his army intact; the first encounter came in the Wilderness, where Longstreet was so severely wounded that he was unable to rejoin Lee until late in the war.
Grant remembered Longstreet in Mexico as “a fine fellow and one of the best of the young officers.” In contrasting Longstreet with Bragg, Grant called him “brave, honest, intelligent, a very capable soldier, subordinate to his superiors, but jealous of his own rights which he had the courage to maintain.”5
In later years Longstreet often spoke admiringly of Grant’s generalship. As the most prominent Confederate to join the Republican Party and hold office under the Grant administration, Longstreet was on bad terms with his former associates, and his praise of Grant balanced criticism of Lee. Years after the war, Longstreet told Grant’s former staff officer, Horace Porter, that when news was received at Lee’s headquarters that Grant would assume personal [pg. 9] direction of the Army of the Potomac, he had said, “We cannot afford to underrate him.”6 At the time, however, Longstreet had done just that, telling Lee, “I do not think that he is any better than Pope.”7
Indeed, many of Longstreet’s recollections of Grant appear to be colored by his postwar role. Of the prominent Confederate leaders Longstreet surrendered most abjectly (albeit profitably) to his former foes.8 Immediately after Grant’s death in 1885, Longstreet gave an interview to The New York Times which is reprinted below with notes referring to other reminiscences of the same incidents by Longstreet.9
“He was the truest as well as the bravest man that ever lived,” was the remark made by Gen. James Longstreet, when he recovered to-day from the emotion caused by the sad news of Gen. Grant’s death. Gen. Longstreet lives in a two-story house of modern style about three miles from Gainesville, where, amid his vines and shrubs, he was seen by The Times’s correspondent. He was dressed in a long and many colored dressing gown; his white whiskers were trimmed after the pattern of Burnside’s, and he looked little like the stalwart figure which was ever in the thickest of the fight during the bloody battles of the late war.”Ever since 1839,” said he, “I have been on terms of the closest intimacy with Grant. I well remember the fragile form which answered to his name in 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 at the head of most larks and games. But in these young Grant never joined because of his delicate frame.l0 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 Grant joined the same regiment, stationed in that year at Fort Jefferson, 12 miles from St. Louis. The ties thus formed have 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 Fort Jefferson. He had 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 just 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. 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 had 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 his bride. [pg. 10] I had been married just six months at that time, and my wife and I were among the guests at the wedding.11 Only a few months ago Mrs. Grant recalled to my memory 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 Lieut. Grant that, on one occasion, when she did not happen to go with him, Lieut. Hoskins went up to her and asked, with a pitiful expression on his face: ‘Where is that small man with the large epaulets?’12
“In 1844 the Fourth Regiment was ordered to Louisiana to form part of the army of observation. Still later we formed part of the army of occupation in Corpus Christi, Texas. Here, removed from all society without books or papers, we had an excellent opportunity of studying each other. I and every one else always found Grant resolute and doing his duty in a simple manner. His honor was never suspected, his friendships were true, his hatred of guile was pronounced, and his detestation of tale bearers was, I may say, absolute. The soul of honor himself, he never even suspected others either then or years afterward. He could not bring himself to look upon the rascally aide of human nature.
“While we remained in Corpus Christi an incident illustrating Grant’s skill and fearlessness as a horseman occurred. The Mexicans were in the habit of bringing in wild horses, which they would sell for two or three dollars. These horses came near costing more than one officer his life. One day a particularly, furious animal was brought in. Every officer in the camp had declined to purchase the animal except Grant, who declared that he would either break the horse’s neck or his own. He had the horse blindfolded, bridled, and saddled, and when firmly in the saddle he threw off the blind, sunk his spurs into the horse’s flanks, and was soon out of sight. For three hours he rode the animal over all kinds of ground, through field and stream, and when horse and rider returned to camp the horse was thoroughly tamed.13 For years afterward the story of Grant’s ride was related at every camp fire in the country. During the Mexican war we were separated, Grant having been made Quartermaster of the Fourth Regiment, while I was assigned to duty as Adjutant of the Eighth. At the Battle of Molino del Rey, however, I had occasion to notice his superb courage and coolness under fire. So noticeable was his bearing that his gallantry was alluded to in the official reports.14
“In the long days of our stay in Louisiana and Texas,” continued Gen. Longstreet, “we frequently engaged in the game of brag and five-cent ante and similar diversions. We instructed Grant in the mysteries of these games, but he made a poor player. The man who lost 75 cents in one day was esteemed in those times a peculiarly unfortunate person. The games often lasted an entire day. Years later, in 1858, I happened to be in St. Louis, and there met Capt. Holloway and other army chums. We went into the Planters’ Hotel to talk over old times, and it was soon proposed to have an old-time game of brag, but it was found that we were one short of making up a full hand. ‘Wait a few minutes,’ said Holloway, ‘and I will find some one.’ In a few minutes he returned with a man poorly dressed in citizen’s clothes and in whom we recognized our old friend 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 again with Grant who, placing in the palm of my hand a five-dollar gold piece, insisted that I should take it in payment of a debt of honor over 15 years old. I peremptorily declined to take it, alleging that he was out of the service and more in need of it than I. ‘You must take it,’ [pg. 11] said he, ‘I cannot live with anything in my possession which is not mine.’ Seeing the determination in the man’s face, and in order to save him mortification, I took the money, and shaking hands we parted.
“The next time we met,” said Gen. Longstreet, “was at Appomattox, and the first thing that Gen. Grant said to me when we stepped [a]side, placing his army in mine, was: ‘Pete, (a sobriquet of mine,) let us have another game of brag, to recall the old days which were so pleasant to us all.’ Great God! thought I to myself, how my heart swells out to such a magnanimous touch of humanity! Why do men fight who were born to be brothers?
“During the war my immediate command had engaged the troops of Grant but once–at the battle of the Wilderness. We came into no sort of personal relations, however. In the Spring of 1865, one day, while awaiting a letter from Gen. Grant, Gen. Lee said to me, ‘There is nothing ahead of us but to surrender.’ It was as one of the Commissioners appointed to arrange the terms of peace that I met Gen. Grant at Appomattox. His whole greeting and conduct toward us was as though nothing had ever happened to mar our pleasant relations.15
“In 1866 I had occasion to visit Washington on business, and while there made a call of courtesy on Gen. Grant at his office. As I arose to leave he followed me out into the hallway, and asked me to spend an evening with his family. I thanked him, promising compliance, and passed a most enjoyable evening. When leaving Grant again accompanied me into the hallway and said: ‘General, would you like to have an amnesty?’ Wholly unprepared for this I replied that I would like to have it, but had no hope of getting it. He told me to write out my application and to call at his office at noon the next day, and in the meantime he would see President Johnson and Secretary of War Stanton on my behalf. When I called he had already seen these men, and assured me that there was not an obstacle in the way. He indorsed my application by asking that it be granted as a special personal favor to himself.
“In the January before he was inaugurated President for the first time I paid him a passing friendly visit. He then said to me: ‘Longstreet, I want you to come and see me after I am inaugurated, and let me know what you want.’ After the inauguration I was walking up the avenue one day to see him when I met a friend who informed me that the President had sent in my name for confirmation as Surveyor of the Port of New-Orleans. For several weeks the nomination hung in the Senate, when I went to Grant and begged him to withdraw the nomination, as I did not want his personal friendship for me to embarrass his Administration. ‘Give yourself no uneasiness about that,’ he said, ‘the Senators have as many favors to ask of me as I have of them, and I will see that you are confirmed.”
“From what I have already told you,” said Gen. Longstreet, in conclusion, “it will be seen that Grant was a modest man, a simple man, a man believing in the honesty of his fellows, true to his friends, faithful to traditions, and of great personal honor. When the United States District Court in Richmond was about to indict Gen. Lee and myself for treason, Gen. Grant interposed and said: ‘I have pledged my word for their safety.’ This stopped the wholesale indictments of ex-Confederate officers which would have followed. He was thoroughly magnanimous, was above all petty things and small ideas, and, after Washington, was the highest type of manhood America has produced.”
[pg. 12] On April 24, 1899, Mrs. Mary Louise Littleton spoke to Longstreet about Grant and transcribed his comments. Some years later, Mrs. Littleton sent her interview to Major-General Ulysses S. Grant, 3rd, who has supplied a copy to the Newsletter.
The fame of Grant is of the kind that endures. Times will reveal more distinctly the strong, simple, massive grandeur of his character and career. The 20th century will nationalize more and more its heterogeneous civilization and will nationalize its heroes, and Grant will hold a place with Washington in the hearts of his countrymen. His military genius was of the highest order. He is of the class and kind of Julius Caesar and Napoleon Bonaparte, superior to them in that his military achievements were actuated by the purest patriotism. The victorious leader of a mighty army, he was guilty of none of the excesses of Napoleon; “Let us have Peace” were words of sincerity–spoken by one who accomplished mighty deeds without ostentation, content with having done his duty. My friendship for Grant began at West Point and continued unbroken even by the Civil War to the day of his death. At West Point he concealed under an excessive modesty those qualities which later led to eminence in peace and war. Personally Grant was a warm-hearted, lovable friend, a magnanimous opponent. More than any man of the century he embodied in his character the genius of the American people; loyalty to the Constitution, tireless activity, executive power and swiftness and profound respect for American citizenship. His greatness was marked by a modesty of mind and manner that never forsook him, a modesty so noticeable as to win for him the appellation of ‘the silent man of destiny.” His life taken as a whole was rounded and complete. Victorious as a soldier, eminent as a statesman, honored as a private citizen with the salutations of the world, happy in his domestic relationship, he closed his long and brilliant career as the historian of the era he so largely shaped.
2. James Longstreet, From Manassas to Appomattox (Philadelphia, 1896), 18.
3. Ibid., 20.
4. Helen D. Longstreet, Lee and Longstreet at High Tide (Gainesville, Ga., 1904), 196.
5. John Russell Young, Around the World with General Grant (N.Y., 1879), II, 212; Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant (N.Y., 1885-1886), II, 86-87.
6. Horace Porter, Campaigning with Grant (N.Y., 1897), 46-47.
7. Longstreet to Lee, April 2, 1864, O.R., I, XXXII, 3, 737.
8. An account of Grant-Longstreet postwar relations will appear in a future Newsletter.
9. Printed July 24, 1885.
10. James Grant Wilson, General Grant (N.Y., 1897), 29-30.
11. Longstreet, Lee and Longstreet, 101. See Lloyd Lewis, Captain Sam Grant (Boston, 1950), 285; Sanger and Hay, Longstreet, 13.
12. Longstreet, Manassas to Appomattox, 18.
13. Wilson, General Grant, 69-7l; Longstreet, Lee and Longstreet, 140-141.
14. See Speech of Senator Pomerene, Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly, XXXI, 3 (July, 1922), 268.
15. Longstreet, Manassas to Appomattox, 630; Longstreet, Lee and Longstreet 102-103.
[pg. 13] NEWS NOTES *** Bell I. Wiley, Professor of History at Emory University, has been appointed Harmsworth Professor in American History at Oxford University for 1965-1966. Wiley is a member of the editorial board of the Grant Association, as is Allan Nevins, the current Harmsworth Professor. *** President Lyndon Johnson commemorated Lincoln’s birthday with a luncheon at the White House. A sizeable Grant delegation was headed by Major General Ulysses S. Grant 3rd. Those from the Grant Association included Bruce Catton, Carl Haverlin, David C. Mearns, Ralph G. Newman, James I. Robertson, Clyde C. Walton, Harold M. Hyman, Bell I. Wiley, T, Harry Williams, and John Y. Simon. Some one hundred guests heard a thoughtful address by the President in the East Room, adjourned to luncheon in the State Dining Room, visited the Lincoln Room with Mrs. Johnson as guide, and accompanied the President to a wreath-laying ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial. *** The final Assembly sponsored by the U. S. Civil War Centennial Commission will be held May 1-May 4 in Springfield, Illinois. Information on the meeting and a full program can be obtained from the Illinois Civil War Centennial Commission, Centennial Building, Springfield, Illinois. *** George R. Jones of Chicago is the author of a recently published biography of his grandfather, Joseph Russell Jones. Based on manuscripts and scrapbooks still in the possession of the family, as well as considerable [pg. 14] additional material in the Library of Congress, Chicago Historical Society, and elsewhere, this is the first biography of a major figure in the Grant story. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Jones was a leading Republican of Galena, Illinois. Lincoln appointed him United States Marshal for the Northern District of Illinois. During the Civil War be worked to advance the military and personal fortunes of General Grant, who later appointed him Minister to Belgium. Working with the editorial assistance of Richard Penn Hartung, George Jones has probed deeply into a complex career. Copies of a handsome paperbound edition of the 93-page book at $2.00, and a few hardbound copies at $4.00 are available from the Galena Historical Society, Galena, Illinois.
GRANT AT THE RANDOLPH HOUSE *** About noon on April 7, 1865, General Grant and his staff arrived in Farmville, Virginia. The Union army had been pressing the Confederates closely ever since the evacuation of Richmond and Petersburg give days earlier. Grant spent the night in a room in the Randolph House which he was told (probably incorrectly) was used by Lee the night before.
Last spring a group headed by Joseph E. Wood of Farmville was renovating the Randolph House (later called the Prince Edward Hotel) for centennial observances, when the structure collapsed. A committee called Randolph Rouse, Inc. has been established which will place a stone marker on the site of the hotel. The committee has published an extensively illustrated 42-page booklet, From Sayler’s Creek to Appomattox, written by Scott Hart, of Washington, who was born and raised in Farmville and was formerly on the staff of the U.S. Civil War Centennial Commission. Copies are available for $1.35 from Randolph House, Inc., P.O. Box 528, Farmville, Virginia.
A little before noon on April 7, 1865, General Grant, with his staff, rode into the little village of Farmville, on the south side of the Appomattox River, a town that will be memorable in history as the place where he opened the correspondence with Lee which, two days later, led to the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia. He drew up in front of the village hotel, a comfortable brick building, dismounted, and established headquarters on its broad piazza. News come in that Crook was fighting large odds with his cavalry on the north side of the river, and I was directed to go to his front and see what was necessary to be done to assist him. I found that he was being driven back, the enemy (Munford’s and Rosser’s cavalry divisions under Fitzhugh Lee) having made a bold stand north of the river. Humphreys was also on the north side, isolated from the rest of our infantry, confronted by a large portion of Lee’s army, and having some heavy fighting. On my return to general headquarters that evening, Wright’s corps was ordered to cross the river and move rapidly to the support of our troops there. Notwithstanding their long march that day, the men sprang to their feet with a spirit that made every one marvel at their pluck, and come swinging through the main street of the village with a step that seemed as elastic as one the first day of their toilsome tramp. It was now dark, but they spied the general-in-chief watching them with evident pride from the piazza of the hotel as they marched past. Then was witnessed one of the most inspiring scenes of the campaign. Bonfires were lighted on the sides of the street; the men seized straw and pine-knots, and improvised torches; cheers arose from their throats, already hoarse with shouts of victory; bands played, banners waved, and muskets were swung in the air. A regiment now broke forth with the song of “John Brown’s body,” and soon a whole division was shouting the swelling chorus of that popular air, which had risen to the dignity of a national anthem. The night march had become a grand review, with Grant as the reviewing officer.Ord and Gibbon had visited the general at the hotel, and he had spoken with them, as well as with Wright, about sending some communication to Lee that might pave the way to the stopping of further bloodshed. Dr. Smith, formerly of the regular army, a native of Virginia, and a relative of General Ewell, now one of our prisoners, had told General Grant the night before that Ewell had said in conversation that their cause was lost when they crossed the James River, and he considered that it was the duty of the authorities to negotiate for peace then, while they still had a right to claim concessions, adding that now they were not in condition to claim anything. He said that for every man killed after this somebody would be responsible, and it would be little better than murder. He could not tell what General Lee would do, but he hoped that he would at once surrender his army. This statement, together with the news that had been received from Sheridan, saying that he had heard that General Lee’s trains of provisions, which had come by rail, were at Appomattox, and that he expected to capture them before Lee could reach them, induced the general to write the following communication:
HEADQUARTERS, ARMIES OF THE U.S.
5 P.M., April 7, 1865
General R. E. Lee, Commanding C.S.A.:The results of the last week must convince you of the hopelessness [pg. 16] of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia on this struggle. I feel that it is so, and regard it as my duty to shift from myself the responsibility of any further effusion of blood by asking of you the surrender of that portion of the Confederate States army known as the Army of Northern Virginia.
U. S. GRANT
This he intrusted to General Seth Williams, adjutant-general, with directions to take it to Humphrey’s front, as his corps was close up to the enemy’s rear-guard, and see that it reached Lee. William’s orderly was shot, and he himself came near losing his life in getting this communication through the lines. General Grant decided to remain all night at Farmville and await the reply from Lee, and he was shown to a room in the hotel in which he was told that Lee had slept the night before, although this statement could not be verified. Lee wrote the following reply within an hour after he received General Grant’s letter, but it was brought in by a rather circuitous route, and did not reach its destination till after midnight:
April 7, 1865GENERAL: I have received your note of this date. Though not entertaining the opinion you express of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia, I reciprocate your desire to avoid useless effusion of blood, and therefore, before considering your proposition, ask the terms you will offer on condition of its surrender.
LIEUTENANT-GENERAL U.S. GRANT,
Commanding Armies of the U.S.
The next morning, before leaving Farmville, the following reply was given to General Seth Williams, who again went to Humphrey’s front to have it transmitted to Lee:
April 8, 1865
GENERAL R. E. LEE, Commanding C. S. A.:Your note of last evening, in reply to mine of the same date, asking the conditions on which I will accept the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, is just received. In reply would say that, peace being my great desire, there is but one condition I would insist upon–namely, that the men and officers surrendered shall be disqualified for taking up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged. I will meet you, or will designate officers to meet any officers you may name for the some purpose, at any point agreeable to you, for the purpose of arranging definitely the terms upon which the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia will be received.
The last sentence shows great delicacy of feeling on the part of General Grant, who wished to spare General Lee the mortification of personally conducting the surrender. The consideration displayed has a parallel in the terms accorded by Washington to Cornwallis at Yorktown. Cornwallis took advantage of the privilege, and sent O’Hara to represent him; but Lee rose superior to the British general, and in a manly way came and conducted the surrender in person.
[pg. 17] There turned up at this time a rather hungry-looking gentleman in gray, wearing the uniform of a colonel, who proclaimed himself the proprietor of the hotel. He gave us to understand that his regiment had crumbled to pieces; that he was about the only portion of it that had succeeded in holding together, and he thought he might as well “stop off” at home and look after his property. It is safe to say that his hotel had never before had so many guests in it, nor at such reduced rates. His story was significant as indicating the disintegrating process which was going on in the ranks of the enemy.
WHAT HIS ENEMIES SAID OF GRANT *** This is the fourth installment of comments on his grandfather gathered by Major General Ulysses S. Grant 3rd.
On May 30, 1892, Colonel Charles Marshall, the single staff officer General Lee took with him to the surrender and the only Confederate officer who was an eye-witness of the historical conference in the McLean house, said, in a prepared speech:
The day after the meeting at McLean’s House, at which the terms of surrender had been agreed upon, another interview took place between General Grant and General Lee upon the invitation of General Grant…. The conversation turned on the subject of a general peace, as to which General Grant had already declared the want of power to treat, but in speaking of the means by which a general pacification might be effected General Grant said to General Lee, with great emphasis and strong feeling: “General Lee I want this war to end without the shedding of another drop of American blood.” Not “Northern” blood, not “Southern” blood, but “American” blood, for in his eyes all the men around him and all those who might be then confronting each other on other fields over the wide area of war were “Americans.”On that eventful morning of April 9th, 1865, General Grant was called upon to decide the most momentous question that any American soldier or statesman has ever been required to decide.
The great question was: How shall the war end? What shall be the relations between the victors and the vanquished? Upon the decision of that question depended, as I believe, the future of American institutions.
If the extreme rights of military success had been insisted upon, and had the vanquished been required to pass under the yoke of defeat and bitter humiliation, the war would have ended as a successful war of conquest–the Southern States would have been conquered states, and the Southern people would have been a conquered people, in whose hearts would have been sown all: the enmity and ill-will of the conquered to the conquerors, to be transmitted from sire to son.
With such an ending of the war there would have been United States without an united people….
Southern military power was exhausted. He was in a position to exact the supreme rights of a conqueror and the unconditional submission of his adversary unless that adversary should elect to risk all on the event of a desperate battle, in which much “American” blood would certainly be shed.
[pg. 18] I will say here that the question was gravely considered in Confederate Councils, whether we should not accept the extreme risk and cut our way through the hosts of General Grant or perish in the attempt.
This plan had many advocates, but General Lee was not one of them, as will be seen by his farewell order to his army.
Under such circumstances General Lee and General Grant met to discuss the terms of the surrender of General Lee’s army, and at the request of General Lee, General Grant wrote the terms of surrender he proposed to offer to the Confederate General. They were liberal and honorable alike to the victor and the vanquished, and General Lee at once accepted them. Any one who reads General Grant’s proposal cannot fail to see how careful he is to avoid unnecessary humiliation to his adversary. As far as it was possible, General Grant took away the sting of defeat from the Confederate army. He triumphed, but he triumphed without exultation, and with a noble respect to his enemy.
There was never a nobler knight than the Grant of Appomattox–no knight more magnanimous or more generous. No statesman ever decided a vital question more wisely, more in the interest of his country and of all mankind than General Grant decided the great question presented to him when he and General Lee met that morning of April 9, 1865, to consider the terms of the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia.
The words of his magnanimous proposal to his enemy were carried’ by the Confederate soldiers to the farthest borders of the South. They reached ears and hearts that had never quailed at the sound of war. They disarmed and reconciled those who knew not fear, and the noble words of General Grant’s offer of peace brought peace without humiliation, peace with honor.
General Grant 3rd himself contributes this account–
Many years ago, about 1926, a very gentle, charming old lady called at my office in the Navy Building. She said she was from Mississippi and wished before she died to tell same member of our family her experience with General Grant. During the Vicksburg campaign, when she was still a young girl, he had occupied the first floor of her family’s home for a few days, the family being left entire use of the upper floors and kitchen. One day she had been coming through the hall with a tray of food, when unexpectedly and much to her terror, she met the Union General in the hall with all escape cut off. He had rather insistently asked her what the tray was for and, trembling, she had to admit that it was for her brother, and that he was a Confederate officer who had been wounded and had come home to recover. The family had been hiding him in the cellar and had suffered tortures of fear lest he be discovered, not knowing what his fate might be. She was greatly surprised to have the General immediately arrange for him to be carried upstairs and treated by the Headquarters surgeon. They had all felt the greatest gratitude and relief at such kindness and consideration, and being 83 years old she had become very worried for fear that she would pass away without a chance to tell some member of his family what a grand and generous foe General Grant was.
[pg. 19] THREE DOUBTFUL GRANT LETTERS *** Early letters of Ulysses S. Grant are rarely found because nobody realized their historical importance before Grant became a general in the Civil War. The earliest known letter from Grant to his father dates from 1856, and no letter to his mother is known. Virtually all of Grant’s existing personal letters prior to the Civil War are addressed to his fiancee and wife, Julia Dent Grant. Three purported Grant letters to his parents, however, are printed in The Tanner-Boy: A Life of General U. S. Grant by Major Penniman, published in 1864 in Boston.
“Major Penniman” was the pseudonym of Charles Wheeler Denison (1809-1881), a newspaperman and clergyman born in New London, Connecticut. He was the editor of the Emancipator, an antislavery journal published in New York. During the Civil War he spoke for the North to the mill workers of Lancashire, England, and spent the last two years of the war as post chaplain at Winchester, Virginia, and hospital chaplain in Washington.
Denison published a volume of poetry in 1845, and for the rest of his life was a prolific writer of uplifting novels and biography. During the Civil War he wrote juvenile biographies of General Grant (The Tanner-Boy), General Nathaniel P. Banks (The Bobbin Boy), and General Winfield Scott Hancock (Winfield, the Lawyer’s Son), as well as an adult biography of General Sheridan. “Major Penniman” was the name he used for children’s books. His wife, Mary Andrews Denison, who served as a hospital nurse [pg. 20] while her husband was a chaplain, wrote approximately sixty novels, mostly of the Sunday School variety. Almost forgotten today, the Denisons were once extremely popular writers, with Mrs. Denison generously represented in the dime novel series published by Beadle.
The Tanner-Boy was apparently successful, for the publishers reprinted it as late as 1896 with “Tenth Thousand” on the title-page. The early Grant letters were printed in The National Republican on November 5, 1879, and used by William Ralston Balch in a biography of Grant published in 1885. They were quoted by Hamlin Garland in an 1898 Grant biography and by Lloyd Lewis in 1950 in Captain Sam Grant. Below are the letters as they appeared in The Tanner-Boy.
My dear Mother,–I have occasionally been called to be separated from you; but never did I feel the full force and effect of this separation as I do now. I seem alone in the world, without my mother. There have been so many ways in which you have advised me, when, in the quiet of home, I have been pursuing my studies, that you cannot tell how much I miss you. When I was busy with father in the tannery and on the farm, we were both more or less surrounded by others, who took up our attention, and occupied our time. But I was so often alone with you, and you spoke to me so frequently in private, that the solitude of my situation here at the academy, among my silent books and in my lonely room, is all the more striking: it reminds me all the more forcibly of home, and most of all, my dear mother, of you. But, in the midst of all this, your kind instructions and admonitions are ever present with me. I trust they may never be absent from me, as long as I live. How often I think of them! and how well do they strengthen me in every good word and work!My dear mother, should I progress well with my studies at West Point, and become a soldier for my country, I am looking forward with hope to have you spared to share with me in any advancement I may make. I see now, in looking over the records here, how much American soldiers of the right stamp are indebted to good American mothers. When they go to the field, what prayers go with them! what tender testimonials of maternal affection and counsel are in their knapsacks! I am struck, in looking over the history of the noble struggle of our fathers for national independence, at the evidence of the good influence exerted upon them by the women of the Revolution. Ah! my beloved friend, how can the present generation ever repay the debt it owes the patriots of the past for the sacrifices they have so freely and richly made for us? We may well ask, Would our country be what it is note, if it had not been for the greatness of our patriotic ancestors?
Let me hear from you by letter as often as convenient, and send me such books as you think will help me. They can be forwarded through the courtesy of our member of Congress.
Faithfully and most lovingly your son,
U. S. West-Point Military Academy,
June 4, 1839.
[pg. 21] I find much here that makes me love my dear native land more than ever I am happy in the fact that this stronghold of nature is safely in the hands of the United States. Do you know, father, that it is called the Gibraltar of America? I think that is a very proper name for it. The hills are so different from thaw we have in our part of Ohio! They come down steep to the water’s edge; and the points of land shut in so close from one bank of the river to the other, that, when you are below, you can hardly see the way up; and, when you are above it is hard to see the way down. The cliffs rise one above another to towering heights, all scarred with ragged rocks, and crowned on their wild summits with lofty trees. It seems as if the foot of man could never get to the tops, the paths are so full of masses of shattered precipices that lie strewn about in chaotic confusion. I have found my way to the highest peak, however; and was well repaid for my struggle by the view of the noble Hudson beneath my feet, and the distant Catskill Mountains above my head. The highlands here are splendid to behold; and the opening prospects of the east and west shores of the river, with their shady groves, their smiling farms and dotted towns, are beautiful indeed. The steamers and vessels are seen busily passing to and fro in the majestic stream; and, close down by the shore, the pennon of the railway train is fluttering in the breeze. I catch a far-off glimpse of the hills in Connecticut and Massachusetts, resting, like battle-smoked war-shields, against the sky. The rich pastures of Orange County, New York, skirted with herds of cattle, spread out like a pictured carpet before me; and over all bend the arching heavens, where the rifted clouds march on like the squadrons of an army.
As I return from my walk, refreshed by the exercise, inspirited by the grand and varied scenery, and better prepared for my studies, I pass by the cemetery of the academy, where some of our cherished dead repose. Here is the monument erected by our grateful country to the brave hero, Kosciusko, who fell on the field of battle, on American soil, fighting for the liberties of mankind. You remember, father, the line that is recorded of him,–
‘And Freedom shrieked when Koscuisko fell.’I am rendered serious by the impressions that crowd upon me here at West Point. My thoughts are frequently occupied with the hatred I am made to feel toward traitors to my country, as I look around me on the memorials that remain of the black-hearted treason of Arnold. I am full of a conviction of scorn and contempt, which my young and inexperienced pen is unable to write in this letter, toward the conduct of any man, who, at any time, could strike at the liberties of such a nation as ours. If ever men should be found in our Union base enough to make the attempt to do this; if, like Arnold, they should secretly seek to sell our national inheritance for the mess of pottage of wealth, or’ power, or section,–West Point sternly reminds me what you, my father, would have your son do. As I stand here in this national fort, a student of arms under our country’s flag, I know full well how you would have me act in such an emergency. I trust my future conduct, in such an hour, would prove worthy the patriotic instructions you have given.
Ulysses Sidney Grant.
In Camp, en route to Mexico,
May 10, 1847.
My dear Parents,–We are progressing steadily toward the Mexican capital Since I last wrote you my position has been rendered more responsible and [pg. 22] laborious. You may learn the progress of the old Fourth by the paper; and I do not mean you shall ever hear of my shirking my duty in battle. My new post of quartermaster is considered to afford an officer an opportunity to be relieved from fighting; but I do not and cannot see it in that light. You have always taught me that the post of danger is the post of duty. That is the way Warren looked at it, you remember, when he asked Gen. Putnam where he would send him, in the battle of Bunker Hill. “I shall send you, Mr. President,” replied Putnam (for you recollect that Warren was the President of the Continental Congress at that time), “to a place of safety.”–“No, General,” said Warren quickly: “send me where the fight may be the hottest; for there I can do the most good to my country.”
So I feel in my position as quartermaster. I do not intend it shall keep me from fighting for our dear old flag, when the hour of battle comes.
But I must not talk all the time about war. I shall try to give you a few descriptions of what I see in this country. It has in it many wonderful things, you are aware, so different from Ohio, West Point, and the Indian territories of Missouri.
Mexico is in many parts very mountainous. Its hillsides are crowned with tall palms, whose waving leaves at a height of fifty or sixty feet from the ground present a splendid appearance. They toss to and fro in the winds like plumes in a helmet; their deep green glistening in the sunshine, or glittering in the moonbeams, in the most beautiful manner. The table-land is high and pleasant, interspersed with many verdant valleys. Some of the mountains, near the coast of the Pacific Ocean, are very lofty, and volcanic in their character. One of these, on the extreme northern border, is over ten thousand feet high above the plain; and the plain is supposed to be eight thousand feet above the level of the sea.
The more central part of the country, through which we are passing, does not have so many high mountains; but it is very much broken, and some of the cliffs are very steep, and the gorges below very deep. As we pass along from the seaboard to the interior we cannot but be struck with the influence produced on the atmosphere by this mountain air. Mexico, you recollect, is located in the torrid zone, where the weather is supposed to be always warm; but here we find it temperate and healthy to a remarkable degree. The soil abounds with grain, such as wheat and maize, and vegetables, sugar-cane, roots, and fruits of various kinds. With proper cultivation, cotton can be produced in large quantities. The number of plants that yield balsams, gums, resins, and oils, is very great. Below the surface of the earth are to be found gold, silver, copper, lead, iron, tin, zinc, sulphur, alum, vitriol, cinnibar, ochre, quicksilver, and other mineral productions. In some places are to be found diamonds, amethysts, cornelians, and other precious stones. There are in the hills, sometimes, great masses of loadstones, as large as the largest houses; and quarries of jasper, porphyry, and moot beautiful green and golden marble. The manufactures are earthen and stone ware, glass, spirits, sugars, tissues of cotton, paper, woollen and silk fabrics. Very large supplies of medical minerals and herbs are constantly produced from the interior.
All kinds of horned cattle abound in these parts of Mexico. They range over the immense plains in droves, occasionally numbering forty thousand. Their meat is not always the most desirable; but their hides are sent in great quantities to England, France, and the United States. Over ten millions of hides of cattle, and skins of smaller animals, are at times sent away from Mexico in a single year.
I have been much delighted with the Mexican birds. They are found here in immense numbers. There are over two hundred different kinds peculiar to the country. Many of these have a plumage that is superlatively splendid; but the display of their music does not equal that of their colors. The [pg. 23] singing of the Mexican birds, as a general thing, is not as clear nor as nor as varied as that of the birds of the United States. They beat ours in show; but they do not equal them in harmony.
The city of Mexico, to which we are now marching, and which we expect to possess in a few weeks, is, as you know, one of the most beautifully located in the world. It was originally built with great care. The streets are wide; and as the cooling winds come down from the neighboring mountains, sweeping over fields of clover, groves of magnolias, orchards of oranges, and gardens of flowers, they fill the air with a delightful and healthful fragrance. The city is built at right angles, with perfect regularity. In this respect it will compare favorably with any other capital or metropolis in either of the four quarters of the earth.
But I hear the taps as I write, and must be on the move. I have written this letter with my sword fastened on my side, and my pistols within reach; not knowing but that the next moment I may be called into battle again.
With remembrance to all our friends, I remain,
Dear parents, your son,
U. S. Grant.
Mr. Jesse R. Grant, Georgetown, Brown County, O.
If these letters were authentic they presumably were still in existence in 1864, by which time their historical importance would have been appreciated. There is no indication of their history or present existence, although other letters from Grant to his father do exist. One of the printed letters is signed “Ulysses Sidney Grant,” despite the evidence that at the time Grant used the signature “Ulysses. H. Grant” and this version of Grant’s name was a private delusion of Major Penniman. The letter from Mexico is addressed to Jesse Grant at Georgetown, Ohio; Jesse Grant had moved to Bethel some years earlier, something his son knew and Major Penniman did not.
Nowhere in these letters are there references to other members of the family, friends, or anything else of a personal nature. The one known Grant personal letter of West Point days (written to a cousin) is full of such matters. And the authentic letter shows Grant impressed with the patriotic traditions of West Point but by no means enthusiastic over army life. The letters in The Tanner-Boy are insufferably priggish; Grant was not. For stylistic parallels one need look no further than the other pages of The Tanner-Boy; the signature is Grant, but the voice is the [pg. 24] voice of Major Penniman.
A glance at The Tanner-Boy is not likely to inspire confidence in the authenticity of the letters; in fact, the first page of the introduction refers to the hero as Ulysses Sidney Grant. In the early pages are several boyhood conversations of Ulysses in quotation marks, and even some quoted ruminations (“I must make up in wit what I lack in strength.”). The narrative bubbles with inaccuracies but never lacks moral lessons for young readers. In short, this is a familiar type of nineteenth century children’s literature in which a biography is used as a teaching device and the author does not feel bound by conventional canons of historical accuracy. Until such time as the originals of these letters appear, or some other evidence of their validity is uncovered, there is no reason to accept them as authentic.
NEWS NOTES *** The Ulysses S. Grant Association has received a grant of $7500 from the National Historical Publications Commission for the coming fiscal year. *** Copies of the oval table upon which Grant wrote his surrender terms at Appomattox are being sold by Biggs Antique Company, 792 Peachtree Street, N.E., Atlanta 8, Georgia. *** Allan Nevins, chairman of the editorial board of the Grant Association, recently received an honorary degree from Oxford University. Ralph G. Newman and Carl Haverlin, directors of the Grant Association, attended the ceremony.