GRANT IN PANAMA *** Ulysses S. Grant was never in greater personal danger while serving in the army than during his passage across the Isthmus of Panama in 1852. Grant, a thirty-year-old brevet captain serving as regimental quartermaster, had left his wife and son behind when his regiment, the Fourth Infantry, was ordered to the Pacific Coast. He later doubted that his wife, expecting another child, could have survived the crossing and was certain that his son would have succumbed to disease as had every other child in the party his age or younger.1
Under the best conditions the trip across the Isthmus in 1852 was hazardous: housing was inferior, transportation uncertain, and disease prevalent. The Fourth Infantry, ordered to the Pacific Coast in June, landed at Aspinwall in the midst of the rainy season to find the streets under water. Grant “wondered how any person could live many months In Aspinwall, and wondered still more why any one tried.”2 The regiment boarded the Panama Railroad, completed across half of the sixty-mile route, then boarded boats on the Chagres River for the trip upstream to Gorgona, where the bulk of the regiment debarked for the march to Panama. Quartermaster Grant went a few miles farther up the river to Cruces with the regiment’s equipment and one company to guard it, the soldiers with families, and all the women and children. There a contractor was to furnish mules for the remainder of the journey.
[pg. 2] The Ohio, which had brought the Fourth Infantry to Aspinwall, had also carried a large number of civilian passengers who bid up the hiring price for mules. The contractor obligated to supply mules to the army, unwilling or unable to supply them, stalled Grant until several days had passed, cholera had broken out, and the company detailed as guards had marched to Panama. Grant remained with the equipment, the sick, and the civilians, finally deciding, on his own responsibility, to make a new contract with the alcalde at more than twice the original rate to get the party to Panama.3
While Grant was detained at Cruces, cholera also struck the troops at Panama. About a third of the people with Grant at Cruces died on the Isthmus and about a tenth traveling with the regiment perished.4 When Major Charles Stuart Tripler, the army surgeon who accompanied the Fourth Infantry, reached San Francisco, he reported to Surgeon-General Thomas L. Lawson the details of the cholera epidemic which had decimated the regiment.5 His letter, printed below, illuminates the confusion and horror of the Panama passage, and adds detail about Grant’s role in the deadly jungle.
San Francisco, Calif.,
September 14, 1852.Sir: The occurrence of malignant cholera in the Fourth regiment of infantry, which I accompanied from New York to California, seemed to me to require that I should make a special report to you upon the subject. I have, therefore, made a report of the sick of that regiment up to the 31st August, and beg leave to accompany it with the following remarks:
The regiment was concentrated at Fort Columbus, New York, in obedience to orders from the War Department, the last company having arrived on the 23d June. On that day 243 recruits were received and examined. On the evening of the 2d July, a telegraphic order was received for the troops to embark on the 5th. On the evening of the 3d July, about 150 more recruits were received and examined. On the 5th July eight companies of the regiment, with the band and headquarters, were embarked on the United States mail steamer Ohio, bound for Aspinwall, New Granada. We had a good deal of diarrhoea among our men during, their stay upon Governor’s Island, but it was quite manageable, and when we embarked I [pg. 3] did not consider it necessary to leave but one man in the hospital; he was recovering from a broken leg, and would not have been able to march across the Isthmus. The Ohio was a large ship, as to tonnage, and in that respect, capable of carrying our whole command; but her room is so badly distributed, that we should have been crowded had there been no other passengers. Our command, including women and children, was about 800. We had, however, all told, passengers, crew, etc., 1,100 on board. This was altogether too many people for her accommodations at that season of the year, and in a voyage to the tropics. We, however, reached Aspinwall on the 16th July, without losing a man. We had a number of cases of both diarrhoea and constipation, and a few cases of fever on the voyage. Our sick report, nevertheless, was very small upon landing. One man (the bandmaster), sick with chronic diarrhoea, had sunk so much on the voyage I was obliged to leave him on the ship, where be died two days afterwards.
On the voyage I had endeavored to impress upon the commanding officer the necessity of preventing the men from eating the fruits of the country, and from indulging in any of the liquors they would meet with on the march. A very judicious order, embracing these views, was issued previous to our debarkation. I am sorry to say, however, it was not observed on the march. Had it been strictly obeyed, I think we should have been spared much suffering. It being the height of the rainy season when we reached the Isthmus we were much embarrassed by the state of the roads; by rains every day; by the extreme heat, and by the epidemic influences prevailing.
Cholera existed at Aspinwall when we landed. It had been very fatal a short time previously among the laborers on the railroad, in consequence of which they had very generally abandoned the work. Forty laborers out of one hundred, I was told, had died at one station. It was existing at both Cruces and Gorgona on the route–points we were obliged to pass–and at both of which we were unfortunately detained. We found it also at Panama upon our arrival there.
Notwithstanding all this, and the cautions in the order of march, the men had no sooner been permitted to land to procure water, than numbers of them sought the first tavern they could find, to indulge their fatal craving for liquor. Many were brought back on board that night intoxicated and drenched with rain. Fruits were also eaten with avidity whenever they could be procured.
As we did not reach Aspinwall until after the departure of the daily train of cars we were obliged to remain there until next morning. Our baggage, however, was principally landed, and stowed in the cars that afternoon, and this operation was completed early the next morning. When the hour arrived for starting, it was found that the locomotives were too light to carry more than half our men in one train. They were accordingly despatched in two trains at intervals of an hour, and then the baggage had to be left to be brought up by a return engine. Arrived at Barbacoas, the present terminus of the railway, Colonel Bonneville6 informed me that it was determined to march the main body of the men from Gorgona to Panama; that the sick, the women, the baggage, and one company would proceed to Cruces, where the mule transportation would be provided, and whence they would also proceed to Panama. I was ordered to accompany this last detachment. Colonel Bonneville then proceeded at once in boats to Gorgona. Colonel Wright7 was to follow when the baggage came [pg. 4] up. The baggage did not arrive till after dark; too late to transfer it to the boats.
In the morning it was discovered that the hospital stores were not contained in those cars. I had a special messenger sent back to bring them up immediately. Colonel Wright went on with his battalion, leaving me, a subaltern, and a small guard, with the sick. My messenger did not return till late in the afternoon, and then brought up but four packages out of thirty, declaring there were no more to be found. This made it necessary for me to return to Aspinwall, which I did that night upon a hand car. I found my stores in the first baggage car I met with in the depot, and the next morning carried them to Barbacoas in a special train furnished me by Colonel Totten, the engineer of the road. I proceeded at once up the river to Cruces, a distance of twelve miles, against a rapid and dangerous current, in a small boat, propelled by setting-poles only; and by dint of great exertion and determination succeeded in reaching that point at about 9 1/2 at night. My hospital boat did not get up until next morning. At Cruces, very much to my surprise, I found the regimental quartermaster, about seventy men, and all the women and children. This was Monday night. He had been there since Sunday morning, and no transportation for the baggage had yet been furnished by the contractors. The detachment was encamped on the river, at the landing-place and all the baggage piled up in the vicinity. At this time all were well, and my sick had entirely recovered. Transportation was promised in the morning, and I determined to push on as rapidly as possible, to overtake the main body, at that time probably at Panama.
In the morning we were again disappointed in transportation. This was Tuesday, 20th July. While endeavoring to get from the contractor mules for myself and necessary stores, I was called to see a soldier said to be ill of cramps. I found a case of malignant cholera, of the most aggravated character. The man died in six hours. Upon instituting a rigid inquiry I found that the disease was, and had been, for some time prevailing in the town; that numbers had died, and were still dying there; and that a physician had been sent there from Panama for the special purpose of treating such cases. It was of course impossible for me to leave the detachment under such circumstances. I, therefore, decided to remain until the men were all started, and this more especially, as I was informed from day to day by passengers from Panama that the main body had gone on board the transport in Panama bay, and that there was no disease among them. I thought it but prudent, however, to urge the quartermaster to as speedy a movement from the place as possible; and by my advice he determined if the requisite transportation was not furnished by the next morning, to procure it himself of anybody, at any price, and require the contracting parties to pay for it. It must be observed that a subcontractor had agreed to furnish mules for 11 cents a pound, and all this time they were in demand for private transportation at 16 to 20 cents. We had the vexation of seeing hundreds of citizens forwarded, with scarcely an hour’s detention, while our men were kept at the most unhealthy point of the Isthmus for five days, with no adequate effort on the part of the contractors to forward us to Panama. The next morning we were no better off. Captain Grant then went into the market, and succeeded in completing a contract before night with a responsible person, for the requisite number of mules, to be ready early the next day. In the meanwhile several cases of cholera occurred, and [pg. 5] we had four more deaths. One man convalesced from the disease, but too ill to move, I was obliged to leave in charge of the alcalde and the town physician. I recommended, under the circumstances, that the whole detachment should be furnished with mules lest the fatigue of marching over so desperate a road should excite the disease in men predisposed to it, and they should perish, without the possibility of my aiding them, on the way. This was done, but notwithstanding every precaution on our part, three fatal cases did occur on the road.
In compliance with Captain Grant’s contract, a large number of mules, both saddle and cargo, were brought up in the morning, and despatched as fast as possible with riders and burdens, respectively; by 1 p. m. about one-half our men and nearly one-half our baggage were on the road. he usual rain then coming on operations were necessarily suspended for the day. I must here remark that the preservation of any thing like order or organization in the forwarding of troops or baggage on mules across the Isthmus is altogether out of the question. The moment a rider, or a cargo is placed upon a mule’s back that moment he must set out, or the muleteer strips his mule and carries him off. Our movement was, therefore, of necessity, a straggling one, each man making his way to Panama, as he best could, when once mounted. The next morning, before 10 o’clock, the last of our men was on the way, and most of the remaining baggage, and I then set out myself. I reached Panama before dark, but too late to go to the ship that night. I learned that she was lying off Taboga, 12 miles dawn the bay; that cholera had broken out on board and carried off a number of men. A small steamer communicated with her once a day only, leaving Panama at 5 p. m. I was, therefore, detained at Panama until that hour the following day. Here I learned that six of the cabin passengers by the Ohio (our ship) had died in Panama of cholera contracted on the Isthmus.
I proceeded to the ship on the first opportunity, and there was informed that the main body had passed three nights on the road between Gorgona and Panama without shelter; that they were drenched by the rains every day; that the order relative to fruits and drink had been entirely disregarded, and in consequence several men had been attacked by cholera, and died on the way. After their arrival upon the ship, the surgeon of that and of two other ships of the same line had been constant in their attendance upon the sick, and abundance of hospital stores and medicines had been furnished by the company. That day (Saturday) the sick had been removed to a hulk anchored near, and a detail of men to nurse them, under the charge of an officer, had been sent on board by the commanding officer. I went on board the hulk and passed the night there. Several new cases were sent on board from the ship during the night. The next day, Dr. Martin, of the Columbia, kindly volunteered to take my place, and I got some sleep. I passed the next night again on board the hulk, besides frequent visits during the day. The next day I was obliged to apply to the commanding officer for assistance. It was impossible for anyone to endure such an amount of physical and mental exertion any longer. We had, fortunately, among our passengers, Dr. Deal, of California, a physician of experience and intelligence, with whom a contract was made to perform the duties of an assistant surgeon on board the Golden Gate, from that time until she reached San Francisco, for the moderate sum of $250. Had we known what was before us we could not have secured his services for ten times the amount.
[pg. 6] Tuesday, 27th July, the disease was evidently subsiding. No new cases had occurred during the night, and the sick were, for the most part, improving. I entertained strong hopes that as soon as our baggage was all, received we should be in condition to prosecute our voyage. In this hope, however, we were doomed to be disappointed. In the afternoon of that day we had a heavy rain, against which many of our men were but ill protected. Upon the arrival of the small steamer in the evening about a dozen knapsacks were received, that had been lying and moulding somewhere on the Isthmus for a long time. The men to whom they belonged seized upon them immediately with great eagerness, and opened them to get a change of clothing. I was afterwards informed that some of these men fell sick while in the act. Be this as it may, in about 20 hours afterwards they were all taken ill of cholera in its worst form and within an hour of each other, and most of them died. The disease having thus reappeared, it was determined to land the troops. There being shelter for the sick upon the island of Flaminco, about six miles from Panama, the debarkation was effected upon the 29th; the sick were placed in huts, and the well in a few tents and under sails stretched over poles. On the 1st August, Brevet Major Gore was attacked, and died on board the Golden Gate.8 His was the last case of cholera that occurred, and he the only officer we lost. I recommended to Colonel Bonneville to destroy any other knapsacks that might be received from the Isthmus, and to have the ship fumigated with chlorine, which was done. Several other officers were threatened, but, by timely means, escaped a decided attack upon the island a number of those previously ill died, but no new cases appeared. The fever of the country, however, began to show itself, which made all anxious to leave Panama as soon as possible.
On the 3d August, the Golden Gate determined to go to sea the next day, but refused to take on board more than 450 of our people, and expressly declared that she would not receive a single sick man. To this extraordinary demand we were forced to submit, and I was accordingly ordered to remain on the island with the sick, most of the women and children, and one company of troops to act as nurses, etc., until the next steamer should sail. I approved of the proposal to divide the command between two ships, but could not agree as to the propriety of leaving all the sick for another steamer, as a similar objection would probably be made to their reception on board of her. I was, however, overruled, and on the 4th August, the Golden Gate sailed with 450 well men, Dr. Deal acting assistant surgeon. The three months’ supply for the regiment being stowed away in the hold of the ship, I placed it in charge of Dr. Deal, with the packer’s list, that he might use such of the medicines and store that he should need on the voyage; the remainder to be left with the medical purveyor at Benicia. Dr. Deal was discharged at the termination of the voyage, and I have not seen him since, nor have I had any report from him. I have ascertained, however, that he had ninety cases of fever and diarrhoea on the voyage, and three deaths. These are embodied in my report. I have also learned that, not being able to find the box containing the sulphate of quinine, he had purchased two ounces at Acapulco and borrowed more of the ship, which has since been returned.9
Upon the 7th of August it was announced that the steamer Northerner would take us on board and sail the next day. The surgeon of that ship was sent on shore to inspect our men; and although he thought there were [pg. 7] several cases of fever that would die, still, as no infectious disease was prevailing, he made no objection to receiving them on board. Arrangements were accordingly made for embarking. The sick were to be first sent on board and accommodated before the ship should be crowded with the well. By a mistake of the agent a scow was sent to the island this evening to take us on board. In this scow our baggage was first stowed, and the sick placed upon it. In a few minutes the whole was flooded away, owing to the leaky condition of the scow. Our sick and baggage were hastily transferred to boats alongside, and thus sent to the steamer. It was this accident that caused the damage to the instruments that were afterwards condemned by a board of survey.
It appeared afterwards that it was not intended we should be embarked that evening, and the consequence of the blunder was a remonstrance on the part of the other passengers against our sick being permitted to remain on board. After a great deal of negotiation it was finally agreed that a few of the worst cases might be left in hospital at Taboga, under the special charge of the agent of the company, he guaranteeing that every comfort and suitable medical attendance should be provided for them, and they forwarded as soon as possible. I considered it of the greatest importance that we should leave that climate, as our well men were daily sickening with the fever. Accordingly four men were selected to be left, by the ship’s surgeon, which satisfied the passengers, and on the 8th of August we embarked the remainder and put to sea.
We arrived at Benicia on the 26th of August, having lost but one man on the voyage. He died of the secondary fever of cholera. Upon my arrival at Benicia I found a large sick report from among the men shipped on the Golden Gate. They were ill of diarrhoea, dysentery, and typhoid fever. The men were destitute of clothing, and were in tents, exposed to intense heat by day and to very cold nights. By the advice of Assistant Surgeon Griffin10 they were ordered from the tents into some new cavalry stables just finished, and with marked good effect. The character of the fever was decidedly typhoid, and the dysenteries generally assumed the same type.
With regard to the treatment of the cholera as it prevailed among us, I have only to say that all the usual means were tried, and with the usual want of success. The first cases were nearly all fatal. I think the free exhibition of brandy with capsicum and chloride sodium was about as successful as anything. We found the acetas plumbi, in doses of five to ten grains, a valuable means of restraining the diarrhoea. I feel sure many cases were relieved by it that would have terminated in malignant cholera without speedy relief. Mustard and bottles of hot water with frictions of the surface externally, camphor, calomel, and quinine internally, were freely used. But, as I have already remarked, and as usually happens in severe epidemics, the chances are that the cases first attacked will die, and that the ratio of the mortality will diminish with the duration of the epidemic. In this epidemic we lost about eighty men.11
Very respectfully, your obd’t serv’t,
CHAS. S. TRIPLER,
Surgeon, U. S. Army.
Surgeon-General, Washington, D. C.
[pg. 8] 1. Grant to Julia Dent Grant, Sept. 19, 1852, Feb. 15, 1853, The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant (Carbondale and Edwardsville, Ill., 1967), 1, 266, 288. Hereafter Papers.
2. Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant (New York, 1885-6), 1, 195.
3. Papers, 1, 249-250.
4. Memoirs, 1, 197.
5. Tripler’s letter was printed in The Canal Record, a newsletter published for those employed in constructing the Panama Canal, 1, 44 (July 1, 1908), 347-348, with a note explaining that General George H. Davis, Governor of the Canal Zone, “recently chanced upon” the document. Inquiries to the Canal Zone Library-Museum and the National Archives have not led to the original.
6. Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin L. E. Bonneville commanded the Fourth Infantry. Surgeon Tripler’s wife later characterized Bonneville as “very stupid,” probably reflecting her husband’s opinion. Louis A. Arthur, ed, Eunice Tripler: Some Notes of her Personal Recollections (New York, 1910), 108.
7. Brevet Colonel George Wright.
8. John H. Gore. Grant to Julia Dent Grant, Aug. 9, 1852, Papers, 1, 252.
9. On Jan. 5, 1853, Grant certified that six ounces of quinine had been borrowed from Dr. Holdman, surgeon of the Golden Gate, for the use of the troops. Ibid., 1, 284-285.
10. Assistant Surgeon John Strother Griffin.
11. On Aug. 25, 1852, Bonneville reported the death of seventy-eight members of the Fourth Infantry since the regiment had landed at Aspinwall. Bonneville to E. D. Townsend, Pacific Division, Letters Received, Record Group 393, National Archives. The number of deaths among the women and children in the party is not known.
NEWS NOTES *** Ralph G. Newman is the newly elected president of the board of directors of the Chicago Public Library. Newman, also president of the Grant Association, is the subject of an article in the Spring, 1967, issue of Manuscripts. *** E. B. Long, vice chairman of the Editorial Board of the Grant Association, is Visiting Lecturer in History at the University of California at Riverside, Calif., for the fall and winter quarters. He will be teaching Civil War and Reconstruction and a seminar in research methods. *** Major General Ulysses S. Grant 3rd recently received a Southern Illinois University distinguished service award from President Delyte W. Morris at & dinner in Washington, D. C. General Grant 3rd was honored for “his generous cooperation with the Ulysses S. Grant Association.”
[pg. 9] NEWTON C. FARR (1887-1967) *** Newton Camp Farr would have been eighty years old on Christmas day, 1967. He lived his four-score years in Chicago, involved in Chicago activities, and concerned with the welfare of his city and its people. He was born in a house on Woodlawn Avenue in Hyde Park; and lived there for seventy years until he moved to a Lake Shore Drive apartment on the near North Side. He was senior member of Chicago’s oldest realty firm.
He was a gentle, cultured, intelligent, responsible citizen who loved his city, his state and his country and gave completely of his time and fortune to the welfare of the American people and their institutions.
In the world of education he supported a vast number of activities, including service as a trustee of the Faulkner School for Girls (Chicago); Illinois Institute of Technology (Chicago); Lincoln memorial University (Harrogate, Tennessee); and Illinois State Historical Library (Springfield). He was deeply interested in American history, and particularly the American Civil War and its aftermath. He was a founder and second president of the Civil War Round Table. His fine collection of Civil War material was given to his alma mater, Cornell University, a few years ago. He was a life-member and president of the Illinois State Historical Society; a life-member of the Chicago Historical Society; and a life-member and president of the Chicago Geographical Society.
He served as chairman of the committee which sought to purchase the [pg. 10] Oliver R. Barrett collection for the State of Illinois, and did raise funds (which included a personal contribution of $10,000) to buy material from the collection when it was sold at public auction. When the State of Illinois honored the memory of Abraham Lincoln on the occasion of his 150th birthday in 1959, Newton Farr served as chairman of the committee selected by the Governor to plan the occasion.
He was one of the first customers of the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop when it opened its doors more than thirty years ago, and was a friend, benefactor, advisor and teacher to all of us who travelled along the Lincoln-Civil War Trail.
He cherished the American traditions, and loved the history of our country. His knowledge of the history of the middle of the nineteenth century equalled that of any professional historian. He was a member of The Civil War Centennial Commission of Illinois and was a founder and director of The Ulysses S. Grant Association which is currently gathering for publication the collected writings of our Eighteenth President.
Though he was the senior of most of us in the Civil War Round Table, he was young in heart, youthful in his interests, modern in his approach to business and education, and progressive in all community activities. He served as the model for the ideal citizen and public-spirited civic leader, and many of us, consciously or subconsciously, were motivated to a higher degree of public service by his example. That we shall miss him would be one of the understatements of the age; that we shall remember him, in Jefferson’s words, is a fact that is self-evident.
–Ralph G. Newman*
*Reprinted from the newsletter of the Civil War Round Table of Chicago.
[pg. 11] GRANT AS A COLONEL *** Under the headline “Grant’s Only War Speech,” the New-York Tribune of September 27, 1885, printed an interview with one of the survivors of the regiment which was Grant’s first command in the Civil War. Joseph Washington Wham of Salem, Illinois, enlisted as a private on June 10, 1861, in Captain Joseph Maher’s company of the Seventh Congressional District Regiment. Grant was appointed colonel within a week of Wham’s enlistment. Two weeks later, the regiment was mustered into federal service as the Twenty-First Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry. Wham was a private throughout the war, re-enlisting in 1864, and was promoted to first lieutenant on July 28, 1865, serving until December 16, 1865, when the regiment was disbanded.
Wham apparently acquired a taste for army life, and in 1867 he was appointed a second lieutenant in the Thirty-Fifth U. S. Infantry. After serving four years, he was discharged at his own request. On March 3, 1877, the day before Grant left the White House, Wham was appointed an army paymaster with the rank of major, and he held this position until his retirement in 1901.
Grant thought well of Wham, and Wham reciprocated, providing the Tribune reporter with a glowing account of Grant’s first Civil War service just two months after his death. Wham’s account of the circumstances surrounding Grant’s appointment as colonel must be weighed against the fact that a quarter century had passed, Wham was only a private when the officers made their decision, and other survivors remembered matters differently. These recollections are, nonetheless, one of the best and most straightforward accounts of a period for which we have little reliable information about Grant.
[pg. 12] Major Joseph W. Wham sat in the cozy back room of his paymaster’s office in the Government building at No. 33 West Houston—st., recently, and talked about his old colonel, U. S. Grant, to a Tribune reporter who had wandered into that abode of pay-rolls.”I was a private in the 21st Illinois Regiment, the first and only one of which Grant was ever Colonel,” said the Major.
“Ah, then you were one of Governor Yates’s ‘hellions?'” said the reporter.
“Yes, sir, I was,” said the Major, bringing his swinging chair to the right-about-face with an emphatic snap, “and I want to say right here, that that regiment has been sadly maligned. The facts in the case were simply these: Our regiment was composed of some of the best material that God ever made either for purposes of war or peace. We were all of us young men, from eighteen to thirty years of age, and the sons of well-to-do farmers of the old XIth [VIIth] Congressional District in Southern Illinois. We came from the fields and workshops to enlist, and we wanted to do our whole duty, but we had too much self-respect to serve under a drunken, incompetent colonel. We were brought up in an atmosphere of the most earnest loyalty and Republicanism. My father read The New-York Tribune in the family circle from the year of its establishment. So when the end of our three [one] months enlistment approached and Governor Yates wanted us to enlist again to help fill out the State’s quota of the 300,000 men for three years called for in the President’s proclamation, we simply said we wouldn’t re-enlist under Colonel Good [Simon S. Goode]. Our officers went to Governor Yates and told him how the matter stood. The Governor then said: ‘Gentlemen, I will give you Captain Grant for a colonel. You know him as the officer who mustered you in at Mattoon.’ We did know him and such a favorable impression had he made on officers and men during those few days at Camp Grant, that there was not a murmur at his being thus promoted over the heads of the ten captains and two field officers who outranked him. Not even Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander showed the slightest jealousy, and he, I think, rather expected the place himself, as he didn’t go to see the Governor with the rest of the officers.
“Grant at that time was simply a captain in the State Militia. The way in which he obtained that commission has been narrated hundreds of times, but never quite rightly, I think. As told to me by Adjutant-General Fuller,* the story was as follows: Grant had been recommended to Governor Yates by Senator [Representative Elihu B.] Washburne. The Governor tried to use him as a clerk, but saw that he was fitted for greater responsibilities; so one day he said to the Adjutant-General:
‘Fuller, I have a man that I think you had better take a hold of,’ telling him Grant’s name and history. ‘You need men for mustering in the troops. The State officers are green at the business, and we can’t call on the regular army men, as it is a State affair. This man Grant will just fit the office.’ So the first commission issued by General Fuller [pg. 13] was to Captain Grant.
“Well, Governor Yates kept his word and gave Colonel Good’s commission to Grant. The latter put it in his pocket, and dressed in a light blouse, with no sword or insignia of rank, stepped into a horse-car and rode out to the fair grounds, where the regiment was encamped. Going to the Adjutant’s tent, he showed his commission and remarked that be ‘guessed he’d take command.’ Then he sat down to write an order or two and strolled out to take a look about camp. The first thing that caught his eye was the camp guard, eighty strong and armed with clubs, which Colonel Good had created to keep the men from climbing the fence and going into the city to see the girls. His next order abolished the camp guard and told the men that they were required to be present at all roll-calls. An ordinary West Pointer would have stopped there, thinking it to be the business of the men to know when those roll-calls were. But Grant never forgot that he had to deal with volunteers instead of regulars or conscripts and be added a paragraph giving the times of roll-call and reminding the men that though they had become soldiers they had not ceased to be citizens and should exercise a manly self-restraint and not dishonor their citizenship. The effect of that order was wonderful. There was no more climbing the fence after that.
“I think that is a trait that has never been strongly brought out before, and one that shows the greatness of his genius. While educated at West Point, with all that rigid inflexibility of the military training ground into his nature so that in the midst of battle as well as in his own dying agonies he could hold all his faculties down to the work in hand, he was nothing of a martinet, but handled men as men and without any friction, whatever their notions of personal dependence and dislike for the restraints of discipline. He was kind to his subordinates, too. When [Governor Claiborne] Jackson was trying to get Missouri into the Confederacy the Illinois regiments were ordered to that State. There was no hurry about the matter and Grant asked permission to march our regiment across the State to the Mississippi River, as we needed the drill. And we did march as far as Naples on the Illinois River, when orders came to take the cars. One morning as we broke camp, which had been pitched for the night in a pasture lot, and filed out into the road, I was walking ahead of the regiment. I was on the sick list and out of the ranks. Colonel Grant saw me, a private of G Company, a lad of eighteen, trudging along the road alone. ‘Are you sick, my man?’ he asked. ‘How about the ambulance?’
“‘I don’t like the ambulance sir,’ I replied.
“‘Ah, then you can march a little,’ be said, ‘but don’t try to do too much.’ He was loved and honored by every one of the 1,000 men in that regiment.
“It was some time before Grant got his colonel’s uniform and until that came he knew his business too well to take command at dress parade. The Lieutenant-Colonel was allowed to manoeuvre the regiment. Once only he interfered and gave the regiment its first order from the new Colonel. The Adjutant had drawn us up in line with one flank so near the fence that there was no room for a battery of artillery which was coming up to take its station there. Grant’s quick eye took in the situation and almost involuntarily the sharp command ‘Right flank, forward march!’ remedied the difficulty.
“While we were lying in Camp Yates, this unfounded impression of [pg. 14] our sullen and mutinous condition which then and ever afterward clung to the regiment in a most unaccountable way, pervaded Springfield. General [John A.] Logan, then a Congressman simply, came down to make us a speech. Officers and men gathered in front of the grand stand in the free and easy democratic way characteristic of your true militiaman, and Logan made us a ringingly loyal speech. This you remember was in May [June 19], ’61, when his enemies now tell us that he was plotting rank treason. There was lots of enthusiasm and cheering, and after Logan had finished we didn’t see any reason why we shouldn’t have a speech from the new Colonel. Cries of ‘Grant, Grant; Colonel Grant!’ arose and so did the Colonel slowly and with quiet dignity. Every voice was hushed to hear what he would say. The speech consisted of four words. It was: ‘Go to your quarters.’ That was the first and last speech that Grant ever made while in the War. It was the most effective wet blanket that I ever saw thrown upon a warm spread eagle enthusiasm. It was not said harshly, and though we should have hurrahed lustily if he had waded into the very depths of eloquence, yet we all recognized the fact that he had no business speechifying and had said just the right thing. We went to our quarters a somewhat sadder but much wiser lot of men.
“He was our colonel for only three [two] months, but the regiment went through the War in a way that did credit to his training. Seven hundred and twenty strong we went into the battle of Stony Brook [Stone’s River], but we only stacked 150 guns when we came out. There are about 100 members now living who get together every year for a reunion.
“Yes, he was a great man,” said the Major, turning to his desk again; “perhaps the greatest that ever lived.”
[from pg. 12] * Allen C. Fuller, though later adjutant general of Illinois, was not in that office when Grant was in Springfield. Grant was called captain because of his previous U. S. Army rank and the title had nothing to do with the state militia. It is significant that the only seriously inaccurate section of Wham’s recollections is the only portion which came to him completely secondhand.
NEWS NOTES *** The Ulysses S. Grant Association has received a grant of $3500 from the National Endowment for the Humanities for 1968. *** David C. Mearns, Chief of the Manuscript Division, has retired after forty-nine years of service to the Library of Congress. Described by his colleagues as “librarian, author, historian, humanist, and humorist,” Mearns now begins a three-year term as honorary consultant in the humanities to the Library of Congress. He has been a director Of the Grant Association since 1962. *** Andrew Wallace of the Arizona Pioneers’ historical Society, Tucson, Arizona, recently gave the Grant Association a copy of his book, Gen. August V. Kautz and the Southwestern Frontier. Wallace’s biography, the first full-length study of Kautz, is a valuable source of information about Grant.
[pg. 15] THOMAS WENTWORTH HIGGINSON ON GRANT *** A man with unusual qualifications reviewed the newly published Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant for The Atlantic Monthly. Thomas Wentworth Higginson is described as “minister, author, physical fitness enthusiast, agitator, naturalist, lecturer, soldier, dandy,” by Howard N. Meyer in a recent biography, Colonel of the Black Regiment. Higginson lived long enough, 1823-1911, to protest both the Mexican War and the suppression of the Philippine Insurrection, serving in between with distinction in the Civil War as Colonel of the First South Carolina Volunteers, the first Negro regiment in the Union Army. Higginson described his Civil War experiences in Army Life in a Black Regiment (1870), a minor classic reprinted three times in recent years.
Little of Higginson’s other work is still offered for sale, a result, perhaps, of the wide range of his interests. He was a “rebel with many causes,” who distributed his talents widely. Higginson once compared himself to a horse which never won a race yet established a record for running second. “He deserves to be remembered as a fighter for freedom,” Meyer concludes, and his sprightly, readable biography should help to make Higginson better known today.
Although Higginson is best remembered as a soldier, his contemporaries knew him as a man of letters. Higginson, who was born and died in Cambridge, [pg. 16] Massachusetts, was always deep in the intellectual currents of the Boston area. From 1843 to 1911 an unceasing stream of poems, essays, reviews, sermons, speeches, and books flowed from his pen, enough to fill twenty-six pages of bibliography. It is a tribute to his position in the intellectual life of New England that the shy and unknown Emily Dickinson sent him her poems for critical comment, a tribute to his judgment that he immediately recognized them as works of genius.
Because of Higginson’s position as a critic, his appraisal of Grant’s Memoirs as “one of the greatest of his victories,” and “better worth reading than any military autobiography since Caesar’s Commentaries,” did much to establish Grant’s literary reputation. Higginson reviewed the two volumes of Memoirs separately, as they appeared, in the March and September, 1886, issues of The Atlantic Monthly, and later combined the two reviews, with only minor alterations, in a volume titled Contemporaries (l899), which furnished the text below.
When any great historical event is past, fame soon begins to concentrate itself on one or two leading figures, dropping inexorably all minor ones. How furious was the strife waged in England over West India emancipation, and then over the abolition of the corn-laws! Time, money, intellect, reputation, were freely bestowed for both these enterprises. Those great sacrifices are now forgotten; the very names of those who made them are lost; posterity associates only Wilberforce and Clarkson with the one agitation, Cobden and Bright with the other. When we turn to the war which saved the Union and brought emancipation, we find that the roll of fame is similarly narrowing. There is scarcely an American under thirty who is familiar with even the name of John P. Hale, whom Garrison called “the Abdiel of New Hampshire;” or of Henry Wilson, Vice-President of the United States, and historian of that slave power which he did so much toward overthrowing. The acute and decorous Seward, the stately Chase, the imperious Stanton, even the high-minded and commanding Sumner, with his reservoirs of knowledge,–all these are steadily fading from men’s memories. Fifty years hence, perhaps, the mind of the nation will distinctly recognize only two figures as connected with all that great upheaval,–Lincoln and Grant.Of these two, Grant will have one immeasurable advantage, in respect to fame,–that he wrote his own memoirs. A man who has done this can never become a myth; his individuality is as sure of preservation as is [pg. 17] that of Caesar. Something must of course depend upon the character of such an autobiography: it may by some mischance reveal new weaknesses only, or reaffirm and emphasize those previously known. Here again Grant is fortunate: his book is one of the greatest of his victories, and those who most criticised his two administrations may now be heard doubting whether they did, after all, any justice to the men. These memoirs have that first and highest quality both of literature and manhood, simplicity. Without a trace of attitudinizing or a suspicion of special pleading, written in a style so plain and terse that it suggests the reluctant conversation of a naturally reticent man, they would have a charm if the author had never emerged from obscurity except to write them. Considered as the records of the foremost soldier of his time, they are unique and of inestimable value.
This value is reinforced, at every point, by a certain typical quality which the book possesses. As with Lincoln, so with Grant, the reader hails with delight this exhibition of the resources of the Average American, It is not in the least necessary for the success of republican government that it should keep great men, so to speak, on tap all the time; it is rather our theory to be guided in public affairs by the general good sense of the community. What we need to know is whether leaders will be forthcoming for specific duties when needed; and in this the civil war confirmed the popular faith, and indeed developed it almost into fatalism. It is this representative character of the book which fascinates; the way in which destiny, looking about for material, took Grant and moulded him for a certain work. Apparently, there was not in him, during his boyhood, the slightest impulse towards a military life, He consented to go to West Point merely that he might visit New York and Philadelphia–that done, he would have been glad of any steamboat or railroad accident that should make it for a time impossible to enter the Academy. The things that be enjoyed were things that had scarcely the slightest reference to the career that Lay unconsciously before him. Sydney Smith had a brother, known as Bobus, who bore through life this one distinction: that he had been thrashed as a boy by a schoolmate who subsequently became the Duke of Wellington. “He began with you,” said Sydney Smith, “and ended with Napoleon.” Grant began by breaking in a troublesome horse and ended with the Southern Confederacy.
There is always a certain piquant pleasure in the visible disproportion of means to ends. All Grant’s early preparation or non-preparation for military life inspires the same feeling of gratified surprise with which we read that the young Napoleon, at the military school of St. Cyr, was simply reported as “very healthy.” At West Point, Grant was at the foot of his class in the tactics, and he was dropped from sergeant to private in the junior year. A French or German officer would have looked with contempt on a military cadet who never had been a sportsman, and did not think he should ever have the courage to fight a duel. It would seem as if fate had the same perplexing problem in choosing its man for commander-in-chief that every war governor found in his choice of colonels and captains. Who could tell, how was any one to predict, what sort of soldier any citizen would be? Grant himself, when be came to appoint three men in Illinois as staff officers, failed, by his own statement, in two of the selections. What traits, what tendencies, shown in civil life, furnished the best guarantee for military abilities? None, perhaps, that could be definitely named, except [pg. 18] habitual leadership in physical exercises. Of all positions, the captaincy of a college crew or a baseball club was surest to supply qualities available for military command. But even for athletic exercises, except so far as horses were concerned, Grant had no recorded taste.
Nor does his career in the Mexican war seem to have settled the point–and his animated sketch of that event, though one of the most graphic ever written, fails to give any signal proof of great attributes of leadership. This part of his book is especially interesting as showing the really small scale of military events which then looked large. It is hard for us to believe that General Taylor invaded Mexico with three thousand men, a force no greater than was commanded at different times by dozens of mere colonels during the war for the Union. It is equally hard to believe that these men carried flint-lock muskets, and that their heaviest ordnance consisted of two eighteen-pound guns, while the Mexican artillery was easily evaded by simply stepping out of the way of the balls. It is difficult to convince ourselves that General Taylor never wore uniform, and habitually sat upon his horse with both feet hanging on the same side. Yet it was amid so little pomp and circumstance as this that Grant first practiced war. The experience developed in him sufficient moral insight to see, all along, that it was a contest in which his own country was wrong; and the knowledge he gained of the characters of his fellow officers was simply invaluable when he came to fight against some of them. At Fort Donelson he knew that with any force, however small, he could march within gunshot of General Pillow’s intrenchments,–and when General Buckner said to him, after the surrender, that if he had been in command the Union army would not have got up to the fort so easily, Grant replied that if Buckner had been in command be should not have tried to do it in the way be did.
He was trained also by his Mexican campaign in that habit of simple and discriminating justice to an opponent which is so vital in war. The enormous advantages gained by the Americans over superior numbers during that contest have always been rather a puzzle to the reader. Grant makes it clear when be says that, though the Mexicans often “stood up as well as any troops ever did,” they were a mere mob for want of trained supervision. He adds, with some humor, “The trouble seemed to be the lack of experience among the officers, which led them, after a certain period, to simply quit without being whipped, but because they had fought enough.” He notes also that our losses in those battles were relatively far greater than theirs, and that for this reason, and because of the large indemnity paid at last, the Mexicans still celebrate Chapultepec and Molino del Rey as their victories, very much as Americans, under circumstances somewhat similar, celebrate the battle of Bunker Hill. Finally, Grant has the justice to see that, as Mexico has now a standing army and trained officers, the war of 1846-48 would be an impossibility in this generation.
When Grant comes to deal with the war for the Union itself, his prevailing note of simplicity gives a singularly quiet tone to the narrative. In his hands the tales of Shiloh and Donelson are told with far less of sound and fury than the boys’ football game in “Tom Brown at Rugby.” In reading the accounts of these victories, it seems as if anybody might have won them; just as the traveler, looking from Chamonix at the glittering slopes of Mont Blanc, feels as if there were nothing to do but to walk right up. Did any one in history ever accomplish so much [pg. 19] as Grant with so little conscious expenditure of force, or meet dangers and worries so imperturbably? “I told them that I was not disturbed.” “Why there should have been a panic I do not see.” This is the sort of remark that occurs at intervals throughout the memoirs, and usually at the crisis of affairs; and this denotes the conquering temperament. Perhaps the climax of this expression is found when Grant says incidentally, “While a battle is raging, one can see his enemy mowed down by the thousand, or even the ten thousand, with great composure; but after the battle these scenes are distressing, and one is naturally disposed to do as much to alleviate the suffering of an enemy as [of] a friend.” It is the word “composure” that is here characteristic; many men would share in the emotion, but very few would describe it by this placid phrase. Again, the same quality is shown when, in describing the siege of Vicksburg, after “the nearest approach to a council of war” he ever held, Grant pithily adds, “Against the general and almost unanimous judgment of the council, I sent the following letter,”–this containing essentially the terms that were accepted. Indeed, it is needless to point out how imperturbable must have been the character of the man who would take with him on a campaign his oldest son, a boy of twelve, and say of him at the end, “My son…caused no anxiety either to me or to his mother, who was at home. He looked out for himself, and was in every battle of the campaign.”
This phlegmatic habit made General Grant in some respect uninteresting, as compared, for instance, with the impulsive and exuberant Sherman; but it gave him some solid and admirable minor qualities. “Our army,” said Uncle Toby, “swore terribly in Flanders;” but the commander of the great Union army, by his own statement, was “not aware of ever having used a profane expletive” in his life. There is no more curious and inexplicable characteristic than the use of language. Lincoln impresses one as representing, on the whole, a higher type of character than Grant–more sympathetic, more sensitive, more poetic. Yet Lincoln would tell an indelicate story with the zest of a bar-room lounger, while Grant, by the general testimony of his staff officers, disliked and discouraged everything of the kind. There is a mediaeval tale of a monk who was asked by a peasant to teach him a psalm, and he chose that beginning with the verse, “I will take heed to my ways that I offend not with my tongue.” Having learned thus much, the peasant went away, saying that be would try and practice it before going farther; but he never returned, not having succeeded in living up to the first verse. Grant was apparently more successful.
Mere imperturbability would, however, be useless to a commander without that indefinable quality known as military instinct; and it was this which Grant possessed in a higher degree, probably, than any other man of his time. Like all instinct, it is a thing hard to distinguish from the exceedingly rapid putting of this and that together; as where Grant at Fort Donelson, finding that the knapsacks of the slain enemy were filled with rations, saw at once that they were trying to get away, and renewed the attack successfully. Again, when General Buell had some needless anxiety at Nashville and sent for large reinforcements, Grant told him, on arriving at the scene of action, that he was mistaken; the enemy was not advancing, but retreating. General Buell informed him that there was fighting in progress only ten or twelve miles away; upon which Grant said that this fighting was undoubtedly with the rear guard of the Confederates, who were trying to carry off with them all the [pg. 20] stores they could,–and so it proved. Indeed, it was from an equally prompt recognition of what was really needed that he pressed on Vicksburg at all. Sherman, usually classed as daring and adventurous, dissuaded him, and wished him to hold fast to his base of supplies Grant, usually esteemed cautious, insisted on going on, saying that the whole country needed a decisive victory just then, even if won at a great risk.
The very extent of Grant’s military command has in one respect impaired his reputation; because he marshaled more men than his opponents, he has been assumed to be less great as a soldier than they were. The “Saturday Review,” for instance, forgetting that interior lines may make a small force practically equivalent to a large one, treats Grant’s success, to this day, as merely the irresistible preponderance of greater numbers. But it was precisely here that Grant was tested as Lee was not. To say that it is easier to succeed with a larger force than a smaller one is like saying that it is easier to get across the country with a four-in-hand than in a pony phaeton: it is all very true if the road is smooth and straight and the team well broken; but if the horses are balky and the road a wilderness, the inexperienced driver will be safer with a single steed. The one thing that crushes a general of secondary ability is to have more men than he knows how to handle; his divisions simply get into one another’s way, and his four-in-hand is in a hopeless tangle. Many a man has failed with a great force who would have been superb with a Spartan band; Garibaldi himself did not fit well into the complex mechanism of a German army. “Captain,” said a bewildered volunteer naval lieutenant, accustomed to handling his own small crew upon the quarter-deck of his merchant vessel,–“captain, if you will just go below, and take two thirds of these men with you, I’ll have this ship about in no time.” It is possible that Lee might have commanded a million men as effectively as Grant did, but we shall never know, for that brilliant general had no opportunity to make the experiment. Meanwhile, it is a satisfaction to observe that the most willing European critic can impair the fame of one great American soldier only by setting up that of another.
Which is the more interesting matter of study for posterity in the career of a great general, the course of his campaigns or the development of his character? The latter half of Grant’s life may be read from either of these points of view; but probably its greatest and most lasting interest will, be from its elucidation of the personal traits that marked the man,–its biographical rather than its historical aspect. Behind the battles lay the genius or individual quality, whatever it was, which fought those battles; and which, in the tremendous competition of military selection, left this man above all his immediate competitors in his own field. Even in regard to the lives of Caesar and Napoleon, we can observe that for one person who enters into the details of the strategy, there are ten who are interested in the evolution of the man. But in the case of Grant a new and peculiar interest is developed, for this reason, that he is the first great and conquering commander developed by modern republican institutions. This makes it almost certain that he will be one of the monumental men in history; and there is therefore no problem of the kind more interesting than to consider his character in the almost unerring light thrown by autobiography, and to comprehend what manner of man it is that has been added, in our own day, to those of whom Plutarch wrote.
[pg. 21] It is noticeable, in Grant’s Personal Memoirs, that the second volume has the same simplicity which was shown in the first. It would not have been strange if the habit of writing about himself–an exercise so wholly new to Grant–had by degrees impaired this quality as the book went on; but it really characterizes the later pages as much as the earlier, and the work might, so far as concerns this feature, have been struck off at a white heat. The author never poses nor attitudinizes–never wavers for an instant from his purpose to tell plain facts in the plainest possible way. The tremendous scenes through which he has passed never overwhelm or blur his statement; he tells of the manoeuvring of hundreds of thousands of men as quietly as if he were narrating a contest of fishing-boats at Long Branch. When he describes that famous interview between himself and General Lee, in which was settled the permanent destiny of the American nation, the tale is told far more quietly than the ordinary reporter would describe the negotiations for a college rowing-match. Such a description, read in connection with Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, shows that simplicity stands first among all literary gifts; that the greater the occasion, the more apt men are to be simple; and suggests that no time or place has ever surpassed, in this respect, the examples left behind by these two modern American men.
Next to the unconscious exhibition of character given by every man in writing about himself comes the light indirectly thrown upon his own nature by his way of judging of others. In this respect, also, Grant’s quietness of tone places him at great advantage. He sometimes praises ardently, but he censures very moderately. Of Bragg’s disastrous tactics at Chattanooga he only says, “I have never been able to see the wisdom of this move.” Of Buell’s refusal to accept a command under Sherman, on the ground that he had previously ranked Sherman Grant says, “The worst excuse a soldier can give for declining service is that be once ranked the commander he is ordered to report.” Again, when a question arose between Palmer and Schofield, as to whether the latter had a right to command the former, the comment is, “If he [Palmer] did raise this question while an action was going on, that act alone was exceedingly reprehensible.”
That besetting sin of military commanders, the habit of throwing the responsibility for failure upon subordinates, never seems to tempt Grant. In speaking of Burnside’s losing an important advantage at Spottsylvania, he says, “I attach no blame to Burnside for this, but I do to myself, for not having a staff officer with him to report to me his position.” When we compare this guardedness of tone with the sweeping authoritativeness which marks many of our civilian critics of campaigns, the difference is certainly most gratifying. The only matters that rouse Grant to anything like wrath in the telling are those acts which imply crimes against humanity like the massacre of colored troops at Port Pillow; and in this case he simply characterizes Forrest’s report of the affair as something “which shocks humanity to read.” He does not even allow himself the luxury of vehemence against fate, or fortune, or inevitable destiny. Even when he describes his immense local obstacles in the country round Spottsylvania,–a heavily timbered region, full of little streams surrounded by wooded and marshy bottom lands,–he gently says, “It was a much better country to conduct a defensive campaign in than an offensive one.” The man who can speak charitably of Virginia swamps may certainly lay claim to that virtue which is chief among the blessed three.
[pg. 22] The severest test offered in Grant’s memoirs, as to his judgment on men, is in his estimate of one whom he had allowed, in the opinion of many, to be most grievously wronged,–the late Major-General Gouverneur K. Warren. The great civil war caused a vast multitude of deaths, directly and indirectly, but among all these there was but one conspicuous and unquestionable instance of broken heart,–in the case of that high-minded and most estimable man who was removed by Sheridan from the command of an army corps just before the battle of Five Forks, and who spent the rest of his life in vainly endeavoring to secure even an investigation before a Court of Inquiry. All who remember General Warren’s refined and melancholy face, with its permanent look of hopeless and crushing sorrow, must have turned eagerly to those pages of the Personal Memoirs in which his case was mentioned. Instead of evading the subject, Grant met it frankly. It has always been supposed among the friends of General. Warren that the main objection to ordering a Court of Inquiry in his case was the known affection of the commander-in-chief for Sheridan, and his willingness to let Warren be sacrificed rather than expose his favorite officer to blame. Those who have read this book will be satisfied that no such theory will suffice. It is upon himself that Grant takes the main responsibility of Warren’s displacement. He had made, as he avers, a careful study of Warren’s peculiar temperament, long before this event occurred. He had at first felt in him a confidence so great that he would have put him in Meade’s place had that officer fallen (ii. 216), but he came gradually to a very different opinion. He always regarded him as a “gallant soldier, an able man,” and always thought him “thoroughly imbued with the solemnity and importance of the duty he had to perform.” But he thus analyzes his character (ii. 214):–
“Warren’s difficulty was twofold: when he received an order to do anything, it would at once occur to his mind bow all the balance of the army should be engaged so as to properly cooperate with him. His ideas were generally good, but he would forget that the person giving him orders had thought of others at the time he had of him. In like manner, when he did get ready to execute an order, after giving most intelligent instructions to division commanders, he would go in with one division, holding the others in reserve, until, he could superintend their movements in person also,–forgetting that division commanders could execute an order without his presence. His difficulty was constitutional and beyond his control. He was an officer of superior ability, quick perceptions, and personal courage to accomplish anything that could be done with a small command” (ii. 214-15).
This certainly gives a very clear analysis of a certain type of character; and whether the observer was correct or incorrect in his diagnosis, he was bound to act upon it. It further appears that Warren was again and again a source of solicitude to Grant. In some cases he did admirably, as at Cold Harbor. “The enemy charged Warren three separate times with vigor, but were repulsed each time with loss. There was no officer more capable, nor one more prompt in acting, than Warren, when the enemy forced him into it” (ii. 266). Again, at the siege of Petersburg, Warren obeyed orders perfectly, when Burnside paid no attention to him (ii. 313). Nevertheless Grant was very much afraid,”–taking all things into consideration,–“that at the last moment he would fail Sheridan.” He accordingly sent a staff officer to Sheridan to say that, although he personally liked Warren, it would not do to let personal feeling stand in the way of success, and “if his removal was [pg. 23] necessary to success” Sheridan must not hesitate. On this authority the removal was made; and Grant only blames himself for not having assigned Warren, long before, to some other field of duty (ii. 445).
All this throws light not merely upon Grant’s sustaining Sheridan in the removal of Warren, but on his uniform refusal afterwards to order any Court of Inquiry. This was the one thing for which Warren and his friends longed; and it was always assumed, by them that it was refused merely in order to shield Sheridan. Yet it was the one thing which would have been, from Grant’s point of view, utterly useless. When an officer is removed for an actual moral fault, as cowardice, drunkenness, or disobedience of orders, a formal investigation may settle the matter; for it is then a question of definite charges. But where a man of the highest character turns out to be, from mere peculiarities of temperament, unsuited to a certain post, his displacement may be just as necessary; nor can war be carried on in any other way. The stake is too tremendous, the interests of the nation are too momentous for the matter to rest on any other basis. Nor is it essential that the superior officer should be assumed as infallible; under these circumstances he must do the best he can. Had there been a Court of Inquiry, nothing would have been established except that Grant and Sheridan honestly believed that Warren was not the man for the place, and that they therefore set him aside, as they might have done, under like circumstances, with any other officer in himself estimable,–as, for instance, Burnside. Grant may have sincerely thought that to say this before a Court of Inquiry would really hurt Warren more than Sheridan, and that it was better for the sufferer himself to let the matter rest where it lay. This was probably mistaken kindness, if kindness it was. A man smarting under a real or supposed injustice always prefers an investigation, even if the result of that tribunal is sure to be against him. Nor is it sure that it would have been technically against Warren. The considerations which influenced Grant and Sheridan were to some extent intangible, and General Humphreys has shown that on some points they were mistaken, and Warren had done rightly. But the real question is whether Grant was also mistaken in his final analysis of Warren’s character; and it is upon this, after all, that the whole thing turned.
This particular instance has been thus emphasized because it is, more than any other, a test of Grant’s habit of justice to his subordinates; a quality in which, we are bound to say, he surpasses almost all writers of military autobiographies. So far as justice to himself is concerned, he could not have well helped doing it, had he tried, for any man shows himself as he is, either willingly, or unwillingly, when he tells his own story. Nor is there any evidence that he sought to help it.
The latter part of his book bears literary marks of the tremendous strain under which it was written, but it bears no moral marks of it; and he keeps clear, from beginning to end, of all that ill-concealed enthusiasm about himself which is the common bane of autobiographies. He is perfectly content to stand for what he was,–a combination of plain and almost commonplace qualities, developed to a very high power, and becoming at length the equivalent of what we call military genius. This, at least, is the inference to be drawn from his book. Whether he was or was not, in the way of distinctive genius, a greater man than he thought himself must be left for the military historians of a future generation to determine. In any case the spectacle of an eminent commander who habitually underrates himself is rare enough to be very pleasing.
[pg. 24] This process of self-development is never, of course, directly stated, or even intimated, by Grant himself. Had it been otherwise the quality of unconsciousness would have been wanting. But the adaptation of supreme good sense to the conditions and exigencies of army life may constantly be traced here, riot merely between the lines, but in maxim after maxim, each an obiter dictum, given with a homely simplicity that half disguises its real wisdom. What Lincoln would have put into an anecdote or local proverb,–as when, for instance, he expressed his unwillingness to swap horses while crossing a stream or to cross Fox River before he reached it,–Grant condenses into some plain statement: “Accident often decides the fate of battle” (ii. 212). “It would be bad to be defeated in two battles fought on the same day; but it would not be bad to win them” (ii. 20). “It is men who wait to be selected, and not those who seek, from whom we may always expect the most efficient service” (ii. 117). “The fact is, troops who have fought a few battles and won, and followed up their victories, improve upon what they were before to an extent that can hardly be reckoned by percentage” (ii. 109). “No man is so brave that he may not meet such defeats and disasters as to discourage him and dampen his ardor for any cause, no matter how just he deems it” (ii. 419). “It had been my intention before this to remain at the West, even if I was made lieutenant-general; but when I got to Washington, and saw the situation, it was plain that here was the point for the commanding-general to be. No one else could probably resist the pressure that would be brought to bear upon him to desist from his own plans and pursue others” (ii. 116).
In each passage we see clearly the working of Grant’s mind. When once his convictions had taken shape in one of these simple formulae, it was no more necessary for him to reconsider it than for a mathematician to go behind a preceding proposition. This clear and pellucid mental habit, joined with much reticence and a good deal of obstinacy, made a very powerful combination; kept him from being entangled by his own plans or confused by those of others; enabled him to form a policy, to hold to it, to overcome obstacles, to escape depression in defeat or undue excitement in victory. With all this–and here comes in the habit of mind generated by a republic–he never forgot that he was dealing with his own fellow countrymen, both as friends and foes, and that he must never leave their wishes and demands, nor even their whims and prejudices out of sight. Many of his early risks were based upon the conviction that the friends of the Union needed a victory or two, and must have it. All his strategy, during the closing campaign, was based upon the conviction–a conviction which Wellington or Von Moltke might very probably have missed–that the Confederates were thoroughly tired of the war, and were losing more men by desertion than they could possibly gain by impressment. Even in the terms at last given to Lee, the same quality of what we may call glorified common-sense came in; and there is no doubt that the whole process of reconstruction was facilitated when Grant decided that the vanquished Confederate soldiers had better keep their horses to help them in getting in their crops. All these considerations were precisely those we should expect a republican general to apply. It would be natural for him to recognize that the war in which he was engaged was not a mere competitive test of military machines, human or otherwise, but that it must be handled with constant reference to the instincts and. habits that lay behind it. The absence of this ready comprehension helped to explain the curious failure, in our, army, of many foreign [pg. 25] officers who knew only the machine. The fact that Grant and Lincoln, however they might differ in other respects, had this mental habit in common was that which enabled them to work together so well. A striking instance of this was their common relation to the slavery question, which both had approached reluctantly, but which both accepted at last as the pivotal matter of the whole conflict. Both saw that it could be met in but one way, and both divined that the course of events was steadily about ionizing all Union men. In general, Lincoln with sympathetic humor and Grant with strong sense kept always in mind the difference between a people’s war and a mere contest of soldiers.
In other words, they were both representative Americans. So much stronger is the republican instinct among us than any professional feeling which even West Point cam create that Grant, though trained to the pursuit of arms, never looked at things for a moment merely from the soldier’s point of view. This was the key to his military successes,–the time, the place, the combatants being what they were,–and this was the key to the readiness with which, at last, both Grant and the soldiers under him laid down their arms. Here at last, Europe thought, was the crisis of danger; here was the “man on horseback,” so often prophesied as the final instrument of Providence, surely destined to bring this turbulent republic back among the mass of nations that obey with ease. The moment of fancied peril came; and it turned out that old Israel Putnam, galloping in his shirt-sleeves to the battle of Bunker Hill, was not more harmless to the liberties of America than this later man-on-horseback, Grant.
The claims of Grant to permanent fame will lie first in the fact that he commanded the largest civilized armies the world ever saw; secondly, that with these armies he saved the integrity of the American nation; thirdly, that he did all this by measures of his own initiating, rarely calling a council of war and commonly differing from it when called; fourthly, that he did all this for duty, not glory, and in the spirit of a citizen, not the military spirit, persisting to the last that he was, as he told Bismarck, more of a farmer than a soldier; then again, that when tested by the severest personal griefs and losses in the decline of life, he showed the same strong qualities still; and finally, that in writing his own memoirs he was simple as regards himself, candid towards opponents, and thus bequeathed to the world a book better worth reading than any military autobiography since Caesar’s Commentaries.
NEWS NOTES *** Howard N. Meyer, a New York City attorney, whose recent book, Colonel of the Black Regiment, furnished valuable background information for the introduction to Thomas Wentworth Higginson’s essay on Grant, has also written Let Us Have Peace: The Story of Ulysses S. Grant (1966), a biography designed specifically for teenagers. *** E. B. Long, vice chairman of the Editorial Board of the Grant Association, is Visiting Lecturer in Civil War History at the University of [pg. 26] California, San Diego at La Jolla, for the spring academic quarter of this year. *** Critic John Ciardi has written an amusing article in a recent Saturday Review (March 9, 1968) chiding the National Park Service for insisting that the New York City structure known to almost everybody as Grant’s Tomb should properly be called the General Grant National Memorial. To a National Park Service assertion that the new name will be recognized in a few years Ciardl replies: “It will not….Not In eternity.” Ciardi’s full-page condemnation, however, will undoubtedly be more effective than official pronouncements in reminding people to refer to the General Grant National Memorial whenever they mean Grant’s Tomb. *** The first volume of The Papers of Andrew Johnson, a recent publication of the University of Tennessee Press, provides a documentary record of Johnson’s life from his indenture to a tailor in 1822 to the beginning of his fifth consecutive term as United States Representative in 1851. Editors LeRoy P. Graf and Ralph W. Haskins plan nine more volumes to cover the rest of Johnson’s life. The first volume, with masterful editing and handsome printing, inaugurates a major contribution to the literature of American history.
[pg. 27] WHEN GRANT WENT A-COURTIN’ *** One of the least known of all articles written about Grant is also one of the most interesting. So far as is known, it represents the only effort of a member of the Dent family to write about Grant. “When Grant Went a-Courtin'” by Emma Dent Casey, Grant’s sister-in-law, appeared in two installments in successive Issues (January and February, 1909) of The Circle, a short-lived family monthly magazine of the early twentieth century. When the magazine failed, all memory of the article seemed to vanish with it.
Emily Marbury Dent, invariably called Emma, was the youngest of eight children born to Colonel Frederick Dent and Ellen Bray Wrenshall Dent. Throughout her life she shared with her oldest sister, Julia, later Mrs. U. S. Grant, a marked vivacity and a keen sense of humor. At the age of seventy-two she set out to recall incidents dating back as far as sixty-five years. Where her facts can be checked, they prove accurate, showing that she was a careful observer and had cherished memories of her brother-in-law over the years.
The first installment of Emma Dent Casey’s recollections appear below in the form used by The Circle. The second half of the article will appear in our next Newsletter.
I was a very little girl when General Grant first came to our house; in fact, I was not yet seven years old. It was I whom he first met, and in years after, when my sister Julia had become his wife, it used to be my teasing boast that I knew him best because I had known him longest. All this was a long time ago, a very long time ago, as I look back upon all that has happened since. For I was only seven then; now I am two and seventy. We lived at White Haven then, the place where I met General Grant, and where he met my sister and courted her, add where they afterward lived at different times.The farm of White Haven was even prettier than its name, for the pebbly, shining Graviose [Gravois] ran right through it, and there were beautiful groves growing all over it, add acres upon acres of grassy meadows where the cows used to stand knee-deep in blue grass and clover. We lived at St. Louis in the winters, but we always spent the summers at White Haven. It was a fine farm of some twelve hundred acres, which my father, Frederick Dent, had bought soon after he moved from Pittsburg to Missouri. It was about twelve miles from St. Louis and something like five or six miles from Jefferson Barracks.
The house we lived in stood in the center of a long sweep of wooded valley and the creek ran through the trees not far below it. The house itself was a pleasant, rambling old place, painted white and with big double porches running the full length of the front. There was a great stone chimney at each end, and these, as well as the porches, were covered with clambering honeysuckles and other vines. Through the grove of locust trees a walk led from the low porch steps to an old-fashioned turnstile gate, about fifty yards from the house. Some little distance behind the house were the stables and pens for the stock, and flanking these on either side were the eighteen cabins where our slave people lived. It was just a sweet, old-fashioned, “down South befo’ de wah” sort of place where my father was proud to dispense real old-time Southern hospitality.
My father had taken many of the notions of the Southern planter to Missouri with him. He was a Marylander by birth and the first white male child born in the town of Cumberland. He had lived in Pennsylvania for a while and married my mother there. He moved to Missouri and prospered. White Haven was bought for a summer residence and here all his children, save John and Julia, came into the world.
The Old Home Before the WarThere were eight of us children–four boys and four girls. John, the oldest, was followed by George Wrenshall, Fred (afterward General Dent), and Louis. Julia (Mrs. Grant) came next, in 1826, then Nellie, in 1828, then Mary, in 1830, and it was my fate to arrive some six years later–the last to come and the last to go away, for all the others are dead.My father was at this time a white-haired man, smooth-shaven, and, [pg. 29] like all the Dents, rather under medium size. He usually dressed in the sober black long-coat, dark trousers, and high stock habitually affected by gentlemen of the period, He was a man little given to talking, much preferring to sit in a big rocking-chair on the front porch with a newspaper in his hand and a long reed-stemmed or churchwarden pipe in his mouth. He was a Democrat of the old school, an ardent Southerner, and, though opposed to secession, he was later called a “rebel.” He owned slaves up to the very day of the Emancipation Act, and though the time came when he, naturally, called himself a “Grant” man, he remained loyal to the principles of Democracy, as he conceived them, until the day of his death–which took place in the White House during General Grant’s second administration.
I may say here that my own views always agreed with my father’s in politics, and in these we were divided from the rest of the family. He was always very fond of saying during the war the “Enmy and I are the only rebels in the house.”
My mother was a Miss Ellen Wrenshall before her marriage, and both her parents were of English birth. She was a small, slender woman with rather serious gray eyes, a smiling mouth, and a gentle voice. I remember that she wore snowy caps and dainty kerchiefs on her head, as I have occasionally seen very old-fashioned old ladies do since.
I was nearing my seventh birthday, that bright spring afternoon in 1843 when, with my four little darky playmates, Henrietta, Sue, Ann, and Jeff, I went out hunting for birds’ nests. They were my slaves as well as my chums, for father had given them to me at birth, and as we were all of about an age, we used to have some good times together. This day, I remember, we were out in front of the turnstile and I had my arms full of birds’ nests and was clutching a tiny unfledged birdling in one hand when a young stranger rode blithely up to the stile.
“How do you do, little girl!” he called out to me. “How do you do! Does Mr. Dent live here?”
I was very much embarrassed. Every feminine mind will know how I felt to be caught like that. Besides, I thought him the handsomest person I had ever seen in my life, this strange young man. He was riding a splendid horse, and, oh, he sat it so gracefully! The whole picture of him and his sleek, prancing steed was so good to look upon that I could do nothing but stare at it–so forgetting the poor little crying thing in my hand that I nearly crushed it to death. Of course, I knew he was a soldier from the barracks, because he had on a beautiful blue suit with gold buttons down the front, but he looked too young to be an officer. I stood staring at him, and he sat his horse, smiling at me until he said again:
“Come, little girl. Can’t you answer me? Is this Mr. Dent’s house?”
By this time Jeff was standing on his head and cracking his bare, black ankles together, in a modest effort to “show off,” while the other little pickaninnies were capering about and shyly giggling, as if to urge me to some new mischief. But I said at last, “Yes, sir,” and let my arms drop and the little bird and the treasured nests all went tumbling down on the ground. The young stranger laughed pleasantly and got off his horse.
We children followed him up to the porch; trailing in his wake and [pg. 30] close to his feet like a troop of little black-and-tan puppies. On the way he asked me several questions, which I do not now remember, and which I don’t think I answered at, all. At the porch we heard him introduce himself to my father as Lieutenant Grant. Then my mother and my sister Nellie came out to meet him, and my mother sent us children scampering off to our play again. But the charms of, the wild were deadened to me for the time. I came back to sit on the steps of the porch and gaze, round-eyed and silent, into the handsome face of the stranger.
The young soldier explained the cause of his visit. He had been, he said, the roommate and classmate of my brother Fred (afterward General Dent) at West Point, and when he had been ordered from the Academy, to Jefferson Barracks, Fred had made him promise to call on us. My father and mother made him welcome and he spent the afternoon with us.
The Lieutenant Captivates Little “Emmy”That was our first introduction to Lieutenant Grant. Julia was not at home upon this occasion. She had been spending the winter with a friend in St. Louis, and had not yet returned. My brothers were not at White Haven that day, either, and so the burden of entertaining Fred’s friend fell upon my parents and sister Nellie. Nellie, in the absence of Julia, was, of course, the “young lady” of the house, and no one could play the part better than that self-confident young miss of fifteen years. My own contribution toward the entertainment of the stranger was one continuous stare up at his face.But no one ought to have been blamed for staring at him. At that time Lieutenant Grant’s personal appearance was very attractive. He was very youthful looking, even for his age, which was just twenty-one. His cheeks were round and plump and rosy; his hair was fine and brown, very thick and wavy. His eyes were a clear blue, and always full of light. His features were regular, pleasingly molded and attractive, and his figure so slender, well-formed, and graceful that it was like that of a young prince to my eye. Indeed, I know that many persons who only knew General Grant after he had become famous did not think him handsome, but I can assure them that when he rode up to White Haven that bright day in the early spring of 1843 he was as pretty as a doll. At any rate, he enchanted me. He was my first sweetheart.
Having found the road to our house, Lieutenant Grant seemed to find it pleasant to ride out that way frequently. He came perhaps twice a week during the next two months and generally stayed through the afternoon and sometimes to supper. We all liked him, particularly the feminine part of the family, and sister Nellie and I began to wrangle as to which one of us should “have” him.
That was lots of fun for Nellie, who was a great tease, but I am afraid it sometimes taxed my childish jealousy to the limit. Sister Julia was still in St. Louis, and so the Lieutenant and I had some great romps together. He always called me his little girl, and many a delightful ride I’ve had on his shoulder. I remember that he used to kiss me occasionally, and that I resented it as being “too big a girl” for such things.
But I do not think my resentment against Lieutenant Grant ever lasted very long, for everywhere he went about the place I and my small [pg. 31] train of raggedy little darkies tagged after him. Sometimes, when he could not get rid of us any other way, he and Nellie used to get the horses and go out for short horseback rides. It was their only means of escape from the sharp eyes of me and my small cohort of “black perils.”
Sister Julia Arrives Upon the SceneThen Sister Julia came home. She had already heard of the Lieutenant through the letters of my mother, who liked him very much. Quite to the contrary of the usual course under such circumstances, Julia appeared to like the young soldier, also, from the first moment they met. As for Lieutenant Grant–I have heard him say since that with him it was a case of love at first sight. His attentions certainly seemed to indicate it. He also told me once, when he was in the White House, that he had never had but the one love affair, but the one sweetheart in his life. Not even the boyish amours that usually precede a young man’s real passion had ever been his. His wife was the “lady of his dreams,” the heroine of his one romance.At the time Lieutenant Grant met her, sister Julia was as dainty a little creature as one would care to see. She was not exactly a beauty, a slight defect of one of her eyes marring the harmony of her features, but she was possessed of a lively and pleasing countenance. Aside from this cast in her eye she was very prettily made, indeed, and was considered to have an exquisite figure. She was plump, but neither tall nor stout, and she had the slimmest, prettiest foot and hand I have ever seen on any woman, while her arms were beautifully rounded. Her hair and eyes were brown, and she had a rosy complexion that would be the envy of most girls of to-day.
The defect in Julia’s eye was due to an accident in babyhood, and it never appeared to detract from her charms in the least. Indeed, it was in General Grant’s eyes an added grace, for he would never allow it to be remedied, although the very simplest use of the surgeon’s knife would have removed it. I remember upon one occasion, during their residence at the White House, in the General’s first term, Mrs. Grant determined to have the operation performed. She had never been able to quite believe the General when he had said, that he loved her more with the cast than be would without it, because she had had it when he courted her. So she determined to have it remedied and surprise him. Every precaution to keep any knowledge of the operation from “Dudy”–the name by which Mrs. Grant always called her husband–was taken. A specialist was summoned to the White House in secret and one of the children’s bedrooms improvised into an operating-room for the time being. But at the very moment when Julia was in the act of submitting to the knife, through some unforeseen cause, the General unexpectedly entered the room. He took in the situation at a glance and immediately showed–that rarest of emotions with him–positive annoyance.
“Now, Julia,” he said, “I don’t want you to do that. Your eye was that way when I married you and it’s got to stay that way. You’re pretty enough to suit me just as you are.”
And he ordered the surgeon away. My sister carried that defect with her to her death.
But, to get back to their first acquaintance, the visits of the [pg. 32] young army officer to our house became even more frequent after Julia came home. He rode over from the barracks perhaps as often as four times a week and was always pressed to stay to supper by my hospitable mother. He never seemed to require too much pressing, however; it did not take Nell and myself long to see that we were no more the attractions at White Haven for Lieutenant Grant. He showed a very quiet but marked preference for Julia’s company, which only she pretended not to notice. There was nothing of the “gushy” in his attentions to her, however. In fact, Julia was not the sort of girl to encourage that kind of thing, and what with four teasing brothers and two younger sisters on hand constantly, life would have been made something of a burden for her if she had. Their couduct toward each other was always frank and unaffected; in fact, their whole manner toward each other was that of a boy and a girl who are friends and not ashamed to show their liking for each other. There was little of the sentimental about either of them.
My mother, especially, was very much pleased with the young soldier. She had grown to be very fond of him even before this, because of the simplicity of demeanor and unconsciousness of self which always distinguished him. She greatly enjoyed hearing him discuss politics with my father, and I think the rare common sense he displayed, his quiet, even tones, free from gestures and without affectation, especially attracted her. On many and many an occasion, after he had ridden away, I have heard her say:
“That young man will be heard from some day. He has a good deal in him. He will make his mark.”
There were some merry days along the Graviose then, with sister Julia at home and the Lieutenant riding over from the barracks about every other day. He and she frequently went fishing along the shady banks of the creek, and many a fine mess of perch I’ve seen them catch together. Sometimes my brothers and Nellie and their friends would go with them, and we would have quite a fishing-party. More often my full train of little darkies, with my small self acting as engine and pilot, would tag after them, insisting upon carrying the bait or catching the “hoppergrasses” used to entice catfish to the hook, or even upon doing part of the angling ourselves. Generally they did not appear to mind us much, but sometimes the lover and the lady would “give us the slip” and gallop away on horseback–after having lured us further down stream, to look for a finer fishing-hole. I would be quite disconsolate at first, upon discovering such perfidy, and would frequently go into perfect tantrums of anger at being so imposed upon. But when they returned, the Lieutenant could generally tease or coax me out of my temper–though I sometimes gave him back the “sass” which white youngsters who play with colored children so easily pick up, before I surrendered.
One instance of my “sass,” at about this time, I remember, which he took occasion to recall to me a good many years later at a dinner in the White House. He had not been paying attention to Julia very long at this time, and she had gone away from home again for a short visit. I was going to school in a little log schoolhouse about half a mile distant, and I always rode a little pony which Billy, the black boy, led all the way. He was my pony, and I was very jealous of letting my sisters ride him. On this particular morning Lieutenant Grant, who had spent the night at our house, came out into the yard as Billy brought up my horse, [pg. 33] and said that he would ride to school with me. Sister Nelly heard what he said, and as it was a very fine morning for a gallop, she said:
“Why, Emmy, I believe I’ll go too. Then Billy needn’t go with us. I’ll ride your pony and you can get up behind me.”
“Indeed, I’ll not,” I said. “You shan’t ride my pony with me on behind. He’s my pony. I won’t do it.”
Nelly was annoyed, but the Lieutenant laughed.
“Oh, well, then, Emmy,” he cried, leaning down at me from his saddle, “you may ride with me. How would you like that? Come, you shall sit up here on my lap.”
“No, I will not,” I said. “I won’t ride on your lap, either.” I was quite as indignant as any miss of seven years could have been. The soldier was vastly amused, but he stopped teasing and began to try coaxing.
“All right, Emmy. But I’d ride in your lap if I could. Will you ride behind me, then if you won’t ride behind Miss Nelly?”
When a Little Girl Was Saucy Long AgoAfter a little more cajolery I yielded to this plan. He reached down his hand, I put my foot on his stirrup, and he swung me up behind him. Very gingerly, and only after a little persuasion, I put my arms around his waist to hold on, and away we went.As we emerged from the woods and went slowly down the hill into the valley my gallant Sir Knight glanced toward the schoolhouse and saw all the youngsters inside with their noses pressed flat against the window panes. School had “taken up,” and its small denizens were studying us with more zeal than ever they gave to their books. Lieutenant Grant’s eyes twinkled as he turned and said over his shoulder, with an odd gravity in his voice:
“They’re looking at us, Emmy. They’re saying, ‘Look at Emmy Dent! She’s got her sweetheart with her.'”
Nothing could have ruffled more my small dignity.
“No, you’re not my sweetheart, you old black nigger fool,” I cried. “More like sister Nell’s beau, you mean.”
The Lieutenant flushed to the roots of his hair. And Nelly blushed as furiously as the poor lieutenant.
“Hush, Emmy, hush!” she cried, very red.
Long years afterward, when White Haven was only a memory to all of us, General Grant proved that he still remembered those early days by twitting me with this incident during a dinner at the White House. There was a distinguished company present, and I had just paid him one of my prettiest compliments, when he called the attention of the whole assembly to me:
“You have heard what Mrs. Casey has just said,” he cried, with his eye merrily twinkling. “Can you believe that this same person once called me ‘an old black nigger fool?'”
Then, to my great confusion and amid the laughter of the guests, he very solemnly related the whole circumstance almost as I have done here.
Not long after this Julia came home again, and Lieutenant Grant quite naturally resumed his courtship. And now that my other sister’s eyes and mine were opened to the true state of affairs we resigned our [pg. 34] aspirations and became “just children” again. It did not interfere in the least with our good times, and I like to think that we did not interfere too much in the good times of–what I might now call, perhaps, the enamored couple. The soldier did most of his courting on horseback. My sister was an enthusiastic rider and a good one as well, and she had a splendid Kentucky mare, which she named Missouri Belle, and which was as fleet as a doe. Lieutenant Grant was one of the best horsemen I ever saw, and he rode a fine blooded animal he had brought from Ohio. Many a sharp race they used to have together in the fine mornings before breakfast or through the sunset and twilight after supper.
NEWS NOTES *** The Ulysses S. Grant Association has received a grant of $10,000 from the National Historical Publications Commission for the coming fiscal year. *** At a recent Grant Association board meeting, Philip D. Sang, Chicago industrialist and manuscript collector, was elected a director to replace the late Newton C. Farr. *** An original crayon portrait of Colonel Frederick Dent of St. Louis was presented to the Grant Association by Dent’s great-great-granddaughter, Mrs. Gordon Singles of Alexandria, Virginia. The portrait was done by a French officer in 1872 when Dent was living in the White House with his son-in-law, President Ulysses S. Grant. Following necessary reframing, it will be displayed in the American Heritage Room of Morris Library, Southern Illinois University. *** Mrs. Lawrence E. Oestreich of 411 Meeker Street, Galena, Illinois, is engaged in battle with the Jo Daviess County Housing Authority over its plans to make way for public housing by demolishing the building which once housed the Jesse R. Grant leather store. Ulysses S. Grant left this store in April, 1861, to volunteer for the Union. Mrs. Oestreich has been fighting a delaying action against condemnation of property she owns adjacent to the leather store with the hope that she can rally support to preserve the historic structure. She would like to hear from people willing to join her side.