FREDERICK DENT GRANT AT VICKSBURG *** This article is the second in a series covering Frederick Dent Grant’s memories of his father. The first appeared in the April Newsletter.
Frederick Grant especially enjoyed recalling his experiences as a twelve-year-old boy accompanying his father during the Vicksburg campaign. The article reprinted below appeared originally in The Outlook for July 2, 1898, though the reference to General Grenville M. Dodge near the end suggests that it was prepared originally as a speech for a veterans’ organization. Frederick Grant drew on his memories of the Vicksburg campaign in brief remarks to the Society of the Army of the Tennessee in 1894, 1905, 1906, and 1909, though only in 1907 at the meeting held in Vicksburg did he make a formal address, and then he relied completely on his earlier article in discussing his own role. The latter speech was printed in the Report of the Proceedings of the Society of the Army of the Tennessee, and reprinted in the Confederate Veteran for January, 1908. Frederick Grant’s memories of Vicksburg made a final appearance on January 22, 1911, in the New York World Magaaine, then were reprinted in the Literary Digest on April 27, 1912, sixteen days after his death. The earliest of all these accounts appears to be the most complete as well as the most readable.
I have always appreciated the good fortune which enabled me to be with my father and his able lieutenants in the field during our great struggle for National existence, and to see for myself the men and the events that made so famous the chapters of our history for the years from 1861 to 1865.In March, 1863, while I was at school at Covington, Ky., my father gave his consent to my joining him at Young’s Point, near Vicksburg. I was stimulated to haste by my desire to possess myself of a beautiful Indian pony which Colonel [Maj. Theodore S.] Bowers, of father’s staff, had provided especially for me.
Arriving at Young’s Point, I found my father’s headquarters on a steamboat at the levee. I also found my precious pony, had him saddled and bridled immediately, and joined my father on a trip of inspection to the canal. Here he found that the enemy was throwing up fortifications on the opposite side of the river, which so commanded the canal that its use would be impracticable. We returned to headquarters, stopping for consultation with several generals on the way. Here I first saw General Sherman, for whom my father had such unbounded admiration. Later, father went on board Admiral Porter’s flagship, the Benton, for a consultation with his naval coadjutor. I accompanied him; but on board, the Admiral, doubtless remembering the old saying that “little pitchers have long ears,” called a man to show me all over the ship–everywhere but in the cabin. Not then appreciating the reasons for this special courtesy, I enjoyed my explorations very much. It was during my absence that my father proposed the passage of the Vicksburg batteries.
The transports were protected with bales of hay packed around the boilers; calls were made for volunteers to man the boats; and the troops were reviewed. The call for boat crews was most eagerly responded to, especially by the men of General [John A.] Logan’s division. Some of the men advanced the most extraordinary reasons for being selected for the service, and their courage and persistency seemed truly marvelous to me. Colonel W. S. Oliver’s Eighth Missouri Regiment volunteered almost en masse.
On the 16th of April, 1863, General Grant and Admiral Porter held a final consultation. About 10 P. M. all lights were put out, and the fleet started down the river. Suddenly a rocket went up from the shore; a cannon blazed forth from Warrentown [Warrenton]; and a shot passed directly in front of our boat. We stopped; a lurid flame sprang up from a house at De Soto, opposite Vicksburg, then another on the river front, and soon fires were burning along the whole front of the city, and the river was lighted as if by sunlight. Six gunboats, looking like great black turtles, followed by three fragile transports, moved directly toward the Confederate batteries, which now opened fire. The Benton and the other gunboats responded, and, steaming up near the city, sent shot [pg. 3] and shell pouring into Vicksburg. The transports kept over toward the Louisiana shore, and one–the Henry Clay–was set on fire by a red-hot shell, and burned to the water’s edge. The people of Vicksburg lined the hills, and manifested great excitement. On board our boat my father and I stood side by side on the hurricane deck. He was quietly smoking, but an intense light shone in his eyes. The scene is as vivid in my mind to-night as it was then to my eyes, and will remain with me always.
As soon as our fleet passed the batteries, and firing had ceased, father’s boat steamed back to Milliken’s Bend. The first step of the great campaign had been successfully accomplished.
A few days later I accompanied my father, with eight officers of his staff and an escort of twenty cavalrymen, on a ride of thirty miles to visit McClernand at New Carthage. It was a hard day’s journey. At the crossing of a slough, where there was but a narrow bridge, my father made one of his daring leaps, putting his horse at the opposite bank, which he just managed to reach. The rest of us preferred to wait our turn at crossing by the bridge, over which a wagon train was slowly passing. We remained that night at New Carthage, my father spending the time conversing with McClernand. The following day we returned to Milliken’s Bend.
From there father moved to the head of the army, which now had advanced to Hard Times. The problem now presented itself of getting the troops across the Mississippi River.
On the 29th of April our gunboats steamed down to Grand Gulf, and engaged the enemy’s batteries for about five hours. Father was on board a little tug, which moved about amid the fleet. I had kept close to him and saw all that was going on. After a trip to the Louisiana shore we went on board the Benton, and, as we entered the porthole, I was sickened with the scenes of carnage. Admiral Potter had been struck on the back of the head with a fragment of shell, and his face showed the agony he was suffering, but he planned a renewal of the conflict for that night, in order to permit our transports to run past the Confederate batteries. During this interview with the Admiral he asked me if I wanted to stay with him, and suggested that I might fill the place of a gunner he had lost. The scene around me dampened my enthusiasm for naval glory, so I replied: “I do not believe that papa will allow me to serve in the navy.”
Our troops now moved down the western bank of the Mississippi, to De Shroon’s plantation, where the negroes turned out to welcome us with great rejoicing, deeming us the messengers of the Lord bringing them freedom.
The following day, April 30, we went on board the General Price, formerly a Confederate ram, and moved down to where Bruinsburg had stood. Now not a house was to be seen; fire had destroyed the whole town. The crossing of the troops continued vigorously, and, tired of watching them, I fell asleep on deck. Awakening the next morning, I found that my father had gone to the front, and the sound of cannon announced the progress of a battle. General Lorenzo Thomas told me that father had given strict orders that I should not be allowed to go ashore, but he finally permitted me to join a party in chasing a rabbit on the land, [pg. 4] and I took advantage of that permission to push my investigation over the hills. I fell in with a wagon train and secured a ride on a mule; and after going some distance in that way I joined a battery of artillery on its way to the front, and later followed a passing regiment–the Seventh Missouri–which was soon in battle. Presently my father appeared. My guilty conscience so troubled me that I hid from his sight behind a tree. Within a short time a mighty shout announced the victory of our troops, and the horrors of a battle-field were brought vividly before me. I joined a detachment which was collecting the dead for burial, but, sickening at the sights, I made my way with another detachment, which was gathering the wounded, to a log house which had been appropriated for a hospital. Here the scenes were so terrible that I became faint and ill, and, making my way to a tree, sat down, the most woebegone twelve-year-old lad in America.
Soon an approaching horseman hailed me with a shout: “Why, hello, is that really you?” The horseman was an orderly from my father’s escort, and, dismounting, he proceeded to make me comfortable, putting down his saddle for a pillow, and advising me to go to sleep. This I did but my sleep was broken by dreams of the horrors I had witnessed. Suddenly I heard the orderly cry out: “Look here, your father has come.” About fifty yards off sat my father, drinking coffee from a tin cup. I went to him, and was greeted with an exclamation of surprise, as he supposed I was still on board the boat. In after years he often told the story of my following him to the battle of Port Gibson with more interest and satisfaction than he manifested to me at that time.
The next morning the burning question was that of transportation. Horses were scarce, but I succeeded in getting a mount. Two enormous white artillery horses had been captured the day before. I secured one of them, and Mr. Charles A. Dana, Assistant Secretary of War, the other. Mr. Dana, however, had the advantage of riding the horse with saddle and bridle; I had to content myself with improvising a harness made of a clothes-line and the tree of a side saddle without stirrups. Badly equipped as I was, many others were worse off in the beginning of the campaign. At any rate, the sight of a small boy on the big white horse made some sport on the road for the soldiers I passed or those who passed me.
At Port Gibson General Logan came to see father, who complimented him highly on his operations of the previous day. On leaving, General Logan turned to me and said: “Come, my boy, and I will show you the prettiest fight you will ever see.” We went down to the lower suspension bridge, to secure the crossing, as my father had ordered.
I returned to Port Gibson, and, finding that my father had left, I followed the troops which were crossing the bayou. I rode on quite a distance, and then, stopping at a house where some officers were sleeping on a porch, I crawled in for a nap between two of them. They awoke, and “said things;” but when I mentioned my name, one of them–Colonel (afterward General) [John B.] Sanborn–welcomed me kindly and lent me part of his overcoat for a pillow. Becoming very cold toward dawn, I went indoors, found a bed with two occupants, and crept in between them. I [pg. 5] slept well, but by daylight I found that my bedfellows were two large negroes. Somehow I had thought that the room seemed close.
It was now the 3d of May, and I found my father at the North Fork, watching the crossing of the troops. Finding that I was lame from the falling of my horse the day before, father, who was ever kind and thoughtful, insisted that I should take his mount, a horse belonging to General A. J. Smith. All of father’s horses were at this time on the other side of the Mississippi. We moved toward Hankinson’e Ferry. At the forks of the road it became necessary to clear away a body of the enemy a troops. With slight loss and the capture of some prisoners this was accomplished, and we moved into Grand Gulf. Here we found our old friend the Benton, and the gallant Admiral, who welcomed us most cordially. He gave father a bundle of dispatches, including one from General Banks, who said that he could not reach Port Hudson as soon as he had expected, and that he would have fewer troops than he had counted upon. General Grant immediately began to write dispatches, a task at which he continued till two o’clock in the morning, when he borrowed a change of linen, ordered his horse, and started for [James B.] McPherson’s quarters. The next day Colonel [Clark B.] Lagow, in whose charge I had been left, started on after father, and we overtook him at Rocky Springs. Near here, General Sherman, with the Fifteenth Corps, joined us, and he and father had some long conversations.
From the 7th to the 12th of May General Grant was constantly in communication with Sherman, McPherson, and McClernand, riding around from one to the other. This made his headquarters so uncomfortable and his mess so irregular that I, for one, did not propose to put up with such living, and I took my meals with the soldiers, who used to do a little foraging, and thereby set an infinitely better table than their commanding General. My father’s table at this time was, I must frankly say, the worst I ever saw or partook of.
On the 12th of May the Union army was pushed forward, and at Fourteen Mile Creek [Peter J.] Osterhaus had a skirmish to clear the road. We heard the sounds of battle away off to the right, and later we learned that McPherson had won the day at Raymond.
I had struck up a friendly acquaintance with one of the orderlies called “Pony.” At Fourteen Mile Creek he and I rode out on an independent trip, and, seeing ten or twelve horses tied up in front of a house, we conceived the idea of capturing the mounts, and possibly the riders also, who were inside the house. Not until we had gone too far to retreat did the idea occur to us that the would-be captors might possibly become the captured. It was with great relief that we saw a man wearing a blue uniform come out of the house, and we then discovered that the party we had proposed to capture was a detachment of Sherman’ a signal corps. Later on, trying to get back within our own lines, we had some difficulty in convincing the pickets that we were entitled to pass.
The next day I went over the battle-field of Raymond, and here again I saw the horrors of war, the wounded and the unburied dead.
We spent the night at Raymond, and then started for Jackson, the capital of Mississippi. While passing through a piece of dense woods on [pg. 6] the way, the enemy’s sharpshooters opened fire on us. One of the staff shouted to my father that they were aiming at him. His answer was to turn his horse and dash into the woods in the direction whence the bullets were coming. Colonels [James H.] Wilson and Lagow, I, the orderlies, and the escort followed, and in skirmishing fashion we advanced till we came to a large house, where we halted. Sherman’s corps now came up, and McPherson was already engaged. Generals Grant and Sherman were on the porch of the old house when our line was broken by artillery fire and our men began a retreat. The two generals immediately mounted, rode among the men, and reformed them. Meanwhile [James M.] Tuttle’s division had passed through the dense woods and had captured the enemy’s breastworks, and, wheeling to the left, advanced up the line of intrenchments. Father accompanied them.
Thinking the battle was ended, I rode off toward the State House, where the Confederate troops passed me in their retreat. Though I wore a blue uniform, I was so splashed with mud, and looked generally so unattractive, that the Confederates paid no attention to me. I have since realized that even had I been captured, it would not have ended the war.
At this time I saw a mounted officer with a Union flag advancing toward the Capitol. I followed him into the building and entered the Governor’s room, which had been hastily abandoned. Finding what I supposed to be the Governor’s pipe lying on the table, I confiscated it, primarily and ostensibly for the National service, but secondarily and actually for my own private and individual use. It had the advantage of being still loaded and lighted.
Returning to the street, I saw the officer whom I had followed in the act of raising the Union flag over the building. He proved to be Captain, afterwards Colonel, Cornelius Cadle.
Father and his staff, advancing at the head of the army, soon reached the State House, where I joined them, and went with them to the Bowen House, the best hotel in Jackson, where we took the room in which General Joseph E. Johnston had slept the night before.
At Jackson we captured an important prisoner who was carrying dispatches from Johnston to Pemberton. The information gained from these dispatches caused some activity at headquarters, and the next day–May 15–the army started off in the direction of Vicksburg.
That night, while sleeping in the room with my father at Clinton, I was awakened by a great knocking. Colonel Lagow announced the arrival of a messenger from McPherson, and father seemed surprised at the news he received. He gave orders for an early start in the morning, went back to bed, and was soon sleeping quietly again. After a light breakfast before daybreak, we moved rapidly to the front, General Grant keeping well ahead of the rest of us. At Champion’s farm we came upon the enemy, and were soon in the midst of terrific firing. The staff officers were dispatched to various points, and very soon father and I were left alone. Our line broke, and was falling back, when father moved forward, rallied the men, and passed over from Hovey’s division to McPherson’s corps, putting the latter into action. There were now 15,000 men in our line, [pg. 7] which was about three miles long, and the battle raged fiercely along its whole extent. McPherson, dressed in full uniform, was mounted on a beautiful black horse. “Fighting Jack” Logan, also in full uniform, was mounted on a white horse, and as they passed to and fro, exposing themselves recklessly, they made a most “superb” picture.
General Grant rode to all parts of the field, giving orders to the generals, and dispatching his staff in all directions. Hovey was sustaining the heaviest part of the encounter. Suddenly hearty cheering was heard on the right of the line, and father moved over in that direction, to find 3,000 prisoners taken, with eighteen guns.
After the battle of Champion’s Hill, while riding toward Edwards Station, father suddenly turned back, and I went on into a house filled with Confederate wounded. They were not feeling very friendly toward the Yankees, and they threatened to kill me. Of course I decided not to intrude, and I passed on. Further down the road, some of our own men, who did not know me, attempted to take me prisoner. Soon, however, an old soldier recognized me, and called for “Three cheers for young Grant,” which were given with a will, and I began to feel more comfortable. About midnight I returned to the field, and reached a house in which I found my father and several of his staff officers, most of whom were greatly elated over their victory. I slept in the room with my father that night; he, even after the great battle and victory of that day, and with the expectation and cares of another battle on the morrow, was, as ever, most considerate of the comfort and welfare of his young son.
The next morning we made an early start, and moved toward the Big Black River. When we halted near the railway bridge, General Grant and his staff occupied the porch of a fine plantation house.
Our troops were now moving on the enemy’s line at a double quick, and I became enthused with the spirit of the occasion, galloped across a cotton-field, and went over the enemy’s works with our men. Following the retreating Confederates to the Big Black, I was watching some of them swim the river, when a sharpshooter on the opposite bank fired at me and hit me in the leg. The wound was slight, but very painful; and I suppose I was very pale, for Colonel Lagow came dashing up and asked what was the matter. I promptly said, “I am killed.” Perhaps because I was only a boy the Colonel presumed to doubt my word, and said, “Move your toes”–which I did with success. He then recommended our hasty retreat. This we accomplished in good order.
After the capture of the fortifications, May 17, our army bridged the Big Black and crossed during the night.
On May 18 we reached the summit of Walnut Hills, just behind Vicksburg, whence we could see the Mississippi and Chickasaw Bayou, where Sherman had fought in December. Sherman was greatly elated over the success of the present campaign, and so expressed himself enthusiastically. Several outworks were captured that day.
During the 19th father spent much of his time with McClernand on the extreme left. He feared lest Pemberton might make his escape through this thinly guarded part of our line. The 20th and 21st were spent in skirmishing and in advancing our lines as much as possible. On the 22d [pg. 8] the great assault was made upon the fortifications. Early in the day General Grant had a narrow escape from a shell which was fired directly down a ravine which he had just entered. He was unhurt, however, but was covered with yellow dirt thrown up by the explosion. On this day I saw a sight that will probably never again be witnessed in this country–an artillery duel extending over seven miles in length. Beneath the smoke of this cannonade the Army of the Tennessee could be seen moving to the assault upon the enemy’s lines, which became a sheet of fire from the forts and rifle-pits. At one point our flag was planted right at the base of the enemy’s parapet.
An incident of this day’s work was illustrative of youthful heroism, and of my father’s tender nature. A small boy, with blood streaming from a wound in his leg, came running up to where father and Sherman stood, and reported that his regiment was out of ammunition. Sherman was directing some attention to be paid to his wound, when the little fellow, finding himself fainting from loss of blood, gasped out, “Caliber 56,” as he was carried off to the rear. At this moment I observed that my father’s eyes were filled with tears.
The wound I had received early in the campaign now began to trouble me very much, and, under Dr. [Henry S.] Hewitt’s expressed fears of having to amputate my leg, I remained much at headquarters. Because of this I saw a great deal of my father’s methods, his marvelous attention to detail, and his cool self-possession. I also witnessed the devotion of his men to him, and the enthusiasm with which they greeted “the old man, as they called him, when he passed along the lines. Father was a splendid horseman, and visited many points of his army every day.
General Sherman commanded the Fifteenth Corps during part of the siege of Vicksburg, and the remainder of the time he had command of the troops placed from Haines’s Bluff to the Big Black. His personality is too well known for me to describe it here, but it is a pleasure for me here to bear witness to my father’s affection for Sherman, and his esteem for his soldierly qualities. Indeed, it gave General Grant more pleasure to see Sherman honored and rewarded than it did to receive such tributes himself. Sherman was impetuous in action, brilliant in conversation, and thoroughly versed in the art of war; but he was always thoroughly subordinate and ready to obey promptly any order given to him. Two hours’ notice was amply sufficient for him to get under way to execute any desired movement. On the 15th of May he was at Jackson, Miss., and that night General Grant, desiring him to move to the front, sent him orders to that effect. On the afternoon of the 16th he arrived at Bolton with the head of his corps, having marched twenty-five or thirty miles that day; and he would have been in the battle of Champion’s Hill had the enemy waited on the field a little longer. I had the pleasure of being under fire with General Sherman several times, and, like his troops, I was inspired with great enthusiasm.
The next officer in rank, the commander of the Seventeenth Corps, was Major-General James B. McPherson, the Bayard of the Army of the Tennessee. Mounted on horseback, young and handsome, always splendidly dressed and most courtly in manner, he was the very impersonation of a [pg. 9] knight. General Grant always regarded McPherson as the most promising officer of his age in the army, and on his death father said that he had lost one of his best friends and the country one of its ablest defenders. McPherson’s troops loved him, and one needs hear but once the cheers given by the “Army of the Tennessee,” whenever his name is mentioned in its presence, to appreciate the love and devotion with which his memory is still cherished. His very taking off was illustrative of the man. When ordered to surrender before Atlanta, he courteously lifted his hat, bowed low, wheeled his horse, and dashed into the woods. But the volley that instantly followed was but too well aimed, and he fell. To me he was particularly kind, and I grieved deeply over his death.
Among the division commanders whom I was fortunate enough to see upon the field of battle were Generals Logan, [Frederick] Steele, John E. Smith, [Marcellus M.] Crocker, A. J. Smith, Tuttle, Osterhaus, [Francis P.] Blair, [Thomas E. G.] Ransom, and [Charles E.] Hovey. I have heard my father say that with such officers an army must be irresistible. There were others, besides those I have mentioned, whose names and memories are alike honored for their services in defense of their country, one of the most distinguished of whom was our honored companion, General G. M. Dodge.
The siege of Vicksburg continued after the assaults of the 23d of May, without much excitement except such as was caused by reports that Johnston was about to attack our rear. General Grant, however, made a personal inspection trip (upon which I accompanied him) back to the Big Black, and found everything secure and well guarded under the watchful care of General Sherman. The siege went on. Our parallels slowly but surely approached the doomed city. Deserters came in more frequently, and reported the desperate condition of the garrison. Rumors also came to us that Johnston was going to make a determined effort to relieve Pemberton. These reports led to another rumor that our troops would celebrate the Fourth of July by a grand storming of the works. Doubtless this rumor found its way into the beleaguered city, for on the morning of the 3d of July a flag of truce was announced. General Grant betrayed no excitement, but in the afternoon he rode out with his staff to a point opposite Fort Hill, I accompanying them. Soon a white flag appeared over the enemy’s works, and a party of Confederates was seen approaching. Firing ceased, and, under an old tree, General Grant met his opponent. The other officers separated into groups and conversed, while the works on both sides were lined with soldiers.
The consultation of the commanding generals lasted a short while, and presently both parties retired to their own quarters. Father was immediately joined by the largest assemblage of general officers which I had ever seen–the heroes of this most brilliant campaign and siege–deciding upon and settling the fate of their foes. They had conquered and taken in their power the largest number of men, the greatest quantity of war material and spoils, ever surrendered in battle.
After conversation General Grant dispatched a note to the defender of Vicksburg, and the group of officers dispersed. I remained in the tent, sitting on my little cot and feeling restless, but scarcely knowing why. Father sat at his table writing. Presently a messenger handed [pg. 10] father a note. He opened it, gave a sigh of relief, and said, calmly, “Vicksburg has surrendered.” I was thus the first to hear officially announced the news of the fall of the Gibraltar of America, and, filled with enthusiasm, I ran out to spread the glad tidings. Officers rapidly assembled, and there was a general rejoicing.
The next day, the glorious Fourth, as father was starting for the front on the Jackson road, the booming of guns was heard, apparently on our right. General Grant looked vexed, and was about to order the arrest of General Steele, whom he supposed to be responsible, saying that he “ought to know better than to allow any triumphing over conquered countrymen,” when Steele himself rode up, the firing was definitely located on our left, and the salutes were stopped. Soon after, the Confederates were seen filing out of their works and stacking their arms–3l,600 brave men surrendering 172 cannon and 60,000 muskets to the conquering but lenient Army of the Tennessee.
The arms being given up, the troops passed back into the city, and General Grant, at the head of the Army of the Tennessee, moved forward to take possession. His reception by General Pemberton was most frigid. With a group of Confederate officers, Pemberton was seated on the porch of a large house, but when father expressed a desire for a glass of water, he was allowed to go to hunt for it in the kitchen. This surly reception to the man who would not allow his men to celebrate their victory was deeply resented by the members of General Grant’s staff, but father was satisfied with his success in capturing Vicksburg, and manifested no resentment.
The Confederate officers who thus received him gratefully appreciated, later on, the clemency they experienced at the fall of Vicksburg, and expressed this appreciation in the most touching manner during General Grant’s last illness, at the time of his funeral, and at the dedication of his tomb.
Passing through the city, where the Union flag had already been hoisted over the courthouse, General Grant went on board the Benton, where Admiral Porter congratulated him upon the victory. The next day he established headquarters at the house of a Mr. Lum, who soon became his warm friend; and during my father’s last illness some of the most beautiful letters received by us were from members of this charming Vicksburg family.
This ended my connection with the army for a while. From the result of exposure I had contracted an illness which necessitated my withdrawal into civilian life again, and on the 8th of July I was sent home to recuperate. I did not rejoin my father until after the battle of Chattanooga.
I remember with the utmost interest my life in camp, and with deepest affection the men whom I met in the army. Much of my time was spent among the private soldiers, who were never too tired or too worn out to comfort and pet the young boy–the son of the “old man.” Young as I then was, my camp life was of such nature–I saw so much of the hardships, the self-denials, the sufferings and labors of both privates and officers, that my proudest moments are when I am associating with the old warriors, the veteran comrades of my father.
[pg. 11] GRANT AND LINCOLN *** This article is the third in a series covering Frederick Dent Grant’s memories of his father. The others appeared in the Newsletter in April and October, 1969.
At the age of thirteen, Frederick Grant was the only member of the Grant family to accompany his father to his first meeting with President Abraham Lincoln and the brief White House ceremony the following day in which Grant was presented his commission of lieutenant general, which gave him the highest rank in the United States Army held by any man since the death of George Washington. Apparently Frederick Grant brought together his memories of the first meeting of Lincoln and Grant for the centennial of Lincoln’s birth. Parts of his paper first appeared in print as Extracts from an Address by Major General Frederick D. Grant delivered at the Lincoln Memorial Dinner of the Chicago Advertising Association, February 8th, 1909. Grant read his paper to the Society of the Army of the Tennessee on November 4, 1909, and the printing in full of this address in the Society’s Proceedings (Cincinnati, 1913) furnished the text reprinted below. He delivered what appears to be the same paper before the Illinois Commandery, Loyal Legion of the United States, on January 21, 1910, and a signed typescript found its way to the Illinois State [pg. 12] Historical Library, which published it in its Journal for April, 1914. On February 16, 1910, Grant read his paper to the Evanston (Illinois) Historical Society, to which he gave a copy which it still preserves.
Having the good fortune to be with my father much of the time during the Civil War, I had the opportunity of seeing many of the noble, distinguished men who loyally served their country during that great struggle and after it was happily ended; thus I had the honor of seeing and meeting our revered and martyred President, Abraham Lincoln.In looking back to those dark days of the Civil War I have distinct personal recollections of the first two meetings between President Lincoln and my father, General U. S. Grant. These two occasions seem to my mind most momentous and memorable in the history of our nation, as these meetings marked the beginning of the end of our great struggle for the existence of our nation.
The principal and determined efforts of President Lincoln’s administration were directed to the preservation of the Union, which, naturally, could not be accomplished without the success of the Union armies in the field. Up to the spring of 1864 the progress of the Civil War had not been entirely satisfactory to the people of the North, and little success had been accomplished, except in the victories of Donnelson, [Donelson] Vicksburg and Chattanooga.
After the campaign of Chattanooga the President and the people of the United States turned impulsively to General Grant, as the leader of the Union armies, and a bill was introduced in Congress reviving for him the grade of Lieutenant General, which grade had died with Washington (though Scott had held it by brevet). The enthusiastic members of the House of Representatives received the bill with applause. They made no concealment of their wishes, and recommended “Grant” by name for the appointment of Lieutenant General. The bill passed the House by a two-thirds majority and the Senate with only six dissenting votes.
President Lincoln seemed impatient to put Grant in this high grade, and said he desired to do so to relieve himself from the responsibilities of managing the military forces. He sent the nomination to the Senate, and General Grant, who was at Nashville, received an order from the Secretary of War to report in person at Washington. In compliance with this order, he left Chattanooga on March 5th for Washington, taking with him some members of his staff. My father also allowed me to accompany him there, I having been with him during the Vicksburg campaign and at Donnelson. He reached Washington in the afternoon of March 7th  and went direct to the Willard Hotel. After making our toilets, my father took me with him to the hotel dining-room; there I remember seeing at the table next to where we were seated some persons who seemed curious, and who began to whisper to each other. After several moments one of the gentlemen present attracted attention by striking on the table with his knife, and when silence was secured he arose and announced to the assembled diners that he had “the honor to inform them that General Grant [pg. 13] was present in the room with them.” A shout arose, “Grant! Grant! Grant!” and people sprang to their feet with excitement, and three cheers were proposed, which were given with wild enthusiasm. General Grant arose and bowed, and the crowd began to surge around him; after that dining became impossible, and an informal reception was held for perhaps three-quarters of an hour, but as there seemed to be no end to the crowd assembling my father left the dining-room and retired to his apartments. All this scene was most vividly impressed upon my youthful mind.
Senator Simon Cameron, of Pennsylvania, ex-Secretary of War, soon called at the Willard Hotel for General Grant and accompanied him, with his staff, to the White House, where President and Mrs. Lincoln were holding a reception.
As General Grant entered the drawing-room door at the White House the other visitors fell back in silence, and President Lincoln received him most cordially, taking both his hands and saying, “I am most delighted to see you, General.” I myself shall never forget this first meeting of Lincoln and Grant. It was an impressive affair, for there sood the Executive of this great nation welcoming the commander of its armies. I see them now before me, Lincoln, tall, thin and impressive, with deeply lined face, and his strong, sad eyes: Grant, compact, of good size, but looking small beside the President, with his broad, square head and compressed lips–decisive and resolute. This was a thrilling moment, for in the hands of these two men was the destiny of our country. Their work was in co-operation, for the preservation of our great nation and for the liberty of man. They remained talking together for a few moments, and then General Grant passed on in to the East Room with the crowd, which surrounded and cheered him wildly, and all present were eager to press his hand. The guests forced him to stand upon a sofa, insisting that he could be better seen by all. I remember that my father, whom they wished to make a hero, blushed most modestly at these enthusiastic attentions, all present joining in expressions of affection and applause. Soon a messenger reached General Grant, calling him back to the side of Mrs. Lincoln, and with her he made a tour of the reception rooms, followed by President Lincoln, whose noble, rugged face beamed with pleasure and gratification.
When an opportunity presented itself for them to speak privately, President Lincoln said to my father: “I am to formally present you your commission tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock, and knowing, General, your dread of speaking, I have written out what I have to say, and will read it, and it will be only four or five sentences. I would like you to say something in reply which will soothe the feeling of jealousy among the officers and be encouraging to the nation.” Thus spoke this great and nobel peacemaker to the General who so heartily coincided with him, in sentiments and work, for union and peace.
When the reception was over at the White House my father returned to Willard’s Hotel, where a great crowd was again assembled to meet him, and remained with him until a late hour of the night. After the crowd had dispersed General Grant sat down and wrote what he intended to say, the following day, in receiving his commission promoting him to the [pg. 14] Lieutenant Generalcy and to the command of the Union armies.
General Grant proceeded to the White House a few minutes before 10 o’clock the next morning, permitting me to accompany him. Upon arriving there, he and his staff were ushered into the President’s office, which I remember was the room immediately above what is known now as the Green Room of the Executive Mansion. There the President and his Cabinet were assembled, and after a short and informal greeting, all standing, the President faced General Grant and from a sheet of paper read the following:
“General Grant, the nation’s appreciation of what you have done, and in reliance upon you for what remains to be done, in the existing great struggle are now presented, with this commission, constituting you Lieutenant General in the Army of the United States. With this high honor devolves upon you also a corresponding responsibility. As the country herein trusts you, so, under God, it will sustain you. I scarcely need to add that with what I here speak goes my hearty concurrence.”
General Grant, taking from his pocket a sheet of paper containing the words that he had written the night before, read quietly and modestly, to the President and his Cabinet:
“Mr. President, I accept the commission with gratitude for the high honor conferred. With the aid of the noble armies that have fought in so many fields of our common country, it will be my earnest endeavor not to disappoint your expectations. I feel the full weight of the responsibilities now devolving upon me, and I know that if they are met, it will be due to those armies, and, above all, to the favor of that Providence which leads both nations and men.”
President Lincoln seemed to be profoundly happy and General Grant deeply gratified. It was a supreme moment when these two patriots shook hands, in confirming the compact that was to finish our terrible Civil War and to save our united country, and to give us a nation without master and without a slave.
From the time of these meetings the friendship between the President and my father was most close and loyal. President Lincoln seemed to have absolute confidence in General Grant, and my father always spoke of the President with the deepest admiration and affection. This affection and loyal confidence was maintained between them until their lives ended.
I feel deeply grateful to have been present when these two patriots met, on the occasion when they loyally promised each other to preserve the Union at all costs. It marked the beginning of the end.
I preserve always as a treasure in my home a large bronze medallion which was designed by a distinguished artist at the request of the loyal citizens of Philadelphia, upon the happy termination of our great Civil War, and which is a beautiful work of art. Upon this bronze medallion are three faces, in relief, with the superscription: “Washington the Father, Lincoln the Savior and Grant the Preserver,” emblematic of a great and patriotic trinity.
I am proud to be with you here, tonight. This beautiful, happy gathering brings to mind vividly the great victories and that national glory won by you, the Comrades of my dear father. You, the heroes of [pg. 15] the Army of the Tennessee and Loyal Legion, who in that fearful civil strife, by your sacrifices and valor, secured to us, in reality and in fact, what our ancestors had organized in theory, viz.: A land of liberty and a united nation. To you we owe all this.
When the liberal terms granted at Appomattox to the vanquished Southern army were read by that army’s great commander, and when he noted that the side arms, horses and private property of officers and men of the Army of Northern Virginia could be retained by them when they returned to their homes, General Lee said to General Grant: “These terms will have a most happy effect upon my army and upon the South.”
Thus was begun at Appomattox and continued in the generous terms granted at subsequent surrenders that sentiment of harmony, now happily prevailing in our country, between the North and South, a sentiment cherished by General Grant, as shown at Appomattox, and later also during the administration of President Johnson, and the reconstruction period, when General Grant stood firmly for his promises to the South, as he did throughout his own two administrations as President, and up to the last hours of his life. I venture to read to you here tonight General Grant’s message on this subject, written only a few days before his death at Mt. McGregor, in finishing his memoirs.
He wrote as follows: “I feel that we are on the eve of a new era, when there is to be great harmony between the Federal and Confederate. I can not stay to be a living witness to the correctness of this prophecy, but I feel it within me that it is to be so. The universally kind feeling expressed for me at a time when it was supposed that each day would prove my last seemed to me the beginning of the answer–Let us have peace.
“I am not egotist enough to suppose all this significance should be given because I was the object of it. But the war between the States was a very bloody and a very costly war. One side or the other had to yield principles they deemed dearer than life before it could be brought to an end. I commanded the whole of the mighty host engaged on the victorious side. I was, no matter whether deservedly so or not, a representative of that side of the controversy. It is a significant and gratifying fact that Confederates should have joined heartily in this spontaneous move. I hope this good feeling inaugurated may continue to the end.”
GRANT BY HIS GRANDSON *** At the time of his death in August, 1968, Major General Ulysses S. Grant 3rd, eldest grandson of President Grant, had just completed a biography of his grandfather which had been in preparation for several years. This biography, titled Ulysses S. Grant, Warrior and Statesman (New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1969), [pg. 16] presents what the author calls a “family portrait.” Convinced that earlier biographers had never succeeded in portraying his grandfather as his family had known him, General Grant 3rd wanted to capture this likeness for his own children by drawing on family traditions and records as well as the historical literature of the period. He preserved a few personal memories of President Grant to the end of his life, although only four years old at the time of his grandfather’s death in 1885. He added to them a long lifetime of reading and reflection about the character of his grandfather. Quoting copiously from a wide variety of sources, some well-known, others obscure, and a few previously unpublished, General Grant 3rd created a book which will reward specialists with some intriguing new material, such as the selections from the recollections of his grandmother, Julia Dent Grant, and will give the general reader both a biography of Grant and an understanding of what his life and character meant to those who most admired him.
The events surrounding the capture of Fort Henry have been described on numerous occasions, in newspaper accounts, official reports, reminiscences, and military histories. In preparing material for publication in The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant, three letters–two of them previously unpublished and the other printed only in part–providing eyewitness accounts of the encounter came to light which were peripheral to the Papers, but too important to be passed over. Written by officer participants in the capture of the Confederate fort, these letters provide interesting and informative private observations.
[pg. 18] Connecticut-born Flag Officer Andrew Hull Foote, who entered the Navy as a midshipman in 1822, had a long and distinguished career before the outbreak of the Civil War. He had participated in the African Slave Patrol in 1849-1851 and had reduced the Barrier Forts below Canton, China, in 1856 after attacks on the American flag. In August, 1861, he was placed in command of naval operations on the upper Mississippi River. On November 13, 1862, Foote was appointed a flag officer, placing him on a level of rank with Amy major generals. The gunboat flotilla commanded by Foote was under the control of the Army, so Brigadier General Grant commanded the expedition to Fort Henry. Foote’s letter to his wife, Caroline Augusta Street Foote, provides a graphic account of the role taken by the gunboats in the reduction of Fort Henry.1
Flag Steamer Cincinnatti
Off Fort Henry Tennessee Feby 6/62My dear Wife. Bless the Lord who has given me the victory after a horrible fight, of an hour and fifteen minutes. I earnestly & almost agonized in prayer for victory this morning, and we have it and to me the Fort was unconditionally surrendered.
This morning at 11 O’clock, after having made signal & had all Captains aboard and given them orders, and referring to my written orders when I had planned the attack two of which orders orders [repeated word cancelled] fortunately, as victory has crowned our arms, I have sent to the Secretary of the Navy.2 I then made signal to get underway and when the Army moved on each side of the river, I moved with seven Gun Boats over the torpedoes or in the channel where they were placed and where we hauled up five yesterday. We were in sight of the Fort for 2 miles. I opened the fire with rifle guns and soon they were returned by the Fort. I ran up rapidly to the distance of 700 yards, taking with me the “Essex,” “Cin.” “Carondelet” and “St. Louis,” ordering them to keep abreast of me in the Flag ship [Cincinnati]. I ordered the three Boats not iron clad to keep one mile astern. We are cut all to pieces & only the steam mach[in]ery has escaped. Other Boats except the Essex not hurt. The fire from the Fort, as the General said was directed upon me to sink or cripple the Flag ship, and we were struck with rifle & heavy shot & shells 30 times. I had the breath, for several seconds, knocked out of me, as a shot struck opposite my chest, in the iron clad pilot house on deck. Porter3 in the Essex received a shot in his boilers, [pg. 19] which scalded to death his two Pilots and I don’t know how many men,4 & dropped out of the action–receiving as I saw, two other plunging shots as he went. The fire now had become terrific and I had to signalize the two other iron plated Boats to run abreast of me, and I was constantly going ahead all this time. It was a fearful struggle, but I felt it must be victory or death. This ship was then in less than 700 yards & we began to get a beautiful range & poured shell in upon them fearfully. I all the time going ahead. One killed and nine wounded men were lying on deck groaning horribly. At length, and at a moment, when it seemed as if we must be killed or sunk the big Secession flag was hauled down & victory was ours. A cheer ran up from this ship, a yell in fact & I had to run among the men & knock them on the head to restore order. The Surgeon hollered & bawled I told him that he ought to be ashamed of himself, he said it was coming from death to life, he expected to be killed for the last half hour & to hear the cheer he could not help roaring with all his might. Officers ran up & congratulated me, while the Captains of the other Gun Boats came up & rushed aboard. A Boat came off with the Adjt. Genl. & Captain of Engineers,6 and asked if I would see their General. I told them yes, but he must come aboard. Soon afterwards Genl. Lloyd Tilgham7 an elegant gentle man and a West Point graduate came aboard, & said he wanted to treat. I had in the mean time taken possession & hoisted our flag in place of the Secession. I told the General he was a prisoner of war, with 17 Guns & all the effects in the Fort. he soon struck up an intimacy as he is a great admirer of Dr. Mason in Easton. He said he well knew me by reputation. He said that I showered shells upon him & nothing could stand it, but I do admire your course so much towards me. I let him write to his wife & friends & told him to tell them that he defended his fort with determined gallantry. He says that in 50 minutes seven of the eleven guns bearing on us were dismounted or burst. About this time Genl. Smith8 took quiet possession of the Fort opposite,9 which, did not have its guns mounted and he marched in his troops without opposition. Genl. Grant also came aboard and his 10,000 men marched into the Fort which now had the American flag flying. We got ahead of the Army all to pieces. I am now running back to Cairo, to work in getting Mortar & Gun Boats ready, and we have made the narrowest escape possible with our Boats & our lives. I have sent Phelps up the river in chase of the rebel Gun Boats,10 and let the Army swell with its 15000 men. I suppose they will go over to the Cumberland and try and take Dover.11 The Army is rather chop fallen. Porter I am sorry for but he has made too much of his little skirmishes. This vessel did the brunt of the work, & I will pay Stemble by getting his son into West Point,12 who acted as my aid. A good day’s work & I mean always to thank God for it. I never again will go into a fight half-prepared. Men were not experienced & perfectly green. The rifle shots hissed like snakes. Tilghmnan said he would have cut us all to pieces, had his best rifle not burst, & his 128 pounder been stopped in the vent. Now you may read this to your parents & friends. It is of course written in a great hurry. God bless you, children & friends
ever Affly A H FOOTE
[pg. 20] Colonel William H. L. Wallace, of Ottawa, Ill., a successful lawyer and a prominent Republican politician before the Civil War, had been a delegate to the first Republican National Convention in 1856. Wallace, who had been a second lieutenant in the Mexican War, abandoned his law practice at the outbreak of the Civil War and was mustered as colonel of the 11th Ill. on April 30, 1861. In June the 11th Ill. was ordered to Bird’s Point, Mo., opposite Cairo.
Wallace commanded the Second Brigade of the First Division of Grant’s army under Brigadier General John A. McClernand at Fort Henry. The day after the fort surrendered, Wallace described the action in a letter to his wife, Martha Ann Dickey Wallace, daughter of T. Lyle Dickey who had been a prominent Illinois lawyer, judge, and politician, and presently was colonel of the 4th Ill. Cavalry with Grant.13
Fort Henry Tenn. Feb. 7, 1862Dear Ann:–We are here–got in yesterday afternoon after the gun boats had shelled the enemy out–We (the 2nd Brigade) were some 3 or 4 miles out, on the march, when the cannonading ceased–It lasted about two hours & was tremendous–The effect of the fire on the fortifications here was terrible–Guns dismounted–earthworks torn up & the evidences of carnage meet the eye on every hand–It was a strong place & could have been held by a determined force for a long time–The enemy seemed to have been siezed with a panic & the whole body some 4 or 5000 left, leaving an artillery company in the Fort–Genl. Lloyd Til[gh]man who is in command of this district or division of the rebel forces is among the prisoners–Our loss aside from the scalding of some 30 men on one of the gun boats by the cutting of a steam pipe, was one man from the 4th Cavalry, belonging to Capt. Shepherdson company14–The 4th cavalry did good service in following up the retreating enemy They took eight cannon & 40 prisoners They feel mighty fine over it–The 11th didnt get under fire but hope for better luck next time.
I am exceedingly tired & this morning I had a tremendous headache the worst I ever had–induced doubtless by long continued exposure & loss of sleep & irregularity in my meals–I have just laid down in Capt Rawlins15 stateroom on the steamer & slept an hour or so, & got some dinner & I feel much better & am now going out to my command which is encamped on the hills– [pg. 21] Genl. Grant invited me me to take a state room on his boat & perhaps I will for tonight–
I dont know where we go to next, but I suppose we will follow them up & perhaps attack Ft. Donaldson on the Cumberland which is 13 miles distant–
The men have been without tents most of the time since we started–The 11th had not had a tent since we landed & they were exposed to a tremendous rain the night before we marched here–The roads were horrible–but notwithstanding this they marched & took the heavy trains of artillery over the worst roads I ever saw–
God bless you my darling wife–I feel to rely on His providence & protection more & more–I know He will take care of us all if we do our duty, & in this I feel I am doing my duty–The prospect for being with you on the 18th are not flattering at present, but yet I am not altogether without hope–Kiss Blossom & Tilly for me–My regards to all our good friends & believe that I love you with my whole heart–Good bye–
Yours W H L WALLACE
A prominent Illinois Democratic lawyer-politician and Congressman (1843-1851, 1859-1861), John A. McClernand had been confirmed in his appointment as brigadier general on August 5, 1861, although he had little previous military experience. Lincoln was anxious to gain Democratic support for the war effort and McClernand, one of that party’s most popular leaders in Illinois, doubtless owed his high rank to his politics. He had preceded Grant at Cairo by a few days, and remained as post commander after Grant moved his District of Southeast Missouri headquarters there.
McClernand commanded the First Division of Grant’s army at Fort Henry. Two days after the surrender of Fort Henry, McClernand bypassed normal military channels and reported the results of the action directly to Commander-in-Chief Lincoln. Although the letter may have been personal, it was highly irregular. Ever anxious to advance himself, McClernand wrote as if he commanded the expedition and avoided any mention of Grant.16
Head Quarters 1st Division
Fort Foote Feby. 8th, 1862.
His Excellency A. Lincoln Prest. U. S.Sir:–I snatch a moment amid the tumult of a rapidly increasing camp [pg. 22] to advise you of events which, while illustrating the success of your administration, will find a blazoned page in history.
The day before yesterday I took up the line of march with a division consisting of eleven regiments of Infantry and Cavalry combined and four companies of Light Artillery against the enemy, from seven to eight thousand strong, at Fort Henry. Starting at eleven o’clock A. H. my whole division reached here before night fall–a considerable portion of the column coming in by three o’clock P. M., passing over the worst possible roads for the whole distance of about seven miles.
Meantime the Gunboats, under command of Commodore Foote, starting from the same place, (Camp Halleck)l7 opened fire on the Fort at one o’clock P. M., which closed at two oclock and ten minutes, when the enemy’s heavy guns were disabled and the evacuation of the Fort commenced. At no time being further from the Gunboats than two miles the firing was distinctly heard by my whole command who hailed it with enthusiastic shouts.
Word being sent to me that the enemy were evacuating the Fort, I hastened forward my column and ordered my Cavalry, in advance, to push on, engage the enemy, or if he had left the Fort to pursue him and put him to rout–capturing all whom they overtook.
The advance of the Cavalry came up, rapidly, but found the enemy, except a few of his number remaining behind, retreating outside of his defences. They made rapid pursuit killing one of them and capturing some forty prisoners, all of his Artillery (eight pieces) and a great number of animals. The rout was complete.
Besides the trophies mentioned all of the commissary, Quarter Master’s and Ordnance stores, in depot, were captured, including eighteen pieces of cannon in the Fort.
My division was the first into the Fort and was the only one that pursued the enemy. Gen. Smith moved up on the other bank of the Tenn.
Yesterday I sent forward different detachments of the Cavalry which driving in the pickets of the enemy, extended their reconnoisance to a point within a mile and a half of Fort Donnelson and to the rail road bridge across the Tenn. seventeen miles above this Fort.
Both detachments came in with prisoners of war–one of the detachments destroying a portion of the telegraph wires and the other bringing in quite a number of the enemy’s beeves.
In honor of the commander of the “Mississippi Fleet” I have changed the name of the Fort here from the name of Fort Henry to Fort Foote.18
Whether considered with reference to the spoil captured or military military consequences this is perhaps the most complete victory achieved during the war.
Your Obt. Sevt. JOHN A. MC CLERNAND
- The letter is in the Records of Area 5, Naval Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records and Library, Record Group 45, National Archives.
- Foote actually sent copies of three orders to Secretary of the Navy [pg. 23] Gideon Welles. See Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion (Washington, 1894-1927), I, xxii, 535-537. Hereafter O.R. (Navy). The list of gunboats and their officers may be found ibid., 550-551.
- Commander William D. Porter was a brother of Commander David D. Porter who rose to the rank of admiral.
- The pilots killed were James McBride and H. H. Ford. The Essex executive officer, Robert K. Riley, reported nineteen men scalded, five men missing, and six men killed. Ibid., 540.
- Surgeon John Ludlow.
- Act. Asst. Adjt. Gen. W. LaFayette McConnico, 10th Tenn., and either Capt. Charles Hayden or Capt. Lewis Miller, 48th Tenn.
- Brig. Gen. Lloyd Tilghman of Paducah, Ky., USMA 1836.
- Brig. Gen. Charles F. Smith, USMA 1825, had been in command of West Kentucky, and commanded the Second Division at Fort Henry.
- Fort Heiman, Ky., was an unfinished earthen fortification.
- Lt. Seth Ledyard Phelps, commander of the gunboat Conestoqa, was in charge of the expedition up the Tennessee River. For the reports, see ibid., 570-574; The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington, 1880-1901), I, vii, 153-156.
- Fort Donelson was located near Dover, Tenn., approximately twelve miles east of Fort Henry by land.
- Commander Roger N. Stembel’s son, Master’s Mate James H. Stembel, was a non-graduate of USNA 1866. United States Naval Academy Alumni Association, Register of Graduates (n.p., n.d.), 224.
- Portions of this letter have been published in Isabel Wallace, Life & Letters of General W. H. L. Wallace (Chicago, 1909), 155. The letter is in the Wallace-Dickey Papers, Illinois State Historical Library, Springfield, Ill.
- Capt. George J. Shepardson, of Earl, Ill., 4th Ill. Cav.
- Capt. John A. Rawllns, of Galena, Ill., was Grant’s adjt.
- This letter is in the Robert Todd Lincoln Collection, Library of Congress.
- A federal camp seven miles north of Fort Henry, near the Tennessee River, used by McClernand’s division before the attack on the fort.
- See McClernand to Foote, Feb. 7, 1862, O.R. (Navy), I, xxii, 544. Despite McClernand’s effort, the name remained Fort Henry.
NEWS NOTES *** Roger D. Bridges, who prepared the article above, holds a Fellowship in Advanced Historical Editing for 1969-1970 awarded by the National historical Publications Commission. He recently completed work for a doctorate in history at the University of Illinois with a disser [pg. 24]tation entitled, “The Constitutional World of John Sherman, 1861-1869,” directed by Harold M. Hyman. During his fellowship year, Bridges has been assisting in the preparation of The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant. *** Thomas G. Alexander, associate professor of history at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, will hold a similar fellowship in 1970-1971. He received his doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley, and has published extensively in the field of Utah history. *** The third volume of The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant has been turned over to Southern Illinois University Press and is scheduled for publication late this year. Covering the fourteen weeks from October 1, 1861, through January 7, 1862, this volume will present Grant’s first battle of the Civil War at Belmont, Missouri, November 7, 1861, and will carry his career to the eve of his expedition into Kentucky in January, 1862, which served as a prelude to the advance to Forts Henry and Donelson in February, 1862. The fourth volume, covering the Tennessee River campaign and carrying Grant to the eve of Shiloh, is currently in preparation and should be completed by the end of this year.
[pg. 25] AN INTERVIEW WITH FREDERICK DENT GRANT *** McClure’s Magazine for May, 1894, contained an interview with Colonel Frederick Dent Grant which supplements his recollections of his father, Ulysses S. Grant, which appeared in the Newsletter for April and October, 1969, and January, 1970. The complete article containing the interview is reprinted below.
Any one who has laid his tribute of worship at the feet of General Grant without ever having seen the man experiences a surprise, and almost a shock, when he meets the master of the house at No. 245 West Seventy-fourth Street, in the city of New York. The man whom he really meets, and whom he knows he meets, is Colonel Frederick D. Grant. But the man whom he sees–and the illusion will grow on him all through a long morning’s talk–is as exactly General Ulysses S. Grant as if the painting on the western wall of the parlor of that house, or the crayon on the eastern wall of the library, had taken life, and, doffing its four-starred General’s uniform for mufti, had stepped from its frame and sat down at the library desk to write an order to Burnside beleaguered in Knoxville.Colonel Grant is probably a larger man than his father, but proportionately their cranial measurements would probably tally almost exactly. The square, short head, indicative of the General’s perfect equability of temperament, is reproduced in the Colonel. The features are the same. Particularly is the resemblance close in the nose of unobtrusive strength. The Grant nose is a Caesarian organ with constitutional limitations, [pg. 26] British and American. It must have been the nose of a potential dictator once, but centuries of civil and religious liberty in Old and New England and the new New England of what was once the West, have depressed the arch and set the member snug and law-abidingly to the face. There is the same penetrating and meditative eye, the eye that thinks but does not brood. There are the same squared, even shoulders. There is the same set but not protrusive jaw. There is the same brown beard, now slightly tinged with gray, for Colonel Grant has reached the age of forty-four, at which his father, his battles all over, had created for himself the unprecedented rank of General.
When Colonel Grant begins to talk, and especially when, to illustrate points in his talk, he reads from his father’s manuscript order books,1 the similarity of mental process as well as of outward appearance is shown. The General never made phrases intentionally. He never left anything to intuition. But be made things so clear, at enormous pains to himself, that he absolutely stopped all loopholes of misunderstanding. So with Colonel Grant, the attribute that strikes you mast is the impossibility of getting an incorrect idea from him.
This mental similarity is not to be wondered at. The son lived in the father’s shadow, slept in his tent, ate at his mess, rode by his side–a volunteer aide-de-camp without pay at thirteen–through the time when his mind was most plastic.
Colonel Grant likes better to talk of his father’s campaigns than of his personality, and exhibits in talking of them the remarkable Grant clarity of statement. Yet a single question drew from him, almost accidentally, a clearer analysis of those attributes that went to make up the patent entity known as Grant, than any that I at least have seen in print. “Did you notice any change,” I had asked, “in your father’s manner or demeanor after he came East and took command of all the armies? Was there anything to show that he thought, ‘Here is the great task of my life’?”
Colonel Grant shook his head thoughtfully. “No,” he said; “that was impossible. My father was always the same. He was always grave. He was always thoughtful. He was always gentle. He was always extraordinarily considerate of the feelings of others. I have never known a man who had such nice ways about him in that respect as my father. But, more than that, he always did his best. Be did as much his best when he was a farmer as when he was Lieutenant-General, and he never saw that doing your best in one position in life was any different from doing it in another. For instance, he never would look upon one particular achievement and say, ‘That was my mast brilliant deed.’ He never looked at things that way. He used to say that he had done all he could, taken all the pains he could, about everything, and if one thing turned out better than another it was because he had more or better information to act upon. No, he never felt one responsibility more than another. He felt it his duty to do his best under all circumstances, and after that he did not care. So he never thought that he did one thing better than another. It was the duty idea that ruled him. And I may say that in the history of my father’s family that same idea of doing your best in the place you find yourself has been [pg. 27] a ruling and an upholding one. It’s been a rather remarkable family in that way, I think. His father did the best that was to be done in the little town of Georgetown, Ohio, where he lived, and that was to be mayor, and draw the resolutions and platforms for the local political conventions. And his father did his best, and that was to fill a lieutenancy in the Revolutionary war; and that father’s father was thanked by the Connecticut Assembly for his services in French and Indian warfare. There was another Grant, who became town clerk, back there in Connecticut. And so I think of each generation, since the family came here in 1630–it was of the clan Grant in Scotland originally–it may be said that there was some man doing his best, though until my father’s time in a comparatively small way. Then my father’s mother added greatly to the family stock of strict sense of duty. She was a woman who thought that nothing you could do would entitle you to praise; that you ought to praise the Lord for giving you an opportunity to do it. My father held himself to almost as strict an accountability, though he didn’t extend it to others. He was always ready to praise his subordinates, and towards his children he was especially indulgent and lenient.”
Grant’s reluctance to talk “shop” is one of the most marked but most exasperating instances of good taste in history. When the subject was mentioned to his son, he smiled a smile of amused remembrance.
“The only way I could ever draw my father out upon the art of war,” he said, “was to engage in conversation with some one else and then to make purposely a misstatement. He would correct me, and then be very apt to give his opinion on the subject, whatever it was. He never studied strategy between the time of his leaving West Point and the breaking out of the Rebellion. He had a few books, Jomini for one, and his memory retained all that he had learned at the academy. But, as a matter of fact, no European writer and no European commander could have given him much help in his campaigns.”
The talk fell upon Vicksburg, and Colonel Grant, looking at it from the military standpoint, corrected my idea that it corresponded to the campaign of Ulm, and said that its true resemblance was to the Italian campaigns of 1796-97. Then I suggested: “Colonel, there are a good many million boys in this country who would like to know what a thirteen-year-old aide-de-camp saw on the day of the surrender.”
The Colonel laughed and said: “Well, I don’t know exactly where to begin. I remember that father had had it given out that we were to assault Vicksburg on July 4, when the attack was ordered for the 6th, and that brought the flag of truce; and then Pemberton and his staff rode out to meet my father and his staff. He and Pemberton went to one side and talked together, and then my father called Rawlins, and Pemberton called Bowen, into consultation. In the mean time the two staffs mingled and talked about all sorts of things, and I listened. When we got back to the tent,” and here the Colonel grew more interested and more exact in statement, “I remember how I wanted to lie down. Dysentery had pulled me down from one hundred and ten to sixty-eight pounds, and I had a toothache as well. The first thing I did after the surrender was to have that tooth pulled. My [pg. 28] father sat at his little desk. That was all there was in the tent, except his cot and my cot; and the bottom of his was broken, and he had to stretch his legs apart when he slept in it to keep from falling through.”
The Colonel stopped to laugh a moment at the recollection, and went on. “He began to write very hard, and with great interest in what he was writing. I lay on the cot with my face in my hands. We were alone, and it was toward evening. At last there came an orderly with a despatch. I remember seeing my father open it. He got up and said: ‘W-e-e-e-ll, I’m glad Vicksburg will surrender tomorrow.'”2
The question had been put to Colonel Grant, while he was describing the scene in the tent, whether his father was smoking at the time, and whether he really smoked as much as he was said to have. “I’ll tell you about that afterwards,” Colonel Grant had then said: “I’ll tell you how he came to smoke.” So, after the Vicksburg incident had been disposed of, there came this first authentic history of Grant as a smoker.
“My father,” said Colonel Grant, “tried to smoke while at West Point, but only because it was against the regulations; and then he didn’t succeed very well at it. He really got the habit from smoking light cigars and cigarettes during the Mexican war, but it wasn’t a fixed habit. When he left the army and lived in the country, he smoked a pipe–not incessantly. I don’t think that he was very fond of tobacco then, and really there was always a popular misconception of the amount of his smoking. But he went on as a light smoker, a casual smoker, until the day of the fall of Fort Donelson. Then the gun-boats having been worsted somewhat, and Admiral Foote having been wounded, he sent ashore for my father to come and see him. Father went aboard, and the Admiral, as is customary, had his cigars passed. My father took one, and was smoking it when he went ashore. There he was met by a staff officer, who told him that there was a sortie, and the right wing had been struck and smashed in. Then my father started for the scene of operations. He let his cigar go out, naturally, but held it between his fingers. He rode hither and yon, giving orders and directions, still with the cigar stump in his hand. The result of his exertions was that Fort Donelson fell after he sent his message of ‘Unconditional surrender,’ and ‘I propose to move immediately upon your works.’ With the message was sent all over the country the news that Grant was smoking throughout the battle, when he only had carried this stump from Foote’s flagship. But the cigars began to come in from all over the Union. He had eleven thousand cigars on hand in a very short time. He gave away all he could, but he was so surrounded with cigars that he got to smoking them regularly. But he never smoked as much as he seemed to smoke. He would light a cigar after breakfast and let it go out, and then light it again, and then again let it go out, and light it; so that the one cigar would last until lunch time.”
There has been more “popular sentiment” about the Chattanooga campaign than any other of the war. Colonel Grant smiled as we came to talk about it, and walked across the room to some book-shelves. From the long rows of leather-bound books he chose out a volume of smoothly copied orders, saying, as he turned the leaves: “Lookout Mountain is called the ‘Battle above the Clouds,’ I believe. The army lost nine men there, and at the other mountain, [pg. 29] Missionary Ridge, it lost six thousand or seven thousand. Then there is another story, that the troops carried Missionary Ridge without orders, in an access of heroism. Well, let’s see!” He read from the volume of orders and commented. In all the multifarious detail of instruction, which took painful cognizance of the depth of mud on every cross-road, and the comparative condition of the baggage train of each division, there was the fixed and iterated and reiterated exposition of the fact that Missionary Ridge, the point that was carried “without orders” by the Army of the Cumberland, was the point where the hammer of Thor was to strike when all this complex machinery should have raised it for its fall, which was to reëcho through all the years of the Republic.
Then from reports to Halleck, in another of the leather-bound volumes, came the reflection of the series of orders, fitting them as the type fits the matrix. The last was almost amusing in its unstudied simplicity. It was: “I do not at all expect that Bragg will be about here in the morning.”3
Chronologically the talk had come to Grant’s journey East to assume general command, and his first meeting with Lincoln. “Did he give you his impression of Lincoln when he returned from that interview?” I asked.
“Not exactly,” answered Colonel Grant. “You see, I was with him at the time.”
“Yes; in Washington and in the White House–with him and Lincoln.”
One can hardly imagine Marlborough taking a young Churchill to see Queen Anne after Ramillies; or Wellington, back from Spain, accompanied by a Right Honorable little Wellesley in his first call on the Duke of York. “Old Fuss and Feathers” doing such a kindly, natural, domestic, American thing after Mexico, is unthinkable. The incident seems to me to show Grant’s unshakable equilibrium, his perfect invariableness.
“Is it true that Lincoln quoted a story about Captain Bob Shorty and the Mackerel Brigade, from the ‘Orpheus C. Kerr Papers,’ to your father at that meeting?” I asked.
“Very likely, though I don’t remember. The story that I do remember hearing him tell my father that day was about Jocko. Jocko was the commander of an army of monkeys in a monkey war, and he was always sure that if his tail were a little longer he could end the monkey war. So he kept asking the authorities of the monkey republic for more of a tail. They got other monkey tails and spliced them on his. His spliced tail got too long to drag after him, and they wound it around his body. Still he wanted more, and they wound his spliced tail about his shoulders. Finally it got so heavy that it broke his back. Mr. Lincoln applied the story to the cases of generals who were always calling for more men and never did anything with them.4 They talked about the campaign, but in a desultory way. I remember Mr. Lincoln’s saying, ‘I don’t give many military orders. Some of those I do give I know are wrong. Sometimes I think that all of them are wrong.'”
“Of those whom your father met in civil life, Conkling became the nearest to him, did he not?” said I, as our talk concluded.
In a rather pensive and low tone Colonel Grant answered, “Conkling and my father loved each other. They were devoted; and Conkling’s devo [pg. 30]tion was quite unselfish. There was a large element of hero-worship in it. He had three historical ideals–Mary Stuart, Napoleon, and my father.”
Besides the new impressions of Grant the talk with his son yielded, I got another on noting a water-color that hung before me–a Normandy draft horse, done by Grant. An artistic element, the public scarcely suspected in him; but it was strong, as another painting and various drawings preserved by the family show, and it has descended to Colonel Grant’s daughter.5
- These books are now in the Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
- See “Frederick Dent Grant at Vicksburg,” Ulysses S. Grant Association Newsletter, VII, 1 (Oct., 1969).
- “I have no idea of finding Bragg here to-morrow.” Grant to Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck, 7:15 P. M., Nov. 25, 1863, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington, 1880-1901), I, xxxi, part 2, 35.
- Frederick Dent Grant contributed his father’s written account of the story to Allen Thorndike Rice, ed., Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln by Distinguished Men of his Time (New York, 1886), 1-2.
- See illustrations in The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant (Carbondale and Edwardsville, Ill., 1967- ), I, 13-19.
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 Grant Association board meeting, held in April, Ralph E. McCoy, director of libraries for Southern Illinois University, was elected a director. *** T. Harry Williams, a vice president of the Grant Association, has been awarded a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Huey Long. E. B. Long, also an officer of the Grant Association, has joined the faculty of the University of Wyoming.