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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Ulysses Simpson Grant (1822–1885)
Critical and Biographical Introduction by Hamlin Garland (1860–1940)
ULYSSES GRANT was born on the 27th of April, 1822, in a small two-room cabin situated in Point Pleasant, a village in southern Ohio, about forty miles above Cincinnati. His father, Jesse R. Grant, was a powerful, alert, and resolute man, ready of speech and of fair education for the time. His family came from Connecticut, and was of the earliest settlers in New England. Hannah Simpson, his wife, was of strong American stock also. The Simpsons had been residents, for several generations, of southeastern Pennsylvania. The Grants and the Simpsons had been redoubtable warriors in the early wars of the republic. Hannah Simpson was a calm, equable, self-contained young woman, as reticent and forbearing as her husband was disputatious and impetuous.  1
  Their first child was named Hiram Ulysses Grant. Before the child was two years of age, Jesse Grant, who was superintending a tannery in Point Pleasant, removed to Georgetown, Brown County, Ohio, and set up in business for himself. Georgetown was a village in the deep woods, and in and about this village Ulysses Grant grew to be a sturdy, self-reliant boy. He loved horses, and became a remarkable rider and teamster at a very early age. He was not notable as a scholar, but it was soon apparent that he had inherited the self-poise, the reticence, and the modest demeanor of his mother. He took part in the games and sports of the boys, but displayed no military traits whatever. At the age of seventeen he was a fair scholar for his opportunities, and his ambitious father procured for him an appointment to the Military Academy at West Point. He reported at the adjutant’s desk in June 1839, where he found his name on the register “Ulysses S. Grant” through a mistake of his Congressman, Thomas L. Hamer. Meanwhile, to escape ridicule on the initials of his name, which spelled “H,U,G.” he had transposed his name to Ulysses H. Grant, and at his request the adjutant changed the S to an H; but the name on record in Washington was Ulysses S., and so he remained “U. S. Grant” to the government and U. H. Grant to his friends and relatives.  2
  His record at West Point was a good one in mathematics and fair in most of his studies. He graduated at about the middle of his class, which numbered thirty-nine. He was much beloved and respected as an upright, honorable, and loyal young fellow. At the time of his graduation he was president of the only literary society of the academy; W. S. Hancock was its secretary.  3
  He remained markedly unmilitary throughout his course, and was remembered mainly as a good comrade, a youth of sound judgment, and the finest horseman in the academy. He asked to be assigned to cavalry duty, but was brevetted second lieutenant of the 4th Infantry, and ordered to Jefferson Barracks, near St. Louis. Here he remained till the spring of 1844, when his regiment was ordered to a point on the southwestern frontier, near the present town of Natchitoches, Louisiana. Here he remained till May 1845, when the Mexican War opened, and for the next three years he served with his regiment in every battle except Buena Vista. He was twice promoted for gallant conduct, and demonstrated his great coolness, resource, and bravery in the hottest fire. He was regimental quartermaster much of the time, and might honorably have kept out of battle, but he contrived to be in the forefront with his command.  4
  In the autumn of 1848 he married Miss Julia Dent of St. Louis, and as first lieutenant and regimental quartermaster, with a brevet of captain, he served at Sackett’s Harbor and Detroit alternately till June 1852, when he was ordered to the coast. This was a genuine hardship, for he was unable to take his wife and child with him; but he concluded to remain in the army, and went with his command, sailing from New York and passing by the way of the Isthmus. On the way across the Isthmus the regiment encountered cholera, and all Grant’s coolness, resource, and bravery were required to get his charge safely across. “He seemed never to think of himself, and appeared to be a man of iron,” his companions said.  5
  He was regimental quartermaster at Fort Vancouver, near Portland, Oregon, for one year. In 1853 he was promoted to a captaincy and ordered to Fort Humboldt, near Eureka in California. In 1854, becoming disheartened by the never-ending vista of barrack life, and despairing of being able to have his wife and children with him, he sent in his resignation, to take effect July 31st, 1854. He had lost money by unfortunate business ventures, and so returned forlorn and penniless to New York. Thence he made his way to St. Louis to his wife and children, and began the world again as a farmer, without a house or tools or horses.  6
  His father-in-law, Mr. Frederick Dent, who lived about ten miles out of the city, set aside some sixty or eighty acres of land for his use, and thereon he built with his own hands a log cabin, which he called “Hardscrabble.” For nearly four years he lived the life of a farmer. He plowed, hoed, cleared the land, hauled wood and props to the mines, and endured all the hardships and privations of a small farmer. In 1858 his health gave way, and he moved to St. Louis in the attempt to get into some less taxing occupation. He tried for the position of county engineer, and failed. He went into the real estate business with a friend, and failed in that. He secured a place in the customs office, but the collector died and he was thrown out of employment.  7
  In the spring of 1860, despairing of getting a foothold in St. Louis, he removed to Galena, Illinois, where his father had established a leather store, a branch of his tannery in Covington, Kentucky. Here he came in touch again with his two brothers, Simpson and Orvil Grant. He became a clerk at a salary of six hundred dollars per annum. At this time he was a quiet man of middle age, and his manner and mode of life attracted little attention till in 1861, when Sumter was fired upon and Lincoln called for volunteers. Galena at once held a war meeting to raise a company. Captain Grant, because of his military experience, was made president of the meeting, and afterward was offered the captaincy of the company, which he refused, saying, “I have been a captain in the regular army. I am fitted to command a regiment.”  8
  He wrote at once a patriotic letter to his father-in-law, wherein he said, “I foresee the doom of slavery.” He accompanied the company to Springfield, where his military experience was needed. Governor Richard Yates gave him work in the adjutant’s office, then made him drill-master at Camp Yates; and as his efficiency became apparent he was appointed governor’s aide, with rank of colonel. He mustered in several regiments, among them the 7th Congressional regiment at Mattoon. He made such an impression on this regiment that they named their camp in his honor, and about the middle of June sent a delegation of officers to ask that he be made colonel. Governor Yates reluctantly appointed him, and at the request of General John C. Frémont, the commander of the Department of the West, Grant’s regiment (known as the 21st Illinois Volunteers) was ordered to Missouri. Colonel Grant marched his men overland, being the first commander of the State to decline railway transportation. His efficiency soon appeared, and he was given the command of all the troops in and about Mexico, Missouri. At this point he received a dispatch from E. B. Washburne, Congressman for his district, that President Lincoln had made him brigadier-general. He was put in command at Ironton, Missouri, and was proceeding against Colonel Hardee, when he was relieved from command by B. M. Prentiss and ordered to Jefferson City, Missouri. He again brought order out of chaos, and was ready for a campaign, when he was again relieved, and by suggestion of President Lincoln placed in command of a district with headquarters at Cairo, Illinois.  9
  This was his first adequate command, and with clear and orderly activity he organized his command of nearly ten thousand men. On the 6th of September, learning that the Confederates were advancing on Paducah, he took the city without firing a gun, and issued an address to the people of Kentucky which led Lincoln to say, “The man who can write like that is fitted to command in the West.” Early in November, in obedience to a command from Frémont, he fought the battle of Belmont, thus preventing General Polk from reinforcing Price in Missouri. This was neither a victory nor a defeat, as the purpose was not to hold Belmont.  10
  In February 1862, with an army of twenty thousand men and accompanied by Commander Foote’s flotilla, he took Fort Henry and marched on Fort Donelson. On the 16th of the same month he had invested Donelson and had beaten the enemy within their works. General Simon Buckner, his old classmate and comrade, was in command. He wrote to Grant, asking for commissioners to agree upon terms. Grant replied: “No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works.” Buckner surrendered, and Grant’s sturdy words flamed over the land, making him “Unconditional Surrender Grant.” The whole nation thrilled with the surprise and joy of this capture, and the obscure brigadier-general became the hero of the day. He was made major-general, and given the command of the District of Western Tennessee.  11
  On the 6th and 7th of April he fought the terrible battle of Shiloh, and won it, though with great loss, owing to the failure of part of his reinforcements to arrive. Immediately after this battle, General H. W. Halleck, who had relieved General Frémont as commander in the West, took command in person, and by a clever military device deprived Grant of all command; and for six weeks the army timidly advanced on Corinth. Corinth was evacuated by the enemy before Halleck dared to attack, and Grant had no hand in any important command until late in the year.  12
  Halleck went to Washington in July, leaving Grant again in command; but his forces were so depleted that he could do little but defend his lines and stores. In January 1863 he began to assemble his troops to attack Vicksburg, but high water kept him inactive till the following April. His plan, then fully developed, was to run the battery with gunboats and transports, march his troops across the peninsula before the city, and flank the enemy from below. This superbly audacious plan involved cutting loose from his base of supplies and all communications. He was obliged to whip two armies in detail,—Johnston at Jackson, Mississippi, and Pemberton in command at Vicksburg. This marvelous campaign was executed to the letter, and on the third day of July, Pemberton surrendered the largest body of troops ever captured on this continent up to that time, and Grant became the “man of destiny” of the army. All criticism was silenced. The world’s markets rose and fell with his daily doings. Lincoln wrote him a letter of congratulation. The question of making “the prop-hauler of the Gravois” general-in-chief of all the armies of the United States was raised, and all the nation turned to him as the savior of the republic.  13
  He was made commander of all the armies of the Mississippi, and proceeded to Chattanooga to rescue Rosecrans and his beleaguered army. In a series of swift and dramatic battles he captured Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge. Wherever he went, victory seemed to follow. His calm demeanor never changed. He was bent on “whipping out the Rebellion.” He was seen to be a warrior of a new sort. He was never malignant, or cruel, or ungenerous to his enemies; but he fought battles to win them, and the country now clamored for him to lead the armies of the Potomac against Lee, the great Southern general against whom no Northern general seemed able to prevail.  14
  Early in March of 1864, Hon. E. B. Washburne introduced into Congress a bill reviving the grade of Lieutenant-General. It was passed by both houses with some discussion, and Lincoln conferred the title and all it implied upon Grant. He called him to Washington, and placed the whole conduct of the war in his hands. “I don’t want to know your plans,” he said. Grant became absolutely chief in command, and set forth at once to direct the Army of the Potomac in person, and to encompass Lee as he had captured the armies of Buckner and Pemberton. His aim was not to whip Lee, but to destroy his army and end the war. He began an enormous encircling movement which never for one moment relaxed. The Army of the Potomac retreated no more. It had a commander who never knew when he was beaten.  15
  He fought one day in the Wilderness, sustaining enormous losses; but when the world expected retreat, he ordered an advance. He fought another day, and on the third day ordered an advance. Lincoln said, “At last I have a general.” Grant never rested. After every battle he advanced, inexorably closing around Lee. It took him a year, but in the end he won. He captured Lee’s army, and ended the war on the 9th of April, 1865. His terms with the captured general of the Southern forces were so chivalrous and generous that it gained for him the respect and even admiration of the Southern people. They could not forget that he was conqueror, but they acknowledged his greatness of heart. He had no petty revenges.  16
  Nothing in human history exceeds the contrasts in the life of Ulysses Grant. When Lee surrendered to him, he controlled a battle line from the Potomac to the Rio Grande, composed of a million men. His lightest command had almost inconceivable power; and yet he was the same man who had hauled wood in St. Louis and sold awls and shoe-pegs in Galena,—he had been developed by opportunity. Personally he remained simple to the point of inconspicuousness. His rusty blouse, his worn hat, his dusty boots, his low and modest voice, gave no indication of his exalted position and his enormous power. At the grand review of the armies in Washington in May, he sat with musing eyes while the victorious legions passed him, so unobtrusive in the throng that his troops could hardly distinguish his form and face; and when he returned to Galena, his old home, he carried no visible sign of the power and glory to which he had won his way step by step, by sheer power of doing things so well that other and greater duties were intrusted to his keeping.  17
  He presented a new type of soldier to the world. He was never vengeful, never angry in battle. When others swore and uttered ferocious cries, Grant remained master of himself and every faculty, uttering no oaths, giving his commands in full, clear, simple, dignified phrases. He hated conflict. He cared nothing for the pomp and circumstance of war; it was not glorious to him; and when it was all over he said, “I never want to see a soldier’s uniform again.”  18
  He was the chief citizen of the republic at the close of the war, and when Lincoln was assassinated he was the mainstay of the republic. Every eye was turned upon him, and his calmness was most salutary upon the nation. He became inevitably a candidate for President, and was elected with great enthusiasm in 1868. In 1872 he was re-elected, and during his two terms his one great purpose was to reconstruct the nation. He did all that he could to heal the scars of war. He stood between the malignants of the North and the helpless people of the South, always patient and sympathetic. His administrations ran in turbulent times, and corruption was abroad in official circles, but there is no evidence that he was touched by it. His administration was attacked; he was acquitted.  19
  In 1878, two years after his second term had ended, he went on a trip around the world, visiting all the great courts and kings of the leading nations. He received the most extraordinary honors ever tendered to one human being by his fellows, but he returned to Galena and to his boyhood home, the same good neighbor, just as democratic in his intercourse as ever. He never forgot a face, whether of the man who shod his horses or of the man who nominated him for President, though he looked upon more people than any other man in the history of the world.  20
  In 1880 he mistakenly became a candidate for a third term, and was defeated. Shortly after this he moved to New York City, and became a nominal partner in the firm of Grant & Ward. His name was used in the business; he had little connection with it, for he was growing old and failing in health.  21
  In May 1884, through the rascality of Ferdinand Ward, the firm failed, and General Grant lost every dollar he owned. Just before the crash, in the attempt to save the firm, he went to a wealthy friend and borrowed a large sum of money. After the failure the grim old commander turned over to his creditor every trophy, every present which had been given him by his foreign friends, even the jeweled favors of kings and queens and the swords presented to him by his fellow-citizens and by his soldiers; he reserved nothing. He became so poor that his pew rent became a burden, and the question of earning a living came to him with added force, for he was old and lame, and attacked by cancer of the tongue.  22
  Now came the most heroic year of his life. Suffering almost ceaseless pain, with the death shadow on him, he sat down to write his autobiography for the benefit of his wife. He complained not at all, and allowed nothing to stand in the way of his work. He wrote on steadily, up to the very day of his death, long after the power of speech was gone, revising his proofs, correcting his judgments of commanders as new evidence arose, and in the end producing a book which was a marvel of simple sincerity and modesty of statement, and of transparent clarity of style. It took rank at once as one of the great martial biographies of the world. It redeemed his name and gave his wife a competency. It was a greater deed than the taking of Vicksburg.  23
  In this final illness his thoughts dwelt much upon the differences between the North and the South. From Mt. McGregor, where he was taken in June 1885 to escape the heat of the city, he sent forth repeated messages of good-will to the South. In this hour the two mighty purposes of his life grew clearer in men’s minds. He had put down the Rebellion, and from the moment of Lee’s surrender had set himself the task of reuniting the severed nation. “Let us have peace,” he said; and the saying had all the effect of a benediction.  24
  He died on July 23rd, 1885, at the age of sixty-three; and at his grave the North and the South stood side by side in friendship, and the great captains of opposing armies walked shoulder to shoulder, bearing his body to its final rest on the bank of the Hudson River. The world knew his faults, his mistakes, and his weaknesses; but they were all forgotten in the memory of his great deeds as a warrior, and of his gentleness, modesty, candor, and purity as a man. Since then it becomes increasingly more evident that he is to take his place as one of three or four figures of the first class in our national history. He was a man of action, and his deeds were of the kind which mark epochs in history.  25

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