Louis Arthur Coolidge.

Ulysses S. Grant online

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Centenary Edition















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In writing this book it has of course been necessary
to consult many others, reference to which could not
be made in the run of narrative without impeding its

On the military side of Grant's career: The Per-
sonal Memoirs; Battles and Leaders of the Civil War;
Nicolay and Hay's Lincoln ; Richardson's Personal
History of U. S. Grant; Badeau's Military History;
the books of Generals Sherman, Sheridan, Schofield,
McClellan, and James H. Wilson; Dana's Recollec-
tions of the Civil War; Horace Porter's Campaigning
with Grant; John Fiske's The Mississippi Valley
in the Civil War; Recollections of A. H. Stephens;
Grant's letters to his family, to Washburne, and to
Badeau; the letters of the Sherman brothers — Te-
cumseh and John; Gamaliel Bradford's delightful
series of Union and Confederate Portraits; Owen
Wister's brilliantly brief and tantalizing sketch.

On the civil side a multitude of writers have con-
tributed material or incident. No one can hope to
deal with any phase of the period of the Civil War
and Reconstruction without resorting frequently to


Rhodes's History oj the United States, a monument of
research and an exhaustless well of information.
That one may be compelled at times to differ with
his conclusions does not lessen the obligation due.

Among other books which have proved of service
are: Blaine's Twenty Years in Congress; The Autobi-
ography of George F. Hoar; the Reminiscences of
John Sherman and of Carl Scliurz; The Diary oj
Gideon Welles; Hugh McCulloch's Men and Measures
oj Halj a Century; Merriam's Lije and Times oj
Samuel Bowles; the lives of Stanton, Conkling, Mor-
ton, Chandler, and Trumbull; Badeau's Grant in
Peace; the lives of Sumner, Chase, Stevens, Charles
Francis Adams, Seward, Sherman, and Hay in the
American Statesmen Series; Henry Adams's His-
torical Essays; John Bigelow's Retrospections oj an
Active Lije; McPherson's History oj Reconstruction;
De Witt's Impeachment and Trial oj Andrew Johnson;
John Russell Young's Around the World with General
Grant; Haworth's Disputed Election oj 1876; Joseph
Bucklin Bishop's Presidential Nominations and Elec-
tions; Stanwood's History oj the Presidency; James
L. Post's little volume of Reminiscences oj Personal
Friends; the Letters oj Charles Eliot Norton; the cor-
respondence of John Lothrop Motley; Oliver Wen-
dell Holmes's sketch of Motley's life; Senator Lodge's
Early Memories; Charles Francis Adams's The Treaty


of Washington. The lives of Grant which have been
prepared by Garland, Edmonds, King, and others
are excellent in their recital of his exploits in the Civil
War, but do not undertake a comprehensive treat-
ment of his public service after Appomattox.

It must be borne in mind that Grant had two
distinct careers, each of its own right meriting a
place in history. Biographers have not been nig-
gardly with one; what they have written has en-
riched his fame. But with the other they have been
less kind. It has not been the literary fashion to
commend him much for his achievements after the
Rebellion; yet his success as President in setting our
feet firmly in the paths of peace and in estabUshing
our credit with the nations of the world is hardly less
significant than his success in war.

This book has been prepared for publication in the
American Statesmen Series to cover the years follow-
ing the Civil War up to the time of Grant's retire-
ment from public life. It does not pretend to be a
study of Grant's military record — although the in-
troductory chapters relating to his early life and to
his service in the Civil War have been thought neces-
sary to an understanding of his subsequent career.


I. The Man 1



II. The Training of a Soldier




III. Ad Interim



IV. The Awakening 41

V. Called to the Colors 45

VI. In Command 51

Vn. Brigadier-General 57

VIII. Paducah, Belmont .61

IX. Donelson 66

X. Under a Cloud 76

XI. Shiloh 83

XII. Humiliation 94

XIII. The Mississippi Campaign 104

XIV. McClernand 109


XVI. Rawlins and Dana 124


XVII Chattanooga and Missionary Ridge. 130

XVni. LiEUTEN ant-General 141

XIX. The Clinch with Lee .... 152

XX. From Cold Harbor to Petersburg . 168

XXI. Sheridan, Sherman, Thomas . . . 177

XXn. Peace 187

XXin. A General without his Army . . 202

XXIV. Reconstruction 208

XXV. Lessons in Political Intrigue . . 226
XXVI. Johnson's Break with Congress. . 230
XXVII. At Odds with Johnson .... 242
XXVIII. Acting Secretary op War . . . 254
XXIX. A Question of Veracity — The Im-
peachment Proceedings — Election

AS President 261

XXX. President of the United States . 274

XXXI. Personal Equations 284

XXXII. Arbitration with Great Britain . 293

XXXIII. The San Domingo Tragedy . . .312

XXXIV. The Cuban Problem — Sound Finance

— "Black Friday" 335

XXXV. The Legal Tender Decision . . 350
XXXVI. Bitter Problems — The South — The

Negro — Enforcement Acts . . 357
XXXVII. Causes for Party Disaffection . . 379
XXXVIII. Reforms— The Tariff; The Civil

Service; The Indian .... 394


XXXIX. The Greeley Episode . . . .407
XL. Credit Mobilier — The Back Pay

Grab — The Sanborn Contracts . 427
XLI. Veto of the Inflation Bill — The

Resumption Act 442

XLII. A Solid Soitth in the Making . . 456
XLin. The Whiskey Ring — The Belknap
Case — Grant's Steadfast Loyalty
— The Chief Justiceship . . . 473
XLIV. The Disputed Election of 1876 . . 496
XLV. The Administration in Review . . 521
XL VI. The Trip around the World — The

Third Term 534

XLVII. The End 549

Index 567


Ulysses S. Grant Photogravure frontispiece

Phofograph taken in 1864 soon after he was commis-
sioned Lieutenant-General and made General-in-Chief
of all the armies of the United States


Birthplace of Grant at Point Pleasant,

From a woodcut, kindly lent by the Century Company

Grant's Father and Mother, Jesse Root
Grant and Hannah [Simpson] Grant q

From photographs in the possession of Mr. Edward
Ross Burke, of San Diego, California, reproduced
through his courtesy

Grant as a Brigadier-General 64

Photograph taken in November, 1861

Grant as Major-General Commanding in

THE West 124

Photograph by J. E. McClees, Philadelphia

Grant as Lieutenant-General 146

Photograph by Brady

Grant at Cold Harbor, Virginia, June 14,
1864 166

Showing also Col. John A. Rawlins, Col. Theodore S.
Bowers, Col. William L. Duff, Gen. John G. Barnard,
and others. Photograph by Brady

Facsimile of an Autograph Draft of a Dis-
patch OF December 30, 1864, to Secretary
Stanton, signed by Grant as Lieutenant-
General 188

Original in the possession of the author


Grant as Lieutenant-General (standing) 200

Photograph taken about 1865, furnished by Mr. Charles
E. Goodspeed

Schuyler Colfax 270

From an engraving by H. W. Smith

Benjamin F. Wade 328

Henry Wilson 420

Photograph by Conly

Grant in his Second Term as President 438

Photograph by Brady, taken in Washington

Jacob Dolson Cox 490

Grant at Sixty 552

Photograph by Fredricks, New York, 1882

Grant writing his Memoirs at Mount Mc-
Gregor 564

All the portraits of Grant except the frontispiece and the
one facing page 200 are from photographs in the collec-
tion of Mr. Frederick Hill Meserve, of New York


General Grant was born on April 27, 1822, in a
humble home on the Ohio River, a few miles below
Cincinnati. The approach of his hundredth anniver-
sary makes it appropriate that his countrymen, un-
swayed by the passions that moved his contempo-
raries, and with vision undistorted by nearness, shall
do homage to the memory of a great soldier who was
an honest and courageous President.

There are but a few left who fought under his com-
mand, and not many more who played a part in the
political drama of which he was the center from the
close of the Civil War to the end of his eight years of
the Presidency. Those years roughly parallel those
through which America is passing now. A great war
preceded a period of inflation, industrial depression,
and poHtical unrest. Numbers of unemployed men
tramped the country and furnished a problem for
their time. The demobilization of great and splendid
armies was followed by a reaction against military
men and methods, and the ascendancy of the profi-
teer and the politician. As in our day, a great Massa-
chusetts Senator, Chairman of the Foreign Relations
Committee, made forensic war on a President, and


defeated a treaty to which the Executive attached
great importance. Men talked of a Federation of the
World and of the end of wars, and Grant himself es-
tablished the principle of arbitration in international
disputes, and dreamed of an International Court.

It is fitting that a Massachusetts man should write
the Life of Grant, whose political career was tangent
on so many sides to those of sons of the Old Bay
State, — Boutwell, Butler, the Hoar brothers, Ames,
Motley, Henry L. Dawes, Henry Wilson, Richardson,
and Sumner, — and the author, Louis A. Coolidge,
with a fine sense of relative values, has produced a
model biography, compact, concise, and well bal-
anced, complete in its treatment and charming in its

A third of the volume tells the story of the military
commander from boyhood to West Point and through
to Appomattox, painting with fidelity the courage,
common sense, tenacity, judgment of men, coolness,
and simple loyalty which are attributes of greatness
in a soldier. An educated soldier. Grant's elemental
view of the military art after his fame had been won
was expressed to a young oflBcer thus:

"The art of war is simple enough. Find out where
your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike
at him as hard as you can, and keep moving on."

The brilliant Dana, who was sent West as the eyes


of Stanton, describes him in 1863 as "the most
modest, the most disinterested, and the most honest
man I ever knew, with a temper that nothing could
disturb, and a judgment that was judicial in its com-
prehensiveness and wisdom. Not a great man, except
morally; not an original or brilliant man; but sincere,
thoughtful, deep, and gifted with courage that never
falters; when the time came to risk all, he went in
like a simple-hearted, unaffected, unpretending hero,
whom no ill omens could deject, and no triumph un-
duly exalt."

In our War Department are hung the portraits of
our Army commanders — Washington, St. Clair,
Mad Anthony Wayne, Wilkinson, Scott, Taylor,
Sherman, Sheridan, Grant, and others. Of all since
the coming of photography. Grant's is the one face
whose calm, confident self-sufficiency does not reveal
the strain of being pictured for posterity. He never
sought a promotion except through efficiency; he
wore no borrowed laurels; he was neither unduly
elated in victory nor cast down in adversity.

The span of Grant's Presidency covers one of the
most interesting and important eras of our national
life. It witnessed the earlier development of the great
West, the laying of the great transcontinental lines,
the revival of national credit, the reduction of war
taxation and the great war debt, and the placing of


our currency upon a sound basis. It brought the
settlement of the Alabama Claims, the fisheries and
boundary disputes, and the Virginius affair, and
through the influence of Charles Sumner lost a treaty
with Santo Domingo which would have solved ques-
tions that are still vexing us. It saw the birth of the
Civil Service idea, and witnessed the tragic applica-
tion of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments
to the Black Belt, and the horrors of Reconstruction
in the South. It was a period which has been fol-
lowed too closely by great inventions and great
events to have received its due attention from the
political students of our time.

When he entered the White House, General Grant
found himself confronted with political conditions in
the South which might have staggered a statesman
of lifelong experience, and for which he was in no way
responsible, while domestic questions affecting the
nation's financial credit, and foreign problems affect-
ing its standing among the nations of the world
pressed for consideration. As his biographer well

"In constructive achievements, coming as it did
directly after the demoralization of the war and the
upset of traditions due to Lincoln's military meas
ures in that imperative emergency. Grant's Admin-
istration ranks second only to that of Washington,


who had to set the Government in motion under the
Constitution. He might safely 'leave comparisons to
history.' If we except the baneful Southern problem
which was bequeathed to him, and where his fault, if
fault there was, lay in the rigid execution of the law,
it would be hard to place the finger now on an execu-
tive policy approved by him which subsequent ex-
perience has condemned."

Of his triumphant journey around the world, the
romantic stand of the Old Guard in those hot June
days of 1880, and the Old Soldier's race with Death,
with Honor for the prize, the story is well told. No
patriot can read this volume without pride; no pro-
fessional soldier, without profit.

J. G. Harbord
Major-General, U.S. Army

Deputy Chief of Staff
Washington, D.C.
January 3, 1922




No man who ever gained enduring fame was more the
sport of chance than Grant. No character in history-
has achieved supreme success in war or the supreme
reward of poHtics who owed less to his own ambition
or design. A still and simple citizen, accustomed
mostly to the ways of unkempt Western towns, un-
gifted with imagination, indifferent to the general
stir of things, and barely equal to the task of fur-
nishing his family such modest comforts as the neigh-
bors had, he was untouched even by evanescent lik-
ing for a military life up to the moment when he
flashed across the vision of the world — the great-
est captain of his time. And when with war in retro-
spect he would have been content to live in quiet
contemplation of his strange career, unskilled in
politics, innocent of the arts of government, he was
compelled by force of circumstance for eight event-
ful years to occupy the highest civil place his coun-
trymen could give. He was the child of splendid
opportunities which came to him unsought, for


which he never seemed to care, and which he met
with calm assurance of his own capacity.

He rode upon the turmoil which had tossed him
to its top serenely confident in his ability to guide
gigantic forces thrust into his hands. He saw his
country reunited, well advanced upon a clearly
marked and broadening road; then willingly went
back to private life, rich only in the opulence of fame,
unspoiled, unfretted by regrets, and undisturbed by
dreams. When he was made Lieutenant-General
and wrote to Sherman, acknowledging that soldier's
aid in his advancement, Sherman with equal mag-
nanimity replied: "I believe you are as brave, patri-
otic, and just as the great prototype Washington, as
unselfish, kind-hearted, and honest as a man should
be; but the chief characteristic is the simple faith
in success you have always manifested which I can
liken to nothing else than the faith a Christian
has in a Saviour." So he seemed to one who saw
him near at hand in war; thus looking back we
all can now perceive his childlike trust in time of

That this shy, silent man, after a humdrum life
till middle age, should have beheld the span of his
remaining years studded with triumphs and with
tragedies presents a riddle to the student of his time.
His mind was not attuned to notions of retreat, of


indirection, or diplomacy. He thought straightfor-
ward and was free from artifice — rare quahties which
served him well in war and in most great execu-
tive emergencies, but were not fitted to the sinuous
ways of peace, the strategy of politics, the mysteries
of finance, the subtle schemes of courtiers and dis-
honest satellites; and so it came about that both as
President and as private citizen the record of his truly
great accomplishments is soiled with pages which we
would tear out if we could. Yet we should hate to
lose the last heroic chapter, even though its sordid
prelude is indispensable to the complete disclosure
of unstained nobility of soul.


Straggling along the northern bank of the Ohio,
a hundred years ago, there was a broken line of settle-
ments which served as landings for the la2y river
craft. One of them, twenty-five miles southeast of
Cincinnati, perched on a river bend, was called Point
Pleasant. Most of its dozen families had drifted in
there from the South. A few other settlers were
scattered within a radius of twenty miles. Here in
a two-room cottage, near the river front. Grant was
born on April 27, 1822.

His father was Jesse Root Grant, a recent comer
from the northeast corner of the State, who was


running a small tannery for another settler. His
mother, Hannah Simpson Grant, was the daughter
of a thrifty farmer lately arrived in the county from
Pennsylvania, a few miles out of Philadelphia. His
name was chosen by lot at a family gathering on the
Simpson farm six weeks after he was born. It is said
a maiden aunt drew from a hat a slip bearing the
name "Ulysses," the choice of Grandmother Simp-
son who had been reading Fenelon's "Telemachus"
and liked the character of whom it was written: "His
wisdom is, as it were, a seal upon his lips, which is
never broken but for an important purpose." "Hi-
ram" was added to please someone else, and he was
"Hiram Ulysses" till he went to West Point, when
the Congressman who sent him there rechristened
him "Ulysses Simpson Grant" through a mistake
in making out the papers. That is his name in his-
tory. The neighbors called him "Useless" as a boy;
his nickname at West Point was "Uncle Sam" or
"Sam." His soldiers spoke of him as "Unconditional

When Ulysses was a little over a year old, his
father, having laid aside eleven hundred dollars,
determined to set up in business for himself, and
moved to Georgetown in the neighboring county, a
backwoods settlement, twenty miles east and ten
miles inland from the river. Though smaller even


than Point Pleasant, it had advantages from a young
tanner's viewpoint: it was a county seat, likely to
grow; it was in the midst of an oak forest accessible
to bark. Its dozen houses — some of frame, a few
of brick — were cheerless, primitive, and crude — a
downstairs room in which the family lived and ate,
a garret where they slept, a lean-to kitchen in the
rear. Jesse Grant built him one of brick, to which
he added now and then as family and fortune grew,
till it was bigger and somewhat better than the rest,
though it would be black-listed by the health author-
ities in any self-respecting town to-day. Here the
boy lived until he went to school.

Life had few comforts and no graces for the Grants.
The furniture was rough and scanty, the walls were
bare, the reading limited to a few sermons, hymn-
books, and Weems's "Washington," unless they bor-
rowed from the neighbors; the mother did her own
housework like the other women in the village, cook-
ing at an open fireplace with pots and crane; the
children did the chores. The only thing resembling
music was the wail of hymns in the tiny Methodist
meeting-house, or the squeak of a fiddle in the primi-
tive tavern where travelers dropped in off and on
and the men of the village took their toddy, almost
their only indoor sport. Throughout his life Ulysses
Grant could never tell one note from another. "Old


Hundred" and the "Fisher's Hornpipe" were all the
same to him.

And yet this ragged little place had its distinctions
aside from having been the boyhood home of Grant.
When the Civil War broke out it had a population of
a thousand, largely of Southern tendencies. In some
of the churches Grant himself has said that member-
ship depended more upon hostility to the war and
liberation of the slaves than upon belief in the au-
thenticity of the Bible. There was no time during the
Civil War when the majority would not have voted
for Jefferson Davis for President instead of Lincoln,
if they had had the chance. "Yet this far-off West-
ern village," he writes, "with a population, including
old and young, male and female, of about one thou-
sand, — about enough for the organization of a single
regiment, if all had been men capable of bearing arms,
■ — furnished the Union army four general officers ami
one colonel, West Point graduates, and nine generals
and field officers of volunteers."

Jesse Grant stood well, but had his idiosyncrasies
and was not over-popular. He was thrifty, indus-
trious, and independent, held emphatic opinions on
politics and other questions, not altogether palatable
to his neighbors, and was not tactful in the time and
manner of expounding them. A Northern radical
among Southern sympathizers he did not bother to


adjust himself to his surroundings. He was a good
debater, according to his son; read every book that
he could borrow and remembered everything he
read — almost his only education. He was muscular,
six feet in height, and morally courageous, but cred-
ulous, ingenuous, garrulous, and disputatious. He
was a rhymester, and some of his verses printed in
the local weekly have been preserved, but he could
write and speak tersely and forcefully. The tavern
loafers with whom he did not fraternize laughed at
his carriage and his gold-bowed spectacles, the first
in the settlement, and were amused because of his
transparent pride in young Ulysses, whom they called
dull because he was not "smart" and "talky" like
the other village boys.

Jesse had pride of ancestry and was at pains to
trace his family to its New England source. He
found that Matthew Grant in 1630 came from Eng-
land to Dorchester in Massachusetts, and shortly
moved to Windsor in Connecticut, where his descend-
ants lived till his own father's day; that his grand-
father had a commission in the English army and
was killed in the French-and-Indian War. His
father. Captain Noah Grant, was at the battle of
Bunker Hill and served in the Continental Army
through the Revolutionary War; after which he
migrated first to Westmoreland County, Pennsyl-


vania, and then to Deerfield, Ohio. Jesse had a half-
brother, Peter, who went to Maysville, Kentucky,
and grew rich. Noah, who was not forehanded, sub-
sequently went to live with Peter, placing some of his
other children in homes near Deerfield. Jesse worked
for his "keep" with Judge Tod, the father of Gov-
ernor Tod, and by a curious chance after learning

Online LibraryLouis Arthur CoolidgeUlysses S. Grant → online text (page 1 of 35)