Ulysses S. Grant
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Mark Twain had known many of the great men of the Civil War and the Gilded Age, and esteemed none more highly than Ulysses S. Grant, who was modest, sensitive, generous, honest, and superlatively intelligent. Grant's courage, both moral and physical, was a matter of record. His genius as a general assured his immortality. In 1881, Twain urged Grant to write his memoirs.
No one is interested in me, Grant replied. Out of the army, out of office, and out of favor--that was his life now. He reminded Twain that the Military History of Ulysses S. Grant, written by his wartime assistant, Adam Badeau, had sold poorly. And John Russell Young's book, Around the World with General Grant, published in 1879, had been a complete flop.
Broke and sick--he began suffering agonizingly painful throat cancer in 1884-- Grant agreed to write four articles for the Century Magazine on some of his Civil War battles, and Century offered to publish his memoirs if only he'd write them. Twain was on a lecture tour when he heard that Grant might be willing to write a book and hurried back to New York to tell Grant that he could arrange for publication of the book by a small firm that he controlled. Grant accepted his offer because Twain had been the first person to suggest he write his memoirs.
The inflexible will and powerful mind that helped make Grant a great general were stronger than the torturing pain, the sleepless nights, the terrors of death. Yet there was no sense of this heroic struggle in the narrative he produced with stubby pencils or by dictating to a secretary. The book was like the man himself--often humorous, frequently charming, always lucid, sometimes poignant, generous to his enemies, loyal to his friends. Twain was astonished when he discovered that Grant had produced a considerably longer book than he had contracted to write, but Grant had always tried to give more than was expected of him. He did so even now.
Grant finished his book in July 1885. The Memoirs were a triumph. The narrative has the directness and limpidity of the purest English prose as it was first crafted by William Tyndell and then spread throughout the English-speaking world in the King James version of the Bible.
Grant had reached deep into himself and into the world history of the Anglo-American people to grasp the core of its culture, the English language. He trusted in that narrative style that achieves its effects by never straining for effect, assembled it into vivid pictures sufficiently understated to allow an intelligent reader's imagination room to expand, and shaped a literary architecture with a born artist's eye.
His recollections were inevitably partial and selective. As with all memoirs, Grant's was at its best as a revelation of the way he remembered the events of his tumultuous life and the feelings they evoked in him as death drew near. Its truth was less in the details of what he recalled as in the story he had to tell, of justice triumphant over a great evil.
On July 23, 1885, several days after correcting the galley proofs of his book, Grant died in a summer cottage on the slopes of Mount McGregor, New York, surrounded by friends and family. The memoirs, published a few months later, have never been out of print.
a good deal of parade about his expulsion, ostensibly as a warning to those who entertained the sentiments he expressed; but Hurlbut and the expelled man understood each other. He delivered his copy of Johnston’s dispatch to McPherson who forwarded it to me. Receiving this dispatch on the 14th I ordered McPherson to move promptly in the morning back to Bolton, the nearest point where Johnston could reach the road. Bolton is about twenty miles west of Jackson. I also informed McClernand of the
heavily wooded at all the points of crossing, particularly on the south side of the river. The battle-field from the crossing of the Rapidan until the final movement from the Wilderness toward Spotsylvania was of the same character. There were some clearings and small farms within what might be termed the battle-field; but generally the country was covered with a dense forest. The roads were narrow and bad. All the conditions were favorable for defensive operations. There are two roads, good for
thereby left the road free for Anderson when he came up. Wilson, who was ordered to seize the town, did so, with his division of cavalry; but he could not hold it against the Confederate corps which had not been detained at the crossing of the Po, as it would have been but for the unfortunate change in Merritt’s orders. Had he been permitted to execute the orders Sheridan gave him, he would have been guarding with two brigades of cavalry the bridge over the Po River which Anderson had to cross,
Secretary of War, who seemed much pleased at the result of his campaign. Mr. Draper, the collector of customs of New York, who was with Mr. Stanton’s party, was put in charge of the public property that had been abandoned and captured. Savannah was then turned over to General Foster’s command to hold, so that Sherman might have his own entire army free to operate as might be decided upon in the future. I sent the chief engineer of the Army of the Potomac (General Barnard) with letters to General
ages of eighteen and forty-five; and now they had passed a law for the further conscription of boys from fourteen to eighteen, calling them the junior reserves, and men from forty-five to sixty to be called the senior reserves. The latter were to hold the necessary points not in immediate danger, and especially those in the rear. General Butler, in alluding to this conscription, remarked that they were thus “robbing both the cradle and the grave,” an expression which I afterwards used in writing