Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

I am aware that this last statement may be disputed and
individual testimony perhaps adduced to show that in ante-bellum
days the ballot was as untrammelled in the south as in any
section of the country; but in the face of any such
contradiction I reassert the statement. The shot-gun was not
resorted to. Masked men did not ride over the country at night
intimidating voters; but there was a firm feeling that a class
existed in every State with a sort of divine right to control
public affairs. If they could not get this control by one means
they must by another. The end justified the means. The
coercion, if mild, was complete.

There were two political parties, it is true, in all the States,
both strong in numbers and respectability, but both equally loyal
to the institution which stood paramount in Southern eyes to all
other institutions in state or nation. The slave-owners were
the minority, but governed both parties. Had politics ever
divided the slave-holders and the non-slave-holders, the
majority would have been obliged to yield, or internecine war
would have been the consequence. I do not know that the
Southern people were to blame for this condition of affairs.
There was a time when slavery was not profitable, and the
discussion of the merits of the institution was confined almost
exclusively to the territory where it existed. The States of
Virginia and Kentucky came near abolishing slavery by their own
acts, one State defeating the measure by a tie vote and the
other only lacking one. But when the institution became
profitable, all talk of its abolition ceased where it existed;
and naturally, as human nature is constituted, arguments were
adduced in its support. The cotton-gin probably had much to do
with the justification of slavery.

The winter of 1860-1 will be remembered by middle-aged people of
to-day as one of great excitement. South Carolina promptly
seceded after the result of the Presidential election was
known. Other Southern States proposed to follow. In some of
them the Union sentiment was so strong that it had to be
suppressed by force. Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky and Missouri,
all Slave States, failed to pass ordinances of secession; but
they were all represented in the so-called congress of the
so-called Confederate States. The Governor and Lieutenant-
Governor of Missouri, in 1861, Jackson and Reynolds, were both
supporters of the rebellion and took refuge with the enemy. The
governor soon died, and the lieutenant-governor assumed his
office; issued proclamations as governor of the State; was
recognized as such by the Confederate Government, and continued
his pretensions until the collapse of the rebellion. The South
claimed the sovereignty of States, but claimed the right to
coerce into their confederation such States as they wanted, that
is, all the States where slavery existed. They did not seem to
think this course inconsistent. The fact is, the Southern
slave-owners believed that, in some way, the ownership of slaves
conferred a sort of patent of nobility–a right to govern
independent of the interest or wishes of those who did not hold
such property. They convinced themselves, first, of the divine
origin of the institution and, next, that that particular
institution was not safe in the hands of any body of legislators
but themselves.

Meanwhile the Administration of President Buchanan looked
helplessly on and proclaimed that the general government had no
power to interfere; that the Nation had no power to save its own
life. Mr. Buchanan had in his cabinet two members at least, who
were as earnest–to use a mild term–in the cause of secession
as Mr. Davis or any Southern statesman. One of them, Floyd, the
Secretary of War, scattered the army so that much of it could be
captured when hostilities should commence, and distributed the
cannon and small arms from Northern arsenals throughout the
South so as to be on hand when treason wanted them. The navy
was scattered in like manner. The President did not prevent his
cabinet preparing for war upon their government, either by
destroying its resources or storing them in the South until a de
facto government was established with Jefferson Davis as its
President, and Montgomery, Alabama, as the Capital. The
secessionists had then to leave the cabinet. In their own
estimation they were aliens in the country which had given them
birth. Loyal men were put into their places. Treason in the
executive branch of the government was estopped. But the harm
had already been done. The stable door was locked after the
horse had been stolen.

During all of the trying winter of 1860-1, when the Southerners
were so defiant that they would not allow within their borders
the expression of a sentiment hostile to their views, it was a
brave man indeed who could stand up and proclaim his loyalty to
the Union. On the other hand men at the North–prominent
men–proclaimed that the government had no power to coerce the
South into submission to the laws of the land; that if the North
undertook to raise armies to go south, these armies would have to
march over the dead bodies of the speakers. A portion of the
press of the North was constantly proclaiming similar views.
When the time arrived for the President-elect to go to the
capital of the Nation to be sworn into office, it was deemed
unsafe for him to travel, not only as a President-elect, but as
any private citizen should be allowed to do. Instead of going
in a special car, receiving the good wishes of his constituents
at all the stations along the road, he was obliged to stop on
the way and to be smuggled into the capital. He disappeared
from public view on his journey, and the next the country knew,
his arrival was announced at the capital. There is little doubt
that he would have been assassinated if he had attempted to
travel openly throughout his journey.



The 4th of March, 1861, came, and Abraham Lincoln was sworn to
maintain the Union against all its enemies. The secession of
one State after another followed, until eleven had gone out. On
the 11th of April Fort Sumter, a National fort in the harbor of
Charleston, South Carolina, was fired upon by the Southerners
and a few days after was captured. The Confederates proclaimed
themselves aliens, and thereby debarred themselves of all right
to claim protection under the Constitution of the United
States. We did not admit the fact that they were aliens, but
all the same, they debarred themselves of the right to expect
better treatment than people of any other foreign state who make
war upon an independent nation. Upon the firing on Sumter
President Lincoln issued his first call for troops and soon
after a proclamation convening Congress in extra session. The
call was for 75,000 volunteers for ninety days’ service. If the
shot fired at Fort Sumter “was heard around the world,” the call
of the President for 75,000 men was heard throughout the
Northern States. There was not a state in the North of a
million of inhabitants that would not have furnished the entire
number faster than arms could have been supplied to them, if it
had been necessary.

As soon as the news of the call for volunteers reached Galena,
posters were stuck up calling for a meeting of the citizens at
the court-house in the evening. Business ceased entirely; all
was excitement; for a time there were no party distinctions; all
were Union men, determined to avenge the insult to the national
flag. In the evening the court-house was packed. Although a
comparative stranger I was called upon to preside; the sole
reason, possibly, was that I had been in the army and had seen
service. With much embarrassment and some prompting I made out
to announce the object of the meeting. Speeches were in order,
but it is doubtful whether it would have been safe just then to
make other than patriotic ones. There was probably no one in
the house, however, who felt like making any other. The two
principal speeches were by B. B. Howard, the post-master and a
Breckinridge Democrat at the November election the fall before,
and John A. Rawlins, an elector on the Douglas ticket. E. B.
Washburne, with whom I was not acquainted at that time, came in
after the meeting had been organized, and expressed, I
understood afterwards, a little surprise that Galena could not
furnish a presiding officer for such an occasion without taking
a stranger. He came forward and was introduced, and made a
speech appealing to the patriotism of the meeting.

After the speaking was over volunteers were called for to form a
company. The quota of Illinois had been fixed at six regiments;
and it was supposed that one company would be as much as would
be accepted from Galena. The company was raised and the
officers and non-commissioned officers elected before the
meeting adjourned. I declined the captaincy before the
balloting, but announced that I would aid the company in every
way I could and would be found in the service in some position
if there should be a war. I never went into our leather store
after that meeting, to put up a package or do other business.

The ladies of Galena were quite as patriotic as the men. They
could not enlist, but they conceived the idea of sending their
first company to the field uniformed. They came to me to get a
description of the United States uniform for infantry;
subscribed and bought the material; procured tailors to cut out
the garments, and the ladies made them up. In a few days the
company was in uniform and ready to report at the State capital
for assignment. The men all turned out the morning after their
enlistment, and I took charge, divided them into squads and
superintended their drill. When they were ready to go to
Springfield I went with them and remained there until they were
assigned to a regiment.

There were so many more volunteers than had been called for that
the question whom to accept was quite embarrassing to the
governor, Richard Yates. The legislature was in session at the
time, however, and came to his relief. A law was enacted
authorizing the governor to accept the services of ten
additional regiments, one from each congressional district, for
one month, to be paid by the State, but pledged to go into the
service of the United States if there should be a further call
during their term. Even with this relief the governor was still
very much embarrassed. Before the war was over he was like the
President when he was taken with the varioloid: “at last he had
something he could give to all who wanted it.”

In time the Galena company was mustered into the United States
service, forming a part of the 11th Illinois volunteer
infantry. My duties, I thought, had ended at Springfield, and I
was prepared to start home by the evening train, leaving at nine
o’clock. Up to that time I do not think I had been introduced
to Governor Yates, or had ever spoken to him. I knew him by
sight, however, because he was living at the same hotel and I
often saw him at table. The evening I was to quit the capital I
left the supper room before the governor and was standing at the
front door when he came out. He spoke to me, calling me by my
old army title “Captain,” and said he understood that I was
about leaving the city. I answered that I was. He said he
would be glad if I would remain over-night and call at the
Executive office the next morning. I complied with his request,
and was asked to go into the Adjutant-General’s office and render
such assistance as I could, the governor saying that my army
experience would be of great service there. I accepted the

My old army experience I found indeed of very great service. I
was no clerk, nor had I any capacity to become one. The only
place I ever found in my life to put a paper so as to find it
again was either a side coat-pocket or the hands of a clerk or
secretary more careful than myself. But I had been
quartermaster, commissary and adjutant in the field. The army
forms were familiar to me and I could direct how they should be
made out. There was a clerk in the office of the Adjutant-
General who supplied my deficiencies. The ease with which the
State of Illinois settled its accounts with the government at
the close of the war is evidence of the efficiency of Mr. Loomis
as an accountant on a large scale. He remained in the office
until that time.

As I have stated, the legislature authorized the governor to
accept the services of ten additional regiments. I had charge
of mustering these regiments into the State service. They were
assembled at the most convenient railroad centres in their
respective congressional districts. I detailed officers to
muster in a portion of them, but mustered three in the southern
part of the State myself. One of these was to assemble at
Belleville, some eighteen miles south-east of St. Louis. When I
got there I found that only one or two companies had arrived.
There was no probability of the regiment coming together under
five days. This gave me a few idle days which I concluded to
spend in St. Louis.

There was a considerable force of State militia at Camp Jackson,
on the outskirts of St. Louis, at the time. There is but little
doubt that it was the design of Governor Claiborn Jackson to
have these troops ready to seize the United States arsenal and
the city of St. Louis. Why they did not do so I do not know.
There was but a small garrison, two companies I think, under
Captain N. Lyon at the arsenal, and but for the timely services
of the Hon. F. P. Blair, I have little doubt that St. Louis
would have gone into rebel hands, and with it the arsenal with
all its arms and ammunition.

Blair was a leader among the Union men of St. Louis in 1861.
There was no State government in Missouri at the time that would
sanction the raising of troops or commissioned officers to
protect United States property, but Blair had probably procured
some form of authority from the President to raise troops in
Missouri and to muster them into the service of the United
States. At all events, he did raise a regiment and took command
himself as Colonel. With this force he reported to Captain Lyon
and placed himself and regiment under his orders. It was
whispered that Lyon thus reinforced intended to break up Camp
Jackson and capture the militia. I went down to the arsenal in
the morning to see the troops start out. I had known Lyon for
two years at West Point and in the old army afterwards. Blair I
knew very well by sight. I had heard him speak in the canvass of
1858, possibly several times, but I had never spoken to him. As
the troops marched out of the enclosure around the arsenal,
Blair was on his horse outside forming them into line
preparatory to their march. I introduced myself to him and had
a few moments’ conversation and expressed my sympathy with his
purpose. This was my first personal acquaintance with the
Honorable–afterwards Major-General F. P. Blair. Camp Jackson
surrendered without a fight and the garrison was marched down to
the arsenal as prisoners of war.

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