Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

The arts of peace were carried on in the North. Towns and
cities grew during the war. Inventions were made in all kinds
of machinery to increase the products of a day’s labor in the
shop, and in the field. In the South no opposition was allowed
to the government which had been set up and which would have
become real and respected if the rebellion had been
successful. No rear had to be protected. All the troops in
service could be brought to the front to contest every inch of
ground threatened with invasion. The press of the South, like
the people who remained at home, were loyal to the Southern
cause.

In the North, the country, the towns and the cities presented
about the same appearance they do in time of peace. The furnace
was in blast, the shops were filled with workmen, the fields were
cultivated, not only to supply the population of the North and
the troops invading the South, but to ship abroad to pay a part
of the expense of the war. In the North the press was free up
to the point of open treason. The citizen could entertain his
views and express them. Troops were necessary in the Northern
States to prevent prisoners from the Southern army being
released by outside force, armed and set at large to destroy by
fire our Northern cities. Plans were formed by Northern and
Southern citizens to burn our cities, to poison the water
supplying them, to spread infection by importing clothing from
infected regions, to blow up our river and lake steamers
–regardless of the destruction of innocent lives. The
copperhead disreputable portion of the press magnified rebel
successes, and belittled those of the Union army. It was, with
a large following, an auxiliary to the Confederate army. The
North would have been much stronger with a hundred thousand of
these men in the Confederate ranks and the rest of their kind
thoroughly subdued, as the Union sentiment was in the South,
than we were as the battle was fought.

As I have said, the whole South was a military camp. The
colored people, four million in number, were submissive, and
worked in the field and took care of the families while the
able-bodied white men were at the front fighting for a cause
destined to defeat. The cause was popular, and was
enthusiastically supported by the young men. The conscription
took all of them. Before the war was over, further
conscriptions took those between fourteen and eighteen years of
age as junior reserves, and those between forty-five and sixty
as senior reserves. It would have been an offence, directly
after the war, and perhaps it would be now, to ask any
able-bodied man in the South, who was between the ages of
fourteen and sixty at any time during the war, whether he had
been in the Confederate army. He would assert that he had, or
account for his absence from the ranks. Under such
circumstances it is hard to conceive how the North showed such a
superiority of force in every battle fought. I know they did
not.

During 1862 and ‘3, John H. Morgan, a partisan officer, of no
military education, but possessed of courage and endurance,
operated in the rear of the Army of the Ohio in Kentucky and
Tennessee. He had no base of supplies to protect, but was at
home wherever he went. The army operating against the South, on
the contrary, had to protect its lines of communication with the
North, from which all supplies had to come to the front. Every
foot of road had to be guarded by troops stationed at convenient
distances apart. These guards could not render assistance beyond
the points where stationed. Morgan Was foot-loose and could
operate where, his information–always correct–led him to
believe he could do the greatest damage. During the time he was
operating in this way he killed, wounded and captured several
times the number he ever had under his command at any one
time. He destroyed many millions of property in addition.
Places he did not attack had to be guarded as if threatened by
him. Forrest, an abler soldier, operated farther west, and held
from the National front quite as many men as could be spared for
offensive operations. It is safe to say that more than half the
National army was engaged in guarding lines of supplies, or were
on leave, sick in hospital or on detail which prevented their
bearing arms. Then, again, large forces were employed where no
Confederate army confronted them. I deem it safe to say that
there were no large engagements where the National numbers
compensated for the advantage of position and intrenchment
occupied by the enemy.

While I was in pursuit of General Lee, the President went to
Richmond in company with Admiral Porter, and on board his
flagship. He found the people of that city in great
consternation. The leading citizens among the people who had
remained at home surrounded him, anxious that something should
be done to relieve them from suspense. General Weitzel was not
then in the city, having taken offices in one of the neighboring
villages after his troops had succeeded in subduing the
conflagration which they had found in progress on entering the
Confederate capital. The President sent for him, and, on his
arrival, a short interview was had on board the vessel, Admiral
Porter and a leading citizen of Virginia being also present.
After this interview the President wrote an order in about these
words, which I quote from memory: “General Weitzel is authorized
to permit the body calling itself the Legislature of Virginia to
meet for the purpose of recalling the Virginia troops from the
Confederate armies.”

Immediately some of the gentlemen composing that body wrote out
a call for a meeting and had it published in their papers. This
call, however, went very much further than Mr. Lincoln had
contemplated, as he did not say the “Legislature of Virginia”
but “the body which called itself the Legislature of Virginia.”
Mr. Stanton saw the call as published in the Northern papers the
very next issue and took the liberty of countermanding the order
authorizing any meeting of the Legislature, or any other body,
and this notwithstanding the fact that the President was nearer
the spot than he was.

This was characteristic of Mr. Stanton. He was a man who never
questioned his own authority, and who always did in war time
what he wanted to do. He was an able constitutional lawyer and
jurist; but the Constitution was not an impediment to him while
the war lasted. In this latter particular I entirely agree with
the view he evidently held. The Constitution was not framed with
a view to any such rebellion as that of 1861-5. While it did not
authorize rebellion it made no provision against it. Yet the
right to resist or suppress rebellion is as inherent as the
right of self-defence, and as natural as the right of an
individual to preserve his life when in jeopardy. The
Constitution was therefore in abeyance for the time being, so
far as it in any way affected the progress and termination of
the war.

Those in rebellion against the government of the United States
were not restricted by constitutional provisions, or any other,
except the acts of their Congress, which was loyal and devoted
to the cause for which the South was then fighting. It would be
a hard case when one-third of a nation, united in rebellion
against the national authority, is entirely untrammeled, that
the other two-thirds, in their efforts to maintain the Union
intact, should be restrained by a Constitution prepared by our
ancestors for the express purpose of insuring the permanency of
the confederation of the States.

After I left General Lee at Appomattox Station, I went with my
staff and a few others directly to Burkesville Station on my way
to Washington. The road from Burkesville back having been newly
repaired and the ground being soft, the train got off the track
frequently, and, as a result, it was after midnight of the
second day when I reached City Point. As soon as possible I
took a dispatch-boat thence to Washington City.

While in Washington I was very busy for a time in preparing the
necessary orders for the new state of affairs ; communicating
with my different commanders of separate departments, bodies of
troops, etc. But by the 14th I was pretty well through with
this work, so as to be able to visit my children, who were then
in Burlington, New Jersey, attending school. Mrs. Grant was
with me in Washington at the time, and we were invited by
President and Mrs. Lincoln to accompany them to the theatre on
the evening of that day. I replied to the President’s verbal
invitation to the effect, that if we were in the city we would
take great pleasure in accompanying them; but that I was very
anxious to get away and visit my children, and if I could get
through my work during the day I should do so. I did get
through and started by the evening train on the 14th, sending
Mr. Lincoln word, of course, that I would not be at the theatre.

At that time the railroad to New York entered Philadelphia on
Broad Street; passengers were conveyed in ambulances to the
Delaware River, and then ferried to Camden, at which point they
took the cars again. When I reached the ferry, on the east side
of the City of Philadelphia, I found people awaiting my arrival
there; and also dispatches informing me of the assassination of
the President and Mr. Seward, and of the probable assassination
of the Vice President, Mr. Johnson, and requesting my immediate
return.

It would be impossible for me to describe the feeling that
overcame me at the news of these assassinations, more especially
the assassination of the President. I knew his goodness of
heart, his generosity, his yielding disposition, his desire to
have everybody happy, and above all his desire to see all the
people of the United States enter again upon the full privileges
of citizenship with equality among all. I knew also the feeling
that Mr. Johnson had expressed in speeches and conversation
against the Southern people, and I feared that his course
towards them would be such as to repel, and make them unwilling
citizens; and if they became such they would remain so for a
long while. I felt that reconstruction had been set back, no
telling how far.

I immediately arranged for getting a train to take me back to
Washington City; but Mrs. Grant was with me; it was after
midnight and Burlington was but an hour away. Finding that I
could accompany her to our house and return about as soon as
they would be ready to take me from the Philadelphia station, I
went up with her and returned immediately by the same special
train. The joy that I had witnessed among the people in the
street and in public places in Washington when I left there, had
been turned to grief; the city was in reality a city of
mourning. I have stated what I believed then the effect of this
would be, and my judgment now is that I was right. I believe the
South would have been saved from very much of the hardness of
feeling that was engendered by Mr. Johnson’s course towards them
during the first few months of his administration. Be this as it
may, Mr. Lincoln’s assassination was particularly unfortunate for
the entire nation.

Mr. Johnson’s course towards the South did engender bitterness
of feeling. His denunciations of treason and his ever-ready
remark, “Treason is a crime and must be made odious,” was
repeated to all those men of the South who came to him to get
some assurances of safety so that they might go to work at
something with the feeling that what they obtained would be
secure to them. He uttered his denunciations with great
vehemence, and as they were accompanied with no assurances of
safety, many Southerners were driven to a point almost beyond
endurance.

The President of the United States is, in a large degree, or
ought to be, a representative of the feeling, wishes and
judgment of those over whom he presides; and the Southerners who
read the denunciations of themselves and their people must have
come to the conclusion that he uttered the sentiments of the
Northern people; whereas, as a matter of fact, but for the
assassination of Mr. Lincoln, I believe the great majority of
the Northern people, and the soldiers unanimously, would have
been in favor of a speedy reconstruction on terms that would be
the least humiliating to the people who had rebelled against
their government. They believed, I have no doubt, as I did,
that besides being the mildest, it was also the wisest, policy.

The people who had been in rebellion must necessarily come back
into the Union, and be incorporated as an integral part of the
nation. Naturally the nearer they were placed to an equality
with the people who had not rebelled, the more reconciled they
would feel with their old antagonists, and the better citizens
they would be from the beginning. They surely would not make
good citizens if they felt that they had a yoke around their
necks.

I do not believe that the majority of the Northern people at
that time were in favor of negro suffrage. They supposed that
it would naturally follow the freedom of the negro, but that
there would be a time of probation, in which the ex-slaves could
prepare themselves for the privileges of citizenship before the
full right would be conferred; but Mr. Johnson, after a complete
revolution of sentiment, seemed to regard the South not only as
an oppressed people, but as the people best entitled to
consideration of any of our citizens. This was more than the
people who had secured to us the perpetuation of the Union were
prepared for, and they became more radical in their views. The
Southerners had the most power in the executive branch, Mr.
Johnson having gone to their side; and with a compact South, and
such sympathy and support as they could get from the North, they
felt that they would be able to control the nation at once, and
already many of them acted as if they thought they were entitled
to do so.

Thus Mr. Johnson, fighting Congress on the one hand, and
receiving the support of the South on the other, drove Congress,
which was overwhelmingly republican, to the passing of first one
measure and then another to restrict his power. There being a
solid South on one side that was in accord with the political
party in the North which had sympathized with the rebellion, it
finally, in the judgment of Congress and of the majority of the
legislatures of the States, became necessary to enfranchise the
negro, in all his ignorance. In this work, I shall not discuss
the question of how far the policy of Congress in this
particular proved a wise one. It became an absolute necessity,
however, because of the foolhardiness of the President and the
blindness of the Southern people to their own interest. As to
myself, while strongly favoring the course that would be the
least humiliating to the people who had been in rebellion, I
gradually worked up to the point where, with the majority of the
people, I favored immediate enfranchisement.

«- Previous | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 | View All | Next -»