Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

It was generally supposed that these two officials formed the
complement of each other. The Secretary was required to prevent
the President’s being imposed upon. The President was required
in the more responsible place of seeing that injustice was not
done to others. I do not know that this view of these two men
is still entertained by the majority of the people. It is not a
correct view, however, in my estimation. Mr. Lincoln did not
require a guardian to aid him in the fulfilment of a public
trust.

Mr. Lincoln was not timid, and he was willing to trust his
generals in making and executing their plans. The Secretary was
very timid, and it was impossible for him to avoid interfering
with the armies covering the capital when it was sought to
defend it by an offensive movement against the army guarding the
Confederate capital. He could see our weakness, but he could not
see that the enemy was in danger. The enemy would not have been
in danger if Mr. Stanton had been in the field. These
characteristics of the two officials were clearly shown shortly
after Early came so near getting into the capital.

Among the army and corps commanders who served with me during
the war between the States, and who attracted much public
attention, but of whose ability as soldiers I have not yet given
any estimate, are Meade, Hancock, Sedgwick, Burnside, Terry and
Hooker. There were others of great merit, such as Griffin,
Humphreys, Wright and Mackenzie. Of those first named, Burnside
at one time had command of the Army of the Potomac, and later of
the Army of the Ohio. Hooker also commanded the Army of the
Potomac for a short time.

General Meade was an officer of great merit, with drawbacks to
his usefulness that were beyond his control. He had been an
officer of the engineer corps before the war, and consequently
had never served with troops until he was over forty-six years
of age. He never had, I believe, a command of less than a
brigade. He saw clearly and distinctly the position of the
enemy, and the topography of the country in front of his own
position. His first idea was to take advantage of the lay of
the ground, sometimes without reference to the direction we
wanted to move afterwards. He was subordinate to his superiors
in rank to the extent that he could execute an order which
changed his own plans with the same zeal he would have displayed
if the plan had been his own. He was brave and conscientious,
and commanded the respect of all who knew him. He was
unfortunately of a temper that would get beyond his control, at
times, and make him speak to officers of high rank in the most
offensive manner. No one saw this fault more plainly than he
himself, and no one regretted it more. This made it unpleasant
at times, even in battle, for those around him to approach him
even with information. In spite of this defect he was a most
valuable officer and deserves a high place in the annals of his
country.

General Burnside was an officer who was generally liked and
respected. He was not, however, fitted to command an army. No
one knew this better than himself. He always admitted his
blunders, and extenuated those of officers under him beyond what
they were entitled to. It was hardly his fault that he was ever
assigned to a separate command.

Of Hooker I saw but little during the war. I had known him very
well before, however. Where I did see him, at Chattanooga, his
achievement in bringing his command around the point of Lookout
Mountain and into Chattanooga Valley was brilliant. I
nevertheless regarded him as a dangerous man. He was not
subordinate to his superiors. He was ambitious to the extent of
caring nothing for the rights of others. His disposition was,
when engaged in battle, to get detached from the main body of
the army and exercise a separate command, gathering to his
standard all he could of his juniors.

Hancock stands the most conspicuous figure of all the general
officers who did not exercise a separate command. He commanded
a corps longer than any other one, and his name was never
mentioned as having committed in battle a blunder for which he
was responsible. He was a man of very conspicuous personal
appearance. Tall, well-formed and, at the time of which I now
write, young and fresh-looking, he presented an appearance that
would attract the attention of an army as he passed. His genial
disposition made him friends, and his personal courage and his
presence with his command in the thickest of the fight won for
him the confidence of troops serving under him. No matter how
hard the fight, the 2d corps always felt that their commander
was looking after them.

Sedgwick was killed at Spottsylvania before I had an opportunity
of forming an estimate of his qualifications as a soldier from
personal observation. I had known him in Mexico when both of us
were lieutenants, and when our service gave no indication that
either of us would ever be equal to the command of a brigade. He
stood very high in the army, however, as an officer and a man.
He was brave and conscientious. His ambition was not great, and
he seemed to dread responsibility. He was willing to do any
amount of battling, but always wanted some one else to direct.
He declined the command of the Army of the Potomac once, if not
oftener.

General Alfred H. Terry came into the army as a volunteer
without a military education. His way was won without political
influence up to an important separate command–the expedition
against Fort Fisher, in January, 1865. His success there was
most brilliant, and won for him the rank of brigadier-general in
the regular army and of major-general of volunteers. He is a man
who makes friends of those under him by his consideration of
their wants and their dues. As a commander, he won their
confidence by his coolness in action and by his clearness of
perception in taking in the situation under which he was placed
at any given time.

Griffin, Humphreys, and Mackenzie were good corps commanders,
but came into that position so near to the close of the war as
not to attract public attention. All three served as such, in
the last campaign of the armies of the Potomac and the James,
which culminated at Appomattox Court House, on the 9th of April,
1865. The sudden collapse of the rebellion monopolized attention
to the exclusion of almost everything else. I regarded Mackenzie
as the most promising young officer in the army. Graduating at
West Point, as he did, during the second year of the war, he had
won his way up to the command of a corps before its close. This
he did upon his own merit and without influence.

CONCLUSION.

The cause of the great War of the Rebellion against the United
Status will have to be attributed to slavery. For some years
before the war began it was a trite saying among some
politicians that “A state half slave and half free cannot
exist.” All must become slave or all free, or the state will go
down. I took no part myself in any such view of the case at the
time, but since the war is over, reviewing the whole question, I
have come to the conclusion that the saying is quite true.

Slavery was an institution that required unusual guarantees for
its security wherever it existed; and in a country like ours
where the larger portion of it was free territory inhabited by
an intelligent and well-to-do population, the people would
naturally have but little sympathy with demands upon them for
its protection. Hence the people of the South were dependent
upon keeping control of the general government to secure the
perpetuation of their favorite restitution. They were enabled
to maintain this control long after the States where slavery
existed had ceased to have the controlling power, through the
assistance they received from odd men here and there throughout
the Northern States. They saw their power waning, and this led
them to encroach upon the prerogatives and independence of the
Northern States by enacting such laws as the Fugitive Slave
Law. By this law every Northern man was obliged, when properly
summoned, to turn out and help apprehend the runaway slave of a
Southern man. Northern marshals became slave-catchers, and
Northern courts had to contribute to the support and protection
of the institution.

This was a degradation which the North would not permit any
longer than until they could get the power to expunge such laws
from the statute books. Prior to the time of these
encroachments the great majority of the people of the North had
no particular quarrel with slavery, so long as they were not
forced to have it themselves. But they were not willing to play
the role of police for the South in the protection of this
particular institution.

In the early days of the country, before we had railroads,
telegraphs and steamboats–in a word, rapid transit of any
sort–the States were each almost a separate nationality. At
that time the subject of slavery caused but little or no
disturbance to the public mind. But the country grew, rapid
transit was established, and trade and commerce between the
States got to be so much greater than before, that the power of
the National government became more felt and recognized and,
therefore, had to be enlisted in the cause of this institution.

It is probably well that we had the war when we did. We are
better off now than we would have been without it, and have made
more rapid progress than we otherwise should have made. The
civilized nations of Europe have been stimulated into unusual
activity, so that commerce, trade, travel, and thorough
acquaintance among people of different nationalities, has become
common; whereas, before, it was but the few who had ever had the
privilege of going beyond the limits of their own country or who
knew anything about other people. Then, too, our republican
institutions were regarded as experiments up to the breaking out
of the rebellion, and monarchical Europe generally believed that
our republic was a rope of sand that would part the moment the
slightest strain was brought upon it. Now it has shown itself
capable of dealing with one of the greatest wars that was ever
made, and our people have proven themselves to be the most
formidable in war of any nationality.

But this war was a fearful lesson, and should teach us the
necessity of avoiding wars in the future.

The conduct of some of the European states during our troubles
shows the lack of conscience of communities where the
responsibility does not come upon a single individual. Seeing a
nation that extended from ocean to ocean, embracing the better
part of a continent, growing as we were growing in population,
wealth and intelligence, the European nations thought it would
be well to give us a check. We might, possibly, after a while
threaten their peace, or, at least, the perpetuity of their
institutions. Hence, England was constantly finding fault with
the administration at Washington because we were not able to
keep up an effective blockade. She also joined, at first, with
France and Spain in setting up an Austrian prince upon the
throne in Mexico, totally disregarding any rights or claims that
Mexico had of being treated as an independent power. It is true
they trumped up grievances as a pretext, but they were only
pretexts which can always be found when wanted.

Mexico, in her various revolutions, had been unable to give that
protection to the subjects of foreign nations which she would
have liked to give, and some of her revolutionary leaders had
forced loans from them. Under pretence of protecting their
citizens, these nations seized upon Mexico as a foothold for
establishing a European monarchy upon our continent, thus
threatening our peace at home. I, myself, regarded this as a
direct act of war against the United States by the powers
engaged, and supposed as a matter of course that the United
States would treat it as such when their hands were free to
strike. I often spoke of the matter to Mr. Lincoln and the
Secretary of War, but never heard any special views from them to
enable me to judge what they thought or felt about it. I
inferred that they felt a good deal as I did, but were unwilling
to commit themselves while we had our own troubles upon our
hands.

All of the powers except France very soon withdrew from the
armed intervention for the establishment of an Austrian prince
upon the throne of Mexico; but the governing people of these
countries continued to the close of the war to throw obstacles
in our way. After the surrender of Lee, therefore, entertaining
the opinion here expressed, I sent Sheridan with a corps to the
Rio Grande to have him where he might aid Juarez in expelling
the French from Mexican. These troops got off before they could
be stopped; and went to the Rio Grande, where Sheridan
distributed them up and down the river, much to the
consternation of the troops in the quarter of Mexico bordering
on that stream. This soon led to a request from France that we
should withdraw our troops from the Rio Grande and to
negotiations for the withdrawal of theirs. Finally Bazaine was
withdrawn from Mexico by order of the French Government. From
that day the empire began to totter. Mexico was then able to
maintain her independence without aid from us.

France is the traditional ally and friend of the United
States. I did not blame France for her part in the scheme to
erect a monarchy upon the ruins of the Mexican Republic. That
was the scheme of one man, an imitator without genius or
merit. He had succeeded in stealing the government of his
country, and made a change in its form against the wishes and
instincts of his people. He tried to play the part of the first
Napoleon, without the ability to sustain that role. He sought by
new conquests to add to his empire and his glory; but the signal
failure of his scheme of conquest was the precursor of his own
overthrow.

Like our own war between the States, the Franco-Prussian war was
an expensive one; but it was worth to France all it cost her
people. It was the completion of the downfall of Napoleon
III. The beginning was when he landed troops on this
continent. Failing here, the prestige of his name–all the
prestige he ever had–was gone. He must achieve a success or
fall. He tried to strike down his neighbor, Prussia–and fell.

I never admired the character of the first Napoleon; but I
recognize his great genius. His work, too, has left its impress
for good on the face of Europe. The third Napoleon could have no
claim to having done a good or just act.

To maintain peace in the future it is necessary to be prepared
for war. There can scarcely be a possible chance of a conflict,
such as the last one, occurring among our own people again; but,
growing as we are, in population, wealth and military power, we
may become the envy of nations which led us in all these
particulars only a few years ago; and unless we are prepared for
it we may be in danger of a combined movement being some day made
to crush us out. Now, scarcely twenty years after the war, we
seem to have forgotten the lessons it taught, and are going on
as if in the greatest security, without the power to resist an
invasion by the fleets of fourth-rate European powers for a time
until we could prepare for them.

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