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On the Trail of Grant and Lee by Frederick Trevor Hill

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wished. I have no complaints to make of anyone but myself. I
have received nothing but kindness from those above me and the most
considerate attention from my comrades and companions in arms."

This generous, dignified statement, modest to the point of
self-effacement, instantly hushed all discontent and, before it,
even the newspaper editors stood abashed.

"Where am I to find the new commander who is to possess that greater
ability which you believe to be required?" wrote Jefferson Davis in
reply. "If Providence should kindly offer such a person I would
not hesitate to avail myself of his services. But my sight is
not sufficiently penetrating to discover such hidden merit, if it
exists. To ask me to substitute you by someone more fit to command
is to demand an impossibility."

In the face of this graceful response Lee could no longer urge
his resignation, and after waiting for more than three months for
Meade to attack, he suddenly assumed the offensive and during the
next five months he and Meade maneuvered their armies as two chess
experts handle the pieces on the board. Again and again, Meade
swung his powerful army into a favorable position and, again and
again, Lee responded with a move which placed his opponent on the

But while this game of check and countercheck was being played, the
North was becoming more and more impatient and events were rapidly
bringing another player to the fore.

Chapter XXIV

The Rescue of Two Armies

The defeats and disappointments of the various campaigns in Virginia
had gradually convinced the authorities at Washington that too many
people were trying to direct the Union forces. With Lee there was
practically no interference; but the commanders who opposed him
were subject to the orders of the General-in-Chief at Washington,
who was, to some extent, controlled by the Secretary of War, whose
superior was the President, and after almost every engagement a
Congressional Committee, known as the "committee on the conduct of
the war," held a solemn investigation in which praise and blame were
distributed with the best intentions and worst possible results.
All these offices and officials were accordingly more or less
responsible for everything that occurred, but not one of them was
ever wholly to blame. This mistake, however, was at last fully
realized and a careful search began for some one man to whom the
supreme command could be entrusted. But for a long time no one
apparently thought that the Western army contained any very promising
material. Nevertheless, Grant, Sheridan, Sherman and Rosecrans
were then in that army and, of these four; Rosecrans was regarded
by many as the only real possibility.

Indeed, at the moment when Grant was closing in upon Vicksburg,
and Lee and Meade were struggling at Gettysburg, Rosecrans, who had
been entrusted with the important duty of conducting a campaign to
drive the Confederates out of Tennessee, was fully justifying the
high opinions of his admirers. Between June 24, 1863, and September
9th of that year he certainly outmaneuvered his opponents, occupying
the all-important position of Chattanooga, and forcing the able
Confederate General Bragg to fall back with more speed than order.

During all this time the North had been insisting that the army
should be placed in charge of some commander who could master Lee,
and this demand had found expression in a popular poem bearing
the refrain "Abraham Lincoln! Give us a Man!" To the minds of
many people Rosecrans had clearly demonstrated that he was "the
Man," and it is possible that his subsequent acts were prompted
by over-eagerness to end his already successful campaign with a
startlingly brilliant feat of arms. At all events, he determined
not to rest satisfied with having driven the Confederates from the
field, but to capture or destroy their entire force.

With this idea he divided his army and rushed it by different routes
over the mountains in hot pursuit of the foe. But the trouble with
this program was that Bragg had not really retreated at all, having
merely moved his army aside waiting for an opportunity to strike.
Indeed, Rosecrans had barely plunged his troops into the various
mountain passes on their fruitless errand before the whole Confederate
force loomed up, threatening to destroy his widely-separated,
pursuing columns, one by one, before they could be united.

This unexpected turn of affairs utterly unnerved the Union General,
and although he did manage by desperate exertions to collect his
scattered army, he completely lost his head when Bragg attacked
him at Chickamauga, Georgia, on the 19th of September, 1863, and
before the savage battle of that name had ended he retired from
the field, believing that his army had been totally destroyed.

Such, undoubtedly, would have been its fate had not General Thomas
and his brave troops covered the retreat, by holding the whole
Confederate army in check for hours and even forcing it to yield
portions of the bloody field. From that day forward Thomas was
known as "The Rock of Chickamauga," but the heroic stand of his
gallant men barely sufficed to save the Union army, which reached
the intrenchments of Chattanooga only just in time, with the
Confederates hot upon its trail.

Had Bragg overtaken his flying opponent, he would doubtless
have made an end of him then and there, but it was not altogether
with regret that he saw him enter Chattanooga, for with the roads
properly blocked he knew the place would prove a perfect trap.
He, accordingly, began a close siege which instantly cut off all
Rosecrans' communication with the outside world, except by one road
which was in such a wretched condition as to be impossible for a
retreating army. Indeed, the heavy autumn rains soon rendered it
impracticable even for provision wagons, and as no supplies could
reach the army by any other route, it was not long before starvation
began to stare the besieged garrison in the face.

Meanwhile, Rosecrans, almost wild with anxiety and mortification,
sent dispatch after dispatch to Washington describing his condition
and imploring aid, but though he still had an effective army under
his command and plenty of ammunition, he made no attempt whatever
to save himself from his impending doom. Day by day the situation
grew more and more perilous; thousands upon thousands of horses and
mules died for lack of food and the men were so nearly reduced to
starvation that they greedily devoured the dry corn intended for
the animals.

All this time the authorities in Washington were straining every
nerve to rescue the beleaguered army. Sixteen thousand men under
General Hooker were rushed to its relief, provisions were forwarded
within a day's march of the town, awaiting the opening of new
roads, and finally, when the stream of frantic telegrams from the
front showed that the army had practically no leadership, hurried
orders were forwarded to Grant, authorizing him to remove Rosecrans,
place Thomas temporarily in control and take the field himself at
the earliest possible moment.

This unexpected summons found Grant in a serious condition, for some
weeks earlier his horse had fallen under him, crushing his leg so
severely that for a time it was feared he might be crippled for
life, and he was still on crutches suffering intense pain when the
exciting orders were placed in his hands. Nevertheless, he promptly
started on his desperate errand, traveling at first by rail and
steamer and then in an ambulance, until its jolting motion became
unbearable when he had himself lifted into the saddle with the grim
determination of riding the remainder of the way. Even for a man
in perfect physical condition the journey would have been distressing,
for the roads, poor at their best, were knee deep in mud and a wild
storm of wind and rain was raging. Time and again his escort had
to lift the General from his horse and carry him across dangerous
washouts and unaffordable streams, but at the earliest possible
moment they were always ordered to swing him into the saddle again.

Thus, mile after mile and hour after hour, the little cavalcade
crept toward Chattanooga, Grant's face becoming more haggard and
furrowed with pain at every step, but showing a fixed determination
to reach his goal at any cost. On every side signs of the desperate
plight of the besieged garrison were only too apparent. Thousands
of carcasses of starved horses and mules lay beside the road amid
broken-down wagons, abandoned provisions and all the wreckage of
a disorganized and demoralized army.

But if the suffering officer noted these ominous evidences of
disaster, his face afforded no expression of his thought. Plastered
with mud and drenched to the skin, he rode steadily forward,
speaking no word and scarcely glancing to the right or left, and
when at last the excruciating journey came to an end, he hastened
to interview Thomas and hear his report, without even waiting to
change his clothes or obtain refreshment of any kind.

It was not a very cheerful story which Thomas confided to his
Chief before the blazing headquarters' fire, but the dripping and
exhausted General listened to it with no indication of discouragement
or dismay. "What efforts have been made to open up other roads for
provisioning the army?" was the first question, and Thomas showed
him a plan which he and Rosecrans had worked out. Grant considered
it in silence for a moment and then nodded his approval. The only
thing wrong with the plan was that it had not been carried out, was
his comment, and after a personal inspection of the lines he gave
the necessary authority for putting it into immediate operation.
Orders accordingly began flying right and left, and within twenty-four
hours the army was busily engaged in gnawing a way out of the trap.

Additional roads were essential for safety but to gain them the
Confederates had to be attacked and a heavy force was therefore
ordered to seize and hold a point known as Brown's Ferry. This
relieved the situation at once and meanwhile the new commander
had hurried a special messenger to Sherman, ordering him to drop
everything else and march his Vicksburg veterans toward Chattanooga
without an instant's delay. The advance of this strong reŽnforcement
was promptly reported to Bragg, who saw at a glance that unless
it could be stopped there was every prospect that his Chattanooga
victims would escape.

He accordingly determined upon a very bold but very dangerous move.
Not far away lay General Burnside and a small Union army, guarding
the important city of Knoxville, Tennessee, and against this the
Confederate commander dispatched a heavy force, in the hope that
Grant would be compelled to send Sherman to the rescue.

But the effect of this news upon Grant was very different from Bragg's
expectations, for realizing that his adversary must have seriously
weakened himself in sending the expedition against Burnside, he
ordered Hooker, whose 16,000 men were already on hand, to make an
immediate attack with a force drawn from various parts of the army,
and on November 24, 1863, after a fierce engagement known as the
battle of Lookout Mountain, the Union troops drove their opponents
from one of the two important heights commanding Chattanooga.

In this success Sherman had effectively cooperated by attacking and
holding the northern end of Missionary Ridge and Grant determined
to follow up his advantage by moving the very next morning against
this second and more formidable range of hills. Therefore, ordering
Hooker to attack the Confederate right on Missionary Ridge and get
in their rear at that point while Sherman assaulted their left, he
held Thomas's troops lying in their trenches at the front awaiting
a favorable opportunity to send them crashing through the center.

The main field of battle was plainly visible to the silent commander
as he looked down upon it from a hill known as Orchard Knob, and he
watched the effect of the attacks on both wings of the Confederate
line with intense interest. ReŽnforcements were evidently being
hurried to the Confederate right and left and Hooker, delayed by
the destruction of a bridge, did not appear at the critical moment.
Nevertheless, for some time Sherman continued to advance, but as
Grant saw him making slower progress and noted the heavy massing of
troops in his path, he ordered Thomas's waiting columns to attack
the center and carry the breastworks at the foot of Missionary

With a blare of bugles, 20,000 blue-coated men seemed to leap from
the ground and 20,000 bayonets pointed at Missionary Ridge whose
summits began to blaze forth shot and shell. Death met them at
every stride but the charging troops covered the ground between
them and the rifle pits they had been ordered to take in one wild
rush and tore over them like an angry sea. Then, to the utter
astonishment of all beholders, instead of halting, they continued
charging up the face of Missionary Ridge, straight into the mouths
of the murderous cannon.

"By whose order is this?" Grant demanded sternly.

"By their own, I fancy," answered Thomas.

Incredible as this suggestion seemed, it offered the only possible
explanation of the scene. No officer would have dared to order
troops to such certain destruction as apparently awaited them
on the fire-crowned slopes of Missionary Ridge. Spellbound Grant
followed the men as they crept further and further up the height,
expecting every instant to see them hurled back as Pickett's heroes
were at Gettysburg, when suddenly wave upon wave of blue broke over
the crest, the Union flags fluttered all along the line and before
this extraordinary charge the Confederates broke and fled in

Setting spur to his horse, Grant dashed across the hard-fought
field and up the formidable ridge, issuing orders for securing all
that had been gained. An opening wedge had now been inserted in
Chattanooga's prison doors, and by midnight the silent captain had
thrown his whole weight against them and they fell. Then calmly
turning his attention to Burnside, he ordered him to hold his
position at every hazard until he could come to the rescue and,
setting part of his victorious veterans in motion toward Knoxville,
soon relieved its garrison from all danger.

With the rescue of two Union armies to his credit Grant was generally
regarded as the most fitting candidate for the chief command of
the army, but by this time it was fully realized that the man who
held that position would have to be invested with far greater powers
than any Union general had thus far possessed. Halleck expressed
himself as only too anxious to resign; Congress passed a law
reviving the grade of lieutenant-general with powers which, up to
that time, had never been entrusted to anyone save Washington, and
responded to the cry, "Abraham Lincoln! Give us a MAN!" the President,
on March 1st, 1864, nominated Ulysses Grant as Commander-in-Chief
of all the armies of the United States.

Chapter XXV

Lieutenant-General Grant

Until he arrived in Washington Lincoln had never met the man to
whom he had entrusted the supreme command of the army, and the new
General was a very different individual from those who had been
previously appointed to high rank. Some of his predecessors had
possessed undoubted ability, but most of them had soon acquired an
exaggerated idea of their own importance, surrounding themselves
with showy staffs in gorgeous attire, delighting in military pomp
and etiquette of every kind, and generally displaying a great weakness
for popular admiration and applause. Moreover, all of them, with
the exception of Meade, had talked too much for their own good
and that of the army, so that many of their plans had become known
in Richmond almost as soon as they had been formed. Indeed, they
not only talked, but wrote too much, and in discussions with their
superiors and wrangling with their fellow officers more than one
proved far mightier with the pen than with the sword. All this, to
a very large extent, was the fault of the public, for it had made
an idol of each new General, deluging him with praise, flattering
his vanity and fawning on him until he came to regard the war as a
sort of background for his own greatness. Thus, for almost three
years, the war was conducted more like a great game than a grim
business, and not until it began visibly to sap the life blood and
resources of the nation did the people, as a whole, realize the
awful task confronting them.

Both sides had begun the conflict in much the same careless
fashion, but the South had immediately become the battle ground,
and the horrors of war actually seen and felt by its people quickly
sobered even the most irresponsible. But from the very first Lee
had taken a serious view of the whole situation. Every word he
spoke or wrote concerning it was distinctly tinged with solemnity,
if not sadness, and his sense of responsibility had a marked influence
upon the whole Confederacy. It had taken the North almost three
years to respond in a similar spirit, but by that time it was ready
for a leader who knew what war really meant and for whom it had no
glory, and such a leader had undoubtedly been found in Grant.

In the evening of March 8, 1864, the new commander arrived in
Washington and made his way, without attracting any attention, to
one of the hotels. There was nothing in his presence or manner
to indicate that he was a person of any importance. Indeed, he
presented a decidedly commonplace appearance, for he walked with
an awkward lurch and bore himself in a slouchy fashion which made
him even shorter than he was. Moreover, his uniform was faded and
travel-stained, his close-cropped beard and hair were unkempt, and
his attire was careless to the point of slovenliness. There was,
however, something in the man's clear-cut features, firm mouth and
chin and resolute blue eyes which suggested strength, and while his
face, as a whole, would not have attracted any particular notice
in a crowd, no one in glancing at it would have been inclined to
take any liberties with its owner.

But though Grant had arrived unheralded and unrecognized at
the national capital, he had barely given his name to the hotel
clerk before the whole city was surging about him eager to catch
a glimpse of the new hero and cheer him to the echo. But however
much notoriety of this sort had pleased some of his predecessors,
Grant soon showed that he wanted no applauding mob to greet him
in the streets, for he quickly escaped to the seclusion of his
own room. But the same public that had cheered itself hoarse for
McClellan, Pope and Hooker, and then hissed them all in turn, had
found another hero and was not to be cheated of its prey. Indeed,
the newcomer was not even allowed to eat his dinner in peace, for
a crowd of gaping and congratulating enthusiasts descended upon him
the moment he reappeared and soon drove him from the dining room
in sheer disgust.

Possibly the fate of the fallen idols had warned Grant against
making a public exhibition of himself or encouraging the hysterical
acclamations of the crowd, but he was naturally a man of sound,
common sense, entirely free from conceit, and he had no idea of
allowing the idle or curious mob to amuse itself at his expense.
He, therefore, quickly made it plain that he had serious work to
do and that he intended to do it without nonsense of any kind.

Ceremonies and forms with such a man would have been impossible,
and on March 9, 1864, President Lincoln handed him his commission
as a Lieutenant-General, with a few earnest words to which he made
a modest reply, and then, with the same calmness he had displayed
in assuming the colonelcy of the 21st Illinois, he turned to the
duties involved in the command of half a million men.

From that time forward no more councils of war were held at the
White House and no more military secrets were disclosed to the
Confederate chiefs. "I do not know General Grant's plans, and I do
not want to know them!" exclaimed Lincoln with relief. But other
people did want to know them and the newspaper reporters and busybodies
of all sorts incessantly buzzed about him, employing every device
from subtle flattery to masked threats to discover his designs.
But Grant knew "how to keep silent in seven different languages"
and no one could beguile him into opening his lips. Neither had
he time nor inclination to listen to other people talk. His troops
were spread over a thousand miles of territory, and never before
had they been under the absolute control of any one man. With the
Army of the Potomac he had had but little practical experience;
of the country in which its campaigns had been conducted he knew
nothing at first hand; with a few exceptions he had no personal
acquaintance with the officers under his immediate command, and
there were countless other difficulties which had to be overcome.
He, therefore, had no leisure for trifling and quickly sent all
intruders about their business while he attended to his own.

The problem involved in a grand campaign was in many respects new
to him, but doing his own thinking in silence, instead of puzzling
himself with the contradictory opinions of other men, Grant reached
a more accurate conclusion in regard to the war than any of his
predecessors. In the first place, he saw that the various campaigns
which had been conducted in different parts of the country would
have been far more effective had they all formed part of one plan
enabling the different armies to coŲperate with each other. He,
accordingly, determined to conduct the war on a gigantic scale,
keeping the Confederates in the West so busy that they would not
be able to reŽnforce Lee and giving Lee no chance to help them. In
a word, he intended to substitute team play for individual effort
all along the line.

Again, he saw the capture of Richmond, upon which the Army of the
Potomac had expended all its efforts, would be futile if Lee's
army remained undefeated in the field, and he resolved that Lee and
not Richmond should thereafter be the main object of the campaign.
"Where Lee's army goes, there you will go also," was the substance
of his first order to Meade who virtually became his Chief of Staff,
and those who were straining every nerve to discover his plan and
expecting something very brilliant or subtle never guessed that
those nine words contained the open secret of his whole campaign.

Such, however, was the fact. "I never maneuver," he remarked
to his Chief of Staff; and Meade, who had spent the best part of
a year in a great series of maneuvers with Lee, listened to this
confession with astonishment and dismay, scarcely believing that
his superior really meant what he said. But Grant did mean it.
No elaborate moves or delicate strategy had been employed in any
of his campaigns and he had yet to meet with a serious defeat. To
make his first experiment in maneuvering against such an expert
in the science of war as Lee, would have been to foredoom himself
to defeat. With a far smaller force then either McClellan, Pope,
Burnside, Hooker or Meade had possessed, the Confederate leader had
practically fought a drawn battle with them for three years. His
science had not, it is true, been able to overcome their numbers,
but their numbers had not overpowered him. This, as far as anyone
could see, might go on forever.

But Grant knew that the North had long been tiring of the war and
that unless it were speedily closed the Union might be sacrificed
in order to obtain peace. Moreover, he saw that every day the war
lasted cost an enormous sum of money, and that the loss of life
on the battle field was nothing compared to that in the hospitals
and prisons, where disease and starvation were claiming scores of
victims every hour.

He, therefore, determined to fight and continue fighting until
he pounded his opponent to pieces, well knowing that almost every
able-bodied man in the South was already in the army and that there
was practically no one left to take the place of those who fell.

This policy, in the minds of many people, proves that Grant was no
general, but merely a brute and a butcher. But history has never
yet revealed a military leader who, having the advantage of numbers,
did not make the most of it. Had Grant been waging war for war's
sake, or been so enamored with his profession as to care more for
its fine points than for the success of his cause, he might have
evolved some more subtle and less brutal plan. But he had no love
for soldiering and no sentimental ideas whatever about the war.
Common sense, with which he was liberally supplied, told him that
the only excuse for fighting was to uphold principles which were
vital to the national life and the only way to have those principles
upheld was to defeat those who opposed them and to do this he
determined to use all the resources at his command.

The two men whom Fate or Chance had been drawing together for over
two hundred years were utterly different in appearance and manner,
but in other respects they were singularly alike. Lee was, at
the time of their meeting, already in his 58th year, his hair and
beard were almost white, but his calm, handsome face, clear eyes
and ruddy complexion, made him appear younger than he was. His
bearing also was that of a young man, for his erect, soldierly
carriage showed his height to full advantage; his well-knit figure
was almost slight for a man standing over six feet, and, mounted
on his favorite horse "Traveller," he was the ideal soldier. Grant
was barely forty-two years of age, short of stature, careless in
dress and generally indifferent to appearances. His face, though
strong, was somewhat coarse, his manners were not polished and he
had nothing of the cultivation or charm which Lee so unmistakably

But though Grant thus reflected his Roundhead ancestors and Lee his
Cavalier descent, the contrast between them was mainly external.
Both were modest and courageous; both were self-contained; each had
his tongue and temper under complete control; each was essentially
an American in his ideas and ideals; each fought for a principle
in which he sincerely believed, and neither took the least delight
in war. Had they met in times of peace, it is not probable that
they would have become intimate friends, but it is certain that
each would have respected, if not admired the other for his fine
qualities, and this was undoubtedly their attitude toward each
other from the beginning of the struggle.

Chapter XXVI

A Duel to the Death

For nearly two months after Grant assumed command no important move
was attempted by either the Union or the Confederate forces except
in Mississippi. Both sides realized that a desperate struggle was
impending and each needed all the time it could gain to prepare
for the coming fray. Heavy reŽnforcements were hurried to Grant,
until the Army of the Potomac under his immediate command included
over 120,000 men; a hundred thousand more were assembled at Chattanooga
in charge of Sherman; and two other forces of considerable size
were formed to coŲperate with Grant--one being entrusted to General
Benjamin Butler and the other to General Franz Sigel.

To oppose this vast army Lee had less than 65,000 men in the Army
of Northern Virginia and the only other formidable Confederate
force in the field was that commanded by General Joseph Johnston,
who, with some 53,000 men, was stationed in Georgia guarding the
cotton states and the far South. If these two armies could be
captured or destroyed, all organized resistance to the Union would be
at an end, and Grant, accordingly, determined to throw his entire
weight upon them, sending Sherman against Johnston, Butler against
the City of Richmond and Sigel against the rich Shenandoah Valley
which supplied the Confederate armies with food, while he himself
attacked Lee with an overwhelming force.

Never before had a Union general undertaken a campaign covering
such a vast extent of country and never before had such a united
effort been made to exhaust the armies and the resources of the
South. With his own forces threatened by superior numbers Lee
would not be able to reŽnforce Johnston with safety and, confronted
by Sherman, Johnston would find it impossible to send assistance
to Lee. This promised to bring the war to a speedy close, and the
supporters of the Union redoubled their praises of the Lieutenant-General
as they began to understand his plan. Indeed, the more he avoided
publicity and applause and the more indifference he showed for
popular opinion, the more the newspapers and the general public
fawned upon him, and when, on May 3, 1864, he ordered his armies
to advance, the whole North was fairly aflame with enthusiasm.

It was certainly a momentous occasion. Three years earlier Grant
had been utterly unknown to the country at large and the small
group who acknowledged his acquaintance had regarded him as a rather
pitiful failure, while the Government to whom he had offered his
services had ignored him altogether. Now, at his nod, hundreds
of thousands of men instantly sprang to arms and the most powerful
armies that America had ever seen moved forward in obedience to his
will, Sherman marching southward, Butler creeping toward Richmond,
Sigel advancing into the fertile Shenandoah Valley, and the Army of
the Potomac crossing the Rapidan River to renew its struggle with

Lee had watched the elaborate preparations of his new antagonist
with keen interest and no little apprehension, for Grant's record
as a fighting man promised a duel to the death and the South had
no more men.

The situation was certainly serious but, anxious as he was, the
Confederate commander did not by any means despair. He was familiar
with every inch of the country through which Grant would have to
advance and the chances were that this would, sooner or later, give
him not only the advantage of position, but possibly the choice of
weapons. With this idea he allowed the Union forces to cross the
Rapidan unopposed, hoping that he would soon be able to drive them
back and that the river would then be as valuable as cavalry in
hampering their retreat. Just beyond the Rapidan lay the dense
thickets and waste lands of scrub oak and undergrowth known as the
Wilderness, which had witnessed the Chancellorsville surprise and
virtually sealed the fate of Hooker's army. If the Union forces
advanced directly through this jungle, there was more than a
possibility that they might outflank their opponents and gain the
road to Richmond, but Lee scarcely dared hope that his adversary
would attempt so dangerous a route. Nevertheless, he maneuvered
to leave the trap undisturbed, and when he saw the Union columns
entering the forests he felt that they were actually being delivered
into his hands. Once in those tangled thickets he knew that Grant's
artillery and cavalry would be practically useless and without
them his superiority in numbers disappeared. Of course, it would
be impossible to conduct a scientific battle in such a region, for
it would virtually be fighting in the dark, but knowing that his
men were thoroughly familiar with the ground, Lee determined to
hurl them upon the advancing bluecoats, trusting to the gloom and
the terrors of the unknown to create confusion and panic in their

But the men whom Grant commanded were no longer the inexperienced
volunteers who had been stampeded at Bull Run. They were veterans
of many campaigns and, though they staggered for a moment under
the shock of battle, they speedily rallied and fought with stubborn
courage. The conflict that followed was one of the most brutal
recorded in the annals of modern war. Whole regiments sprang at
each other's throats, the men fighting each other like animals;
trees were cut down by the bullets which tore through them from
every direction; bursting shells set fire to the woods, suffocating
the wounded or burning them to death; wild charges were made, ending
in wilder stampedes or bloody repulses; the crackle of flames rose
high above the pandemonium of battle and dense smoke-clouds drifted
chokingly above this hideous carnival of death. Thus for two days
the armies staggered backward and forward with no result save a
horrible loss of life. Once the Union forces almost succeeded in
gaining a position which would have disposed of their adversaries,
but Lee saw the danger just in the nick of time and, rushing a Texas
brigade to the rescue, led the charge in person until his troops
recognized him and forced him to retire.

It was May 7, 1864, when this blind slaughter known as the Battle
of the Wilderness ceased, but by that time nearly 18,000 Union
soldiers and 12,000 Confederates lay upon the field. Lee could not
claim a victory but he still held his ground and he felt confident
that Grant would fall back behind the Rapidan River to recuperate
his shattered forces. No Union commander, thus far, had tarried
long on Virginian soil after such a baptism of blood, and when the
news that Grant's columns were retreating reached the Confederate
commander he breathed a sigh of thanksgiving and relief.

To the veterans who had served under McClellan, Pope, Burnside and
Hooker, retreats were a wretchedly familiar experience, but they had
not been long on the road before they realized that they were not
retreating but were marching southward. As the truth of this dawned
upon the disheartened columns they burst into frantic cheers for
Grant and pressed forward with springy steps, shouting and singing
for joy.

A less able commander would have been fatally misled by Grant's
apparent retreat, but Lee knew that he might again attempt to
swing around his right flank and edge toward Richmond by way of
Spotsylvania, and to guard against this a body of troops had been
ordered to block that road. Therefore, by the time Grant began his
great turning movement, Lee was planted squarely across his path
and another series of battles followed. Here the Union commander
was able to make some use of his cavalry and artillery, but the
Confederates offset this by fighting behind intrenchments and they
repulsed charge after charge with fearful slaughter. Again, as at
the Battle of the Wilderness, the gray line was pierced, this time
at a point known as the "Bloody Angle" or "Hell's Half Acre," and
twice Lee sprang forward to lead a desperate charge to recover the
lost ground. But each time the troops refused to advance until
their beloved leader retired to a point of safety, and when he
yielded they whirled forward, sweeping everything before them.

These charges saved the battle of Spotsylvania for the Confederates.
But though Lee had again blocked his opponent, the fact that he
had thrice had to rally his troops at the peril of his life showed
that he had been harder pressed than in any of his other Virginia
campaigns. Nevertheless, when the last furious attack had been
repulsed and Grant began moving sullenly away, it seemed as though
he had at last been compelled to abandon the campaign. But the
wearied Confederates had yet to learn that their terrible opponent
was a man who did not know when he was beaten, for in spite of his
awful losses he had written his government May 11, 1864, "I propose
to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer," and his army,
instead of retreating, continued to move southward, crossing the
North Anna River and circling once more toward the left flank.

Again Grant was on the road to Richmond, but in crossing the North
Anna River he left an opening between the two wings of his army and
before he could close it Lee threw his whole force into the breach
and, completely cutting off one part of the Union army from the
other, held both firmly in check. This masterly move might have
brought Grant's campaign to a disastrous end, but just as he was
planning to take full advantage of it, Lee fell ill and during
his absence from the field Grant made his first backward move,
recrossing the North Anna River and, bringing the two wings of his
army together, rescued it from its perilous position.

The moment he reached a point of safety, however, the persistent
commander recommenced his march by the left flank, sidling once
more toward Richmond until he reached Cold Harbor, only eight miles
from the Confederate capital. Here Lee once more interposed his
battered forces, strongly intrenching them in a position that fairly
defied attack. With any other adversary against him he would have
concluded that the game was won, for by all the rules of war the
Union army was completely balked and could not avoid a retreat. But
Grant was a man of a different caliber from any he had encountered
heretofore. In spite of checks and disasters and unheard-of slaughter
he had pushed inexorably forward; foiled in front he had merely
turned aside to hew another bloody path. To him defeat only seemed to
mean delay, and apparently he could not be shaken from his dogged
purpose, no matter what the cost. At Cold Harbor, however, the
Confederate position was so strong that to assault it was madness,
and Lee could not believe that even his grim opponent would resort
to such a suicidal attempt. But retreat or attack offered no choice
to Grant's mind, and on June 2, 1864, the troops were fiercely
hurled against the Confederate works, only to be repulsed with
fearful slaughter. A few hours later orders were issued to renew
the assault, and then postponed for a day.

That delay gave the soldiers an opportunity to understand the
desperate nature of the work that lay before them and, realizing
that charging against murderous batteries and trenches meant rushing
into the jaws of death, they offered a silent protest. Not a man
refused to obey orders, not one fell from his place in the line,
but to their coats they sewed strips of cloth bearing their names
and addresses so that their bodies might be identified upon the

This dramatic spectacle might well have warned their commander of
the hopelessness of his attempt, but fixed in his resolve to thrust
his opponent from his path, he gave the fatal order to charge,
and twenty minutes later 3,000 of his best troops fell before the
smoking trenches and the balance reeled back aghast at the useless
sacrifice. This horrifying slaughter, which Grant himself confessed
was a grievous blunder, brought the first stage of his campaign
to a close. In but little over a month he had lost nearly 55,000
men--almost as many as Lee had had in his entire army, and almost
in sight of the spires of Richmond his adversary held him securely
at arm's length.

A wave of horror, indignation and disappointment, swept over the
North. Another campaign had proved a failure. There were, however,
two men who did not agree with this conclusion. One was Grant,
pouring over the maps showing the movements of all his armies.
The other was Lee, looking in vain for reŽnforcements to fill the
gaps in his fast thinning lines.

Chapter XXVII

Check and Countercheck

The six-weeks' campaign in Virginia had been quite sufficient to
check all enthusiasm for Grant, but the fact that he was no longer
a popular hero did not trouble him at all. Indeed, he displayed
the same indifference to the storm of angry criticism that he
had shown for the salvos of applause. He had made no claims or
boasts before he took the field and he returned no answers to the
accusations and complaints after his apparent failures. Had he posed
before the public as a hero or been tempted to prophesy a speedy
triumph for his army, the humiliation and disappointment might have
driven him to resign from the command. But he had recognized the
difficulty of his task from the outset, modestly accepting it with
no promise save that he would do his best, and he silently resolved
to pursue the campaign he had originally mapped out in spite of
all reverses.

Certainly, he required all his calmness and steadfastness
to overcome his discouragement and disgust at the manner in which
the coŲperating armies had been handled. In the Shenandoah Valley
Sigel had proved utterly incompetent and the Confederates, instead
of having been driven from that important storehouse, had tightened
their hold upon it. Moreover, Butler, who was supposed to threaten
Richmond while Grant fought Lee, had made a sorry mess of that part
of the program. In fact he had maneuvered in such a ridiculous
fashion that he and about 35,000 troops were soon cooped up by
a far smaller force of Confederates who held them as a cork holds
the contents of a bottle; and last, but not least, the Army of
Potomac lay badly mutilated before the impassable intrenchments of

In one particular, however, Grant's expectations bade fair to be
realized, for Sherman was steadily pushing his way through Georgia,
driving Johnston before him, and inflicting terrible damage upon the
country through which he passed. As Grant watched this triumphant
advance he silently resolved upon another move. The north or front
door of Richmond was closed and firmly barred. There was nothing
to be gained by further battering at that portal. But the southern
or rear door had not yet been thoroughly tried and upon that he
concluded to make a determined assault. To do this it would be
necessary to renew his movement around his opponent's right flank
by crossing the formidable James River--a difficult feat at any
time, but double difficult at that moment, owing to the fact that
Butler's "bottled" force might be crushed by a Confederate attack
while the hazardous passage of the river was being effected.
Nevertheless, he decided to risk this bold stroke, and during the
night of June 12, 1864, about ten days after the repulse at Cold
Harbor, the great movement was begun.

Meanwhile Lee, confident that he had completely checked his opponent,
but disappointed that he had not forced him to retreat, determined
to drive him away by carrying the war into the North and threatening
the Federal capital. That he should have been able to attempt this
in the midst of a campaign deliberately planned to destroy him,
affords some of the indication of the brilliant generalship he had
displayed. But it does not fully reflect his masterful daring.
At the outset of the campaign the Union forces had outnumbered him
two to one and its losses had been offset by reŽnforcements, while
every man that had fallen in the Confederate ranks had left an
empty space. It is highly probable, therefore, that at the moment
he resolved to turn the tables on his adversary and transform the
campaign against Richmond into a campaign against Washington, he had
not much more than one man to his opponent's three. Nevertheless,
in the face of these overwhelming numbers, he maintained a bold
front towards Grant and detached General Jubal Early with 20,000
men to the Shenandoah Valley, with orders to clear that region of
Union troops, cross the Potomac River and then march straight on

It was at this moment that Grant began creeping cautiously away
toward the rear door of Richmond. To keep a vigilant enemy in entire
ignorance of such a tremendous move was, of course, impossible,
but the system and discipline which he had instilled into his army
almost accomplished the feat. Indeed, so rapidly and silently did
the troops move, so perfect were the arrangements for transporting
their baggage and supplies, so completely were the details of the
whole undertaking ordered and systematized, that over a hundred
thousand men, infantry, cavalry, and artillery, with their horses,
hospital and wagon trains, and all the paraphernalia of a vast army
virtually faded away, and when Lee gazed from his intrenchments
on June 13, 1864, there was no sign of his opponent and he did not
discover where he had gone for fully four days.

In the meantime, Grant had thrown his entire army across the James
River and was advancing, horse and foot, on Petersburg, the key to
the approach to Richmond from the south, and Butler, whose troops
had been extricated from their difficulties, was ordered to seize
it. Petersburg was at that moment wholly unprepared to resist a
strong attack. Indeed, there were only a handful of men guarding
the fortification, the capture of which would case the fall
of Richmond, but Butler was not the man to take advantage of this
great opportunity. On the contrary, he delayed his advance and
otherwise displayed such wretched judgment that the Confederates had
time to rush reŽnforcements to the rescue, and when Grant arrived
on the scene the intrenchments were strongly occupied. Notwithstanding
this the Union commander ordered a vigorous assault, and for three
days the troops were hurled against the breastworks without result.
The last attack was made on June 18, 1864, but by this time 10,000
Union soldiers had been sacrificed and Lee had arrived in person
with strong support. Grant accordingly, abandoning his efforts to
carry the place by storm, began to close in upon it for a grimly
sullen siege.

Meanwhile, General Early, to whom Lee had entrusted his counter-move,
was sweeping away the Federal forces in the Shenandoah Valley with
resistless fury, and suddenly, to the intense surprise and mortification
of the whole North, advanced upon Washington, threatening it with
capture. Washington was almost as completely unprepared for resistance
as Petersburg had been, its defenses being manned by only a small
force mainly composed of raw recruits and invalid soldiers, while
outside the city there was but one body of troops near enough to
oppose the Confederate advance. That little army, however, was
commanded by General Lew Wallace, later the famous author of "Ben
Hur," and he had the intelligence to see that he might at least
delay Early by offering battle and that gaining time might prove
as valuable as gaining a victory. Accordingly, he threw himself
across the Confederate's path and, though roughly handled and at
last driven from the field, he hung on long enough to accomplish
his purpose and although his adversary attempted to make up for
lost time by rapid marching he did not succeed. This undoubtedly
saved Washington from capture, for shortly after Early appeared
on the 7th Street Road leading to the capital, the reŽnforcements
which Grant had rushed forward reached the city, and before any
attack on the intrenchments was attempted they were fully defended
and practically unassailable. Seeing this, Early retreated with
the Union troops following in half-hearted pursuit.

It was the 12th of July, 1864, when, with a sigh of intense relief,
Washington saw the backs of the retreating Confederates, but its
satisfaction at its escape was mingled with indignation against
Grant for having left it open to attack. Indeed, he was regarded
by many people as the greatest failure of all the Union commanders,
for he had lost more men in sixty days than McClellan had lost in
all his campaigns without getting any nearer to Richmond, and by
the end of July another lamentable failure was recorded against

In the intrenchments facing Petersburg lay the 48th Pennsylvania
Volunteers, largely composed of miners from the coal regions of
that state. Late in June Colonel Pleasants of this regiment had
submitted a plan whereby his men were to dig a tunnel to a point
directly under one of the Confederate forts, plant a gunpowder
mine there and blow a breach in the defenses through which troops
could be poured and the town carried by assault. The scheme was
plausible, provided the tunnel could be bored and Grant gave his
consent, with the result that within a month an underground passage
over 500 feet long was completed, a mine was planted with four
tons of powder and elaborate preparations made for storming the
Confederate works. Grant's orders were that all obstructions in
front of the Union lines should be removed to enable the troops
to charge the moment the explosion occurred, and that they should
be rushed forward without delay until they were all within the
Confederate lines. Accordingly, in the dead of night on July 29th,
the assaulting columns were moved into position and when everything
was in apparent readiness the signal was given to explode the
mine. But though the match was applied no explosion occurred, and
in the awful hush that followed Lieut. Jacob Douty and Sergeant
Henry Rees volunteered to crawl into the tunnel and see what was
wrong. To enter the passage at that moment was almost defying death,
but the two men took their lives in their hands and, creeping in,
discovered that the fuse had smoldered and gone out. They then
relit it and made their escape just as a fearful explosion rent
the air and great masses of earth, stones and timbers, intermingled
with human bodies, leaped toward the sky.

For a moment the waiting troops watched this terrifying spectacle
and then, as the cloud of wreckage apparently swerved toward them
threatening to descend and bury them beneath it, they fell back
in great confusion and some time elapsed before order was restored
and the charge begun. But Grant's orders to clear their path had
not been obeyed, and the charging troops had to climb over their own
breastworks, causing more delay and confusion. Finally, however,
the leading brigades reached the great excavation torn by the
mine, and there they halted awaiting further orders. But no orders
came, for their terror-stricken commander had sought safety in a
bomb-proof and when his hiding place was discovered the miserable
cur merely mumbled something about "moving forward" and remained
cowering in his refuge. Meanwhile, other regiments rushed forward,
tumbling in upon one another, until the chasm was choked with men
upon whom the Confederates began to pour shot, shell and canister.
From that moment everything was lost and at last orders came from
Grant to rescue the struggling mass of men from the awful death
trap into which they had been plunged, but despite all exertions
fully 4,000 were killed, wounded or captured.

Again his subordinates had blundered terribly but Grant accepted
the responsibility and assumed the blame, waiting patiently for
the hour, then near at hand, when he would find commanders he could
trust to carry out his plans.

Chapter XXVIII

The Beginning of the End

The right man to conduct the Shenandoah campaign was already in
the Army of the Potomac, but it was not until about a week after
the failure of the Petersburg mine that circumstances enabled Grant
to place General Philip Sheridan in charge of that important task.

Sheridan, like Sherman, had served with Grant in the West and had
developed into a brilliant cavalry leader. Indeed, he was the
only man in the Northern armies whose record could be compared with
that of Jeb Stuart and many other great cavalry commanders in the
South. But Grant felt that Sheridan could handle an entire army
as well as he had handled the cavalry alone and he soon showed
himself fully worthy of this confidence, for from the moment he
took over the command of the Union forces in the Shenandoah Valley,
the Confederates were compelled to fight for it as they had never
fought before.

Up to this time, the war had been conducted with comparatively little
destruction of private property on either side. But the moment had
now arrived for harsher measures, for Sherman had occupied Atlanta
on September 2, 1864, and was preparing to march to the sea coast
and cut the Confederacy in two. If Grant's plan of depriving Lee
of the fertile valley to the north was to be put in operation, there
was no time to lose. Sheridan, accordingly, at once proceeded to
attack the Confederates with the utmost vigor, defeating them in
two engagements at Winchester and Fisher's Hill, and following up
this success by laying waste the fields and ruthlessly destroying
all the stores of grain and provisions which might prove useful
to Lee's army. For a month or more he continued to sweep through
the country practically unchecked. But on October 19.1864, during
his absence, his army was surprised and furiously attacked by
General Early's men at Cedar Creek, and before long they had the
Union troops in a perilous position which threatened to end in
their destruction and the recapture of the entire valley.

Sheridan was at Winchester on his way to the front from Washington
when the news of this impending disaster reached him and, mounting
his horse, he dashed straight across country for the scene of action.
He was then, however, fully twenty miles from the field and there
seemed but little chance of his reaching it any time to be of any
service. Nevertheless, he spurred forward at a breakneck pace and
his splendid horse, responding gamely, fairly flew over the ground,
racing along mile after mile at killing speed in a lather of foam
and sweat, until the battle field was reached just as the Union
troops came reeling back, panic-stricken, under cover of a thin
line of troops who had at last succeeded in making a stand.

Instantly, the General was among the fugitives ordering them
to turn and follow him and inspired by his presence, they wheeled
as he dashed down their broken lines and, madly cheering, hurled
themselves upon their pursuers. Completely surprised by this
unexpected recovery, the Confederates faltered and the Union troops,
gathering force as they charged, rolled them back with irresistible
fury and finally swept them completely from the field. Indeed,
Early's force was so badly shattered and scattered by this overwhelming
defeat that it virtually abandoned the Valley and Sheridan continued
his work of destruction almost unopposed, until the whole region
was so barren that, as he reported, a crow flying across it would
have to carry his own provisions or starve to death.

Meanwhile, Sherman had begun to march from Atlanta to Savannah,
Georgia, where he intended to get in touch with the navy guarding
the coast and then sweep northward to Grant. Behind him lay the
Confederate army, formerly commanded by General Joseph Johnston
but now led by General Hood, a daring officer who was expected to
retrieve Johnston's failure by some brilliant feat of arms. Whether
he would attempt this by following Sherman and attacking him at the
first favorable moment or take advantage of his departure to turn
north and play havoc with Tennessee and the region thus exposed to
attack, was uncertain. To meet either of these moves Sherman sent
a substantial part of his army to General Thomas at Nashville,
Tennessee, and swung off with the rest of his troops toward the sea.
Hood instantly advanced against Thomas, and Grant at Petersburg,
closely watching the movement saw a great opportunity to dispose
of one of the Confederate armies. He, accordingly, ordered Thomas
to attack with his whole strength as soon as Hood reached Nashville,
but although the Confederates reached that point considerably
weakened by a partial defeat inflicted on them by a retreating
Union column, Thomas delayed his assault. Days of anxious waiting
followed and then Grant hurried General Logan, one of his most
trusted officers, to the scene of action with orders to take over
the command, unless Thomas immediately obeyed his instructions.
In the meantime, however, Thomas, slow but sure, had completed his
preparations and, hurling himself upon Hood with a vastly superior
force, pursued his retreating columns (Dec. 16, 1864) until they
were split into fragments, never again to be reunited as a fighting

It was not until this practical annihilation of Hood that the North
began to realize how far reaching and complete Grant's plans were.
But that event and the Shenandoah campaign made it clear that he
had determined that no army worthy of the name should be left to
the Confederacy when he finally closed in upon Lee, so that with his
destruction or surrender there should be no excuse for prolonging
the war. It was in furtherance of this plan that Sherman left ruin
and desolation behind him as he blazed his way up from the South.
The inhabitants of the region through which he was marching had, up
to this time, been living in perfect security and Sherman intended
to make war so hideous that they would have no desire to prolong
the contest. He, accordingly, tore up the railroads, heating the
rails and then twisting them about trees so that they could never
be used again, burned public buildings and private dwellings,
allowed his army to live on whatever food they could find in the
houses, stores or barns, and generally made it a terror to all who
lay in the broad path he was sweeping towards Petersburg.

Grant then had Lee fairly caught. His only possible chances of
prolonging the contest lay in taking refuge in the mountains or
joining his forces with the remnants of Hood's army which had been
gathered together and again entrusted with other troops to the
command of General Joseph Johnston. Had it been possible to do this,
nothing practical would have been achieved, for he had less than
30,000 effective men and Johnston's whole force did not amount to
much more than 30,000, while Grant, Sherman and Sheridan together had
a quarter of a million men under arms. From a military standpoint
Lee knew that the situation was hopeless, but until the authorities
who had placed him in the field gave up the cause he felt in duty
bound to continue the fight to the bitter end. Had the Union army
been his only opponent, it is possible that he might have succeeded
in escaping the rings of steel which Grant was daily riveting around
him. But he had to fight hunger, and from the day that Sheridan
mastered the Shenandoah Valley and Sherman cut off all supplies
from the South starvation stared him in the face.

Meanwhile, his troops, though almost reduced to skeletons and
clothed in rags, confidently believed that in spite of everything
he would find some way of leading them out of Grant's clutches and,
inspired by this implicit faith, they hurled themselves again and
again upon the masses of troops which were steadily closing around
them. But though they frequently checked the advancing columns and
sometimes even threw them back, inflicting heavy losses and taking
many prisoners, the blue lines soon crept forward again, closing
up gap after gap with a resistless tide of men. At last the road
to the west leading toward the mountains beyond Lynchburg alone
remained open. But to avail himself of this Lee knew that he would
have to abandon Petersburg and Richmond and he hesitated to take
this step; while Grant, seeing the opening and fearing that his
opponent would take advantage of it, strained every nerve to get
his troops into a position where they could block the road.

Such was the condition of affairs at the end of March, 1865, but
neither the starving soldiers in the Confederate trenches nor the
people of Richmond or Petersburg imagined that the end was desperately
near. While "Marse Robert," as Lee's men affectionately called
him, was in command they felt that no real danger could come nigh
them, and their idol was outwardly as calm as in the hour of his
greatest triumph.

Chapter XXIX

At Bay

It would be impossible to imagine a more hopeless situation than
that which had confronted Lee for many months. To guard the line
of intrenchments stretching around Petersburg and Richmond for
more than thirty-five miles, he had less than 30,000 effective men,
and starvation and disease were daily thinning their impoverished
ranks; the soldiers were resorting to the corn intended for
the horses, and the cavalry were obliged to disperse through the
country seeking fodder for their animals in the wasted fields; the
defenders of the trenches, barefooted and in rags, lay exposed to
the cold and wet, day and night; there were no medicines for the
sick and no great supply of ammunition for the guns.

Perhaps no one but Lee fully realized to what desperate straits
his army had been reduced. Certainly his opponents were ignorant
of the real condition of affairs or they would have smashed his
feeble defenses at a blow, and the fact that he held over a hundred
thousand troops at bay for months with a skeleton army shows how
skillfully he placed his men.

But though his brilliant career threatened to end in defeat and
disaster, no thought of himself ever crossed Lee's mind. Regardless
of his own comfort and convenience, he devoted himself day and
night to relieving the suffering of his men, who jestingly called
themselves "Lee's Miserables," but grimly stuck to their posts
with unshaken faith in their beloved chief who, in the midst of
confusion and helplessness, remained calm and resourceful, never
displaying irritation, never blaming anyone for mistakes, but
courageously attempting to make the best of everything and finding
time, in spite of all distractions, for the courtesy and the
thoughtfulness of a gentleman unafraid.

His letters to his wife and children during these perilous days
reveal no anxiety save for the comfort of his men, and no haste
except to provide for their wants. At home his wife--confined to
an invalid's chair--was busily knitting socks for the soldiers,
and to her he wrote in the face of impending disaster:

..."After sending my note this morning I received from the express
office a bag of socks. You will have to send down your offerings
as soon as you can, and bring your work to a close, for I think
General Grant will move against us soon--within a week if nothing
prevents--and no man can tell what will be the result; but trusting
to a merciful God, who does not always give the battle to the strong,
I pray we may not be overwhelmed. I shall, however, endeavor to do
my duty and fight to the last. Should it be necessary to abandon
our position to prevent being surrounded, what will you do? You
must consider the question and make up your mind. It is a fearful
condition and we must rely for guidance and protection upon a kind

Shortly after this letter was written Lee made a desperate effort
to force his adversary to loosen his grip but though the exhausted
and starved troops attacked with splendid courage, they could not
pierce the solid walls of infantry and fell back with heavy losses.
Then Sheridan, who had been steadily closing in from the Shenandoah,
swung 10,000 sabres into position and the fate of Petersburg was
practically sealed. But, face to face with this calamity, Lee
calmly wrote his wife:

"I have received your note with a bag of socks. I return the bag
and receipt. I have put in the bag General Scott's autobiography
which I thought you might like to read. The General, of course,
stands out prominently and does not hide his light under a bushel,
but he appears the bold, sagacious, truthful man that he is. I
enclose a note from little Agnes. I shall be very glad to see her
to-morrow but cannot recommend pleasure trips now...."

At every point Grant was tightening his hold upon the imprisoned
garrison and difficulties were crowding fast upon their commander,
but he exhibited neither excitement nor alarm. Bending all his
energies upon preparations for a retreat, he carefully considered
the best plan for moving his troops and supplying their needs on the
march, quietly giving his orders to meet emergencies, but allowing
no one to see even a shadow of despair on his face. Concerning the
gravity of the situation he neither deceived himself nor attempted
to deceive others who were entitled to know it, and with absolute
accuracy he prophesied the movements of his adversary long before
they were made.

..."You may expect Sheridan to move up the Valley," he wrote the
Confederate Secretary of War.... "Grant, I think, is now preparing
to draw out by his left with the intent of enveloping me. He may
wait till his other columns approach nearer, or he may be preparing
to anticipate my withdrawal. I cannot tell yet.... Everything of
value should be removed from Richmond. It is of the first importance
to save all the powder. The cavalry and artillery of the army are
still scattered for want of provender and our supply and ammunition
trains, which ought to be with the army in case of a sudden movement,
are absent collecting provisions and forage. You will see to what
straits we are reduced; but I trust to work out."

At last, on March 29th, 1865, Grant pushed forward 50,000 cavalry
and infantry to execute the very move which Lee had outlined and for
which he was as thoroughly prepared as it was possible to be with
the men he had on hand. But to check this advance which threatened
to surround his army and cut off his retreat, he had to withdraw
the troops guarding the defenses of Petersburg, abandoning some of
the intrenchments altogether and leaving nothing much more formidable
than a skirmish line anywhere along his front. Even then he could
not stop the onrush of the Union troops, which, under Sheridan,
circled his right on April 1st and drove back his men in the fierce
engagement known as the battle of Five Forks. With the news of this
success Grant promptly ordered an assault against the intrenchments
and his troops tore through the almost defenseless lines in several
places, encountering little or no resistance.

Petersburg was not yet taken, but Lee immediately saw that to protect
it further would be to sacrifice his entire army. He, therefore,
sent a dispatch to Richmond, advising the immediate evacuation of
the city. "I see no prospect of doing more than hold our position
here till night. I am not certain that I can do that," he wrote.
But he did hold on till the Confederate authorities had made their
escape, and then on the night of April 2nd he abandoned the capital
which he had successfully defended for four years and started on
a hazardous retreat.

The one chance of saving his army lay in reaching the mountains
to the west, before Grant could bar the road, but his men were in
no condition for swift marching and the provision train which he
had ordered to meet him at Amelia Court House failed to put in an
appearance, necessitating a halt. Every moment was precious and
the delay was exasperating, but he did his best to provide some
sort of food for his famished men and again sent them on their way.

By this time, however, the Union troops were hot upon their trail
and soon their rear-guard was fighting desperately to hold the
pursuit in check. Now and again they shook themselves free, but
the moment they paused for food or rest they were overtaken and
the running fight went on. Then, little by little, the pursuing
columns began to creep past the crumbling rear-guard; cavalry pounced
on the foragers searching the countryside for food and captured
the lumbering provision-wagons and the railroad supply trains which
had been ordered to meet the fleeting army, while hundreds upon
hundreds of starving men dropped from the ranks as they neared the
bypaths leading to their homes.

Still some thousands held together, many begging piteously for food
at every house they passed and growing weaker with each step, but
turning again and again with a burst of their old spirit to beat
back the advance-guard of the forces that were slowly enfolding

"There was as much gallantry displayed by some of the Confederates
in these little engagements as was displayed at any time during
the war, notwithstanding the sad defeats of the past week," wrote
Grant many years later, and it was this splendid courage in the
face of hardship and disaster that enabled the remnants of the
once invincible army to keep up their exhausting flight. As they
neared Appomattox Court House, however, the blue battalions were
closing in on them from every side like a pack of hounds in full
cry of a long-hunted quarry and escape was practically cut off.

For five days Grant had been in the saddle personally conducting
the pursuit with restless energy, and he knew that he was now in
a position to strike a crushing blow, but instead of ordering a
merciless attack, he sent the following letter to Lee:

"Headquarters Armies of the U.S.
"5 P.M. Apr. 7, 1865.

"General R. E. Lee,--Commanding Confederate States Armies.

"The results of the last week must convince you of the hopelessness
of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia
in this struggle. I feel that it is so and regard it as my duty
to shift from myself the responsibility of any further effusion
of blood by asking of you the surrender of that portion of the
Confederate States Army known as the Army of Northern Virginia.

"U. S. Grant,
"Lieut. General."

Meanwhile the retreating columns staggered along, their pace growing
slower and slower with every mile, and at last a courier arrived
bearing Lee's reply.


"I have received your note of this day. Though not entertaining
the opinion you express on the hopelessness of further resistance
on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia I reciprocate your
desire to avoid useless effusion of blood and therefore, before
considering your proposition, ask the terms you will offer on
condition of its surrender.

"R. E. Lee,

Grant promptly responded that peace being his great desire, there
was only one condition he would insist upon and that was that the
surrendered men and officers should not again take up arms against
the United States until properly exchanged.

But Lee was not yet ready to yield and continuing to move forward
with his faithful veterans, he sent a dignified reply, declining
to surrender but suggesting a meeting between himself and Grant,
with the idea of seeing if some agreement could not be reached for
making peace between the two sections of the country.

This was not the answer that Grant had hoped for, but he had too
much admiration for his gallant adversary to ride rough shod over
him when he held him completely in his power, and while he gave
the necessary orders to prepare for closing in, he sent another
courteous note to Lee dated April 9, 1865:


"Your note of yesterday is received. I have no authority to treat
on the subject of peace; the meeting proposed for 10 A.M. today
could lead to no good. I will state, however, General, that I am
equally anxious for peace with yourself and the whole North entertains
the same feeling. The terms upon which peace can be had are well
understood.... Seriously hoping that all our difficulties may be
settled without the loss of another life, I subscribe myself, etc.,

"U. S. Grant,
"Lt. General."

The courier bearing this message dashed off and disappeared and
the chase continued, masses of blue infantry pressing forward under
cover of darkness and overlapping the weary columns of gray that
stumbled on with lagging steps. Meanwhile, the morning of April
9th dawned and Lee determined to make one more desperate effort
at escape. Behind him an overwhelming force was crowding and
threatening to crush his rear-guard; on either flank the blue-coated
lines were edging closer and closer; but in front there appeared to
be only a thin screen of cavalry which might be pierced; and beyond
lay the mountains and safety. At this cavalry then he hurled his
horsemen with orders to cut their way through and force an opening
for the rest of the army, who vigorously supported the attack. It
was, indeed, a forlorn hope that was thus entrusted to the faithful
squadrons, but they responded with matchless dash and spirit,
tearing a wide gap through the opposing cavalry and capturing guns
and prisoners. Then they suddenly halted and surveyed the field
with dumb despair. Behind the parted screen of horsemen lay a
solid wall of blue infantry arrayed in line of battle and hopelessly
blocking the road. One glance was enough to show them what Grant's
night march had accomplished, and the baffled riders wheeled and
reported the situation to their chief.

Lee listened calmly to the news which was not wholly unexpected.
There was still a chance that a portion of his force might escape,
if he was willing to let them attempt to fight their way out against
awful odds, but no thought of permitting such a sacrifice crossed
his mind.

"Then there is nothing left for me but to go and see Gen. Grant,"
he observed to those around him.

But desperate as their plight had been for days, his officers were
unprepared for this announcement.

"Oh, General!" one of them protested, "What will history say of
the surrender of the army in the field?"

"Yes," he replied. "I know they will say hard things of us;
they will not understand how we were overwhelmed by numbers. But
that is not the question, Colonel. The question is, is it right
to surrender this army? If it is right, then I will take all the

No response was offered by the little group and turning to one of
his staff, Lee quietly gave an order. A few moments later white
flags were fluttering at the head of the halted columns and an
officer rode out slowly from the lines bearing a note to Grant.

Chapter XXX

The Surrender

While Lee's messenger was making his way toward the Union lines,
Grant was riding rapidly to the front where his forces had foiled
the Confederate cavalry. For more than a week he had been constantly
in the saddle, moving from one point on his lines to another
and begrudging even the time for food and sleep in his efforts to
hasten the pursuit. But the tremendous physical and mental strain
to which he had subjected himself had already begun to tell upon
him, and he had passed the previous night under a surgeon's care
endeavoring to put himself in fit condition for the final struggle
which Lee's refusal to surrender led him to expect. The dawn of
April 9th, however, found him suffering with a raging headache,
and well-nigh exhausted after his sleepless night he rode forward
feeling more like going to the hospital than taking active command
in the field. He had already advanced some distance and was within
two or three miles of Appomattox Court House, when an officer
overtook him and handed him these lines from Lee:

"Apr. 9, 1865.


"I received your note of this morning on the picket line whither I
had come to meet you and ascertain definitely what terms were embraced
in your proposal of yesterday with reference to the surrender of
this army. I now ask an interview in accordance with the offer
contained in your letter of yesterday for that purpose.

"R. E. Lee,

The moment Grant's eyes rested on these words his headache disappeared,
and instantly writing the following reply, he put spurs to his
horse and galloped on:

"Apr. 9, 1865.

"Your note of this date is but this moment (11:50 A. M.) received
in consequence of my having passed from the Richmond and Lynchburg
Road to the Farmville and Lynchburg Road. I am at this writing
about four miles west of Walker's Church and will push forward to
the front for the purpose of meeting you. Notice sent to me on
this road where you wish the interview to take place will meet me.

"U. S. Grant,
"Lt. General."

The troops under Sheridan were drawn up in line of battle when
Grant arrived on the scene and his officers, highly excited at the
favorable opportunity for attacking the Confederates, urged him to
allow no cessation of hostilities until the surrender was actually
made. But Grant would not listen to anything of this sort, and
directing that he be at once conducted to General Lee, followed an
orderly who led him toward a comfortable two-story, brick dwelling
in Appomattox village owned by a Mr. McLean who had placed it at
the disposal of the Confederate commander.

Mounting the broad piazza steps, Grant entered the house, followed
by his principal generals and the members of his staff, and was
ushered into a room at the left of the hall, where Lee, accompanied
by only one officer, awaited him.

As the two commanders shook hands the Union officers passed toward
the rear of the room and remained standing apart. Then Lee motioned
Grant to a chair placed beside a small marble-topped table, at the
same time seating himself near another table close at hand. Neither
man exhibited the slightest embarrassment and Grant, recalling that
they had served together during the Mexican War, reminded Lee of
this fact, saying that he remembered him very distinctly as General
Scott's Chief of Staff but did not suppose that an older and superior
officer would remember him. But Lee did remember him and in a few
minutes he was chatting quietly with his former comrade about the
Mexican campaign and old army days.

It would be impossible to imagine a greater contrast than that
afforded by the two men as they thus sat conversing. Lee wore
a spotless gray uniform, long cavalry boots, spurs and gauntlets,
and carried the beautiful sword given to him by Virginia, presenting
altogether a most impressive appearance; and his tall, splendidly
proportioned figure and grave dignified bearing heightened the
effect. His well-trimmed hair and beard were almost snow white,
adding distinction to his calm, handsome face without suggesting
age, and his clear eyes and complexion and erect carriage were
remarkable for a man of fifty-eight. Grant was barely forty-three,
and his hair and beard were brown with a touch of gray, but his face
was worn and haggard from recent illness, and his thickset figure
and drooping shoulders were those of a man well advanced in years.
For uniform he wore the blouse of a private, to which the shoulder
straps of a lieutenant-general had been stitched; his trousers were
tucked into top boots worn without spurs; he carried no sword and
from head to foot he was splashed with mud.

He, himself, was conscious of the strange contrast between his
appearance and that of his faultlessly attired opponent, for he
apologized for his unkempt condition, explaining that he had come
straight from active duty in the field, and then as the conversation
regarding Mexico continued he grew so pleasantly interested that
the object of the meeting almost passed from his mind, and it was
Lee who first recalled it to his attention.

He then called for pencil and paper, and without having previously
mapped out any phrases in his mind, he began to draft an informal
letter to Lee, outlining the terms of surrender. Nothing could
have been more clear and simple than the agreement which he drafted,
nor could the document have been more free from anything tending
to humiliate or offend his adversary. It provided merely for the
stacking of guns, the parking of cannon and the proper enrollment
of the Confederate troops, all of whom were to remain unmolested
as long as they obeyed the laws and did not again take up arms
against the Government, and it concluded with the statement that
the side arms of the officers were not to be surrendered and that
all such officers who owned their own horses should be permitted
to retain them.

Lee watched the writing of this letter in silence, and when Grant
handed it to him he read it slowly, merely remarking as he returned
it that the provision allowing the officers to keep their horses
would have a happy effect, but that in the Confederate army the
cavalry and artillerymen likewise owned their own horses. That hint
was quite sufficient for Grant, who immediately agreed to make the
concession apply to all the soldiers, whether officers or privates,
observing as he again handed the paper to Lee that his men would
probably find their horses useful in the spring ploughing when they
returned to their farms. Lee responded that the concession would
prove most gratifying to his soldiers, and, turning to his secretary,
dictated a short, simple reply to his opponent, accepting his

While these letters were being copied in ink, Grant introduced his
officers to Lee and strove to make the situation as easy as possible
for him. Indeed, throughout the whole interview he displayed the
most admirable spirit, tactfully conceding all that his adversary
might reasonably have asked, thus saving him from the embarrassment
of making any request and generally exhibiting a delicate courtesy
and generosity which astonished those who judged him merely by
his rough exterior. But Grant, though uncouth in appearance and
unpolished in manners, was a gentleman in the best sense of the
word, and he rose to the occasion with an ease and grace that left
nothing to be desired.

As soon as the letters were signed the Confederate commander shook
his late opponent's hand and turned to leave the room. The Union
officers followed him to the door as he departed but tactfully
refrained from accompanying him further and attended only by his
secretary, he passed down the broad steps of the piazza, gravely
saluted the group of officers gathered there who respectfully rose
at his approach, mounted his old favorite "Traveller" and rode
slowly toward his own lines.

By this time the news of the surrender had reached the Union army
and cannon began booming a salute in honor of the joyful tidings.
But Grant instantly stopped this and ordered that there should
be no demonstrations or exultation of any kind which would offend
Lee's men. In the same generous spirit he kept his men strictly
within their own lines when the Confederates stacked their guns
and no one, except the officers assigned to receive the arms, was
permitted to witness this final act of surrender[1]. He likewise
declined to visit Richmond lest his presence should be regarded as
the triumphal entry of a conqueror or smack of exulting over his
fallen foes, and with fully a million bayonets behind him ready
to win him further glory, his foremost thought was to end the war
without the loss of another life. With this idea, on the morning
after the surrender, he sought another interview with Lee.

[1]Since the first edition of this volume was published the writer
has been furnished, through the courtesy of Mr. Jefferson K. Cole
of Massachusetts, with documentary proof that the formal surrender
of what remained of Lee's infantry was made in the presence of the
First Division of the 5th Corps of the Army of the Potomac, General
Joshua L. Chamberlain commanding. Therefore, although it is true
that Grant avoided all humiliation of the Confederates, it is
evident that a small portion of his troops did witness the final act
of surrender, and the statement in the text should be accordingly

Chapter XXXI

Lee's Years of Peace

Desperate as their plight had been for many days, Lee's men had
not wholly abandoned the hope of escape, but when their beloved
commander returned from the Federal lines they saw by his face that
the end had come, and crowding around him, they pressed his hands,
even the strongest among them shedding bitter tears. For a time
he was unable to respond in words to this touching demonstration,
but finally, with a great effort, he mastered his emotion and
bravely faced his comrades.

"Men," he said, "we have fought through the war together; I have
done my best for you; my heart is too full to say more."

Brief as these words were, all who heard them realized that Lee
saw no prospect of continuing the struggle and meant to say so. He
was, of course, well aware that the Confederates had many thousand
men still in the field, and that by separating into armed bands
they could postpone the end for a considerable period. But this
to his mind was not war and he had no sympathy with such methods
and no belief that they could result in anything but more bloodshed
and harsher terms for the South. A word from him would have been
quite sufficient to encourage the other commanders to hold out and
prolong the cruelly hopeless contest, but he had determined not to
utter it.

Grant was firmly convinced that this would be his attitude, but
whether he would actually advise the abandonment of the cause was
another question, and it was to suggest this course that the Union
commander sought him out on the morning after the surrender. This
second interview occurred between the lines of the respective
armies and as the former adversaries sat conversing on horseback,
Grant tactfully introduced the subject of ending the war.

He knew, he told Lee, that no man possessed more influence with
the soldiers and the South in general than he did, and that if he
felt justified in advising submission his word would doubtless have
all the effect of law. But to this suggestion Lee gravely shook
his head. He frankly admitted that further resistance was useless,
but he was unwilling to pledge himself to give the proposed advice
until he had consulted with the Confederate President, and Grant
did not urge him, feeling certain that he would do what he thought
right. Nor was this confidence misplaced, for though Lee never
positively advised a general surrender, his opinions soon came
to be known and in a short time all the Confederate forces in the
field yielded.

But though peace was thus restored, the war had left two countries
where it had found one, and to the minds of many people they could
never be united again. It was then that Lee showed his true greatness,
for from the moment of his surrender he diligently strove by voice
and pen and example to create harmony between the North and South
and to help in the rebuilding of the nation. To those who asked his
opinion as to whether they should submit to the Federal authorities
and take the required oath of allegiance, he unhesitatingly replied,
"If you intend to reside in this country and wish to do your part
in the restoration of your state and in the government of the
country, which I think is the duty of every citizen, I know of no
objection to your taking the oath."

He denounced the assassination of Lincoln as a crime to be abhorred
by every American, discountenanced the idea of Southerners seeking
refuge in foreign lands, scrupulously obeyed every regulation of
the military authorities regarding paroled prisoners and exerted
all the influence at his command to induce his friends to work with
him for the reconciliation of the country. Even when it was proposed
to indict and try him for treason he displayed no resentment or
bitterness. "I have no wish to avoid any trial that the Government
may order. I hope others may go unmolested," was his only comment.
But no such persecution was to be permitted, for Grant interfered
the moment he heard of it, insisting that his honor and that of
the nation forbade that Lee should be disturbed in any way, and
his indignant protest straightway brought the authorities to their

In the meanwhile, innumerable propositions reached Lee, offering him
great monetary inducements to lend his name and fame to business
enterprises of various kinds, but although he had lost all his property
and was practically penniless, he would not consent to undertake
work that he did not feel competent to perform and would listen
to no suggestion of receiving compensation merely for the use of
his name. His desire was to identify himself with an institution
of learning where he could be of some public service, and at the
same time gain the peaceful home life of which he had dreamed for
so many years. As soon as this was understood offers came to him
from the University of Virginia and the University of the South
at Suwannee, Tennessee, but he feared that his association with a
State institution like the University of Virginia might create a
feeling of hostility against it on the part of the Federal Government,
and the Vice-Chancellorship of the Tennessee university would have
required him to leave his native state.

Finally, the Trustees of Washington College offered him the
Presidency of that institution and the fact that it bore the name
of the first President and had been endowed by him straightway
appealed to his imagination. At one time the college had been in
a flourishing condition but it had suffered severely from the war,
much of its property having been destroyed and only a handful of
students remained when he was invited to take charge of its tottering
fortunes. Indeed, the Trustees themselves were so impoverished
that none of them possessed even a decent suit of clothes in which
to appear before Lee and submit their proposition. Nevertheless,
one of them borrowed a respectable outfit for the occasion and
presented the offer with much dignity and effect and Lee, after
modestly expressing some doubts as to whether he could "discharge
the duties to the satisfaction of the Trustees or to the benefit
of the country," accepted the office at a merely nominal salary,
closing his formal acceptance of Aug. 11, 1865, with these words:
"I think it the duty of every citizen in the present condition of
the country to do all in his power to aid in the restoration of
peace and harmony and in no way to oppose the policy of the state
or general Government directed to that object."

This was the key-note of his thought from this time forward. "Life
is indeed gliding away and I have nothing of good to show for mine
that is past," he wrote shortly after assuming his new duties. "I
pray I may be spared to accomplish something for the benefit of
mankind and the honor of God."

It was no easy task to reŽstablish an institution practically
destitute of resources in a poverty-stricken community struggling
for a bare subsistence after the ravages of war. But Lee devoted
himself body and soul to the work, living in the simplest possible
fashion. Indeed, he refused to accept an increase in his meager
salary, which would have provided him with some of the ordinary
comforts of life, on the ground that the institution needed every
penny of its funds for its development. But though the work was
hard he took keen pleasure in seeing it grow under his hands, and,
little by little, the college regained its prestige, while with
the help of his daughters he made his new home a place of beauty,
planting flowers about the little house and doing all in his power
to make it attractive for his invalid wife.

Thus, for five years he lived far removed from the turmoil of public
life, performing a constant public service by exerting a direct
personal influence upon the students who came under his charge, and
by doing everything in his power to reunite the nation. Suggestions
were constantly made to him to enter politics and had he cared to
do so, he could undoubtedly have been elected to the Governorship
of Virginia. But he steadily declined to consider this, declaring
that it might injure the state to have a man so closely identified
with the war at its head and that he could best help in restoring
harmony to the country in the capacity of a private citizen.

During all this time he took an active interest in his sons,
encouraging them in their efforts to establish themselves and earn
their own living, visiting their farms and advising them in the
comradely spirit which had always characterized his relations with
them. Indeed, every moment he could spare from his collegiate
duties was devoted to his family, and his letters to his children,
always cheerful and affectionate and sometimes even humorously gay,
expressed contentment and unselfishness in every line.

At times it required great self-restraint to avoid bitterness toward
the Government, but even when Congress refused his wife's petition
for the restoration of the mementos of Washington, taken from her
home in Arlington during the war, he refrained from making any
public protest and his private comment showed how completely he
subordinated his personal wishes to the good of the country.

"In reference to certain articles which were taken from Arlington..."
he wrote, "Mrs. Lee is indebted...for the order from the present
Administration for their restoration to her. Congress, however,
passed a resolution forbidding their return. They were valuable
to her as having belonged to her great grandmother (Mrs. General
Washington) and having been bequeathed to her by her father. But
as the country desires them she must give them up. I hope their
presence at the capital will keep in the remembrance of all Americans
the principles and virtues of Washington." [These articles were
restored to Lee's family by the order of President McKinley in

Toward the individuals, however, who had looted his house
and appropriated its treasures to their own use, he felt rather
differently. But his rebuke to them was written rather more in
sorrow than in anger and it likewise reflects the regard for his
country which was ever the uppermost thought in his mind.

"...A great many things formerly belonging to General Washington,
bequeathed to Mrs. Lee by her father, in the shape of books, furniture,
camp equipage, etc., were carried away by individuals and are now
scattered over the land," he wrote. "I hope the possessors appreciate
them and may imitate the example of their original owners whose
conduct must at times be brought to their recollection by these
silent monitors. In this way they will accomplish good to the

For his first four years at Washington College Lee accomplished
his arduous duties with scarcely a sign of fatigue, but from that
time forward his health began to fail and though he kept at his
work, it told so heavily upon him that his friends at last persuaded
him to take a vacation. He, accordingly, started south with his
daughter in March, 1870. Had he permitted it, his journey would
have been one continual ovation, for this was the first time he had
traveled any considerable distance from his home since the war and
people flocked to greet him from all sides with bands and speeches
and cart-loads of flowers and fruits. Indeed, it was extremely
difficult to escape the public receptions, serenades and other honors
thrust upon him, and though he returned to his duties in somewhat
better condition, he was soon obliged to retire to Hot Springs,
Virginia, for another rest, from which he returned toward the end
of the summer vacation apparently restored to health.

Meanwhile he had undertaken various other duties in addition to
his collegiate work and some two weeks after the reopening of the
college he attended a vestry meeting of the Episcopal Church. At
this meeting the subject of rebuilding the church and increasing
the rector's salary was under discussion and the session lasted
for three hours, at the close of which he volunteered to subscribe
from his own meager funds the sum needed to complete the proposed
increase of the clergyman's salary. By this time it was seven in
the evening and he at once returned to his own house, and finding
his family ready for tea, stood at the head of the table as he
usually did to say grace. But no words came from his lips, and
with an expression of resignation on his face he quietly slipped
into his chair and sat there upright as though he had heard an order
to which he was endeavoring to respond by remaining at "attention."

Physicians were immediately called who diagnosed the trouble as
hardening of the arteries combined with rheumatism of the heart, and
though their patient never quite lost consciousness, he gradually
fell asleep, and on October 12, 1870, passed quietly away.

Three days later "Traveller," led by two old soldiers and followed
by a small but distinguished assemblage, accompanied his master to
the grave outside the little chapel which Lee had helped to build
for the college which soon thereafter changed its name to Washington
and Lee University.

Nothing could have been more grateful to Lee then to have his name
thus associated with that of the man whom he revered above all
other men and upon whom he had patterned his whole life, and in
this graceful tribute he had his heart's desire.

Chapter XXXII

The Head of the Nation

While Lee was passing the closing years of his life in tranquility,
Grant was entering upon a stormy career in politics. But before
he had any thought of the honors that lay before him he proved
himself a good friend to the South and a really great American.
Toward his late adversaries he maintained that the true policy was
"to make friends of enemies," and by word and deed he earnestly
strove to accomplish that result, never losing an opportunity to
protect the people of the South from humiliation and injustice.
Indeed, if he and some of the other Union commanders had been given
complete authority directly after the war, the South would have
been spared much suffering and the nation would have escaped some
of the evils which inflict it to this day. But Grant's service
to the country, as a whole, was far greater than that which he
undertook on behalf of any particular section, for at a critical
moment he held the destiny of the nation in the hollow of his hand
and a word from him would have subjected the people to a military
control from which they might never have recovered.

At the time of Lee's surrender the United States had probably the
most powerful and the most perfectly equipped army in the world.
It was absolutely at Grant's disposal and there were plenty of
excuses for employing it in the field, had he been ambitious for
military glory. An attack on the French in Mexico or the English
in Canada would have been regarded by many people as perfectly
justified by their treatment of the United States during the Civil
War. But no idea of perpetuating his own power or of making his
country a military nation entered Grant's mind. On the contrary,
his first thought was to hasten by every possible means the disbanding
of the mighty army which hailed him as its chief.

At the close of the war that army numbered over a million men. Six
months later only 183,000 remained in the service, and in eight
months more the whole force of volunteers had disappeared. No
other great commander in the history of the world ever strove thus
to deprive himself of power, or with a gigantic instrument of war
under his control thought only of peace. Grant was not the greatest
military genius of the ages, or even of his own time, but when,
with a million bayonets responsive to his nod, he uttered the
benediction, "Let us have peace," he took a place apart among those
Americans whose fame will never die.

One great triumphant pageant marked the success of the Union
cause when the returning armies were reviewed by the President in
Washington, cavalry, infantry and artillery by the tens of thousands
passing down Pennsylvania Avenue for two whole days, presenting
a magnificent spectacle never surpassed in the military annals of
any land. But the same spirit which had actuated Grant in refusing
to visit Richmond caused him to shun any part of this historic parade,
and those who expected to see him on a prancing horse at the head
of his veteran troops had little knowledge of his character. He
had never made an exhibition of himself at any time during the war,
and though he was present on this occasion, he kept in the background
and few people caught even a glimpse of him as the well-nigh endless
ranks of blue swept by in proud array.

For a time the work of disbanding the army obliged him to remain at
Washington, but at the first opportunity he started west to revisit
Galena, Georgetown and the scenes of his boyhood days. But, if
he hoped to renew his acquaintance with old friends without public
recognition and acclaim he was speedily disillusioned, for the whole
countryside turned out to welcome him with processions, banners and
triumphal arches, hailing as a hero the man who had lived among them
almost unnoticed and somewhat despised. Many people had already
declared that he would be the next President of the United States,
but when some prophecy of this kind had been repeated to him, he
had laughingly replied that he did not want any political office,
though he would like to be Mayor of Galena long enough to have a
sidewalk laid near his home, and this rumor had reached the town.
The first sight that greeted his eyes, therefore, as he entered Galena
was an arch bearing the words "General, the sidewalk is laid!" and
his fellow townsmen straightway carried him off to inspect this
improvement, at the same time showing him a new house built and
furnished by his neighbors for his use and in which they begged
that he would make himself at home.

It was a proud moment for his father and mother when they saw the
son who had once disappointed them so deeply received with such
marks of affection and honored as the greatest man of his day,
and their joy was the most satisfying reward he was ever destined
to obtain. But gratifying as all these kindly attentions were
the returning hero was somewhat relieved to find that Georgetown,
which had largely sympathized with the Confederacy, offered him
a less demonstrative welcome. Nevertheless, even there curiosity
and admiration combined to rob him of all privacy, and he at last
decided to avoid the public gaze by slipping away for one of those
long solitary drives which had been his delight in boyhood days.
But the residents of the village toward which he turned received
word of his coming and started a delegation out to meet him half
way. After journeying many miles, however, without seeing any signs
of the cavalcade they were expecting, the procession encountered
a dusty traveler driving a team in a light road wagon, and halting
him asked if he had heard anything of General Grant. "Yes," he
reported, "he's on the way," and clicking to his horses quickly
disappeared from view. Then someone suggested that perhaps the
General might not be traveling on horseback surrounded by his staff
and that the dusty traveler who had reported Grant as on the way
looked somewhat like the man himself. But the solitary stranger
"who looked like Grant" was miles away before this was realized,
and when the procession started on his track he was safely out of
reach. Doubtless, the sight of this unpretentious man in citizen
attire was disappointing to many who expected to see a dashing hero
in a gorgeous uniform, but his dislike of all military parade soon
came to be widely known. His hosts at one village, however, were
not well informed of this, for they urged him to prolong his stay
with them in order that he might see and review the local troops
which were to assemble in his honor, but he quickly begged to
be excused, remarking that he wished he might never see a uniform

Certainly there was nothing of the conquering hero or even of the
soldier about him when a little later in the course of his duty,
he made a tour of the South in order to report on its general
condition, and in many places he came and went entirely unnoticed.
But though the mass of the people did not know of his presence,
he formed an unusually accurate estimate of their views on public
questions. "The citizens of the Southern States,..." he reported,
"are in earnest in wishing to do what is required by the Government,
not humiliating them as citizens, and if such a course was pointed
out they would pursue it in good faith." Happy would it have been
for the South and for the whole country if this advice had been
followed, but the President and Congress were soon engaged in
a violent struggle over the reconstruction of the seceded states,
and anger, rather than wisdom, ruled the day. In the course of
this quarrel Stanton, the Secretary of War, was removed and Grant,
temporarily appointed in his place (Aug. 12, 1867), held the office
for about five months, thus taking the first step in the long
political career which lay before him.

Ten months later he was elected President of the United States and
at the end of his term (1872) he was reŽlected by an overwhelming
vote. Those eight years were years of stress and strain, and his
judgment in surrounding himself with men unworthy of his confidence
made bitter enemies of many of those who had once supported him.
He was, however, intensely loyal by nature and having once made
a friend he stuck to him through thick and thin, making his cause
his own and defending him, even in the face of the facts, against
any and all attack. He, accordingly, assumed a heavy burden of
blame that did not rightly rest upon his shoulders, but in spite of
this many people desired to see him again elected to the presidency
and they were sorely disappointed when he refused to become a
candidate. On the whole, he had deserved well of the country and
the people recognized that he had done much to uphold their honor
and dignity, even though he had been too often imposed upon by
unreliable and even dangerous friends.

A long tour around the world followed his retirement from the
Presidency and his reception in the various countries was a magnificent
tribute to his record as a general and a ruler. Meanwhile, an
effort was being made by his friends to secure his nomination for
a third Presidential term, and shortly after he returned home (1880)
he was persuaded to enter the field again. At first he regarded
the result with indifference, but as time wore on he warmed with the
enthusiasm of his friends and keenly desired to secure the honor.
But no man had ever been elected three times to the Presidency and
there was a deep-centered prejudice against breaking this tradition.
Grant's candidacy therefore encountered bitter opposition, and
though a large number of his friends held out for him to the last
and almost forced his nomination, General Garfield was finally
selected in his place.

This virtually retired him from politics, and to occupy himself
and make a living he went into business with one of his sons who
had associated himself with certain bankers in Wall Street. Here,
however, his notoriously bad judgment of men and his utter ignorance
of the business world soon brought him to grief, for he and his
son left the management of their firm to the other partners who
outrageously imposed upon them for a time and then left them face
to face with ruin and disgrace.

The shock of this disaster fairly staggered Grant, but he bravely
met the situation and stripping himself of every vestige of his
property, including the swords that had been presented him and the
gifts bestowed by foreign nations, strove to pay his debts. But,
though reduced to penury, he was able to prove his entire innocence
of the rascality of his partners and the general verdict of the
country acquitted him of any dishonorable act.

To earn sufficient money for his family in their dire necessity he
then began to write the story of his military life and campaigns,
but in the midst of this employment he was stricken with a most
painful disease which incapacitated him for work and left him
well-nigh helpless. At this crisis Congress came to his rescue
by restoring him to his former rank in the army, with sufficient
pay to meet his immediate needs. Then, to the amazement of his
physicians, he rallied, and, though still suffering intensely and
greatly enfeebled, he at once recommenced work upon his book.

From that time forward his one thought was to live long enough
to complete this task, and to it he devoted himself with almost
superhuman courage and persistence, in the hope of being able
to provide for his wife and family after he had gone. Indeed, in
this daily struggle against disease and death he showed, not only
all the qualities that had made him invincible in the field, but
also the higher qualities of patience and unselfishness with which
he had not been fully credited. Uncomplaining and considerate
of everyone but himself, he looked death steadily in the face and
wrote on day after day while the whole nation, lost in admiration of
his dauntless courage, watched at his bedside with tender solicitude.

At last, on July 23, 1885, the pencil slipped from his fingers.
But his heroic task was done and no monument which has been or
ever will be erected to his memory will serve as will those pages

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