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Ozzy

Impression of Grant

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The following is an abridged article from Military Miscellanies, written by an officer who knew Grant at Shiloh and West Point:

"One afternoon in June 1843 while I was at West Point, a candidate for admission, I wandered into the Riding Hall and became part of a large assembly of spectators, there to view the final mounted exercises of the graduating class. When the regular service was completed, the Riding Master placed the leaping-bar higher than a man's head and called, "Cadet Grant."  A clean-faced, slender, blue-eyed young fellow, weighing about 120 pounds dashed from the line on a chestnut-sorrel horse and galloped down the opposite side of the hall. As he turned at the farther end and came into the straight stretch across which the bar was placed, the horse increased his pace, measured his stride, and bounded high into the air, and cleared the bar, carrying his rider as if man and beast were welded together. The spectators were breathless; but Cadet Grant remained a living image in my memory.

"A few months before graduation one of Grant's classmates, James A. Hardie, said to his friend and instructor, "Well, sir, if a great emergency arises in this country during our lifetime, Sam Grant will be the man to meet it."  If I had heard Hardie's prediction, I doubt not that I would have believed in it, for I believed the young man who had performed the feat of horsemanship I had witnessed could do anything.

"I was not one of the so-called "Grant men" of the Army. It was not until after the war that I became well acquainted with him. But that acquaintance began with the cadet, and matured with the General; and was not disturbed by partiality or interest.  I do not number myself among those who attempt to "lift him above the imperfections of man," but instead see him "as Great" in spite of his human frailties. Military men would call him "unsoldierly" in feeling, bearing and appearance. Yet he was a great General, and the most essential trait of soldiership -- obedience -- was next to a religion with him. He knew the value of discipline in an army, but he had neither taste nor aptitude for establishing or enforcing it, and instinctively relied more upon "the man" than upon "the soldier" in his dealings.  He loves and cherishes his army associations above all others, but did not like the profession of arms. In a recent interview, I pressed him upon this matter -- his fondness for purely military affairs -- and the General selected a page from his collection and offered it me, upon which was recorded his intention (while a cadet) to prepare himself for a professorship in some institution of higher learning and leave the military service.

"In disposition Grant presents as patient, kind and considerate. In manner, quiet, natural and unassuming; somewhat diffident, but not bashful or awkward. Although well educated, it is probably true that the first impression many have is of a plain man, without elements of greatness. Closer association rarely fails to promote firm belief in his extraordinary reserve power. Truth, courage, tenacity and self-reliance are his ruling traits: as General, he did not hesitate in choosing the best course. And if "the best course" was selected by higher authority, he would execute that plan with as much vigor and fidelity as if it had been his own. He did not trouble himself about the past or the future, but concentrated all his faculties upon the matter he was at the moment called upon by his duty to deal with.

"Neither responsibility, nor turmoil, nor danger, nor pleasure, nor pain, impaired the force of his resolution, or interrupted the steady flow of his intellect. The war is full of illustrations of his bravery and determination of character, and of his self-reliance and self-possession under trying circumstances.

" The General possesses some humor, and occasionally tells a story; but rarely indulges in figures of speech, and does not exaggerate or emphasize, even for the purpose of illustration. He makes no use of expletives, and has little use of adjectives. He would not indulge in profane language, even if he had no religious scruples on the subject. Though not without a temper, Grant is so patient and matter-of-fact that he never feels inclined to "damn things" as some men do. In conversation, he speaks freely and openly; but he does not talk for its own sake: speaking only because he has something to tell. If he does not wish to express his thoughts, he remains silent.

"Grant has unlimited faith in those he has taken to heart; his friendships are accompanied by the fullest confidence. A friend "under fire" is never abandoned; and a friend in disgrace or in trouble can rely upon him until the General, himself, finds him guilty.

"General Grant long thought himself badly treated by Halleck, yet I have only ever heard him say two or three things against General Halleck. Grant believed himself unjustly accused after Fort Donelson...

"The bulk of Grant's admiration and friendship resides with Sherman, McPherson and Sheridan. The day before he started from Nashville to Washington in March 1864, to receive his commission as Lieutenant General, Grant wrote a letter to Sherman expressing a full sense of his obligations to subordinates, and saying, "I want to express my thanks to you and McPherson as the men to whom, above all others, I feel indebted for whatever I have had of success..."

"During the war, Grant had antipathies as well as attachments: his relations to his generals would form a striking chapter of history.

"The time has not yet come for final judgment of General Grant: he has benefited from great abilities, and great opportunities. "Chance" is undoubtedly an important factor in the race of Glory, and perhaps it favored Grant in the War of the Rebellion. General Sherman goes so far as to say, "Had C.F. Smith lived, Grant would have disappeared to history after Fort Donelson." But that is conjecture. Grant is one of the "singular few" who possessed qualities that would have gained for him a higher place in history, no matter who had lived to compete with him in our great War. We who met him face to face know."

More details to come...

Ozzy

 

 

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Rbn3

Thanks for reminding me that I need to get a copy of Joseph Rose's book...

As for more detail IRT the above "description" of U.S. Grant, the full twenty-page article is to be found in the 1889 work Military Miscellanies by Don Carlos Buell's Chief-of-Staff, James Barnet Fry. The 1847 graduate of West Point was a strong supporter of General Buell (believed Buell saved Grant at Shiloh), so it was surprising to find that he became good friends with General Grant. From his writing, it also appears that Fry attempted to "smooth ruffled feathers" and patch up the relationship between the two Civil War generals, but General Grant ignored the offer.

Ran across James Barnet Fry while I was tracking down witnesses to the meeting between Grant and Buell aboard the Tigress on the afternoon of April 6th at Pittsburg Landing...

Ozzy

 

References:   http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.$b15913;view=1up;seq=7  Military Miscellanies by J.B. Fry

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Places/America/United_States/Army/USMA/Cullums_Register/1344*.html  J.B. Fry's West Point details and Rrmy career at online version of Cullum's Register

 

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Besides family, the people who know us best are those we attended school with. Here are a couple of observations of Ulysses S. Grant (one of which you've probably encountered already. But the other...)

"One day at West Point, as our section in mathematics was marching to recitation hall, Frank Gardner produced an old silver-cased watch, about four inches in diameter. It, as a curiosity, was passed along from one lad to another... it chanced to be in Grant's hands as we reached the door of the recitation room, and he tucked it into his tunic and buttoned it up. The regular Professor was absent; Cadet Z. B. Tower occupied his chair. He sent four cadets to the blackboards, Grant being one. Grant quickly solved his math problem, and turned to begin his demonstration, when all of a sudden the room was filled with a sound not unlike a Chinese gong. All looked amazed, and Tower, thinking the noise was in the hall, ordered the door closed. And that only made the matter worse. Grant, with a sober countenance, continued his demonstration. The racket ceased, and shortly afterwards, so did Grant. Tower had no idea from whence the noise came (Gardner had accidentally set the alarm on the ancient timepiece concealed in Grant's bosom.) Tower's bewilderment, and Grant's sobriety afforded us much amusement." 

Rufus Ingalls (USMA 1843) was known at West Point as "the Prince of Good Fellows." During the Civil War, he served as Chief Quartermaster of the Army of the Potomac; and one night during Spring of 1865, at City Point, he and General Grant and a few others were sitting around their camp fire. Conversation had lapsed into silence, which after a while was suddenly broken by Grant exclaiming: "Ingalls, do you expect to take that yellow dog of yours into Richmond with you?"

Ingalls nodded. "Oh yes, General. You see, he belongs to a long-life breed."

Silence returned, but many of the witnesses had to remove themselves for a time...

 

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Although similar to the first post of this topic, here is the recollection of Dabney Herndon Maury (USMA 1846):

"In the Corps of Cadets [during my time there] were many besides McClellan and 'Stonewall' Jackson who have become famous. There was Grant, a very good and kindly fellow (USMA 1843) whom everybody liked. He was proficient in mathematics, but did not try to excel at anything except horsemanship. In the Riding School he was very daring. When his turn came to leap the bar, he would make the dragoons lift it from the trestles and raise it as high as their heads, when he would drive his horse over it, clearing at least six feet."

 https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=nc01.ark:/13960/t7mp6536s&view=1up&seq=42  Recollections by D. H. Maury (1894).

 

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