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Letter from Annie M. Cherry

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While investigating the actions of Ulysses S. Grant during the early hours of Sunday 6 April 1862 at Savannah, ran across this interesting letter, written by Annie Cherry [in March 1862 the 30-year-old wife of William Harrell Cherry (39) and residing with two children at "the brick house" in Savannah.] Written 6 December 1892 to amateur historian Thomas M. Hurst (formerly of Hardin County, but living in Nashville), the letter recalls General Grant's actions upon hearing the sound of distant artillery fire that morning; and details Grant's personal conduct during the weeks the General was a guest of the Cherry Family:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             December 6th, 1892

Mr. T. M. Hurst

Dear Sir:  Your letter of inquiry concerning "General Grant's physical condition the morning the battle of Shiloh began," was received several days ago. You will please pardon my seeming negligence, and accept my assurance, gladly given, that on the date mentioned, I believe General Grant was thoroughly sober. He was at my breakfast table when he heard the report from a cannon. Holding untasted a cup of coffee he paused in conversation to listen a moment at the report of another cannon. He hastily arose, saying to his staff officers: "Gentlemen, the ball is in motion, let's be off."  His flag ship (as he called his special steamboat) was lying at the wharf, and in fifteen minutes he, staff officers, orderlies, clerks and horses had embarked.

        During the weeks of his occupancy of my house he always demeaned himself as a gentleman; was kind, courteous, genial and considerate, and never appeared in my presence in a state of intoxication. He was uniformly kind to citizens, irrespective of politics, and whenever the brutality to citizens, so frequently indulged by the soldier, was made known to him he at once sent orders for the release of the captives or restoration of the property appropriated. As a proof of his thoughtful kindness I mention that during the battle on Sunday he wrote and sent to my mother a safeguard to prevent her home being used for a hospital. Yielding to the appeals of humanity she did, however, open her home to the wounded and sick for three months in succession, often administering to their wants and necessities in person. In such high esteem did General Grant hold such magnanimity, under the most aggravating circumstances, that he thanked her most heartily, assuring her that considering the great losses and gross indignities she had received from the soldiers, her nobility of soul was more to be admired than the fame of a general leading an army of victorious soldiers.

       On one occasion he asked to be introduced to my mother and family, saying: "If you have no objections to introducing me, I will be much pleased." I replied: "Not because you are a great general, but because I believe you to be a gentleman I will introduce you to them unhesitatingly." In deference to the fact that I was a Southern lady with Southern proclivities, he attired himself in a full suit of citizen's clothes, and touching himself on the shoulder said: "I thought you would like this best," evincing delicate courtesy and gentlemanly instincts of which the honors of war, nor merited promotion had not deprived him.

        I feel that it is due the surviving members of General Grant's family to mention some evidences of his greatheartedness as shown in kindness to Southern people. "Military necessity" was not to him a term synonymous with unlicensed vandalism or approval of terrorism. He was too great and too true to his manhood to be fettered by prejudice.

       I am pleased that I can give these reminiscences of a man who as a soldier and statesman received and merited the homage of a nation -- for they are testimonies to his inner life and innate characteristics, worthy to be recorded with the magnanimity of "kingship over self" as manifested on the day of General Lee's surrender.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Respectfully,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         (signed) Mrs. W. H. Cherry

 

 

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