General Grant's “table-talk” has of late excited a good deal of attention and comment in the public press. A number of Northern papers have had severe criticisms of statements in reference to different Federal Generals, but of these we have nothing to say; nor do we propose any detailed reply to his comments on Southern Generals. His disparaging remarks about “Stonewall” Jackson, and his opinion that he would have been badly beaten if Sheridan or “any of our great generals” had been opposed to him, excite a smile and a fervent wish from an old “foot cavalryman” that Sheridan, or even Grant himself, had been in Jackson's front on that memorable Valley campaign. It is useless to speculate on what the result would have been; but we feel every confidence that “Cavalry Sheridan” would never afterwards have awakened the poet's lyre, and that the world would never have had this “table-talk.” His remark, “I have had nearly all of the Southern Generals in high command in front of me, and Johnston gave me more anxiety than any of the others; I was never half so anxious about Lee,” has very naturally raised the question, “When and where was General J. E. Johnston ever in Grant's front?” That great commander, with a very inadequate force, was in Grant's rear, while he was besieging Vicksburg; but with the heavy fortifications which protected him, and in the light of his statement in the next paragraph, that he did not know that “Johnston was coming” until he read his book, it is difficult to see the cause of General Grant's “anxiety.” But the following is, perhaps, the most remarkable of all of the wild statements of this effort to manufacture history:
I never ranked Lee as high as some others of the army, “said the General,” that is to say, I never had as much anxiety when he was in my front as when Joe Johnston was in front. Lee was a good man, a fair commander, who had everything in his favor. He was a man who needed sunshine. He was supported by the unanimous voice of the South; he was supported by a large party in the North; he had the support and sympathy of the outside world. All this is of an immense advantage to a general. Lee had this in a remarkable degree. Everything lie did was right. He was treated like a demi-god. Our generals had a hostile press, lukewarm friends, and a public opinion outside. The cry was in the air that the North only won by brute force; that the generalship and valor were with the South. This has gone into history, with so many other illusions that are historical. Lee was of a slow, conservative, cautious nature, without imagination or humor, always the same, with grave dignity. I never could see in his achievements what justifies his reputation. The illusion that nothing but heavy odds beat him will not stand the ultimate light of history. I know it is not true. The South and North were more nearly matched than you would suppose. The whole population were in the war. The 4,000,000 of negroes were the same as soldiers, because they did the work in the fields which white men would have to do. I believe the South had as many men under arms as the North. What defeated the Southern arms was Northern courage and skill, and this, too, with detraction all around. You cannot imagine how disheartening it was at the time, not only to officers but men. General Grant's opinion of General Lee is a matter of small moment. General Scott pronounced him “I the very best soldier I ever saw in the field.” General George Meade said that he was “by far the ablest Confederate General which the war produced” --and the overwhelming testimony of the Northern press is in the same direction, while European critics concur in giving Lee a place second to none of the generals on the other side, not a few of them ranking him as the ablest general of all history. Since such, then, is the opinion which the world holds of Robert E. Lee, his friends may well afford to pass by in silence the sneers of a man whom he out-generaled at every point and whipped, until at last “by mere attrition,” his thin lines were worn away, and he was “compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.” Nor would it seem necessary to notice the oft-refuted statement that “the South had as many men under arms as the North.” General Grant's affirmation is but a bold repetition of what his Military Secretary, General Badeau, wrote in the London Standard several years ago, and to which General Early (see volume II, page 6, Southern Historical Papers) made so crushing a reply that we can account for its repetition only from our knowledge of the persistency with which Northern generals and Northern writers have endeavored to force this misrepresentation of facts into history. The census of 1860 shows that the fourteen States from which the Confederacy drew any part of its forces had a white population of only 7,946,111, of which 2,498,891 belonged to Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri, which three States furnished more men (because of force of surrounding circumstances) to the Federal than to the Confederate armies; so that the total population upon which the Confederacy could draw was really only 5,447,220, while the United States had (exclusive of Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri) a population of 19,011,300. Add to this the patent facts that we soon lost large portions of our territory — that the United States recruited very largely from our negro population, and that by means of large bounties and other inducements the Federal armies drew from the dense populations of Europe a very large proportion of their levies, and it will be seen that the odds against us must to have been enormous. As for General Grant's statement that our “4,000,000 of negroes were the same as soldiers because they did the work in the fields which white men would have to do,” it is sufficient to reply that from the first the negroes were enticed into the Federal lines — that they were enlisted by thousands in the Federal armies, and that it was very common for the young negro men to run off, leaving only the old men, the women and the children as a burden on the plantations and a heavy tax on the planters. Secretary Stanton (page 31 of his report for 1865) states,that there were actually mustered into the service of the United States from the 15th of April, 1861, to the 14th of April, 1865, 2,656,553 men. Mr. Swinton, who had free access to the Confederate archives several years ago, states that 600,000 men in all were put into the Confederate service during the same period, and this estimate is very nearly correct; so that the official figures show that the United States had in service more than four times as many men as the Confederacy had.  Mr. Stanton states in his report (page 5) that the aggregate national military force of all arms the 1st May, 1864, was 970,710, of whom 662,345 were “present for duty” --so that when the campaign of 1864 opened, General Grant (as commander-in-chief) had under his orders more men than the Confederacy mustered all put together during the whole war, and more than four times as many as we had then under arms. As for the army with which General Grant opposed General Lee, Secretary Stanton (page 5) puts the “aggregate available force present for duty May 1st, 1864,” as follows:
|Department of Washington||42,124|
|Army of the Potomac||120,380|
|Department of Virginia and North Carolina||59,139|
|Department of West Virginia||30,782|
|Ninth army corps||20,780|
General Grant says that “Lee was of a slow, cautious, conservative nature.” But when military critics come to study this campaign in the light of all of the facts — when they see that so soon as Grant crossed the Rapidan with his mighty host, Lee, instead of retreating, advanced at once upon him and forced the death grapple of the Wilderness — that he boldly withstood him at Spotsylvania Courthouse, at Hanover Junction, and at Bethesda Church, and that after dealing him the crushing defeat at Cold Harbor, Lee was just about to attack Grant when he crossed the James and sat down to the siege of Petersburg — we think that they will hardly accept this “table-talk” as true, but will rather conclude that Lee was one of the boldest soldiers of all history. The simple truth is that on that great campaign Lee foiled Grant in every move he made, defeated him in every battle they fought, and so completely crushed him in that last trial of strength at Cold Harbor, that his men refused to attack again, and his brave army “shaken in its structure, its valor quenched in blood and thousands of its ablest officers killed or wounded, was the Army of the Potomac no more” (Swinton), and the government at Washington would have been ready to give up the struggle if its further prosecution had depended alone on “the great butcher.” Grant says he lost in this campaign, from the Wilderness to Cold Harbor, 39,000 men; but Swinton puts his loss at over 60,000, and a careful examination of the figures of the Surgeon-General will show that his real loss was nearer 100,000. In other words, he lost about twice as many men as Lee had in order to take a position which he could have taken at first without firing a gun or losing a man. It will take a large amount of “table-talk” to get over the logic of these facts and figures.