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Chapter 24

  • Capture of Fort Fisher
  • -- the Dutch Gap Canal -- Grant Receives Unasked advice -- Grant Relieves Butler -- Sherman's loyalty to Grant -- a “good shot” -- night attack of the enemy's ironclads -- how Grant became a confirmed Smoker -- Grant Offers his Purse to his enemy -- Grant Receives the “peace commissioners”

As soon as General Grant obtained accurate information in regard to the circumstances and conditions at Fort Fisher, he decided to send another expedition, and to put it in charge of an efficient officer, and one who could be trusted implicitly to carry out his instructions. As there had been a lack of precaution on the part of the officers engaged in the previous expedition to keep the movement secret, the general-in-chief at first communicated the facts regarding the new expedition to only two persons at headquarters. Of course he had to let it be known to the Secretary of War; but as the Secretary was always reticent about such matters, there was a reasonable probability that the secret could be kept. Directions were given which tended to create the impression that the vessels were being loaded with supplies and reinforcements for Sherman's army, and studious efforts were made to throw the enemy off his guard. Of course every one who knew the general's tenacity of purpose felt sure that he would never [367] [368] relinquish his determination to take Fort Fisher, and would immediately take steps to retrieve the failure which had been made in the first attempt; and as soon as Butler returned I suggested to the general that, in case another expedition should be sent, General A. H. Terry would be, for many reasons, the best officer to be placed in command. We had served together in the Sherman-Dupont expedition which in 1861 took Hilton Head and captured Fort Pulaski and other points on the Atlantic coast, and I knew him to be the most experienced officer in the service in embarking and disembarking troops upon the sea-coast, looking after their welfare on transports, and intrenching rapidly on shore. General Grant had seldom come in contact with Terry personally, but had been much pleased at the manner in which he had handled his troops in the movements on the James River. A suggestion, too, was made that as Terry was a volunteer officer, and as the first expedition had failed under a volunteer, it would only be fair that another officer of that service, rather than one from the regular army, should be given a chance to redeem the disaster. The general seemed to listen with interest to what was said about Terry, particularly as to his experience in seacoast expeditions, but gave no hint at the time of a disposition to appoint him; nor did he even say whether he would send another expedition to Fort Fisher: but on January 2 he telegraphed to Butler, “Please send Major-general Terry to City Point to see me this morning.” Grant considered the propriety of going in person with the expedition, but his better judgment did not approve such a course, for he would be too far out of reach of communication with City Point, and as Butler was the senior army commander, it would leave him in supreme command of the armies operating against Petersburg and Richmond. [369]

When Terry came the general-in-chief told him simply that he had been designated to take command of a transfer by sea of eight thousand men, and that he was to sail under sealed orders. Terry felt much complimented that he should be singled out for such a command, but had no idea of his destination, and was evidently under the impression that he was to join Sherman. On January 5 Terry was ready to proceed to Fort Monroe, and Grant accompanied him down the James River for the purpose of giving him his final instructions. After the boat had proceeded some distance from City Point, the general sat down with Terry in the after-cabin of the steamer, and there made known to him the real destination and purposes of the expedition. He said: “The object is to renew the attempt to capture Fort Fisher, and in case of success to take possession of Wilmington. It is of the greatest importance that there should be a complete understanding and harmony of action between you and Admiral Porter. I want you to consult the admiral fully, and to let there be no misunderstanding in regard to the plan of cooperation in all its details. I served with Admiral Porter on the Mississippi, and have a high appreciation of his courage and judgment. I want to urge upon you to land with all despatch, and intrench yourself in a position from which you can operate against Fort Fisher, and not to abandon it until the fort is captured or you receive further instructions from me.” Full instructions were carefully prepared in writing, and handed to Terry on the evening of January 5; and captains of the transports were given sealed orders, not to be opened until the vessels were off Cape Henry. The vessels soon appeared off the North Carolina coast. A landing was made on January 13, and on the morning of the 14th Terry had fortified a position about two miles from the fort. The navy, which had been firing [370] upon the fort for two days, began another bombardment at daylight on the 15th. That afternoon Ames's division made an assault on the work. Two thousand sailors and marines were also landed for the purpose of making a charge. They had received an order from the admiral, in the wording of which facetiousness in nautical phraseology could go no further. It read: “Board the fort in a seamanlike manner.”

They made a gallant attack, but were met with a murderous fire, and did not gain the work. Ames's division, with Curtis's brigade in advance, overcame all efforts of the defenders, and the garrison was driven from one portion of the fort to another in a series of hand-to-hand contests, in which individual acts of heroism surpassed almost anything in the history of assaults upon well-defended forts. The battle did not close until ten o'clock at night. Then the formidable work had been fairly won. The garrison was taken prisoners, the mouth of the Cape Fear River was closed, and Wilmington was at the mercy of our troops. The trophies were 169 guns, over 2000 stands of small arms, large quantities of ammunition and commissary stores, and more than 2000 prisoners. About 600 of the garrison were killed or wounded. Terry's loss was 110 killed, 536 wounded, and 13 missing. After the news of the capture of the fort was received, I was sent there by General Grant with additional instructions to Terry; and upon my arrival I could not help being surprised at the formidable character of the work. No one without having seen it could form an adequate conception of the almost insurmountable obstacles which the assaulting columns encountered.

During the summer General Butler, who was always fertile in ideas, had conceived the notion that there were many advantages to be gained by making a canal across [371] a narrow neck of land, known as Dutch Gap, on the James River, which would cut off four and three-quarter miles of river navigation. This neck was about one hundred and seventy-four yards wide. The name originated from the fact that a Dutchman had many years before attempted a similar undertaking, but little or no progress had been made. The enterprise involved the excavation of nearly eighty thousand cubic feet of earth. Butler had been somewhat reluctantly authorized to dig the canal, and work upon it had been begun on August 10. The enemy soon erected heavy rifle-guns, and afterward put mortars in positions which bore upon it; and our men were subjected to a severe fire, and frequently had to seek shelter in “dugouts” constructed as places of refuge. Under the delays and difficulties which arose, the canal was not finished until the end of the year. On the 31st of December General Grant received a message from Butler saying: “We propose to explode the heading of Dutch Gap at 11 A. M. to-morrow. I should be happy to see yourself and friends at headquarters. We must be near the time because of the tide.” The general-in-chief replied: “Do not wait for me II your explosion. I doubt my ability to be up in the morning.” After the bulkhead wall of earth had been blown out, the debris at the north end was partly removed by means of steam dredges. The canal was not of any service during the war, but it has since been enlarged and improved, and has become the ordinary channel for the passage of vessels plying on the James River.

General Grant had become very tired of discussing methods of warfare which were like some of the problems described in algebra as “more curious than useful,” and he was not sufficiently interested in the canal to be present at the explosion which was expected to complete it. About this time all the cranks in the country, [372] besides men of real inventive genius, were sending extraordinary plans and suggestions for capturing Richmond. A proposition from an engineer was received one day, accompanied by elaborate drawings and calculations, which had evidently involved intense labor on the part of the author. His plan was to build a masonry wall around Richmond, of an elevation higher than the tallest houses, then to fill the inclosure with water pumped from the James River, and drown out the garrison and people like rats in a cage. The exact number of pumps required and their capacity had been figured out to a nicety. Another inventive genius, whose mind seemed to run in the direction of the science of chemistry and the practice of sternutation, sent in a chemical formula for making an all-powerful snuff. In his communication he assured the commanding general that after a series of experiments he had made with it on people and animals, he was sure that if shells were filled with it and exploded within the enemy's lines, the troops would be seized with such violent fits of sneezing that they would soon become physically exhausted with the effort, and the Union army could walk over at its leisure and pick them up as prisoners without itself losing a man. A certain officer had figured out from statistics that the James River froze over about once in seven years, and that this was the seventh year, and advised that troops be massed in such a position that when the upper part of the James changed from a liquid to a solid, columns could be rushed across it on the ice to a position in rear of the enemy's lines, and Richmond would be at our mercy. A sorcerer in Rochester sent the general word that he had cast his horoscope, and gave him a clear and unclouded insight into his future, and added to its general attractiveness by telling him how gloriously he was going to succeed in taking Richmond. [373] One evening the general referred to these emanations of the prolific brains of our people, and the many novel suggestions made to him, beginning with the famous powder-boat sent against Fort Fisher, and closed the conversation by saying: “This is a very suggestive age. Some people seem to think that an army can be whipped by waiting for rivers to freeze over, exploding powder at a distance, drowning out troops, or setting them to sneezing; but it will always be found in the end that the only way to whip an army is to go out and fight it.”

On January 4 General Grant had written to the Secretary of War asking that Butler might be relieved, saying: “I am constrained to request the removal of General Butler from the command of the Department of Virginia and North Carolina. I do this with reluctance, but the good of the service requires it. In my absence General Butler necessarily commands, and there is a lack of confidence felt in his military ability, making him an unsafe commander for a large army. His administration of the affairs of his department is also objectionable.” Learning that the Secretary of War had gone to Savannah to visit General Sherman, and could not receive this letter in due time, on January 6 the general telegraphed to the President, asking that prompt action be taken in the matter. The order was made on the 7th, and on the morning of the 8th General Grant directed Colonel Babcock and me to go to General Butler's headquarters, announce the fact to him, and hand him the written order relieving him from command. We arrived there about noon, found the general in his camp, and by his invitation went with him into his tent. He opened the communication, read the order, and was silent for a minute; then he began to manifest considerable nervousness, and turning to his desk, wrote “Received” on the envelop, dated it 1864 instead of 1865, [374] and handed it back. It was the custom in the army to return envelop receipts in case of communications delivered by enlisted men, but this was omitted when the instructions were transmitted by staff-officers. He was politely reminded that a written receipt was not necessary. Thereupon, in a somewhat confused manner, he uttered a word or two of apology for offering it, and after a slight pause added: “Please say to General Grant that I will go to his headquarters, and would like to have a personal interview with him.”

General Grant was in constant correspondence with Sherman in regard to the movements in the Carolinas. Sherman was to move north, breaking up all lines of communication as he advanced. If Lee should suddenly abandon Richmond and Petersburg, and move with his army to join the Confederate forces in the Carolinas with a view to crushing Sherman, that officer was to whip Lee if he could, and if not to fall back upon the sea-coast. Grant was to hold Lee's army where it was, if possible, and if not to follow it up with vigor. Sherman's triumphant march to the sea had gained him many admirers in the North, and it was believed about this time that a bill might be introduced in Congress providing for his promotion to the grade of lieutenant-general, which would make him eligible to command the armies in case he should be assigned to such a position. On January 21 he said in a letter to General Grant: “I have been told that Congress meditates a bill to make another lieutenant-general for me. I have written to John Sherman to stop it if it is designed for me. It would be mischievous, for there are enough rascals who would try to sow differences between us, whereas you and I now are in perfect understanding. I would rather have you in command than anybody else; for you are fair, honest, and have at heart the same purpose that [375] should animate all. I should emphatically decline any commission calculated to bring us into rivalry. . ..” General Grant replied: “No one would be more pleased at your advancement than I, and if you should be placed ill my position and I put subordinate, it would not change our relations in the least. I would make the same exertions to support you that you have ever done to support me, and I would do all in my power to make our cause win.” On January 31 Sherman wrote: “I am fully aware of your friendly feeling toward me, and you may always depend on me as your steadfast supporter. Your wish is law and gospel to me, and such is the feeling that pervades my army.”

In all the annals of history no correspondence between men in high station furnishes a nobler example of genuine, disinterested personal friendship and exalted loyalty to a great cause.

Admiral Porter had withdrawn nearly all the naval vessels from the James River in order to increase his fleet for the Fort Fisher expedition. Only three or four light gunboats were left, and one ironclad, the Onondaga, a powerful double-turreted monitor carrying two 15-inch smooth-bores and two 150-pound Parrott rifles. This vessel was commanded by Captain William A. Parker of the navy. Captain Parker would occasionally pay a visit to General Grant at City Point, and he usually brought with him a junior officer who afforded the general-in-chief no little amusement by the volubility of his conversation. When the general asked the captain a question, before he could venture a reply his sub would volunteer an answer, and frequently make it the occasion of an elaborate lecture upon the intricate science of marine warfare. The captain could rarely get in a word edgewise. In fact, he seemed to accept the situation, and did not often make the attempt. It might [376] have been said of this young officer what Talleyrand said of a French diplomat: “Clever man, but he has no talent for dialogue.”

There had been so much talk about the formidable character of the double-turreted monitors that General Grant decided one morning to go up the James and pay a visit to the Onondaga, and invited me to accompany him. The monitor was lying above the pontoon-bridge in Trent's Reach. After looking the vessel over, and admiring the perfection of her machinery, the general said to the commander: “Captain, what is the effective range of your 15-inch smooth-bores t” “About eighteen hundred yards, with their present elevation,” was the reply. The general looked up the river, and added: “There is a battery which is just about that distance from us. Suppose you take a shot at it, and see what you can do.” The gun was promptly brought into position by revolving the turret, accurate aim taken, and the order given to fire. There was a tremendous concussion, followed by a deafening roar as the enormous shell passed through the air; and then all eyes were strained to see what execution would be done by the shot. The huge mass struck directly within the battery, and exploded. A cloud of smoke arose, earth and splintered logs flew in every direction, and a number of the garrison sprang over the parapet. The general took another puff at the cigar he was smoking, nodded his head, and said, “Good shot!” The naval officers indulged in broad smiles of triumph, and tried to look as if this was only one of the little things they always did with equal success when they tried hard.

On the night of January 23 a naval officer, at General Grant's suggestion, was sent up to plant torpedoes at the obstructions which had been placed in the river at Trent's Reach, as he was apprehensive that our depleted [377] naval force might be attacked by the enemy's fleet, which was lying in the river near Richmond. The officer made the discovery that the Confederate ironclads were quietly moving down the river. News of their approach was promptly given, and at once telegraphed to headquarters. The enemy's fleet consisted of six vessels, and by half-past 10 o'clock they had passed the upper end of Dutch Gap Canal. The general directed me and another staff-officer to take boats and communicate with all despatch with certain naval vessels, warn them of the character of the anticipated attack, and direct them to move up and make a determined effort to prevent the enemy's fleet from reaching City Point. The officer whom I was to take with me got a little rattled in the hurry of the departure, and started, from force of habit, to put on his spurs. It took me some time to persuade him that these appendages to his heels would not particularly facilitate his movements in climbing aboard gunboats. A third officer, Lieutenant Dunn, was sent to communicate with a gunboat stationed at some distance from the others. In the mean time orders were given to tow coal-schooners up the river, ready to sink them in the channel if necessary; and instructions were issued to move all heavy guns within reach down to the river shore, where their fire could command the channel. There was an enormous accumulation of supplies at City Point, and their destruction at this time would have been a serious embarrassment. The night was pitch-dark, but our naval vessels were promptly reached by means of steam-tugs; and their commanders, who displayed that cordial spirit of cooperation always manifested by our sister service, expressed an eagerness to obey General Grant's orders as implicitly as if he had been their admiral. Most of these vessels were out of repair and almost unserviceable, but their officers were [378] determined to make the best fight they could. When I returned to headquarters, the general, Mrs. Grant, and Ingalls were talking the matter over in the front room of the general's quarters. “Well, now that we've got all ready for them,” said Ingalls, “why don't their old gunboats come down?” “Ingalls, you must have patience,” remarked the general; “perhaps they don't know that you're in such a hurry for them, or they would move faster; you must give them time.” “Well, if they're going to postpone their movement indefinitely, I'll go to bed,” continued Ingalls, and started for his quarters. News now came that it was thought the vessels could not pass the obstructions, and would not make the attempt; and the general and Mrs. Grant retired to their sleeping-apartment, orders being left that the general was to be wakened if there should be any change in the situation. Soon after one o'clock word came that the enemy's vessels had succeeded at high water in getting through the obstructions. A loud knock was now given upon the door of the general's sleeping-room. He called out instantly: “Yes. What have you heard” The reply was: “The gunboats have passed the obstructions, and are coming down.” In about two minutes the general came hurriedly into the office. He had drawn on his top-boots over his drawers, and put on his uniform frock-coat, the skirt of which reached about to the tops of the boots and made up for the absence of trousers. He lighted a cigar while listening to the reports, and then sat down at his desk and wrote out orders in great haste. The puffs from the cigar were now as rapid as those of the engine of an express-train at full speed. Mrs. Grant soon after came in, and was anxious to know about the situation. It was certainly an occasion upon which a woman's curiosity was entirely justifiable. Dunn had returned with a report [379] about the movement of the gunboat with which he had been sent to communicate, and Ingalls had also rejoined the party. Mrs. Grant, in the midst of the scene, quietly said, “Ulyss, will those gunboats shell the bluff” “Well, I think all their time will be occupied in fighting our naval vessels and the batteries ashore,” he replied. “The Onondaga ought to be able to sink them, but I don't know what they would do if they should get down this far.” Just then news came in that upon the approach of the enemy's vessels the Onondaga had retired down the river. The captain had lost his head, and under pretense of trying to obtain a more advantageous position, had turned tail with his vessel, and moved down-stream below the pontoon-bridge. General Grant's indignation knew no bounds when he heard of this retreat. He said: “I have been thrown into close contact with the navy, both on the Mississippi River and upon the Atlantic coast. I entertain the highest regard for the intrepidity of the officers of that service, and it is an inexpressible mortification to think that the captain of so formidable an ironclad, and the only one of its kind we have in the river, should fall back at such a critical moment. Why, it was the great chance of his life to distinguish himself.” Additional instructions were at once telegraphed to the shore batteries to act with all possible vigor.

Mrs. Grant, who was one of the most composed of those present, now drew her chair a little nearer to the general, and with her mild voice inquired, “Ulyss, what had I better do?” The general looked at her for a moment, and then replied in a half-serious and half-teasing way, “Well, the fact is, Julia, you ought n't to be here.” Dunn now spoke up and said: “Let me have the ambulance hitched up, and drive Mrs. Grant back into the country far enough to be out of reach of the [380] shells.” “Oh, their gunboats are not down here yet,” answered the general; “and they must be stopped at all hazards.” Additional despatches were sent, and a fresh cigar was smoked, the puffs of which showed even an increased rapidity. In about two hours it was reported that only one of the enemy's boats was below the obstructions, and the rest were above, apparently aground. More guns had by this time been placed in the shore batteries, and the situation was greatly relieved. Ingalls, whose dry humor always came to his rescue when matters were serious, again assumed an air of disappointment, and said: “I tell you, I'm getting out of all patience, and I've about made up my mind that these boats never intended to come down here anyhow — that they've just been playing it on us to keep us out of bed.”

A little while after matters had so quieted down that the general-in-chiefGrant and Mrs. Grant retired to finish their interrupted sleep. At daylight the Onondaga moved up within nine hundred yards of the Confederate ironclad Virginia, the flag-ship, and opened fire upon her. Some of the shore guns were also trained upon her, and a general pounding began. She was struck about one hundred and thirty times, our 15-inch shells doing much damage. Another vessel, the Richmond, was struck a number of times, and a third, the Drewry, and a torpedo-launch were destroyed. At flood-tide the enemy succeeded in getting their vessels afloat, and withdrew up the river. That night they came down again, and attacked the Onondaga, but retired after meeting with a disastrous fire from that vessel and our batteries on the river banks. This was the last service performed by the enemy's fleet in the James River.

On the morning of January 24 breakfast in the mess-room was a little later than usual, as every one had been [381] trying to make up for the sleep lost the previous night. When the chief had lighted his cigar after the morning meal, and taken his place by the camp-fire, a staff-officer said: “General, I never saw cigars consumed quite so rapidly as those you smoked last night when you were writing despatches to head off the ironclads.” He smiled, and remarked: “No; when I come to think of it, those cigars didn't last very long, did they I” An allusion was then made to the large number he had smoked tile second day of the battle of the Wilderness. In reply to this he said: “I had been a very light smoker previous to the attack on Donelson, and after that battle I acquired a fondness for cigars by reason of a purely accidental circumstance. Admiral Foote, commanding the fleet of gunboats which were cooperating with the army, had been wounded, and at his request I had gone aboard his flag-ship to confer with him. The admiral offered me a cigar, which I smoked on my way back to my headquarters. On the road I was met by a staff-officer, who announced that the enemy were making a vigorous attack. I galloped forward at once, and while riding among the troops giving directions for repulsing the assault I carried the cigar in my hand. It had gone out, but it seems that I continued to hold the stump between my fingers throughout the battle. In the accounts published in the papers I was represented as smoking a cigar in the midst of the conflict; and many persons, thinking, no doubt, that tobacco was my chief solace, sent me boxes of the choicest brands from everywhere in the North. As many as ten thousand were soon received. I gave away all I could get rid of, but having such a quantity on hand, I naturally smoked more than I would have done under ordinary circumstances, and I have continued the habit ever since.”

General Grant never mentioned, however, one incident [382] in connection with the battle of Donelson, and no one ever heard of it until it was related by his opponent in that battle, General Buckner. In a speech made by that officer at a banquet given in New York on the anniversary of General Grant's birthday, April 27, 1889, he said: “. . . Under these circumstances, sir, I surrendered to General Grant. I had at a previous time befriended him, and it has been justly said that he never forgot an act of kindness. I met him on the boat, and he followed me when I went to my quarters. He left the officers of his own army and followed me, with that modest manner peculiar to himself, into the shadow, and there tendered me his purse. It seems to me. Mr. Chairman, that in the modesty of his nature he was afraid the light would witness that act of generosity, and sought to hide it from the world. We can appreciate that, sir.”

On the morning of the 31st of January General Grant received a letter sent in on the Petersburg front the day before, signed by the Confederates Alexander H. Stephens, J. A. Campbell, and R. M. T. Hunter, asking permission to come through our lines. These gentlemen constituted the celebrated “Peace Commission,” and were on their way to endeavor to have a conference with Mr. Lincoln. The desired permission to enter our lines was granted, and Babcock was sent to meet them and escort them to City Point. Some time after dark the train which brought them arrived, and they came at once to headquarters. General Grant was writing in his quarters when a knock came upon the door. In obedience to his “Come in!” the party entered, and were most cordially received, and a very pleasant conversation followed. Stephens was the Vice-President of the Confederacy; Campbell, a former justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, was Assistant Secretary of War; and Hunter was president pro tempore [383] of the Confederate Senate. As General Grant had been instructed from Washington to keep them at City Point until further orders, he conducted them in person to the headquarters steamer, the Mary Martin, which was lying at the wharf, made them his guests, and had them provided with well-furnished state-rooms and comfortable meals during their stay. They were treated with every possible courtesy; their movements were not restrained, and they passed part of the time upon the boat, and part of it at headquarters. Stephens was about five feet five inches in height; his complexion was sallow, and his skin seemed shriveled upon his bones. He possessed intellect enough, however, for the whole commission. Many pleasant conversations occurred with him at headquarters, and an officer once remarked, after the close of an interview: “The Lord seems to have robbed that man's body of nearly all its flesh and blood to make brains of them.”

The commissioners twice endeavored to draw General Grant out as to his ideas touching the proper conditions of the proposed terms of peace; but as he considered himself purely a soldier, not intrusted with any diplomatic functions, and as the commissioners spoke of negotiations between the two governments, while the general was not willing to acknowledge even by an inference any government within our borders except that of the United States, he avoided the subject entirely, except to let it be known by his remarks that he would gladly welcome peace if it could be secured upon proper terms. Mr. Lincoln had directed Mr. Seward, the Secretary of State, on January 31, to meet the commissioners at Fort Monroe on February 2. General Grant telegraphed the President that he thought the gentlemen were sincere in their desire to restore peace and union, and that it would have a bad effect if they went back [384] without any expression from one who was in authority, and said he would feel sorry if Mr. Lincoln did not have an interview with them, or with some of them. This changed the President's mind, and he started at once for Fort Monroe. The commissioners were sent down the James River that afternoon, and were met at Fort Monroe by the President and Mr. Seward on the 3d, and had a conference lasting several hours aboard the President's steamer. Mr. Lincoln stated that peace could be secured only by a restoration of the national authority over all the States, a recognition of the position assumed by him as to the abolition of slavery, and an understanding that there should be no cessation of hostilities short of an end of the war and a disbanding of all forces hostile to the government. The commissioners, while they did not declare positively that they would not consent to reunion, avoided giving their assent; and as they seemed to desire to postpone that important question, and adopt some other course first which might possibly lead in the end to union, but which Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward thought would amount simply to an indefinite postponement, the conference ended without result. After stopping at City Point and having another conversation with General Grant, principally in reference to an exchange of prisoners, the Confederate commissioners were escorted through our lines on their way back to Richmond. I accompanied the escort part of the way, and had an interesting talk with Mr. Stephens. He was evidently greatly disappointed at the failure of the conference, but was prudent enough not to talk much about it. He spoke freely in regard to General Grant, saying: “We all form our preconceived ideas of men of whom we have heard a great deal, and I had certain definite notions as to the appearance and character of General Grant; but I was never so completely [385] surprised in all my life as when I met him and found him a person so entirely different from my idea of him. His spare figure, simple manners, lack of all ostentation, extreme politeness, and charm of conversation were a revelation to me, for I had pictured him as a man of a directly opposite type of character, and expected to find in him only the bluntness of the soldier. Notwithstanding the fact that he talks so well, it is plain that he has more brains than tongue.” He continued by saying what he said several times in Washington after the war, and also wrote in his memoirs: “He is one of the most remarkable men I ever met. He does not seem to be aware of his powers, but in the future he will undoubtedly exert a controlling influence in shaping the destinies of the country.”

Mr. Stephens was wrapped from his eyes to his heels in a coarse gray overcoat about three sizes too large for him, with a collar so high that it threatened to lift his hat off every time he leaned his head back. This coat, together with his complexion, which was as yellow as a ripe ear of corn, gave rise to a characterization of the costume by Mr. Lincoln which was very amusing. The next time he saw General Grant at City Point, after the “Peace conference,” he said to him, in speaking on the subject, “Did you see Stephens's greatcoat” “Oh, yes,” answered the general. “Well,” continued Mr. Lincoln, “soon after we assembled on the steamer at Hampton Roads, the cabin began to get pretty warm, and Stephens stood up and pulled off his big coat. He peeled it off just about as you would husk an ear of corn. I could n't help thinking, as I looked first at the coat and then at the man, ‘Well, that's the biggest shuck and the littlest nubbin I ever did see.’ ” This story became one of the general's favorite anecdotes, and he often related it in after years with the greatest zest.

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