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Chapter 9:

    • Sherman's Indiscretion.
    • -- his Negotiations with Johnston disapproved. -- Grant sent to assume direction of Sherman's movements. -- his influence with Sherman, and his friendship for him. -- the most successful General of the age. -- his military genius recognized at home and abroad. -- thanks and honors. -- a new grade established to reward him. -- appointed General of the army. -- modest Wearing of his honors. -- manifestation of popular admiration. -- his recognition of the merits of his subordinates and the army. -- no Napoleonic airs. -- Farewell orders to the armies. -- Justice to the soldiers of the East and of the West. -- his fidelity to his soldiers. -- Sharing their hardships. -- his army always supplied. -- his men protected from imposition. -- the steam-boat captain. -- the respect and confidence of the army.

The surrender of Lee was soon followed by like submission of the other rebel armies. But Johnston, under instructions from the fugitive rebel government, attempted to gain from Sherman what Lee had failed to obtain from Grant,--a negotiation for the settlement of civil as well as military matters. Sherman, less prudent than Grant, and anxious to secure peace, agreed with Johnston upon terms which confessedly exceeded his authority, and which assumed to settle some political questions contrary to the principles on which the war had been necessarily conducted. More able as a soldier than he was as a politician or diplomatist, he had agreed to terms which were considered by [124] government and people entirely inadmissible, but having no intention of transcending his powers, he sent the terms to Washington for approval.

The government was a little startled at the comprehensive character of this agreement between one of its military officers and the representative of a suppressed rebellion, and it was at once repudiated, and Sherman was ordered to resume hostilities. The disapproval was prompt and curt, and General Grant was ordered to proceed to Sherman's headquarters and direct operations against the enemy. Sherman, nervous and excitable, was indignant at the manner in which his well-disposed but mistaken measures were rejected, and he himself snubbed, and what he would have done in his anger and chagrin, had not Grant gone to him, can hardly be imagined. He was pretty sure to do something to his own injury, however; but Grant's presence saved him, and his steadfast friendship, and calm, dispassionate words, allayed the excitement and anger of the brilliant general, and repaid him for his own kindly offices when Grant, for once,--and only once in his military career,--gave way to his feelings under a keen sense of injury. The manner in which he performed the duty required of him by the government illustrated Grant's generosity towards his subordinates, by carefully keeping in Sherman's hands the fruits of his brilliant operations, and giving him the entire credit of enforcing and receiving the surrender of Johnston.

The great achievements by which he crushed the rebellion, and put an end to one of the fiercest wars of modern times, stamped Ulysses S. Grant as the most successful general of the age. His ability as a strategist [125] and tactician, his power of combination and of execution, his talent for command, united with his energy and persistency, in a word, his military genius, could no longer be doubted, and received the encomiums, not only of a grateful people, but of able soldiers and military critics abroad. Except Napoleon, no man of recent times had achieved so many brilliant successes, or accomplished such splendid results on so extended a field.

The thanks of the government, of the states, of popular assemblies, were freely tendered to him, and he received substantial tokens of public gratitude and private appreciation. Swords and medals were voted him by states, and among the more costly gifts presented to him, by private individuals, was an elegant house in Washington, completely furnished, an admirable library, and a munificent sum of money. These gifts were thrust upon him out of honest gratitude and admiration, and were accepted with a modest dignity characteristic of the man, and becoming his position and his relations to the givers.

Subsequently, in July, 1866, upon reorganizing the army, in order to reward him by a higher honor than the service then allowed, the grade of General of the army, the highest rank yet created in the American service, was established by act of Congress, and invested with unusual powers. The rank was created expressly for the then Lieutenant General, and though President Johnson would have preferred to select another, the universal verdict of the people, and the unmistakable purpose of the act, compelled him to nominate Ulysses S. Grant. It is needless to add that [126] the Senate promptly confirmed the nomination, and General Grant, by his own merits, and the gratitude and confidence of his country, holds a rank from which there can be but one promotion, and that promotion will be made by the people of the United States.

The honors bestowed upon Grant were borne with a modesty equalled only by his ability and the greatness of his achievements. They came without his seeking; they were accepted with a determination to be worthy of them. Making a private and unofficial tour to the east and west with his family in 1865, he was made aware of the gratitude and admiration of the people. He was everywhere received with the most enthusiastic demonstrations which his private mode of travelling permitted. But everywhere he was the same quiet, unostentatious, unpretending soldier that he had been when he first entered the service as colonel in 1861, ever ready to give a hearty greeting to his comrades of the army, and with republican simplicity courteous to all. His few speeches, in response to the popular demands, were brief and modest. But the people could see that with all his modesty he was self-reliant, clear-headed, brave, and firm in the discharge of his duties.

While awarding the highest meed of praise to General Grant, the country should never forget the able subordinates and the brave men to whom, with the chivalrous spirit of a true soldier, he had always attributed his successes. He assumed no Napoleonic airs, and made to them no grandiloquent and flattering speeches, but in all his reports and despatches he acknowledged [127] their skill and bravery, and claimed for them the credit of the results. Before the grand armies were disbanded he issued the following address, which told, once for all, after all their battles were fought, and their toils ended, and the victory won, the estimation in which he, speaking for the country, held them:--

soldiers of the armies of the United States:
By your patriotic devotion to your country in the hour of danger and alarm, your magnificent fighting, bravery, and endurance, you have maintained the supremacy of the Union and the Constitution, overthrown all armed opposition to the enforcement of the laws and of the proclamations forever abolishing slavery,--the cause and pretext of the rebellion,--and opened the way to the rightful authorities to restore order and inaugurate peace on a permanent and enduring basis on every foot of American soil. Your marches, sieges, and battles, in distance, duration, resolution, and brilliancy of results, dim the lustre of the world's past military achievements, and will be the patriot's precedent in the defence of liberty and right in all time to come. In obedience to your country's call you left your homes and families, and volunteered in its defence. Victory has crowned your valor, and secured the purpose of your patriotic hearts; and with the gratitude of your countrymen, and the highest honors a great and free nation can accord, you will soon be permitted to return to your homes and families, conscious of having discharged the highest duty of American citizens. To achieve these glorious triumphs, and secure to yourselves, your fellow-countrymen, and posterity the blessings of free institutions, tens of thousands of your gallant comrades have fallen, and sealed the priceless legacy with their lives. The graves of these a grateful nation bedews [128] with tears, honors their memories, and will ever cherish and support their stricken families.

U. S. Grant, Lieutenant General.

So in his final report of the war he spoke of the armies of the East and of the West with a just recognition of the services and valor of each, and with a patriotism which embraces the whole country and all the loyal people. “It has been my fortune to see the armies of both the West and the East fight battles; and from what I have seen, I know there is no difference in their fighting qualities. All that it was possible for men to do in battle they have done. . . . The splendid achievements of each have nationalized our victories, removed all sectional jealousies (of which we have unfortunately experienced too much), and the cause of crimination and recrimination that might have followed had either section failed in its duty. All have a proud record, and all sections can well congratulate themselves and each other for having done their full share in restoring the supremacy of law over every foot of territory belonging to the United States. Let them hope for perpetual peace and harmony with that enemy, whose manhood, however mistaken the cause, drew forth such herculean deeds of valor.”

Not only did Grant thus recognize the bravery and endurance of the men who served under him, but through the war he was true to them as to his country. He demanded of them hard service, but he was always ready to share their hardships and exposure. He counted himself as one of them. His language was, “More difficulties and privations are before us; [129] let us endure them manfully. Other battles are to be fought; let us fight them bravely.” No luxuries for him. His headquarters often offered scarcely more comforts or better food than the tent of the private soldier; and when he ordered the army to march “light,” he set the example by reducing his own baggage to the smallest amount possible. He slept under a sheltertent, or bivouacked with his men with the sky for a canopy. At Shiloh, after the first day's battle, when he had personally given his orders for the attack the next morning, he lay down on the ground, with a stump for a pillow, and without shelter from the storm which raged, slept till the dawn called him again to unremitting labor. And he took good care of his men. He was always watchful over the quartermaster's and commissary departments, and wherever he commanded supplies came promptly to hand. During the period that he commanded the army of the Tennessee it never was short of food; and the only time when there was danger of such a condition, he promptly ascertained to what extent the rebel country would support his forces, and was one of the first to learn that important policy in the conduct of the war. He protected his men, too, from the imposition and excessive charges of sutlers by strict orders properly enforced; and when a steamboat captain, on the Mississippi, demanded an exorbitant sum for the passage of sick and wounded soldiers on their way home on furlough, he compelled him to refund the excess over a reasonable sum, at the risk of having his boat confiscated. “I will teach these fellows,” said he, “that the men who have perilled their [130] lives to open the Mississippi for their benefit cannot be imposed upon with impunity.”

A commander so true to his men, and at the same time so able and successful as a general, could not but inspire them with respect, love, and confidence. He made no attempt to render himself popular, and never resorted to any clap-trap or pretence; but in everything he did for his soldiers, as in everything he did for his country, he was in downright earnest, and they knew it. For this they will always love him, as for the victories to which he led them they will always honor him.

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