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Chapter 3:

Grant and the South after the War.

the policy initiated at Appomattox was steadily maintained by Grant. He became no more vindictive after the murder of Lincoln, nor did he shrink from the application of his own principles because they were carried further by Sherman than he thought advisable. The new President was anxious to treat ‘traitors’ harshly; he disliked the paroles that Grant had accorded to Lee and his soldiers, and steps were soon taken with his approval to procure the indictment of Lee for treason. General Lee at once appealed to General Grant. His first communication was verbal, and was made through Mr. Reverdy Johnson, who acted as the legal adviser of Lee; he came to see me to learn Grant's feeling. I ascertained that Grant was firm in his determination to stand by his own terms, and so informed Mr. Johnson. Grant, however, thought that Lee should go through the form of applying for pardon, in order to indicate his complete submission. Lee, though entirely willing to make the application, was anxious to be assured in advance that Grant would formally approve it. General Ord, then in command in Richmond, made known this feeling of Lee to Grant, through General Ingalls, and Grant directed me to assure Mr. Reverdy Johnson of his readiness to indorse Lee's application favorably. Accordingly Lee forwarded two papers of the same date, one an application for pardon in the prescribed form, and the other a statement of the proposed indictment and of his own belief that he was protected [26] against such action by his parole. Grant indorsed both of these documents, the first with an earnest recommendation that the pardon should be granted, the second with a distinct declaration that the officers and men paroled at Appomattox could not be tried for treason so long as they observed the terms of their paroles.

He went in person to discuss these papers with the President. But Andrew Johnson was not satisfied; he wanted, he said, ‘to make treason odious.’

‘When can these men be tried?’ he asked.

‘Never,’ said Grant, ‘unless they violate their paroles.’

The President still insisted, and his Attorney-General wrote an official letter opposing Grant's contention. Finally Grant declared that he would resign his commission in the army unless the terms he had granted were confirmed. I remember well the day when this occurred. He returned from the Cabinet chamber to his own headquarters and described the interview. When he recited his language he added:

‘And I will keep my word. I will not stay in the army if they break the pledges that I made.’

Then the resolution of the President gave way, for he found a will more stubborn, or at least more potent with the people, than his own, and orders were issued to discontinue the proceedings against Lee.

The great antagonists met only once after the scenes at Appomattox Court House. It was in May, 1869, soon after the first inauguration of Grant. Lee was in Washington about some business connected with railroads, and thought it his duty to call on the President. He was received in the Cabinet chamber when no one was present but Mr. Motley, who had been recently appointed Minister to England. General Grant and Motley both described the interview to me. Motley said both men were simple and dignified, but he thought there was a shade of constraint in the manner of Lee, who [27] was indeed always inclined to be more formal than the Northern general. The former enemies shook hands; Grant asked Lee to be seated, and presented Motley. The interview was short, and all that Grant could remember afterward was that they spoke of building railroads, and he said playfully to Lee:

‘You and I, General, have had more to do with destroying railroads than building them.’

But Lee refused to smile, or to recognize the raillery. He went on gravely with the conversation, and no other reference was made to the past. Lee soon arose, and the soldiers parted, not to meet again until their mighty shades saluted each other in that region where conquerors and conquered alike lay down their arms.

Scores of Southern officers besides Lee applied to Grant for protection, and literally hundreds of civilians who wished to avail themselves of the amnesty requested his favorable indorsement. It was my duty to examine these applications and lay them before him; and seldom indeed was one refused. General J. Kirby Smith, in command west of the Mississippi, did not surrender with the other armies in rebellion, and even when his forces yielded he fled to Mexico. But in a month or two he wrote to Grant, applying to be placed on the same footing with those who had surrendered earlier. Grant thereupon obtained the assurance of the President that if Smith would return and take the prescribed oath, he should be treated exactly as if he had surrendered and been paroled.

In September, 1865, Alexander Stephens, the VicePres-ident of the Southern Confederacy, appealed to General Grant in the following letter from Fort Warren in Boston Harbor, where he was imprisoned, asking for his release on parole or bail. This was soon afterward granted. [28]

dear Sir,—The apology for this letter, as well as its explanation, is to be found in the facts herein briefly presented. I am now in confinement in this place and have been since the 25th of May last. Efforts are being made by friends to have me released on parole as others, arrested as I was, have been. You will excuse me for saying that I think I am as justly entitled to discharge on parole as many of those to whom I allude. No man I think in the Southern States exerted his powers to a greater extent than I did to avert the late lamentable troubles of our country—no man strove harder or more earnestly to mitigate the evils and sufferings of war while it lasted, and to bring about a peaceful solution of the difficulties than I did—no man is less responsible for the beginning or continuance of the strife, with all its horrors, than I am—and no man living can more earnestly desire a speedy restoration of peace, harmony, and prosperity, throughout the country than I do. All these things I think I can assert of myself. But of my views and feelings under a very different aspect of affairs from what now exists you are not altogether uninformed. You had them very fully expressed at City Point last February. You reported them very correctly in your telegram from that place to the Secretary of War—upon that telegram the conference at Hampton Roads was granted. When I parted with you on my return from that conference, I assured you, as you may recollect, that while nothing definite had been accomplished, yet I was in hopes that good would come of it. Such was my hope and earnest desire. No one could have been more disappointed, mortified, and chagrined, at the result of his labors, in any undertaking than I was at the result of mine in that instance. I refer to this interview between us not only because of its pleasant reminiscences of a personal character, but as proof within your own knowledge of some things stated above in regard to my views and feelings at that time. The object of this letter, therefore, is simply to ask you, if entirely compatible with your own inclination, to lend the great weight of your name and influence with the President, the [29] Secretary of War, and the Secretary of State, for my release on parole. I have applied to the President for pardon and amnesty, but if he for any reason feels disposed to postpone the decision of that matter I am perfectly content. What I desire mainly is a release from imprisonment on parole as others, or on bail if it should be required. In no event would I attempt to avoid a prosecution or trial if it should be thought proper for any considerations to adopt such a course toward me. I wish a release from imprisonment on account both of my health and private affairs. I might add that I think I could render some service in restoring harmony to the country; that, however, I leave for others to consider. My case and request are briefly submitted to you. Act in the premises as your sense of duty may direct.

Yours most respectfully,

In December of the same year Mrs. Jefferson Davis applied to Grant by letter, and in May, 1866, she went in person to Washington to ask his influence in procuring a remission of some of the penalties imposed upon her husband, and Grant did use his influence, not indeed to obtain the release of the prisoner, but to mitigate the hardships of his confinement. Mrs. Davis's letter and messages were conveyed through me; the letter was full of respect for the conqueror, acknowledgments of his clemency, and touching appeals for further mercy.

‘All know you ever,’ she said, ‘as good as well as great, merciful as well as brave.’ ‘Make me,’ she concluded, ‘your respectful friend.’

The vindictive feeling of President Johnson continued for months, and only Grant's interposition preserved the good faith of the Government, or rescued many, civilians as well as soldiers, from imprisonment and pecuniary ruin; for he urged the restoration of their property as well as the remission of personal penalties. In consequence there grew up toward Grant a remarkable feeling at the South. I [30] accompanied him in November, 1865, when he made a tour through Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee, to investigate and report upon the condition and feeling of the population. Everywhere he was received with the greatest respect by those who had regarded him the year before as the chief of their adversaries. The Governors of States and Mayors of cities instantly called on him; the most prominent soldiers and private citizens paid their respects. State Legislatures invited him to their chambers, suspended their sessions, and rose to greet him formally as he entered. The man who had done most to subdue the South was universally recognized as its protector and savior from further suffering.

This feeling was not purely personal. It contributed to create a loyal and submissive disposition. On the 18th of December, at the conclusion of his tour, Grant reported to the President that ‘the mass of thinking men of the South accepted the situation in good faith’; and while he recommended that a strong military force should still be retained in the Southern States, he declared his belief that ‘the citizens of that region are anxious to return to self-government within the Union as soon as possible.’ This document Charles Sumner denounced in the Senate as a ‘whitewashing’ report. The statesman did not concur with the conqueror in believing the South subdued. Before long Sumner was in favor of remitting restrictions which Grant wished to retain. For General Grant believed that the feeling of the South after this epoch underwent a change; and in consequence his judgment changed as to the treatment the South should receive. But his sentiment at the close of the war is better expressed in a letter he wrote to Mrs. Grant than in any formal document.

On the 24th of April, 1865, General Grant arrived at Sherman's headquarters in North Carolina, having been sent from Washington by the government to annul the convention [31] between Sherman and Johnston. He at once directed Sherman to discontinue all civil negotiations and demand the surrender of Johnston on the same terms that had been allowed to Lee. While he waited for Johnston's reply, Grant wrote the following letter to his wife, which Mrs. Grant gave me as a relic twenty years ago:

headquarters military division of the Mississippi. In the field, Raleigh, April 25, 1865.
dear Julia,—We arrived here yesterday, and as I expected to return to-day, did not intend to write until I returned. Now, however, matters have taken such a turn that I suppose Sherman will finish up matters by to-morrow night and I shall wait to see the result.

Raleigh is a very beautiful place. The grounds are large and filled with the most beautiful spreading oaks I ever saw. Nothing has been destroyed, and the people are anxious to see peace restored, so that further devastation need not take place in the country. The suffering that must exist in the South the next year, even with the war ending now, will be beyond conception. People who talk of further retaliation and punishment, except of the political leaders, either do not conceive of the suffering endured already or they are heartless and unfeeling and wish to stay at home out of danger while the punishment is being inflicted.

Love and kisses for you and the children.


This letter was written eleven days after the assassination of Lincoln. Grant disapproved of Sherman's terms as absolutely as Stanton or the President; he had just revoked all negotiations for civil conditions, and insisted on the absolute military submission of the enemy; but he was full of pity for the people of the South, and had only harsh rebuke for the rancor that would inflict further suffering. He turned from war and its horrors to the spreading oaks of Raleigh for relief, and while waiting the answer to his inexorable summons sent love and kisses to his wife and ‘the children.’

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