Monday, April 02, 2007
General Ulysses S. Grant
Elihu B. Washburne, the member of Congress from the Galena district in Illinois, General Grant’s old home, introduced a bill creating the grade of lieutenant-general, and it was passed by both houses of Congress, with the implied understanding that General Grant was to fill the position. The highest grade in the army theretofore created during the war had been that of major-general. The act became a law on February 26, 1864, and the nomination of General Grant was sent to the Senate by Mr. Lincoln on the 1st of March, and confirmed on the 2nd. On the 3rd the general was ordered to Washington.
On the evening of March 8, 1864 the President and Mrs. Lincoln gave a public reception at the White House. The President stood in the usual reception-room, known as the "Blue Room," with several cabinet officers near him, and shook hands cordially with everybody, as the vast procession of men and women passed in front of him. He was in evening dress, and wore a turned-down collar a size too large. The necktie was rather broad and awkwardly tied. His height of six feet four inches enabled him to look over the heads of most of his visitors. His form was ungainly, and the movements of his long, angular arms and legs bordered at times upon the grotesque. His eyes were gray and disproportionally small. His face wore a general expression of sadness, the deep lines indicating the sense of responsibility which weighed upon him; but at times his features lighted up with a broad smile, and there was a merry twinkle in his eyes as he greeted an old acquaintance and exchanged a few words with him in a tone of familiarity. He had sprung from the common people to become one of the most uncommon of men. Mrs. Lincoln occupied a position on his right. For a time she stood on a line with him and took part in the reception, but afterward stepped back and conversed with some of the wives of the cabinet officers and other personal acquaintances who were in the room.
At about half-past nine o’clock a sudden commotion near the entrance to the room attracted general attention, General Grant made his appearance, walking along modestly with the rest of the crowd toward Mr. Lincoln. He had arrived from the West that evening, and had come to the White House to pay his respects to the President. He had been in Washington but once before, when he visited it for a day soon after he had left West Point. Although these two historical characters had never met before, Mr. Lincoln recognized the general at once from the pictures he had seen of him. With a face radiant with delight, he advanced rapidly two or three steps toward his distinguished visitor, and cried out: "Why, here is General Grant! Well, this is a great pleasure, I assure you," at the same time seizing him by the hand, and shaking it for several minutes with a vigor which showed the extreme cordiality of the welcome.
The scene now presented was deeply impressive. Standing face to face for the first time were the two illustrious men whose names will always be inseparably associated in connection with the war of the rebellion. Grant’s right hand grasped the lapel of his coat; his head was bent slightly forward, and his eyes upturned toward Lincoln’s face. The President, looked down with beaming countenance upon his guest. Although their appearance, their training, and their characteristics were in striking contrast, yet the two men had many traits in common, and there were numerous points of resemblance in their remarkable careers. Each was of humble origin, and had been compelled to learn the first lessons of life in the severe school of adversity. Each had risen from the people, possessed an abiding confidence in them, and always retained a deep hold upon their affections. In a great crisis of their country’s history both had entered the public service from the State of Illinois. Both were conspicuous for the possession of that most uncommon of all virtues, common sense. Both despised the arts of the demagogue, and shrank from posing for effect, or indulging in mock heroics. Even when their characteristics differed, they only served to supplement each other, and to add a still greater strength to the cause for which they strove. With hearts too great for rivalry, with souls untouched by jealousy, they lived to teach the world that it is time to abandon the path of ambition when it becomes so narrow that two cannot walk it abreast.
The next day, March 9th, 1864, the general went to the White House, by invitation of Mr. Lincoln, for the purpose of receiving his commission as Lieutenant General from the hands of the President.
President Lincoln with his top commanders, from left,
Admirals Porter and Farragut and Generals Sherman,
Thomas, Grant and Sheridan.
While in Washington General Grant had been so much an object of curiosity, and had been so continually surrounded by admiring crowds when he appeared in the streets, and even in his hotel, that it had become very irksome to him. With his simplicity and total lack of personal vanity, he did not seem able to understand why he should attract so much attention. The President had given him a cordial invitation to dine that evening at the White House, but he begged to be excused for the reason that he would lose a whole day, which he could not afford at that critical period. "Besides," he added, "I have become very tired of this show business."
On the 12th of March, 1864 the official order was issued placing General Grant in command of all the armies of the United States.
The man we know as Ulysses S. Grant was actually named Hiram Ulysses Grant. As a boy he was known as "Lyss". Thomas Hamer, the Congrssman who appointed Grant to West Point, forgot all about Hiram. Remembering that Grant's mother's maiden name was Simpson and thinking that was Lyss Grant's middle name, he filled out the application in the name of "Ulysses S. Grant".
When Grant arrived at West Point and discovered that the Academy had him registered under the wrong name, he tried to get the error corrected. He was told that it didn't matter what he or his parents thought his name was, the official government application said his name was "Ulysses S. Grant" and that application could not be changed. If Hiram U. Grant wanted to attend West Point, he would have to change his name.
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