Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chetlain on Grant

I apologize for the long break, below is a piece from the Hamlin Garland Papers at USC.  It was an excerpt of an interview Chetlain did after Grant's death on his relationship with Ulysses.

Chetlain served under Grant during the Civil War, attaining the rank of Major General, and became a close friend of Grant's. He was one of Grant's card-playing partners in the White House and later spoke about their friendship at length in the following interview:
I was in Galena at the start of the war and I know the facts of how Grant got back into the Army. He was chairman of a meeting there and a Veteran, so naturally they approached him at once to be Captain of the company. Grant took me aside and said: "I hear there is talk of making me Captain of this company, but I cannot take that. I have been graduated at West Point, I have been a Captain in the regular army and I should have a Colonelcy or a proper staff appointment - nothing else would be proper.
Grant went with me to Springfield to see the Governor, but he probably did not make a favorable impression on the Governor. His dress was seedy, he had only one suit and that he had worn all winter; he had a short pipe, a stubby beard, and his old slouch hat did not make him look a very promising candidate for the Colonelcy. Grant was at that time a man of considerable talk, with his friends he was a great talker, talked well, too. He had not a wide command of words, but was vivid. I saw a great deal of him. He took a room across the street from the Chinnery House in Springfield, at $3.50 a week, and me invited me to share the room and bed with him. He was working during the day and I was at the camp, but at night we were always together and he sat and talked. I could write a volume on what the man told me then. He gave me the most valuable instruction.
A few days after I went up to see him in the State House, and was shown into a small poorly furnished room, used as a sort of anteroom to the Adjutant-General's office. Grant sat at a little square table, of which one leg was gone. A book and a pen and an inkstand formed his equipment. He had his hat on and was smoking his pipe. As I came up to him, I said, "Grant, what are you doing here?" He looked up with an expression of weariness and disgust on his face and said, "I am copying orders and I am going to quit and go home. Any enlisted man could do this as well as I, or better." I remember when he camp to my camp at Caseyville he helped my adjutant-general lay out a camp, spent a whole afternoon at it without pay or thought of pay. That was the kind of man he was, always ready to do anybody a service.
After he became famous, I saw Grant at Shiloh about two o'clock of the first say. He was calm and cool, perfect master of himself. He rode over where I was an asked me how I happened to be out that day. He knew I had been ill. I told him I could not help it for my regiment had no one to command it. He saw that I was sick and suffering and said quietly, "Take your regiment and retire to your old position; the enemy has done his worst, he will do no more today. Tomorrow Wallace and Buell will be here and we go finish them up."
Grant was generally just and considerate, but he could be unrelenting. He forgave Baldy Smith who failed him; he forgave Lew Wallace who failed him at Shiloh; he forgave Fitz John Porter, but he did not forgive Washburne. He played a double game in this matter of the third term. Grant did not really want the third term, but entered into it on account of Mrs. Grant. It was perfectly evident that he did not care particularly about it, but having entered into the race, he naturally wanted to go through. After his defeat, Grant said, "My friends have not been kind to me in pressing upon me this third term. I could not afford to go before the convention and be defeated. My friends were not just to me in saying that it was only a matter of form."
Grant was not afraid of Lee. He wanted to get at him. He knew Lee, respected him, but knew his limits as a soldier. He thought highly of Joe Johnston. Grant made mistakes judging men in civil life but not in military life. He got at the characters of his adversaries as well. He loved Sheridan. He introduced him once in Galena as "My friend, General Sheridan." He was as proud as a mother of a handsome son. After the war his friends presented him with a house in Galena all furnished, dinner on the table and the ladies of the town to wait on him at table. Excessive simplicity. He walked down to the little Methodist church the following Sunday. He went about shaking hands.
After the world tour, he was just the same simple man. A close observer, he had stored up a vast amount of facts which he related with great fluency and power. I was with him (in the early 1880's) when someone threw a rotten egg at him in Galesburg, Illinois. He was indignant. "I've been all 'round the world," he said, "and the first indignity I have suffered is in Illinois."

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