Sam Grant, the Beatles and the Internet

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I feel that we are on the eve of a new era, when there is to be great harmony between the Federal and Confederate. I cannot stay to be a living witness to the correctness of this prophecy; but I feel it within me that it is to be so. The universally kind feeling expressed for me at a time when it was supposed that each day would prove my last, seemed to me the beginning of the answer to “Let us have peace.”  

Ulysses S. Grant, written just before his death

 

Something for the weekend.  Quotations from Ulysses S. Grant to the Beatles song  In My Life.  A follow up to my post on Robert E. Lee, the Beatles and the Internet.  Another demonstration of what a wild and wacky place the internet truly is!

 

Few men in American history have gone from complete obscurity to being a  central figure in the life of the nation faster than Ulysses Simpson Grant.  Known as Sam Grant by his West Point friends, his first two initials making Sam an inevitable nickname, Grant had an unerring ability to fail at everything he put his hand to, except for war, his marriage and his last gallant race against the Grim Reaper, as he was dying of cancer, to finish his memoirs and provide financially for his wife and children.  Most great figures in our history have known success more than failure.  Not so Sam Grant.  He would encounter humiliating defeats throughout his life, from beginning to end.

 

At the beginning of the Civil War, he was a clerk, barely able to support his family.  Seemingly a dull plodder, but possessed of iron determination and an uncanny ability to never let the trees obscure the forest;  happily married and a firm believer in God, but subject to bouts of depression when he would grasp for the bottle;  the shabby little man who, incredibly, ended up winning the greatest war in American history.

 

His men didn’t hold him in awe as Lee’s men did Lee;  Grant was far too common and prosaic a figure for that.  However, they did respect him, as this section of Stephen Vincent Benet’s epic poem on the Civil War, John Brown’s Body, indicates:

And, after that, the chunky man from the West,
Stranger to you, not one of the men you loved
As you loved McClellan, a rider with a hard bit,
Takes you and uses you as you could be used,
Wasting you grimly but breaking the hurdle down.
You are never to worship him as you did McClellan,
But at the last you can trust him.  He slaughters you
But he sees that you are fed.  After sullen Cold Harbor
They call him a butcher and want him out of the saddle,
But you have had other butchers who did not win
And this man wins in the end.

You see him standing,
Reading a map, unperturbed, under heavy fire.
You do not cheer him as the recruits might cheer
But you say “Ulysses doesn’t scare worth a darn.
Ulysses is all right.  He can finish the job.”
And at last your long lines go past in the Grand Review
And your legend and his begins and are mixed forever

One private in the Army of the Potomac summed up what Grant meant to them:  “At long last, the boss had come.”  After Grant died his veterans purchased his excellent Personal Memoirs in droves, making it one of the best sellers of the Nineteenth Century and ensuring the financial security of Grant’s family.  His veterans helped their “boss” win his last battle.

2 Responses to Sam Grant, the Beatles and the Internet

  • I have never made the time to look at them extensively or, even, carefully, but Grant’s memoirs have reputed, among critics and college academics (stuck with teaching ill-prepared and indifferent undergraduates to distinguish between “its” and “it’s” and “there” and “their” (and, even, “they’re” and imparting the trick of assembling complete sentences into a coherent paragraph) to be if not the pinnacle of, then among the very finest prose writing in American letters.
    So–he was good at two things.

  • True. Grant was a fine writer. Some people have accused Mark Twain, a former Confederate and friend of Grant, of ghost writing the memoirs but that is untrue. Twain gave Grant some help in getting the publishing deal for his memoirs, but that is all. Grant’s memoirs read like his written orders during the War: Crisp, direct and easy to understand.

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