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No an admire and love.
O one need explain why he writes about a person whom
all admire and love. As to men, none occupy the place of General Grant in the affections of the people. His name is honorably connected with the highest office in the gift of the American voter. As President he was true to law and order, mindful of great and arduous duties, careful of the momentous trust reposed in him. To know of him as Chief Executive of the Nation will be esteemed a privilege and pleasure by the passing generations,
But the real character, as well as glory, of this illustrious man was military. Had he overshadowed all other Presidents in profound statesmanship, wise diplomacy, and political acumen, the fame thus acquired would have been as Neptune to the Sun in comparison with that which sprang from his military career.
Justly reckoned as the first soldier of the age, if not of the world, the nation is not more moved by admiration of his splendid military qualities than by gratitude for the timeliness of his victories and their saving results. He was a man of God raised up for an emergency.
His genius brought victory, and with victory, peace. The noblest tribute that can be paid mortal man is his by universal acclamation. “He made his foes his friends."
Greatness here grows into grandness. War loses much of its grim visage. Victory hath its charm and value. Appomattox was not a vindictive triumph. The armies, despite differences, were brothers. Grant knew what war meant. It was not child's play, but earnest. He knew also what victory meant. If peace, reconciliation, mutual happiness and contentment, did not follow, victory was vain. Return to the flag, the common brotherhood, was the supreme object. This he achieved along with his grand victory. His conditions of surrender took the sting out of defeat and sent his foes away to their homes rejoicing in the magnanimity of their victor, and even surprised at their alienation from the “ Stars and Stripes " and the common Union of States.
As no other General ever made victory so sure, so none ever made it so complete. Smaller men had lost over and over again in the game of battle. Smaller men, in the hour of triumph, would have narrowed conditions, and postponed reconciliation. He made war a terribly earnest thing, and victory as real and substantial. The terms of Alexander, Hannibal, Wallenstein, Napoleon and Von Moltke were never generous. They always involved the selfishness of superiority and conquest, never the humanitarian spirit of unity and brotherhood. Herein Grant was greater than any historic hero, brighter than any preceding military star. He handled cohorts that they might win, yet never won for the sake of glorying in victory but of confirming peace.
Possibly no man ever ended a triumphant military career amid more universal admiration. He shared alike the respect of friend and foe. A grateful nation showered on him its
highest political honors. He was not forgotten amid final retiracy, though too modest to be obtrusive and too well satisfied to be ambitious. Admirers strove to place him beyond want. In grave political emergency his name spontaneously came to the fore. Wherever he appeared, the public clamored to show their respect. Whatever he said, and it was all too little—was weighed as the words of a scer. Amid financial wreck, through no fault of his own, he had the most unbounded sympathy. In his last hours, when confronting the foe to whom all heroes must strike their colors, amid the pain of a horrible malady, the inner heart of the nation was instinctively drawn to him, and regrets over his suffering and prospective loss were general and profound.
And now that he is dead there is universal mourning. Our greatest and noblest has been taken. Let us learn of him and teach our children. Another, others, might have done so, but he saved us as a people, a government, a solidified nation. He gave us order and law, peace and happiness. Though a larger and more perilous work than that of Washington, it was not unlike his. And as of him, an admiring, loving and grateful people will say : “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."
My thanks are due to Badeau, Humphreys, Dana, Wilson, Swinton, Young, and the various other army officers and civilians who are recognized as authorities upon the war and the times in which General Grant figured, and whose literary works I have consulted freely.