Page images
PDF
EPUB

the assembled mourners that General Grant is dead. It was eight minutes past eight, on the morning of Thursday, July 23d, 1885, that a family stood bereft of its beloved head, and a nation was called upon to mourn the loss of its most illustrious and endeared citizen.

Heroic to the last, he fought his final battle with the same unquailing courage, the same calm, grim fortitude which shed their fadeless lustre on his whole extraordinary career. For months the nation had hung over his bedside and sadly watched his resolute, unmurmuring struggle, and the silent foot-fall of the unseen conqueror came as he and all would have had it, not with poignant shock as when a Lincoln or a Garfield fell, but as a messenger bearing a crown of full glory and beckoning ripened life to a land of light and fruition. As his achievements proved him to be a master of men, so his weary illness and heroic death proved that he was master of himself. The great captain, in all his career, dispatched but one flag of truce to the enemy and that was when he sent his great white soul from the mountain top to the angel of death.

The sad news were flashed throughout the land, and by nine o'clock the bells were tolling everywhere. The one theme of a nation and the world was the passing away of him who had fought a good fight, had finished his course, had kept the faith. Humanity had but one heart for the occasion, and that was now bowed and broken in grief. Tongue and pen had but one word, and that was sympathy over the great loss, and praise of the virtues that had made his life noble and illustrious. For the afflicted family it was the beginning of condolence, unlimited by station, creed, color, nationality, or condition, and as warm as the utmost measure of affection and deepest sense of loss could make it. For the press, the pulpit, the forum, it was the occasion of eulogy, strong, full and beautiful, commensurate with a great love, a towering, fame, and irreparable loss;

[graphic][merged small][merged small]

fitting for one whose monument was a preserved Union; whose sepulchre, the hearts of his countrymen; whose epitaph, the gratitude of sixty millions of people.

What Tennyson wrote of Wellington, America may read of Grant:

“Mourn, for to us he seems the last,
Remembering all his greatness in the past.
No more in soldier fashion will he greet
With lifted hand the gazer in the streei.
() friends, our chief state-oracle is mute;
Mourn for the man of long-enduring blood,
The statesman-warrior, moderate, resolute,
Whole in himself, a common good.
Mourn for the man of amplest influence,
Yet clearest of ambitious crime,
Our greatest yet with least pretence,
Great in council and great in war,
Foremost captain of his time,
Rich in saving common sense,
And, as the greatest only are,
In his simplicity sublime.

[blocks in formation]

On God and God-like men we build our trust.
Hush, the Dead March wails in the people's ears :
The dark crowd moves, and there are sobs and tears :
The black earth yawns: the mortal disappears ;
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust ;
He is gone who seemed so great.
Gone ; but nothing can bereave him
Of the force he made his own
Being here, and we believe him
Something far advanced in State,
And that he wears a truer crown
Than any wreath that man can weave him.
Speak no more of his renown,
Lay your earthly fancies down,
And in the vast cathedral leave him,
God accept him, Christ receive him."

CHAPTER XXVIII.

IN STATE AND AT THE TOMB.

A

FTER the death of General Grant a plaster cast of his

face was taken, when the body was given into the hands of the undertaker, who embalmed it. It was then draped in the national flag and placed in repose in the parlor of the cottage in which he died, on Mt. McGregor, under a guard of comrades from one or more of the Posts of the Grand Army of the Republic, which was afterward increased by a regular army guard, who patrolled the grounds and protected the cottage till the day of the funeral.

Meanwhile the cities of the country were draped in mourning, and all the flags on buildings and ships hung at half mast. The press, at home and abroad, teemed with expressions of sorrow, with sad obituary, and exalted eulogy. The character and career of the dead patriot was the theme of universal mention and analysis, of the most eloquent prose and touching poetry. Not in all history has fame been dealt with so kindly or memory so tenderly. It was worth death to find a sentiment so unanimous, exuberant, and exquisite respecting the grandeur and solidity of a mortal character. Party, sect, section, country, levelled their lines and voiced the overwhelming regret and general praise. Let a few newspaper extracts answer as samples of all.

“He took upon himself, at the solicitation of the people, the highest civil responsibilities, and bore them with the same plain and unselfish fidelity which had distinguished him in the field.”—St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

“Let us speak of our great chieftain only as the soldier whose fame has not a spot to mar its brilliancy. If his civil career seems to invite criticism, let us bury

43

673

it out of sight and honor him as the great captain of the age; as the devoted leader who led the armies of the Union to triumph, striking the setters from the slave, showing the magnanimity of the hero in the hour of victory as he showed the courage of the hero in the day of battle, and restoring to us the American republic stronger, more honored, and more glorious than it was when handed down to us by our revolutionary sires.”— New York World.

"No one man of our history so distinctively emphasized his individuality in war and in peace, in the field and in statesmanship, as did General Grant. He had none of the ornate characteristics of Clay; none of the ostentations of Scott; none of the impetuous qualities of Sherman. What he was, he was of himself and by himself; a self-creation whose history puzzles the reckoning of the world and makes romance pale before it. The thoughtless would scan the surface of his record, from the multiplied ill-fortune of early life to the highest stepping in the round of fame, and call it accident; but accidents build no such structures of imperishable renown.”—Philadelphia Times.

“ Thus another great and memorable figure in the later history of the republicthe most memorable, perhaps, excepting only Mr. Lincoln, among all those who performed their parts in the immortal contest for the preservation of the Unionpasses away from living men and takes his place on the records of history. What encouragement for patriotism, for fidelity, for fearless desence of the great interests of mankind."- New York Sun.

“The name of General Grant will be remembered by Americans as that of the saviour of their country in a crisis more appalling than any it has passed through since the United States became a nation. His fame as a soldier will survive as long as the history of our nation is read. The last of the two greatest Americans of their generation is gone."- New York Times.

“Great men, said Burke, are the guide posts and landmarks of the state; and Grant was the guide-post of a victorious war and a landmark of a magnanimous peace. The American people themselves will judge him now, after the calm evening and the serene repose of retirement, more justly than in the stress and storm of struggle. The asperities of the angry contentions have passed; the faws have faced and the blemishes are dimmed, while the splendor of his achievements and the simple grandeur of his character have gained a brighter halo as the years have rolled by. The clouds and the smoke of battle have long since lifted; the fragments and the scenes are swallowed in the majestic drama; and to-day we see Grant elevated on his true pedestal of fame through the just perspective of history."- Philadelphia Press.

“A splendid sun has set; its light is out and its dark places have followed its bright ones below the trees and hills. It went down lingeringly, as if in pain with parting from the scenes it lighted with more of majesty in its gathering

« PreviousContinue »