after the Surrender
from Ulysses S.
Ulysses Grant adopted the name for which he became famous
after having been incorrectly listed at West Point as
Ulysses S. Grant. The son of an Ohio tanner, Grant came
from humble beginnings and found little success in
civilian life. But during the Civil War he demonstrated
talent as a military strategist, and because of his
wartime contributions won the election as the 18th
President of the United States of America. However, in
the later years of his life, despite having achieved
greatness and fame during his years of service to his
country, due to financial misfortunes Grant returned to
humbling circumstances. As a man who prized his wife and
children above all else in life, when Grant began
suffering from throat cancer, in anticipation of his
death he was determined to secure his family's future.
Thus he wrote his Personal Memoirs which were
published before he died on July 23, 1885. Grant's last
wish had been permitted, for his family was sustained on
royalties from the two-volume set of books. Considered
one of the classics of military literature, Grant's Memoirs
represent his final and most lasting contribution to his
The following is an excerpt from The Personal Memoirs
of Ulysses S. Grant, expressing his thoughts after
General Robert E. Lee's surrender of the Confederate Army
at Appomattox in April 1865:
news of the surrender first reached our lines our men
commenced firing a salute of a hundred guns in honor of
the victory. I at once sent word, however, to have it
stopped. The Confederates were now our prisoners, and we
did not want to exult over their downfall.
I determined to return to Washington at once, with a view
to putting a stop to the purchase of supplies, and what I
now deemed other useless outlay of money. Before leaving,
however, I thought I would like to see General Lee again;
so next morning I rode out beyond our lines towards his
headquarters, preceded by a bugler and a staff-officer
carrying a white flag.
Lee soon mounted his horse, seeing who it was, and met
me. We had there between the lines, sitting on horseback,
a very pleasant conversation of over half an hour, in the
course of which Lee said to me that the South was a big
country and that we might have to march over it three or
four times before the war entirely ended, but that we
would now be able to do it as they could no longer resist
us. He expressed it as his earnest hope, however, that we
would not be called upon to cause more loss and sacrifice
of life; but he could not foretell the result. I then
suggested to General Lee that there was not a man in the
Confederacy whose influence with the soldiery and the
whole people was as great as his, and that if he would
now advise the surrender of all the armies I had no doubt
his advice would be followed with alacrity. But Lee said,
that he could not do that without consulting the
President first. I knew there was no use to urge him to
do anything against his ideas of what was right.
I was accompanied by my staff and other officers, some of
whom seemed to have a great desire to go inside the
Confederate lines. They finally asked permission of Lee
to do so for the purpose of seeing some of their old army
friends, and the permission was granted. They went over,
had a very pleasant time with their old friends, and
brought some of them back with them when they returned.
When Lee and I separated he
went back to his lines and I returned to the house of Mr.
McLean. Here the officers of both armies came in great
numbers, and seemed to enjoy the meeting as much as
though they had been friends separated for a long time
while fighting battles under the same flag. For the time
being it looked very much as if all thought of the war
had escaped their minds. After an hour pleasantly passed
in this way I set out on horseback, accompanied by my
staff and a small escort, for Burkesville Junction, up to
which point the railroad had by this time been repaired.
S. Grant, The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant (New
York: Konecky & Konecky, 1992), pp. 633-634.
Above left: Photo of U.S. Grant after the Battle of Cold
Harbor, 1864, care of Leib Image Archives. Above right:
Photo of the McLean House by CNO. In 1954, Appomattox
Court House officially became a National Historic Park.
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