Life Stories of Civil War Heroes banner

Thoughts after the Surrender
from Ulysses S. Grant's Memoirs

Hiram 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 country.

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:

General U.S. Grant
When 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.

Mc Lean House
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.


Ulysses 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.


Journal Index | Previous Page | Next Page
Back | Home

Copyright 2001 - 2009 1st Dragoon's Civil War Site. All rights reserved.

Spider Map Index