Ulysses S. Grant

Though I have been trained as a soldier, and participated in many battles, there never was a time when, in my opinion, some way could not be found to prevent the drawing of the sword.

Ulysses Simpson Grant (27 April 1822 - 23 July 1885), born Hiram Ulysses Grant, was the Commanding General of Union army during the American Civil War and 18th President of the United States.

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The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on.
  • The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on.
    • Statement to John Hill Brinton, at the start of his Tennessee River Campaign, early 1862, as quoted in Personal Memoirs of John H. Brinton, Major and Surgeon U.S.V., 1861-1865 (1914) by John Hill Brinton, p. 239
  • No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works.
    • To General S.B. Buckner, Fort Donelson (16 February 1862)
  • I have long since believed that in spite of all the vigilance that can be infused into post commanders, the special regulations of the Treasury Department have been violated, and that mostly by Jews and other unprincipled traders. So well satisfied have I been of this that I instructed the commanding officers at Columbus to refuse all permits to Jews to come South, and I have frequently had them expelled from the department, but they come in with their carpet-sacks in spite of all that can be done to prevent it. The Jews seem to be a privileged class that can travel anywhere. They will land at any woodyard on the river and make their way through the country. If not permitted to buy cotton themselves, they will act as agents for someone else, who will be at military post with a Treasury permit to receive cotton and pay for it in Treasury notes which the Jew will buy up at an agreed rate, paying gold.
    • Letter to C. P. Wolcott, Assistant Secretary of War, Washington (17 December 1862)
I propose to fight it out on this line, if it takes all summer.
  • I. The Jews, as a class, violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department, and also Department orders, are hereby expelled from the Department.
    II. Within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order by Post Commanders, they will see that all of this class of people are furnished with passes and required to leave, and any one returning after such notification, will be arrested and held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners unless furnished with permits from these Head Quarters.
    III. No permits will be given these people to visit Head Quarters for the purpose of making personal application for trade permits.
    • General Order Number 11 (17 December 1862); Abraham Lincoln on learning of this order drafted a note to his General-in-Chief of the Army, Henry Wager Halleck instructing him to rescind it. Halleck wrote to Grant:
It may be proper to give you some explanation of the revocation of your order expelling all Jews from your Dept. The President has no objection to your expelling traders & Jew pedlars, which I suppose was the object of your order, but as it in terms prescribed an entire religious class, some of whom are fighting in our ranks, the President deemed it necessary to revoke it.
  • God gave us Lincoln and Liberty, let us fight for both.
    • A toast made by Grant before his operations in the Vicksburg Campaign, (22 February 1863); as quoted in A Popular and Authentic Life of Ulysses S. Grant (1868) by Edward Deering Mansfield
  • Wherever the enemy goes let our troops go also.
    • Dispatch to General Henry W. Halleck from City Point, Virginia (1 August 1864)
  • I propose to receive the surrender of the Army of N. Va. on the following terms, to wit: Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate. One copy to be given to an officer designated by me, the other to be retained by such officer or officers as you may designate. The officers to give their individual paroles not to take up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged, and each company or regimental commander sign a like parole for the men of their commands. The arms, artillery and public property to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officer appointed by me to receive them. This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers, nor their private horses or baggage. This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside.
  • The war is over — the rebels are our countrymen again.
    • Upon stopping his men from cheering after Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House (9 April 1865)
  • Reports of my death greatly exaggerated. Returning to Washington immediately.
    • Telegram (14 April 1865); published in The Memoirs of General Ulysses S. Grant (1885)
  • I rise only to say that I do not intend to say anything. I thank you for your hearty welcomes and good cheers.
    • Grant's "perfect speech" which he used on several occasions beginning in 1865, as quoted in Grant: A Biography (1982) by William S. McFeely, p. 234
  • Let us have peace.
    • Accepting the Republican nomination for presidency (29 May 1868)
  • Laws are to govern all alike — those opposed as well as those who favor them. I know no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent execution.
  • As the United States is the freest of all nations, so, too, its people sympathize with all people struggling for liberty and self-government; but while so sympathizing it is due to our honor that we should abstain from enforcing our views upon unwilling nations and from taking an interested part, without invitation, in the quarrels between different nations or between governments and their subjects. Our course should always be in conformity with strict justice and law, international and local.
  • I believe that our Great Maker is preparing the world in His own good time to become one nation, speaking one language, when armies and navies will no longer be required.
  • You can violate the law. The banks may violate the law and be sustained in doing so. But the President of the United States cannot violate the law.
    • Reply to brokers who urged him to lend $44 million from the US Treasury reserve to banks. Harper's Weekly (11 October 1873)
  • Let no guilty man escape, if it can be avoided. No personal considerations should stand in the way of performing a public duty.
    • Endorsement of a letter relating to the Whiskey Ring (29 July 1875)
  • Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private school, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and the State forever separate.
    • Speech at Des Moines, Iowa (1875)
  • It was my fortune, or misfortune, to be called to the office of Chief Executive without any previous political training. From the age of 17 I had never even witnessed the excitement attending a Presidential campaign but twice antecedent to my own candidacy, and at but one of them was I eligible as a voter.
    Under such circumstances it is but reasonable to suppose that errors of judgment must have occurred. Even had they not, differences of opinion between the Executive, bound by an oath to the strict performance of his duties, and writers and debaters must have arisen. It is not necessarily evidence of blunder on the part of the Executive because there are these differences of views. Mistakes have been made, as all can see and I admit...
  • I leave comparisons to history, claiming only that I have acted in every instance from a conscientious desire to do what was right, constitutional, within the law, and for the very best interests of the whole people. Failures have been errors of judgment, not of intent.
    • State of the Union Address (5 December 1876) This has sometimes been paraphrased: "My failures have been errors of judgment, not of intent."
  • Labor disgraces no man; unfortunately you occasionally find men disgrace labor.
    • Speech at Midland International Arbitration Union, Birmingham, England (1877)
  • I never wanted to get out of a place as much as I did to get out of the presidency.
    • As quoted in Around the World with General Grant Vol. 2 (1879) by John Russell Young
  • They fell upon an ungenial climate, where there were nine months of winter and three months of cold weather, and that called out the best energies of the men, and of the women too, to get a mere subsistence out of the soil, with such a climate. In their efforts to do that they cultivated industry and frugality at the same time — which is the real foundation of the greatness of the Pilgrims.
    • On the Pilgrims, in a speech at a New England Society Dinner (22 December 1880)
  • There is nothing more I should do to it now, and therefore I am not likely to be more ready to go than at this moment.
    • Note about his Memoirs about a week before he died, as quoted in Famous Last Words (2001) by Alan Bisbort, p. 30
  • Water.
    • Last words, to his nurse, as reported in The New York Times (24 July 1885)
  • Although a soldier by profession, I have never felt any sort of fondness for war, and I have never advocated it, except as a means of peace.
    • Speech in London, as quoted in Memorial Life of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant (1889) Edited by y Stephen Merrill Allen, p. 95
I don't underrate the value of military knowledge, but if men make war in slavish obedience to rules, they will fail.
  • Though I have been trained as a soldier, and participated in many battles, there never was a time when, in my opinion, some way could not be found to prevent the drawing of the sword. I look forward to an epoch when a court, recognized by all nations, will settle international differences, instead of keeping large standing armies as they do in Europe.
    • As quoted in "International Arbitration" by W. H. Dellenback in The Commencement Annual, University of Michigan (30 June 1892) and in A Half Century of International Problems: A Lawyer's Views (1954) by Frederic René Coudert, p. 180
  • I don't underrate the value of military knowledge, but if men make war in slavish obedience to rules, they will fail.
    • As quoted in A History of Militarism: Romance and Realities of a Profession (1937) by Alfred Vagts, p. 27
  • I know only two tunes: one of them is 'Yankee Doodle', and the other one isn't.
    • As quoted in Our Contemporary Composers: American Music in the Twentieth Century (1941) by John Tasker Howard, Arthur Mendel, p. 244
  • The will of the people is the best law.
    • As quoted in The Lonely Quest: The Evolution of Presidential Leadership (1966) by Robert Rienow, Leona Train Rienow, p. 209

Personal Memoirs of General U. S. Grant (1885)

Full text online at Project Gutenberg
Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions.
  • The Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican war. Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions. We got our punishment in the most sanguinary and expensive war of modern times.
    • Ch. 3
  • The right of revolution is an inherent one. When people are oppressed by their government, it is a natural right they enjoy to relieve themselves of the oppression, if they are strong enough, either by withdrawal from it, or by overthrowing it and substituting a government more acceptable. But any people or part of a people who resort to this remedy, stake their lives, their property, and every claim for protection given by citizenship — on the issue. Victory, or the conditions imposed by the conqueror — must be the result.
    • Ch. 16
  • It is preposterous to suppose that the people of one generation can lay down the best and only rules of government for all who are to come after them, and under unforeseen contingencies.
    • Ch. 16
I never forgot that he had as much reason to fear my forces as I had his. The lesson was valuable.
  • As we approached the brow of the hill from which it was expected we could see Harris' camp, and possibly find his men ready formed to meet us, my heart kept getting higher and higher until it felt to me as though it was in my throat. I would have given anything then to have been back in Illinois, but I had not the moral courage to halt and consider what to do; I kept right on. When we reached a point from which the valley below was in full view I halted. The place where Harris had been encamped a few days before was still there and the marks of a recent encampment were plainly visible, but the troops were gone. My heart resumed its place. It occurred to me at once that Harris had been as much afraid of me as I had been of him. This was a view of the question I had never taken before; but it was one I never forgot afterwards. From that event to the close of the war, I never experienced trepidation upon confronting an enemy, though I always felt more or less anxiety. I never forgot that he had as much reason to fear my forces as I had his. The lesson was valuable.
    • Account of his effort as Colonel of the 21st Infantry of Illinois, to engage Confederate Colonel Thomas Harris in northern Missouri Ch. 18
  • Wars produce many stories of fiction, some of which are told until they are believed to be true.
    • Ch. 67
I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.
  • I had known General Lee in the old army, and had served with him in the Mexican War; but did not suppose, owing to the difference in our age and rank, that he would remember me, while I would more naturally remember him distinctly, because he was the chief of staff of General Scott in the Mexican War.
    When I had left camp that morning I had not expected so soon the result that was then taking place, and consequently was in rough garb. I was without a sword, as I usually was when on horseback on the field, and wore a soldier's blouse for a coat, with the shoulder straps of my rank to indicate to the army who I was. When I went into the house I found General Lee. We greeted each other, and after shaking hands took our seats. I had my staff with me, a good portion of whom were in the room during the whole of the interview.
    What General Lee's feelings were I do not know. As he was a man of much dignity, with an impassible face, it was impossible to say whether he felt inwardly glad that the end had finally come, or felt sad over the result, and was too manly to show it. Whatever his feelings, they were entirely concealed from my observation; but my own feelings, which had been quite jubilant on the receipt of his letter, were sad and depressed. I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us.
    • Ch. 67
  • Our conversation grew so pleasant that I almost forgot the object of our meeting. After the conversation had run on in this style for some time, General Lee called my attention to the object of our meeting, and said that he had asked for this interview for the purpose of getting from me the terms I proposed to give his army. I said that I meant merely that his army should lay down their arms, not to take them up again during the continuance of the war unless duly and properly exchanged. He said that he had so understood my letter.
    • Ch. 67
  • I thought this would be about the last battle of the war — I sincerely hoped so; and I said further I took it that most of the men in the ranks were small farmers. The whole country had been so raided by the two armies that it was doubtful whether they would be able to put in a crop to carry themselves and their families through the next winter without the aid of the horses they were then riding. The United States did not want them and I would, therefore, instruct the officers I left behind to receive the paroles of his troops to let every man of the Confederate army who claimed to own a horse or mule take the animal to his home. Lee remarked again that this would have a happy effect.
    • Ch. 67
  • The cause of the great War of the Rebellion against the United Status will have to be attributed to slavery. For some years before the war began it was a trite saying among some politicians that "A state half slave and half free cannot exist." All must become slave or all free, or the state will go down. I took no part myself in any such view of the case at the time, but since the war is over, reviewing the whole question, I have come to the conclusion that the saying is quite true.
    • Conclusion
  • It is probably well that we had the war when we did. We are better off now than we would have been without it, and have made more rapid progress than we otherwise should have made... But this war was a fearful lesson, and should teach us the necessity of avoiding wars in the future.
    • Conclusion
  • Prior to the rebellion the great mass of the people were satisfied to remain near the scenes of their birth. In fact an immense majority of the whole people did not feel secure against coming to want should they move among entire strangers. So much was the country divided into small communities that localized idioms had grown up, so that you could almost tell what section a person was from by hearing him speak... This is all changed now. The war begot a spirit of independence and enterprise. The feeling now is, that a youth must cut loose from his old surroundings to enable him to get up in the world. There is now such a commingling of the people that particular idioms and pronunciation are no longer localized to any great extent; the country has filled up "from the centre all around to the sea"; railroads connect the two oceans and all parts of the interior; maps, nearly perfect, of every part of the country are now furnished the student of geography.
    The war has made us a nation of great power and intelligence. We have but little to do to preserve peace, happiness and prosperity at home, and the respect of other nations. Our experience ought to teach us the necessity of the first; our power secures the latter.
  • 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."
    The expression of these kindly feelings were not restricted to a section of the country, nor to a division of the people. They came from individual citizens of all nationalities; from all denominations — the Protestant, the Catholic, and the Jew; and from the various societies of the land — scientific, educational, religious or otherwise. Politics did not enter into the matter at all.
    I am not egotist enough to suppose all this significance should be given because I was the object of it. But the war between the States was a very bloody and a very costly war. One side or the other had to yield principles they deemed dearer than life before it could be brought to an end. I commanded the whole of the mighty host engaged on the victorious side. I was, no matter whether deservedly so or not, a representative of that side of the controversy. It is a significant and gratifying fact that Confederates should have joined heartily in this spontaneous move. I hope the good feeling inaugurated may continue to the end.
    • Conclusion

Quotes about Grant

  • In four years he had risen, without political favor, from the bottom to the very highest command, — not second to any living commander in all the world! His plans were large, his undiscouraged will was patient to obduracy... In all this career he never lost courage or equanimity. With a million men, for whose movements he was responsible, he yet carried a tranquil mind, neither depressed by disasters nor elated by success. Gentle of heart, familiar with all, never boasting, always modest, Grant came of the old, self-contained sock, men of a sublime force of being, which allied his genius to the great elemental forces of nature, — silent, invisible, irresistible. When his work was done, and the defeat of Confederate armies was final, this dreadful man of blood was tender toward his late adversaries as a woman toward her son. He imposed no humiliating conditions, spared the feelings of his antagonists, sent home the disbanded Southern men with food and with horses for working their crops.
    • Henry Ward Beecher, in "Eulogy on Grant" in Patriotic Addresses in America and England (1887)
  • If he neglected the rules of war, as at Vicksburg, it was to make better rules for those who were strong enough to employ them. Counselors gave him materials. He formed his own plans. Abhorring show, simple in manner, gentle in his intercourse, modest and even diffident in regard to his own personality, he seems to have been the only man in camp who was ignorant of his own greatness.
    • Henry Ward Beecher in "Eulogy on Grant" in Patriotic Addresses in America and England (1887)
  • A man he was without vices, with an absolute hatred for lies, and an ineradicable love of truth, of a perfect loyalty to friendship, neither envious of others nor selfish for himself. With a zeal for the public good unfeigned, he has left to memory only such weaknesses as connect him with humanity, and such virtues as will rank him among heroes. The tidings of his death, long expected, gave a shock to the whole world. Governments, rulers, eminent statesmen, and scholars from all civilized nations gave sincere tokens of sympathy. For the hour, sympathy rolled as a wave over all our own land. It closed the last furrow of war, it extinguished the last prejudice, it effaced the last vestige of hatred, and cursed be the hand that shall bring them back! Johnston and Buckner on one side, Sherman and Sheridan upon the other of his bier, he has come to his tomb a silent symbol that liberty had conquered slavery, patriotism rebellion, and peace war. He rests in peace.
    • Henry Ward Beecher in "Eulogy on Grant" in Patriotic Addresses in America and England (1887)
  • If Grant only does this thing right down there — I don't care how, so long as he does it right — why, Grant is my man and I am his the rest of the war!
    • Abraham Lincoln on Grant's Vicksburg campaign (5 July 1863). When he said this, Lincoln had not yet received news of the surrender of Vicksburg the day before. As quoted in Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph Over Advcersity, 1822-1865 (2000) by Brooks D. Simpson, p. 215
  • I wish some of you would tell me the brand of whiskey that Grant drinks. I would like to send a barrel of it to my other generals.
    • Statement attributed to Abraham Lincoln in response to complaints about Grant's drinking habits (November 1863); as quoted in Wit and Wisdom of the American Presidents: A Book of Quotations (2000) by Joslyn T. Pine, p. 26
  • "He habitually wears an expression as if he had determined to drive his head through a brick wall, and was about to do it."
    • Col. Theodore Lyman. in Meade's headquarters, 1863-1865; letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman from the Wilderness to Appomattox. Selected and edited by George R. Agassiz. Freeport, N.Y., Books for Libraries Press, 1970.

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Last modified on 28 August 2008, at 22:40