In 2007, while teaching an undergraduate History 101 - American History to 1877 - course, I was disturbed when I found in the mandated American Pageant textbook - the use of Henry Adams' now famous, disparaging quote on Grant on page 502 in an inset box at the top of the chapter entitled, "Political Paralysis in the Gilded Age 1869–1896." It proclaims:
"Grant..had no right to exist. He should have been extinct for ages....That, two thousand years after Alexander the Great and Julius Caeser, a man like Grant should be called-and should actually and truly be-the highest product of the most advanced evolution, made evolution ludicrous...The progress of evolution, from President Washington to President Grant, was alone evidence enough to upset Darwin...Grant..should have lived in a cave and worn skins." Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams, 1907.
Bailey, Thomas A., David M. Kennedy, and Lizabeth Cohen, The American Pageant: A History of the Republic, vol. 1, 13th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.
A fuller understanding of what Henry Adams thought and ascribed to Grant (and himself) can only be grasped from a full reading of pages 260-268 in his "Education." Historians here could also cherry pick, to their cynical delight, any number of judgments by Adam's - here are mine:
"...At least four-fifths of the American people — Adams among the rest — had united in the election of General Grant to the Presidency, and probably had been more or less affected in their choice by the parallel they felt between Grant and Washington. Nothing could be more obvious. Grant represented order. He was a great soldier, and the soldier always represented order. He might be as partisan as he pleased, but a general who had organized and commanded half a million or a million men in the field, must know how to administer. Even Washington, who was, in education and experience, a mere cave-dweller, had known how to organize a government,...Grant's nominations had the singular effect of making the hearer ashamed, not so much of Grant, as of himself. He had made another total misconception of life — another inconceivable false start. Yet, unlikely as it seemed, he had missed his motive narrowly, and his intention had been more than sound, for the Senators made no secret of saying with senatorial frankness that Grant's nominations betrayed his intent as plainly as they betrayed his incompetence. A great soldier might be a baby politican....Grant had cutshort the life which Adams had laid out for himself in the future....The new Cabinet, as individuals, were not hostile. Subsequently Grant made changes in the list which were mostly welcome to a Bostonian — or should have been — although fatal to Adams...Grant appeared as an intermittent energy, immensely powerful when awake, but passive and plastic in repose...In time one came to recognize the type in other men, with differences and variations, as normal; men whose energies were the greater, the less they wasted on thought; men who sprang from the soil to power; apt to be distrustful of themselves and of others; shy; jealous; sometimes vindictive; more or less dull in outward appearance; always needing stimulants, but for whom action was the highest stimulant — the instinct of fight. Such men were forces of nature, energies of the prime, like the Pteraspis, but they made short work of scholars. They had commanded thousands of such and saw no more in them than in others. The fact was certain; it crushed argument and intellect at once. Adams did not feel Grant as a hostile force;...he saw only an uncertain one...Robert E. Lee betrayed the same intellectual commonplace, in a Virginian form, not to the same degree, but quite distinctly enough for one who knew the American. What worried Adams was not the commonplace; it was, as usual, his own education.
Grant fretted and irritated him, like the Terebratula, as a defiance of first principles. He had no right to exist. He should have been extinct for ages. The idea that, as society grew older, it grew one-sided, upset evolution, and made of education a fraud. That, two thousand years after Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, a man like Grant should be called — and should actually and truly be — the highest product of the most advanced evolution, made evolution ludicrous. One must be as commonplace as Grant's own commonplaces to maintain such an absurdity. The progress of evolution from President Washington to President Grant, was alone evidence enough to upset Darwin.
Education became more perplexing at every phase. No theory was worth the pen that wrote it. America had no use for Adams because he was eighteenth-century, and yet it worshipped Grant because he was archaic and should have lived in a cave and worn skins. Darwinists ought to conclude that America was reverting to the stone age, but the theory of reversion was more absurd than that of evolution. Grant's administration reverted to nothing. One could not catch a trait of the past, still less of the future. It was not even sensibly American. Not an official in it, except perhaps Rawlins whom Adams never met, and who died in September, suggested an American idea. Yet this administration, which upset Adams's whole life, was not unfriendly; it was made up largely of friends.
The difficulty was not the want of friends, and had the whole government been filled with them, it would have helped little without the President and the Treasury. Grant avowed from the start a policy of drift; and a policy of drift attaches only barnacles. At thirty, one has no interest in becoming a barnacle, but even in that character Henry Adams would have been ill-seen. His friends were reformers, critics, doubtful in party allegiance, and he was himself an object of suspicion. Grant had no objects, wanted no help, wished for no champions. The Executive asked only to be let alone. This was his meaning when he said: "Let us have peace!"
No one wanted to go into opposition. As for Adams, all his hopes of success in life turned on his finding an administration to support. He knew well enough the rules of self-interest. He was for sale. He wanted to be bought. His price was excessively cheap, for he did not even ask an office, and had his eye, not on the Government, but on New York. All he wanted was something to support; something that would let itself be supported. Luck went dead against him. For once, he was fifty years in advance of his time."
Although historian Paul C Nagel once counseled that it "was hazardous to accept [Henry Adam's] The Education at face value...", and reminded ""..that Henry was in a mischievous mood.." when he wrote it, nevertheless, this is just what the elitist historians at HM, and scores of others, have done. "Google" the quote above to find it's widespread presence and acceptance ~ 446 hits. The Straight Dope Message Board page says, for example, "Henry Adams summed up Ulysses S. Grant pretty nicely..."
Unbeknownst to me until very recently but, thankfully, Grant's foremost historian, Brooks D. Simpson, had long ago, in 1989, singularly rebutted and contextualized Henry Adam's character assassination in a highly detailed fashion, yet to no avail, it would appear, with the historians working for Houghton Mifflin.
Henry Adams and the Age of Grant, By BROOKS D. SIMPSON, Hayes Historical Journal 8 (Spring 1989), pp. 5-23
"...Henry Adams's vitriolic portrait of Ulysses S. Grant's first years in the White House has contributed greatly to the popular historical stereotype of the general-president, giving rise to yet another interpretation of Grant's malleable first two initials: "uniquely stupid." Most historians quote from the Education's account of this period of national politics with glee, charmed by Adams's wit and condescending attitude....Grant's administration had before it "the brilliant opportunity . . . not perhaps to change the ultimate results, but to delay some decades yet the demonstration of failure." According to Adams, the final judgement of Grant rested, not upon the success or failure of his policies on Reconstruction, fiscal and monetary matters, or international relations, but on whether he could stem the decay of constitutional authority by reasserting the independence of the executive branch. That Andrew Johnson had followed this exact path to disaster was silently passed over...On the other hand, Adams's solution - that Grant reassert the principle of separation of powers and defy Congress - was woefully inadequate, unrealistic, and probably counterproductive. To do so would have been to follow in the footsteps of John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Johnson - and fail. Adams was out of touch with his own time...Thus, when Adams spoke of corruption, he was referring not to the scandals and theft that plagued the Grant administration and Congress in the 1870s. Indeed, the exposure of these scandals lay in the future, long after Adams left Washington in the summer of 1870 to take a job teaching history at Harvard and serve as editor of the North American Review. Rather, when Adams used the term corruption he was employing it as his forefathers had, to describe the collapse of republican principles as embodied in the Constitution. No Adams had ever embraced the practice of American politics as it had evolved over the decades, with self-interest replacing virtue and patronage, not common goals, cementing alliances between the executive and legislative branches."
See also: The Political Education of Henry Adams
Brooks D. Simpson - 1996 (review below)
So, I simplify the above, in my understanding, to infer that, apparently, because Henry Adams did not get "his man" appointed to Grant's Cabinet, which would have enabled him to play the influential role he desired for himself.
Back in 2007, I wrote the Boston based Company in the land of the Adams family, expressing my view that the quote represents all that is wrong in an "alleged" historian such as Adams or as objective historians that the HM trio, charged with writing a national textbook, seemingly claim to be. I reasoned (but knowing I would not receive a reply), as follows:
"First, let's take the "no right to exist statement." How strange for a textbook purporting to deepen understanding and enlighten us to the past on American history to use such a demagogic comment.*
Imagine if a verbatim extract from the FBI's secret recordings of Martin Luther King ..were used to sum up his "life!" Or Kennedy's or Clinton's subpoenaed testimony?....what are the odds today or anyday that defamatory lines would appear at the top of a textbook chapter perhaps variously entitled "I Have a Dream," "The Camelot Years," or "Behind The Resolute Desk?"
* [RG- I should have used"arrogant and sarcastic" to align with Mr Simpson"]
If not strange, than let's ask ourselves if the use of the Adam's quote was somehow predictable, considering the author's education and background.
In 1939, noted historian and journalist Lloyd Lewis - could very well have been speaking about these HM textbook historians - in a speech to the Kansas State Historical Society on the subject of one of its forgotten state founders and first senator, James H. Lane he related:
"Where a man stands in history depends upon who keeps the record; more than that, it depends upon who lives to keep the record. If you are a favorite of the literary men, the history professors, the clergy, you have a head start toward a place in history. So much of the importance of New England in history is due to its early corner on the literary men, the book publishers, the college professors. We are not yet free, as a nation, from the historical prejudices of the New Englanders. For the sake of objectivity there are still too many midland biographers and historians and professors blandly adopting the historical viewpoints of New England -- a natural thing, perhaps, for men whose dream it is to be called some day to a full professorship at Harvard. New England never liked Kansas' most influential citizen of the 1850's and 1860's. That is one of the reasons -- there are others -- why the schoolbooks of America either have no mention at all of Jim Lane, or merely dismiss him with a few sneering phrases. James H. Lane was a Westerner, an Ohio river man; he chewed tobacco when he could borrow it; he was divorced; he didn't pay his debts; he took the name of his Lord God in vain -- and in stride, he made no efforts to halt the fabulous tales of what his contemporaries described as his "worship at the shrine of Venus," and he only laughed when he was branded as the father of political corruption west of the Mississippi river. Such a man was not to be understood by the elegant authors of New England -- the Brahmins who in that day decreed what was good taste in literature." pp. 85-86.
"The Man the Historians Forgot by Lloyd Lewis, Kansas State Historical Society, February, 1939 (Vol. 8, No. 1), pp. 85-103
For a contemporary view on historians and "The Problem of Grant," read the same-titled introduction in Josiah Bunting's Ulysses S. Grant: The American Presidents Series: The 18th President, 1869-1877, 2004...
"...a profound puzzle to his generation...He has been an enigma not only to Grant biographers but also to generations of historical generalists and scholars, their difficulty in assessment betrayed by their inability to write about him with anything approaching the objectivity and disinterestedness he both prized and represented. Of no president are biases in judgment less well disguised than in those that inform opinions about Ulysses Grant. There is much acidulous curling of the lip in depictions and opinions and judgments about him, an irremediable condescension stamped, it sometimes seems, on every page...Ulysses Grant has not been the kind of historical personage whom people who write history are likely to view with unprejudiced eyes. And there is another family of Grant anecdotes, received information, which present him as permanently in rebellion against, precisely, those things that historians (intellectuals, educated in the humane letters, reluctant to praise military men other than George C. Marshall or Colin Powell) believe or want to believe; after all, is not history written in order to equip rising generations with the knowledge, the "diagnostic ability," that will serve to immunize them against making the mistakes earlier generations have made? Invariably they take Grant to be anti-intellectual; pre-intellectual, Henry Adams would say -- the same Henry Adams who wrote that to evolve from Alexander the Great to George Washington to Ulysses S. Grant was to disprove Darwin. They have tended to come at him with that bias...Grant is remembered: as a general, not a president, and it explains in part the condescension -- there is no better word for it -- with which pundits and historians have tended to write of him. There may be strength in his soul, but no fineness in it, no grace; little culture, small learning (none of it used to advantage in the regular uses of political intercourse), meager evidence of the capacity to learn and to reflect; no felt obligation to explain himself; no evidence of self-doubt. Generations of Grant scholars, too, have brought to their consideration of his presidency -- of his whole career -- the absorbing interests of their own times...The silent serenity in which Ulysses Grant seemed to move through life, whether the consequence of granitic self-command or physical disposition or long training in hard schools of disappointment, disregard, even failure, puzzled and fascinated his friends. It has guaranteed his friends and adversaries, contemporaries or members of generations a century later, would fill up the voids with their own amputations of what led and moved him to action..." pp. 2-6
That aside, although by no means unrelated, as my post's title indicates, my interest involves Henry's older brother Charles' (1835-1915) view of Grant.
In reading his witty and forthright, Autobiography, published posthumously in1916, I noted these short but contentious statements and scrutinized their meaning and intent:
" Grant's awful Wilderness campaign" p.155
"He did not give the idea of calm, reserved force. Grant did; but Grant was a man of coarse fibre, and did not Impress with a sense of character."p. 157
"Awful" as in carnage - Indeed, yes...or did he infer here something in terms of skill as a commander?
"not Impress with a sense of character" - did he not have "character" or only not project this
Was that all CF Adams had to say about Grant....I wondered. Fortunately, virtually all of his writings are easily available either at archive.org or google, in order to trace any development of his thoughts on Grant but only as a General that I could find. So, I was not disappointed.
First, I will provide selected extracts from a compilation of Adam's family letters from 1863-1865, found in the multi-volume compilation published in 1920...and then excerpts from several of his related post-war writings.
Whatever happened in CF Adam's mind as he recalled in Grant in his Autobiography, it is clear he was a quick-study and highly intelligent and discerning young officer. Indeed he was gifted, with an overall comprehension and uncanny ability to factor in the political, strategic, operational and tactical factors at large sometimes predicting wrongly, but, nevertheless, and more impressively, he possessed an amazing, perhaps unrivaled, extemporaneous ability to cogently and concisely express - on the go as it were - as evidenced by his letters....judge for yourself. What he has to say about Grant personally - can also be judged on its own merits. But I will proffer here what I determined from the analytical, comparative, and empathetic insights Adam's provides - in short nearly everything he privately relates about Grant - WHEN QUOTED IN FULL CONTEXT - reveals his acknowledgment of Grant's comparatively high strategic acumen, his command and order writing abilities, his singleness of purpose, and relentless vigor and his unpretentious, unassuming, indefatigable and noble military and personal CHARACTER over his predecessors. I was surprised to find this overwhelmingly positive testimony in Adam's letters during the war, but also afterwards in his published documents for 40 years or more afterwards...(That Charles and Henry Adams disagreed on many issues is often highlighted.) Therefore in my analysis, a political grudge seems to have gotten the better of Charles Francis Adam's judgment, as concerns his later abrupt and meager rendering of Grant in his Autobiography, and thus, his last "verdict on Grant" should be viewed from that perspective.
I have edited headers - abbreviating from and to, and keeping locations, date for chronology - and text typos (numerous from the conversion from pdf to text) to simplify and make as readable as possible these selected letters.
ex. Charles Francis Adams, Jr.,= CFA
A CYCLE OF ADAMS LETTERS, 1861-1865, Vol 2, 1920
Ford, Worthington Chauncey, 1858-1941, ed; Adams, Charles Francis, 1807-1886; Adams, Charles Francis, 1835-1915; Adams, Henry, 1838-1918
CFA to his Father
Christmas evenning 1863
...As to Meade, be assured he has the confidence of this army. He is a brave, reliable,conscientious soldier and under him we need fear noheavy disaster, and may hope for all reasonable success. He is not Grant or Rosecrans, but he is ten times Hooker and twice McClellan. He is an able and formidable General of the Fabian school, more of the Marshal Daun than the Frederick the Great. My great wish is for no more changes.....110-111
CFA to his Father
Inspector Generals Department
Washington, April 8, 1864
...I find unexampled military confidence prevailing inWashington, under an impression that Grant means to be, in fact as well as name, the head of the Army . Dike much the deliberation and amazing secrecy of his contemplated movements, so far as I can get glimpses of them...123
CFA to his Father
H.Q. Cav'y Escort, A. of P.
May 1, 1864
It [your letter] finds me contrary to my expectation still at Brandy Station, although expecting to move almost daily. In fact we do not pretend to see morethan twenty-four hours ahead, though my mind is not quite clear whether our advanced state of preparationfor a move is owing to Grant's being nearly ready to assume the offensive, or to precaution on his partagainst an offensive move of Lee's. I should think that he could hardly as yet be ready, and that every day we delay would probably be of the greatest advantage to him. 127
The feeling about Grant is peculiar — a little jealousy, a little dislike, a little envy, a little want of confidence — all in many mindsand now latent; but it is ready to crystallize at any moment and only brilliant success will dissipate the elements. All, however, are willing to give him a full chance and his own time for it. If he succeeds, the war is over. For I do assure you that in the hands of a General who gave them success, there is no force on earth which could resist this Army. If Lee is beaten, the rebels are "gone up." 128
CFA to his Father
H,Q. Army of Potomac
Hanover Town, Va., April [May] 29, 1864
The campaign to us here gradually unfolds itself. Grant and Meade discuss and decide, but keep their own counsel and no one knows whether tomorrow the Army is to fight, to march, or to rest. Meanwhile marching now seems to be the order of the day, and since day before yesterday Head Quarters have moved thirty odd miles, turning all the exterior lines of Richmond and bringing us down to the interior line of the Chickahominy. Here we rest for today. Up to this time Greneral Grant seems to have looked on this campaign in Virginia as one necessarily to be made up of the hardest kind of fighting, combined with all the generalship which he could command, and, as we were numerically the strongest, we might as well do the fighting first as last, pounding and manoeuvring at the same time. If this was his idea, I think the wisdom of it is becoming apparent. I cannot believe that his operations have been or now are conducted on any fixed plan. He seems to have one end in view — the capture of Richmond and the destruction of Lee's army; but I imagine his means to that end undergo daily changes and no man in this Army, but Meade perhaps, is even able to give groimds for a guess as to whether we are to approach Richmond from this side or from the other.
Meanwhile, though Grant expected hard fighting, I have no idea that he expected anything like the fighting and the slaughter which took place in the Wilderness and at Spottsylvania. He had never seen anything like it in the West, and the fierce, stubborn resistance we met far surpassed his expectation. Meade knew better what he had to expect and in fighting for him those battles were, I imagine, of incalculable assistance to Grant. Today, as near as I can see, results stand as follows : these two great armies have pounded each other nearly to pieces for many days; neither has achieved any real success over the other on the field of battle. Our loss has probably been greater than theirs, for ours has been the offensive; but we have a decided balance of prisoners and captured artillery in our favor.
The enemy, I think, outfight us, but we outnumber them, and, finally, within the last three days one witnesses in this Army as it moves along all the results of a victory, when in fact it has done only barren fighting. For it has done the one thing needful before the enemy— it has advanced. The result is wonderful. Hammered and pounded as this Army has been; worked, marched, fought and reduced as it is, it is in better spirits and better fighting trim today than it was in the first day's fight in the Wilderness. Strange as it seems to me, it is, I believe, yet the fact, that this Army is now just on its second wind, and is more formidable than it ever was before. This I see on every march and I attribute it to movement in advance after heavy, though barren, fighting...130-131
With the enemy it is otherwise. Heavier fighting, harder marching, and greater privations — for with them defiGien(7 in numbers was only to be made good by redoubled activity — two men with them have donethe work of three with us — all these have led only to movements to the rear, to the abandonment of lineafter line until now they find themselves with their backs against Richmond. Naturally this discourages troops particularly coming after as hard fighting as they know how to do, and as a result we now get, as.
I am informed, from all sources but one story, and that of discouragement and exhaustion. The enemy is getting off his fight. What is to come next? Will Lee try to revive the spirits of his men and the fortunes of his Army by taking the offensive? Will he try to repeat the story of the Chickahominy and the six days' fighting? What does Grant mean next to do? I have always noticed that when I try to divine the future of military operations I am invariably wrong, and so I long ago gave up trying. Of a few things though I feel pretty sure. Stonewall Jackson is dead. Grant is not McClellan, nor is Meade McDowell. Grant will not let his Army be idle, nor will he allow the initiative to be easily taken out of his hands, and if he can outfight Meade, he will do more than he was ever able to do yet when his troops were more numerous, in better heart and much fresher than they now are. Accordingly we find ourselves approaching the climax of the campaign, under circumstances which certainly seem to me hopeful. The next few days will probably develop Grant's final move, the line on which he means to approach. 132
Richmond and the point at which he means, unless Lee out-generals him to have the final fight. I don't believe he will allow time to slip away or Lee to repair damages. I do believe that while the Army is resting
today, it is drawing breath for the great struggle and on the eve of great movements and decisive results.
Things meanwhile work in the Army charmingly.
Grant is certainly a very extraordinary man. He does not look it and might pass well enough for a dumpy
and slouchy little subaltern, very fond of smoking.
Neither do I know that he shews it in his conversation, for he never spoke to me and doesn't seem to be a
very talkative man anyhow. They say his mouth shows character. It may, but it is so covered with beard that no one can vouch for it. The truth is, he is in appearance a very ordinary looking man, one who would attract attention neither in the one way or the other. Not knowing who it is, you would not pronounce him insignificant, and knowing who it is, it would require some study to find in his appearance material for hero worship, though there is about his face no indication of weakness or lack of force. He has not nearly so strong a head and face as Humphreys', for instance, who at once strikes you as a man of force.
Li figure Grant is comical. He sits a horse well, but in walking he leans forward and toddles. Such being his appearance, however, I do not think that any intelligent person could watch him, even from such a distance as mine, without concluding that he is a remarkable man. He handles those around him so quietly and well, he so evidently has the faculty of disposing of...133
work and managing men, he is cool and quiet, almost stolid and as if stupid, in danger, and in a crisis he is one against whom all around, whether few in number or a great armada here, would instinctively lean. He is a man of the most exquisite judgment and tact. See how he has handled this Army. He took command under the most unfavorable circumstances — jealousy between East and West; the Army of the Potomac and the army of the Southwest; that general feeling that the officers from the West were going to swagger over those here and finally that universal envy which success creates and which is always ready to carp at it. The moment I came to Head Quarters I saw that, though nothing was said, yet the material were all ready for an explosion at the first mistake Grant made. All this has passed away and now Grant has this army as firmly as ever he had that of the Southwest. He has effected this simply by the exercise of tact and good taste. He has humored us, he has given some promotions, he has made no parade of his authority, he has given no orders except through Meade, and Meade he treats with the utmost confidence and deference. The result is that even from the most jealously disposed and most indiscreet of Meade's staff, not a word is heard against Grant. The result is of inestimable importance. The army has a head and confidence in that head. It has leaders and there is no discord among those leaders. We seem to have gotten rid of jealousy and all now seem disposed to go in with a will to win. At last we have gotten out of the Wilderness. That interminable outline of pines of all sizes which it...134
seemed never would end has given way to a clearer and more cultivated country, and now we come across the old Virginia plantation houses and can now and then see a regular clearing. The Wilderness was a most fearfully discouraging place — an enemy always in front, against whom the fiercest attack we could make made no impression; incessant fighting day after day; no progress forward, and the hospitals cleared out only
to be filled again, while the country was becoming peopled with graves. There the Army got very much discouraged and took blue views of life. The stragglng became terrible and you saw men the whole time and officers sometimes living in the woods or wandering round the country. At that time I take it Lee had accomplished his object and the Army of the Potomac was crippled. It could not effectively have advanced.
At that time, however, it experienced the great advantage of Grant's presence and power, for he at once re-enforced it by every available man round Washington, thus at once restoring its efficiency, while but for his power and name the Administration would, as heretofore, doubtless have defended Washington at the cost of all the fruits of this Army's fighting. Thus Lee found himself again opposed by a fresh army and every new man who came up from the rear served to revive the spirits of those who had been here before. Now the Army is in capital condition and I feel once more sanguine; but the telegraphs of the steamer which brings this will tell the whole story.135
CFA to his Father
H .Q. Army of Potomac
Cold Harbor, Va., June 4, 1864
Since my last of a week ago I have heard nothing and received nothing from you. Your letters evidently go astray, but where to does not yet appear. Mine was written from near Hanover Town; since then Head Quarters have twice moved, and we now find ourselves the same distance from Richmond, but more to the left and near the scene of McClellan's disaster at Gaines's Mills. We are again edging along a system of earthworks to the left, the two armies moving by the flank in parallel lines of battle. This whole country round here presents a most extraordinary spectacle in the matter of entrenchments. You doubtless hear a...137 great deal about rifle pits. These scar the whole country all along the road of these two armies. You see them confronting each other in long lines on every defensible position and you never seem to get through them. A rifle pit, in fact is in the perfection to which they are now carried in these armies, nothing more nor less than most formidable fortifications, alive with infantry and bristling with artillery. The instant our infantry, for instance, get into position, they go to work with axes and spades and in a very short time there springs up in front of them a wooden barricade, made out of fence rails, felled trees or any material in reach of men who know what danger is and feel it near them; and in rear and front of this a trench is dug, the dirt from the rear being thrown over to the front, so as to bank it up and make it impenetrable to musketry and, except at the top, to artillery. This cover is anywhere from four to six feet high, is often very neatly made, and is regularly bastioned out, as it were, for artillery. As fast as a position is won, it is fortified in this way. For defence the same thing is done. The other day I rode down to the front and passed four lines of these entrenchments, all deserted and useless, before I came to the fifth, where the line of battle then was, which had just been taken from the enemy, and which they were already confronting by a new one. Li this country, however, even these pits in the hands of an enemy are rarely seen. This is, as a country, the meanest of the mean — sandy and full of pine barrens, exhausted by man and not attractive by nature, it is sparsely peopled, broken, badly watered, heavily...138
wooded with wretched timber, and wholly uninteresting. In it you can see no enemy, for he is covered by a continual forest. He may be in front in any force, or in almost any kind of works or position, but you cannot see him. There is and can be almost no open fighting here, the party acting on the defensive having always the enormous advantage of cover, which he is not likely to forego.
We crossed the Pamunkey a week ago today and the Army has since been living and fighting in this wretched region. The weather has been very hot and dry, and the dust has accordingly been intense. The men have suffered much in marching and the incessant fatigue and anxiety of the campaign, combined with the unhealthy food, must soon begin to tell on the health of the Army. Meanwhile the fighting has been incessant, the question simply being one of severity. Yesterday we made a general attack and suffered a severe repulse. Today little seems to be going on.
The Army all this time seems to be improving in morale. I do not see at any rate so much straggling as I did at Spottsylvania. To be sure the stock of the country seems to suffer badly, and I see more dead pelts than I do live sheep, more feathers by the roads than fowls in the yards; but I no longer see the throngs of stragglers which then used to frighten me. The country however is terribly devastated. This Army is, I presume, no worse than others, but it certainly leaves no friends behind it. I fear that the inhabitants are stripped of everything except that which can neither be stolen or destroyed. This is the work of the stragglers...139
the shirks and the cowards, the bullies and ruffians of the Army.
As I now move with Head Quarters all my marching is very different from any I ever did before. Grant and
Meade usually ride together, and as they ride too fast for me, I send a party to keep along with them and then come up at my leisure. So they push ahead surrounded by a swarm of orderlies and in a cloud of dust, pushing through colunms and trains, and I follow as fast as I can. In this way .1 am forced to see all there is to see of this Army, laboring by long trains of wagons and artillery and interminable columns of infantry, now
winding along through the woods by the roadside and now taking to the fields; waiting half an hour for a suf-
ficient break in a column to enable one to cross the road, and at all times wondering over the perfect flood
of humanity which flows by me by the hour in the form of a great Army. It is very wearing and tiresome, this
always moving in a procession. One gets hot and peevish. Human patience cannot endure such wear and
tear. One is greatly impressed at these times with the ''pride, pomp and circumstance of glorious war.' There is abundance of material to be seen, men and muskets, horses and artillery; but for ''pride and pomp,'' that is lacking enough! The men look dirty and tired; they toil along in loose, swaying columns and are chiefly remarkable for a most wonderful collection of old felt hats in every stage of dilapidation. Their clothes are torn, dusty and shabby; few carry knapsacks and most confine their luggage to a shelter-tent and blanket which is tied in a coil over one shoulder...140
There is in the sight of such a column marching much that is picturesque and striking; but such features
do not at first appear and never in the shape in which one imagines them. Grant and Meade usually start about seven o'clock and get into camp at about two. They stop at houses on the road and wait for reports or to consult. I pass much of my time noticing Grant during these halts. For the last few days he has evidently been thinking very hard. I never noticed this before. Formerly healways had a disengaged expression in his face; lately he has had an intent, abstracted look, and as he and Meade sit round on our march I see Grant stroking his beard, puffng at his cigar and whittling at small sticks, but with so abstracted an air that I see well that they are with him merely aids to reflection. In fact as he gets down near Richmond and approaches the solution of his problem, he has need to keep up a devil of a thinking.
Yesterday he attacked the enemy and was decidedly repulsed. He always is repulsed when he attacks their works, and so are they when they attack his. The course of the campaign seems to me to have settled pretty decisively that neither of these two armies can, in the field, the one acting defensively and the other offensively, gain any great advantage. Fighting being equal, it becomes therefore a question of generalship. To capture Richmond Grant must do with Lee what he did with Pemberton, he must out-general him and force him to fight him on his own ground. This all of us uninformed think he could accomplish by crossing the James and taking Richmond...141
in the rear, and accordingly we are most eager that that should be done. Grant seems to hesitate to do this and to desire to approach by this side. His reasons of course we do not know, but they yesterday cost this army six thousand men. Feeling that we cannot beat the rebels by hard, point-blank pounding before Richmond, we are most anxious to find ourselves in some position in which they must come out and pound us or give way. The south bank of the James seems to hold out to us hopes of success, rest and success, and we are anxiously watching for movements pointing in that direction. While Butler holds Bermuda Hundreds I shall hope that he does so to keep there a foothold for us, and shall continue to hope for another flank move to the left every day. When it comes I shall look for the crisis of the campaign.
Meanwhile I see nothing to shake my faith in Grant's ultimate capture of Richmond and even this delay and yesterday's false step seem rather like some of the man's proceedings in the Southwest, when he went on the apparent principle of trying everything, but leaving nothing untried. At present there is one thing to be said of this campaign and its probable future. In it the rebellion will feel the entire strength of the Government exerted to the utmost. If Grant takes Richmond, even without a battle, I think Lee's army will be essentially destroyed; for they will lose their prestige.
The defense of Richmond keeps them alive. They will never again fight as they now do, when once that is
lost. Thus to me the campaign seems now to be narrowed down to a question of the capture of Richmond...142
and that to a question of generalship. As to endurance and fighting qualities the two armies are about equal,
all things being considered, and the enemy's lack of numbers is compensated for by the fact of their acting
on the defensive.143
CFA to his Father
H.Q. Army of Potomac
Before Petersburg, Va. June 19, 1864
My last was from Cold Harbor and since then we have passed the long desired James and, at last, near Richmond from the southern side. That city is in the position Washington would be in, had a rebel Army, having the control of the Chesapeake, pushed its way to Baltimore and established itself on the waters of the bay, while this Army, unbeaten in the field but wholly unable to make any impression offensively upon the enemy, was manoeuvring in the vicinity of Washington. Their cavalry also should have complete control of the field outside of the lines of our Army. In such a case I myself would expect soon to hear that Washington was abandoned or captured, that this Army had fallen back to secure its base and cover the North andthe new line of our unconquered army was on the Susquehannah. Will this be the case with Richmond? I am not prepared to say and cannot feel sure.
I have unbounded confidence in Grant, but he puzzles me as much as he appears to the rebels. He fights when we expect him to march, waits when we look for motion,and moves when we expect him to fight. Grant will take Richmond, if only he is left alone; of that I feel more and more sure. His tenacity and his strength,combined with his skill, must, on every general principle, prove too much for them in the end. Yet I often feel discouraged and never feel as if I saw my own way. My last was from Cold Harbor and ten days ago...148
A week ago last Sunday we moved out of our dusty, dirty, foul smelling camp and off in a south easterly direction. It was clear we were making for the James. Grant and Meade went only about seven miles, halting for the night at the spot where we found General Warren's Head Quarters. I don't know that Generals in Chief ever experience campaign discomforts, but on this night I certainly did in their train experience, not the discomfort of the line — of that, they and theirs know nothing — but very moderate discomfort for all that. We encamped in an orchard, and a very dirty and dusty one and there, as our train did n't come up, we passed a supperless night under a brilliant moon. The next day at six o'clock we started and moved down to the banks of the Chickahominy where again we halted while the trains and the 2d and 5th Corps crossed the pontoons. Grant, Meade and Hancock were there and for several hours we killed time industriously. At last my name was called and I was ordered to report to General Hancock and was by him ordered to move forward, in advance of his Corps, on the road to Charles City Court House. For the rest of the march, which brought us to the James, the squadron accordingly kept in advance of the 2d Corps.
Immediately in our rear Grant kept bulging along and then came Barlow's Division of the 2d Corps. As there was no enemy in our front and additions to our Cavalry advance speedily relieved me from command, I left the squadron with Flint and, seeing Barlow's flag at a house near the road, went over and joined him for the rest of the mardi. In company with that rising...149
General of Division I lunched and rode, and presently we made for another house, and seeking out an attractive cherry tree, ascended it and chatting over old times and old friends, eat our fill of that delicious fruit, while we watched in the distance the tired and dusty column toiling along. Presently we resumed our march and gradually Barlow, an old Peninsular man, began to recognize houses and fields as familiar to him in McClellan's campaign, and then a sharp gallop through a deep field of clover,which swept our stirrup leathers, and we halted before an old Virginia plantation house behind which flowedthe James. Rivers always burst on one at once, be they great or little, and so did the James now. The old Peninsular men knew what to expect, but I, certainly, had no expectation of seeing so noble a river. Sometwo miles broad at the point where we struck it, and with green swelling banks, it flowed quietly and majestically along, giving to me at least, one heated, dusty and anxious soldier, a sense of freshness, repose andeternity, such a feeling as I should have expected from the sea, but hardly from the James. There it flowed! We had fought the Indian, the Englishman and the Virginian upon its banks; only two years before it had been the resting place and the highway of this very Army; long before we fought on its banks or troubled its waters it flowed on as it did today; and long after we have fought and toiled our way out of this coil and our battles and sufferings have become a part of history, it will flow on as broad, as quiet and as majesticas when the vanguard of the Army of the Potomac...150
hailed it with almost as much pleasure as Xenophon's Greeks hailed the sight of the sea. We dismounted and cooled ourselves on the porch of the house overlooking the river, while the signal officers had already put themselves in communication with Fort Powhatan, plainly in sight some few miles below. Presently Barlow went off to find a camp and I rode off to the squadron. I was not at all too early They were just moving up the road, having been or dered to report to Colonel Jones of the 3d Pennsylvania for some unknown duty. Jones, I regret to say, is the unfortunate old woman who got us into our scrape at Parker's Store last autunm, and I have little confidence in him. The duty turned out to be picket, so, very cross, the squadron being reduced to some thirty men, I sent Flint in to form a camp and to take charge of the rest, while I went out in command.
Presently the duty was developed — picket, as I supposed. I got my instructions and, just as the sun was getting very low, passed through McClellan's old defences and found myself within the position of Harrison's Landing. My instructions were to cover a certain road and to send a party down it towards Richmond, as far as I could before dark. Wilson's Division of Cavalry was supposed to be somewhere on that side and, if I could find out where he was, we were to be relieved. I gave Baldwin my instructions. (He is my 2d Lieutenant, formerly a bugler and recently promoted. He is about twenty years old and has a fondness for enterprises in face of the enemy.) I told him to take what men he wanted and go up the Malvern...151
Hill road and not come back until he reached Malvern Hill, unless he first struck the enemy or Wilson's Cavalry. He took ten men and just as the sun was setting the clatter of his horses' hoofs died away in a cloud of dust on the Richmond road. I stationed some posts and wrung something to eat out of inhabitants. Then, resorting again to my almost forgotten picket precautions, waited for the return of my scouts. I allowed them two hours, for I heard it was six miles to Malvern Hill; but when four were gone and they had not returned my confidence in Baldwin's courage, coolness and shrewdness — more than all in his luck — began to stand me in good stead; for without it I should have been anxious. At eleven I did begin to fed troubled and rode down to the videttes. Just as I approached them I met him coming in and much disgusted. He had been ten miles and close to Malvern Hill, got fired into three times and could n't persuade himself that he had fallen in with the rebels. He thought they were Wilson's men. It didn't require much to persuade me, and I believed more than ever in luck when I heard his story. He had staved ahead ten miles driving in the enemy's scouts and finally rode right into their picket Kne. When they fired on him he got it into his head they were Wilson's men and were firing by mistake, and so he persisted in hanging round and approaching them three times, but the third time they woke up and the bullets came so verydose and fast that he unwillingly
Since that night we have been lying here before Petersburg, just where we then were. We have assaulted the enemy's works repeatedly and lost many lives, but I cannot understand it. Why have these lives been sacrificed? Why is the Army kept continually fighting until its heart has sickened within it? I cannot tell. Doubtless Grant has his reasons and we must have faith; but, certainly, I have never seen the Army so haggard and worn, so worked out and fought out, so dispirited and hopeless, as now when the fall of Richmond is most likely. Grant has pushed his Army to the extreme limit of human endurance. It cannot and it will not bear much more, and yet for days past it has been rammed, not in masses and with...154
London June 24, 1864
General Grant shows one great quality of a commander. He makes himself felt by his enemy as well as by his own troops. This is one of the most important elements of success in warfare. The imagination has a vast power in upholding human force, or in knocking it away. The self reliance of the slaveholding rebel is the secret of the amount of his resistance thus far. He began the war with a full conviction that he was more than a match for half a dozen northern men. And in many instances that conviction acting against a feebler will made him what he thought himself. The progress of the war has done a good deal to correct these impressions. General Grant appears to be setting them right. The moment the rebel becomes convinced he has to do with a will stronger than his own, he will knock under, and not before. I have watched with a great deal of interest the gradual modifications in the tone of the Richmond newspapers since the first of May. Then it was the most implicit faith in Lee's power to drive any force of ours, however large, back...156
London, June 24, 1864
And so we have sunk the Alabama. That at least was well done and has I think no drawback to unmixed
pleasures. But the spitefulness which the English have shown has revived all my irritability. Semmes sought the fight, knowing all about the Kearsarge and expecting to whip her. He was so cut up as to be compelled to strike his colors, and actually cut the cross out of his flag, and ran it up again as a white flag. He sent a boat to the Kearsarge and surrendered the ship, and then was pulled out of the water, shouting for help; was stowed away at his own entreaty under a tarpaulin, deserting his own men, and running away by violation of every honorable demand through the treachery of a neutral flag kept near him for the purpose. And they're trying to make a sea-Eon of this arrant humbug. I expect the matter to give us more diplomatic bother. Fortunately for us in these rough times the attention of people here is pretty thoroughly absorbed in their own affairs.158
Henry Adams to Charles Francis Adams, Jr.
London, July 8, 1864
What do you say to the news you've been sending us for a week back? Grant repulsed. Sherman repulsed. Hunter repulsed and in retreat. Gold, S50. A devilish pretty list, portending, as I presume, the failure of the campaign. To read it has cost me much in the way of mental consumption, which you can figure to yourself if you like. And now what is to be the end? "Contemplate all this work of time." We have failed, let us suppose! The financial difficulty, a Presidential election, and a disastrous campaign are...164
CFA to Henry Adams
July , 1864
Today is my family letter day. I have only to report all quiet before Petersburg and this week, in comprehensive return for all your favors, I report that much to you. My last, I believe, was written from
City Point. I came up from thence on Saturday evening last.
Meanwhile things here are curiously dull; there is nothing that I know of going on. Since I came up from the Point I have moved round more than formerly. Monday I went over to see Barlow and had a talk with him. He doesn't seem to lose any health in the field. Just as I was leaving his quarters I ran across General Meade and accompanied him back to Head Quarters where he summoned me to dine with him; which indeed I did, but I didn't pick up any crumbs of learning to speak of at his table. The General's mess consists of himself, General Humphreys and Theodore Lyman, and Meade, I noticed had not allowed anxiety or care to destroy his appetite. Wednesday I ran down to see Ned Dalton and found Henry Higginson and General Barlow there, and as Channing Clapp came up to dinner, we had quite a little Harvard reunion. George Barnard too happened in, coming down with his regiment on his way to Washington to be mustered out. The time of...166
service being over George is going home and looks with great gusto to the exchange of "before Petersburg for Lynn. Henry Higginson has come down to try his hand on Barlow's staff. I have no idea that he can stand it as he isn't at all recovered from his wounds, but it is best that he should try it on as he must resign if he can't do duty. It is now thirteen months since he was wounded at Aldie.
After dinner I rode back with Barlow to the camp by moonlight, he indulging in his usual vein of conversa-
tion. It's pleasant and refreshing to meet a man like Barlow among the crowds of mediocrity which make
up the mass of an army. Here's a man who goes into the army and in everything naturally recurs to first
principles. The object of discipline is obedience; the end of fighting is victory, and he naturally and nstinctively sweeps away all the forms, rules and traditions which, originally adopted as means to the end, here, in the hands of incompetent men, ultimately usurped the place of the ends they were calculated to secure. In every regular army this is seen : principles are lost sight of in forms. I am more disposed to regard Barlow as a military genius than any man I have yet seen. He has as yet by no means attained his growth. Should the war last and he survive, I feel very confident that he will make as great a name as any that have arisen in this war. He now contemplates going into the colored troops, raising a large corps and organizing them as an army of itself. Should he do so I shall doubtless go in with him and have a regiment of cavalry with just as much of a future before me as I... 167
H.Q. Cav'y Escort, A. of P.
Before Petersburg, July 27, 1864
Though I wrote to you last week yours of the 8th inst., which has reached me since, induces me, from the
extreme hilarity of its tone, to renewed efforts. What the devil's up? What are you howling at? I never saw
such a man! Has the bottom of the kettle tumbled out? That our success this campaign has not been so brilliant as it was last I shan't dispute, but why howl out in agony and cry sauve qui peiUf I see no signs that the American people and their policy are to be turned topsy-turvy just yet. Even if they are, what then? I have ever found that sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, and be today ever so black tomorrow somehow or other, all prognostications to the contrary notwithstanding, is found bearable when it comes. I am not going to trouble myself about the ways of Providence any more than I can help, and I recommend all of you to do the same. At the same time I must confess your position makes success sweeter and failure far more bitter than we feel them here. When bad news comes I like to hide my head in the trenches as much as I may. Meanwhile of the future, here or hereabouts, I can...168
on which all agree, and certain others on which all quarrel. It is agreed that the thing was a perfect success, except that it did not succeed ; and the only reason it did not succeed was that our troops behaved shamefully. They advanced to the crater made by the explosion and rushed into it for cover and nothing could
get them out of it. These points being agreed on then but the bickering. All who dislike black troops shoulder the blame onto them — not that I can find with any show of cause. They seem to have behaved just as well and as badly as the rest and to have suffered more severely. This Division, too, never had really been under fire before, and it was a rough breaking in for green troops of any color. The 9th Corps and Burnside came in for a good share of hard sayings, and, in fact, all round is beard moaning and wrath, and a scape-goat is wanted. Meanwhile, as I see it, one person alone has any right to complain and that person is Grant. I should think his heart would break. He had outgeneraled Lee so, he so thoroughly deserved success, and then to fail because his soldiers wouldn't fight! It was too bad. All the movements I mentioned in my last turned out to be mere feints and as such completely successful. Deceived by Grant's movement towards Malvern Hill, Lee had massed all his troops in that vicinity, so that when the mine exploded, the rebels had but three Divisions in front of the whole Army of the Potomac. Grant ordered a rapid countermarch of his cavalry from Malvern Hill to the extreme left, to outflank and attack the enemy at daylight, simultaneously with the...172
operations with deadly effect from this base. This I fear is the best view which can be taken of the present attitude of affairs. We have been so unfortunate here and our military lights about Washington — Hunter, Wallace, Halleck, Sigel and the rest — have made such a mess of our affairs in their region, that I don't see but what the army here must, for the present, be reduced to one purely of observation. . . . As to my new regiment, I see myself gazetted but have as yet received no commission or official announcement. Meanwhile I am maturing my plans for the regiment and shall develop them in a somewhat stately...174
H.Q, Cav"y Escort, A. of P.
My stay at these Head Quarters and my connection with the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry draws, according to all appearances, towards its close. A day or two since my commission as Lieutenant Colonel of the 5th reached me, and now I only wait for Flint's return to get leave to go to Washington and immediately after- wards I shall join my colored brethren. ... I am fortunately once more perfectly well; in fact I have not felt better for a year. Thanks to a greater degree of exercise and quinine I have completely gotten rid of my jaundice and the malaria, have a superb appetite and a suflSciency of energy. I haven't anything to tell you — no material even the most threadbare for a letter. We are again burned up with drouth and the dust is fetlock deep. I have given up my drills and again we listlessly pass days in camp, contending mainly with flies, looking forward to our meals and still indulging in cool pleasant evenings. In front and along the works it is the same old sky...175
CFA to Henry Adams
H.Q. Cav'y Escort, A. of P.
Before Petersburg, August 15, 1864
The life of Napier I finished some days ago. The English are getting to understand the art of biography for they let a man tell his own story and reflect his own character in his own words. Yet I don't think that this biographer made the most of his subject. Sir William Napier's life, like those of most literary men, had very little in it to make it interesting and could be made so only as reflecting the principles, manners and conver-
sation of his times. Of these beyond his letters we get nothing in this work. Sir William Napier was a thinker and talker. He knew and conversed much with many noteworthy men, and yet his notes of conversations with Soult are all that these volumes supply from this source. The author is nothing of the Boswell and his work accordingly loses four-fifths of its value and interest. Meanwhile here greater operations are going on than any which Napier undertook to describe, and it is really amusing to see how the developments of this war have antiquated all Napier's military theories. I am very ciuious to get your later letters and to see what you have to say on these peace questions and intrigues. What a flutter and commotion among would-be negotiators, moneyJenders and intriguers the publication of a leaf from your memoirs would create! As I watched the Sanders-Greeley fiasco in... 178
How well that secret was kept; not a lisp of it apparently ever crept into any print; and yet, first and last, it must have come to the knowledge of many men. Now, I am so isolated here that I am curious to know how you look at these movements in the North and what degree of importance you attach to them. Of course it is, and will remain, a question of military success, but have these peace movements as yet developed any new strength? Except in point of numbers the McClellan meeting in New York was a great failure, as it could n't muster even a fifth rate man to address an enormous audience. So far as I see the disciples of peace too are the old set and the old set only. They cannot get any new hands at the bellows. In spite of what you write I still do not see any symptoms of that powerful combination of fragmentary organisations which alone could defeat Lincoln. What with peace and War Democrats, Fr&nont men and McClellan men, it seems to me that more decisive disaster than any we have yet met will be necessary to drive the war party from power. How does this strike you? I really know nothing of the true posture of affairs, and anxiously wait for reliable news. Meanwhile some gleams of real success seem actually to be shining upon our arms. Old Farragut seems to have called an emphatic halt on all re-enforcements to Hood, and the rebels seem to me to be playing our game by holding so fiercely on to Atlanta. Affairs in the southwest look undoubtedly prosperous...179
by inflicting the death blow on all blockade running. With Atlanta, Mobile and Wilmington in our hands I do not think the peace party could make much headway, or that we need fear to face the fall elections. Before this letter reaches you I suppose you will know in what direction this movement develops itself. I can't help feeling sanguine. Grant is a man of such infinite resource and ceaseless activity — scarcely does one scheme fail before he has another on foot; baffled in one direction he immediately gropes roimd for a vulnerable point elsewhere — that I cannot but hope for great results the whole time. He has deserved success so often that he will surely have it at last. If I ...181
much better. The movement by sea would be a great thing, both in deceiving the enemy and bringing our troops fresh to the scratch. The weak point in it would of course be in our position here. The enemy might move roimd and take our defences in reverse. Our works are very strong and we should have from 40 to
60,000 men to defend them; but our line is very long and, I should say, easily flanked. No attack in front would alarm us, but a bold flank movement by Lee's whole army might give us a great deal of trouble...182
August 20, 1864
Here I find myself once more in Washington, and that dty as low-toned and unattractive as ever, looking much the same as ever, except that I see in it fewer uniforms. I came up here to try and carry out a plan I have for mounting the 5th Cavalry, to which I have already got General Grant's assent and I shall leave the instant I can finish my business. I met John here and we passed a couple of days pleasantly together....He and I went to call on Governor Seward and passed an hour with your chief. He probably will write you his impressions, mine were not cheerful. The old Governor didn't seem to feel firm about the future and retired himself largely into his philosophy. His tone was very different from that of last spring, when he seemed to me so buoyant and confident of the future...187
Then he evidently thought he saw his way through; now, as evidently, his future is obscured and dangerous. He had none of his crowing confidence of last spring, and I was pained to feel how discouraged he was. He too gave me the impression which all here do, of "going it wild," and not seeing where this thing is going to come out; but while others have a reckless and excited manner of going it, he, on the contrary, looked like a thoughtful and wise man, troubled at seeing the machine passing beyond control. At his office I got your letters of the 4th and a book, "Denia" from Henry. You discuss the Sanders-Jewett fiasco and compare it with that other negotiation. Your friend Russell, I believe, might now bring about a peace, both sections are so weary of this war. K only representatives of these two combatants, both honestly desirous of peace and neither trammelled by instructions nor with power to conclude, could meet in London simply informally to discuss, and, if it might be, to recommend some basis of adjustment, I should feel great confidence that that first step which alone costs had been well taken. As it is, however, for all I can see, we must go floundering on indefinitely through torrents of blood and unfathomable bankruptcy. Yet I never felt more confident than now of our power to crush out this rebellion. Everjrthing to me speaks of success, if the loyal people of the country are only true to themselves, and I believe the confederates fully realize that fact. . . 183
H.Q. Cav'y Escort, A. of P.
Brfore Petersburg, August 27, 1864
I GOT back from Washington last evening, but have nothing later from London than the letters which I acknowledged a week ago today. In my mission to Washington I was quite successful in spite of the authorities of that place, for, most fortimately for me I went there strongly armed. Before going up I went to General Meade and stated to him my errand and scheme, and the General not only approved it himself but gave me a letter of introduction to General Grant, with which I next day went down and presented myself to the Lieutenant General. I found him sitting in front of his tent under a large fly talking with a couple of his staff. I stated my business and presented my letter. He told me to be seated, read my letter, thought an instant puffing at his eternal dgar and stroking his beard as he listened to what I had to say and then replied in a short decided way: I will approve your plan and request the Secretary to issue you the horses and have an order made out for you to go to Washington to attend to it yourself." This was three times what I had expected to get from him, as I had no idea he would send me to Washington or request the issue of the horses, and accordingly I at once became a violent Grant man. He immediately went into his tent and wrote the order on the back of Meade's letter and then came out and talked about matters in general, the weather, Colonel Buchanan..184
The next morning I started for Washington and got there Thursday, finding John, as I told you. Then, and for the next week I went through all the disgusting routine of one who waits upon those in power, dangling my heels in ante-rooms, on the walls of which I patiently studied maps and photographs, and those in high places shoved me from one to another as is their wont in such cases. All my success and good treatment was over. My business in Washington was to try and get the government, as they wotdd not mount the 5th Cavalry on new horses, to give them enough old horses unfit for present service, owing to severe work in the present campaign, and to let them build them up while doing their present work at Point Lookout. The officials by no means approved of me or my scheme, or, I thought, of General Grant. To Major Williams I went first, he suggested Colonel Hardie; Colonel Hardie suggested Daua, Assistant Secretary of War; Daua suggested Colonel This or General That, but distinctly disapproved of my scheme. So, somewhat discouraged, I drifted back to Colonel Hardie and froze to his office until I could get admission to Mr. Stanton's presence — the holy of holies. Seeing me resolved and getting weary of seeing me always there, Hardie suggested to me that General Halleck was my man, he being the chief of cavalry; and, in an evil moment, I allowed myself to be beguiled into stating my business to General Halleck. Here I caught fits. Halleck is certainly "a crusty cuss" and one, I should say, after Stanton's own heart. Li about one minute he signified an emphatic disapproval of me and...186
reproachful presence, even though but one of a silent reproachful throng which crowded his office and from
which one individual disappeared only that two more might struggle to enter, my presence began to haunt
him, so he dashed at me, possessed himself of my papers and flung himself into the Secretary's rooms. I grimly waited, hopeless and well-nigh indifferent. Presently Stanton himself scuffed into the office and after him came Hardie. Now for it, said I to myself; but the American Camot took no notice of me, but scuffed off through the room and Hardie gave me my paper with an endorsement from the Secretary upon it. Well, I had succeeded. Grant's endorsement was too strong to be overlooked and I had gotten my horses, so, after being duly bandied through a score more officials, and this time being lucky enough to hit on a polite streak of these cattle, I finished my business in Washington and, Thursday noon, took boat for City Point. This, of course, settled my fate as to what regiment I was to belong to, and I came back only (to leave my old regiment and company. ... I can't say that I leave my old regiment with any feeling of regret. In it, as a whole, there are few who know or care for me and my whole life in the regiment was embittered and poisoned. ... As for my squadron, however, my feelings are very different. Here all my association has been pleasant. We have never had any family quarrels or bickerings and with them, at least, my career has been a success. Still it's high time I went. Here I have done my work as well as I know how to do it, and...188
H.Q. Cav'y Escort, A. of P.
Before Petersburg, Va., September 8, 1864
They say that we are receiving convalescents, recruits, etc. from the rear at the rate of about a thousand a day. If this be so we must, I should say, be just about holding our own in numbers, what with loss in battle, by expiration of service and sickness. This is unfortunate, for now I imagine reinforcements could be used with telling effect and 20,000 fresh troops would end the struggle in Virginia. However, we have taken..189
Fort Morgan, which fact, I presume, has exercised a depressing effect upon the rebel cotton loan; and General Grant, I am told, declares that Sherman is now engaged in executing the most daring move ever made in this or any other country," having thrown his whole immense army off of its base of supplies, with a view of marching roimd to the rear of Atlanta, with rations for twenty days, and, during that twenty days, doing that to Hood which a year ago Grant did to Pemberton. So we may now look for news of decisive movement, for now Sherman's guns will discuss most eloquent arguments in the Presidential issue, and, as the sound of his cannon advances or recedes, so will the hopes of Lincolnite and McClellanite rise and fall.
H.Q. 5th Mass. Cav'y
Pt. Lookout, Md., September 10, 1864
In the case of the last assault on Petersburg the troops behaved badly — that all confess; but I doubt if the..190
not entirely disproportionate, the defensive will furnish advantages which no possible vigor, or determination, or training, unaided by skill or its equivalent luck, can enable an assaulting party to overcome. In such a case, where skill is nearly equal and luck alone decides, the chances are ten to one against the assailant. Probably the most famous assault in history was that of McDonald's column at Wagram (I think). I doubt if it was more determined or better deserved success than Longstreet's at Gettysburg. Read the campaigns of Frederick of Prussia. See how rarely he by direct assault carried positions — never when opposed by Daun, except once and then by pure luck when the day was lost. Look at Napoleon at Borodino. Marl- borough was more successful. Malplaquet, in respect to defensive preparations and advantages of position,
was more like our battles here than any old world action that I can call to mind; yet Marlborough carried it much as Grant carried Spottsylvania. It was a nominal victory. The same of the Crimea. The Malakoff was carried not by training but by skill and good fortune, and the English never carried the Redan at all. In Italy the same. Magenta and Solferino were not decisive victories, not more so than Antietam. You must bear in mind in reading our battles that the system of entrenching was never carried to such an extent and perfection as in this war. It is no longer an...191
H.Q. 5th Mass. Cav'y
Point Lookout, Md., September 18, 1864
My information from before Petersburg is that Grant has, within twenty days, received for the corps now therey 40,000 recruits besides many thousand convalescents, and that that Army is now stronger than when it took the field in the spring. This is reliable. General Lee does not seem to be aware of the fact, as the whole thing has been done very quietly. As Sherman has nothing now fit to be called an army in his front, Petersburg would seem to be the point of danger. Of disaster there I feel no apprehension, but I do shudder at the thought of the fighting and slaughter which must soon take place there. I am very sanguine of the result. I have seen Grant and feel as if I knew him. He has of late so thoroughly deserved success and been so often defeated by accident, that mere luck if nothing else must turn and ultimately he can hardly fail.
H.Q. 5th Mass. Cav'y
Lookout, Md., September 23, 1864
Today's steamer will carry out to you the details of Sheridan's great victory, a victory, to my mind, likely
in its consequences to be second to none in importance, and I like to think of you all as you recdve such news. How jubilant you will feel! How all the clouds will roll away! Those are the times when I wish I were with you; the moments when, after long days of doubt, anxiety and almost despair, among a foreign and un-
sympathetic people, you at last suddenly see the smoke of the battle lifted and the country you loved and feared for so much lifting itself up again as strong, as firm and as confident as in the first days of the war. At these times yours is a luxury greater than any we enjoy, and I luxuriate in it, even as reflected back to me in your letters.
CFA to his Father
H.Q. 5th Mass. Cav'y
Point Lookout, Md,, October 15, 1864
Meanwhile Wednesday's steamer carried out to you the great October elections. Pennsylvania might have been better, but I presume the result, as a whole, may 203
be considered as decisive of the Presidential struggle. At any rate a gain of twenty members of Congress in
three States would formerly have been considered significant. As to this soldiers' vote, I see McClellan's organs count greatly on his popularity in the Army to lessen there the Union majority. They may be right, but I have never seen any signs of it. At present my means of information are not very good and I cannot tell how the Army feels, but my impression is that the October vote will foreshadow exactly the November vote. Soldiers don't vote for individuals; they don't vote for the war; they have but one desire and that is to vote against those who delay the progress of the war at home; they want to vote down the copperheads. The vote just taken reflects this feeling and this only, and in November, you will see a repetition of the same thing. McClellan has no popularity in the Army except among a few officers in his old Army, and these are now growing siuprisingly few. Li the West he has no friends. Li November I do not think he will poll one vote out of six. So the election according to all precedent may be considered as no longer an open question. If this be really so, for me, I draw a long breath and say, thank God ! Is it not wonderful ! One after another how miraculously we have been tided over the shadows and piloted through the rapids. Now the end of a Presidential election sees our enemy downcast, and only in sweat and agony anjrwhere holding his own, while we, flushed with success, find ourselves more firmly pledged to war than at any previous time. Thus the very Presidential election which we all.. 204
Point Lookout, Md., October 15, 1864
Speaking of the elections I have got a new glimpse at Grant's plans; whether correct or not, you will soon
know. A heavy naval expedition is fitting out at Fortress Monroe against Wilmington, and the 22d is named as the date of its departiure. Whether a land force will accompany it or not I am not informed, but I hear that the 6th Corps is returning from Sheridan to join Grant, and I am told (unreliable) that a cooperative force to act with Sheridan is moving from Tennessee against Lynchburg. This is my last budget of rumors. If reliable, you need not expect any momentous news from these parts imtil after the 22d. Between that and election day things bid fair to be...206
to leave Richmond before Grant secures that place, he would himself garrison it, and it would be a second
Richmond to us. If however Grant can secure it before he drives Lee out of Richmond, I do not see where Lee could go, as the line of the Roanoke would be turned and Lee would apparently be forced out of North
Carolina. Things grow absorbing. I shall not hope much from a piu'e naval attack on Wilmington, but on the issue of the coming struggle depends the question whether the November election is still to be a struggle, or whether Lincoln is to be swept in on an irresistible wave of success. Thank Heaven! all doubt will in a short three weeks be over and once more we can settle down on some assured policy, checkered only by the variable fortunes of war. .207
London, October 21, 1864
Our news this week stops with unusual abruptness what promised to be a very remarkable episode. Grant
moves like the iron wall in Poe's story. You expect something tremendous, and it's only a step after all. Of course the process is all the more sure from its methodical slowness, but it alters the nature of the drama. Here am I puzzling myself to understand why...207
and does not accept what to an outsider seems the necessity of his position. Jeff. Davis's speech at Macon
gives more light on the question than anything else. Of course there may be some inaccuracy in reporting, but his explanations are very reasonable, and his statement about Early's campaign shows how much he expected from it. That failing to draw Grant away, there seems nothing left but to draw out their resistance to the last moment. But how Lee can cover Meade on three sides and protect Richmond and the connecting railway too, I can't quite see...208
Henry Adams to Charles Francis Adams, Jr.
London November 25, 1864
The election is over then, and after all that excitement, worry and danger, behold, all goes on as before. It was one of those cases in which life and death seemed to hang on the issue, and the result is so decisive as to answer all our wishes and hopes.229
Henry Adams to Charles Francis Adams, Jr.
London December 9, 18M
Of course Sherman's march is creating great excitement here. The newspapers, one after another, and about every other day, prove conclusively that he must lose his army and fall a victim to clouds of confederate cavalry on his "front, flank and rear"; to "swarms of patriotic guerillas behind every bush"; to failure of supplies which are all to be destroyed as he moves; to the obstruction of roads, and finally to the army in his front. I will say however that the latest advices of the alarm existing in the rebel kingdom have made their friends here far less confident than they were. My consolation is that by this time the result must have been arrived at, one way or the other; and as I have as much faith in Sherman as I have in any individual of ancient or modem history or mythology, I keep a very stiff courage up and wait confidently the result....230
London, December 16, 1864
Popular opinion here declares louder than ever that Sherman is lost. People are quite angry at his presumption in attempting such a wild project. The interest felt in his march is enormous, however, and if he arrives as successfully as I expect, at the sea, you...232
Camp of the 6th Mass. Cav'y
Point Lookout, Md., December 18, 1864
"...I did however meet Wilson [in Washington] and some of Grant's staff, and picked up some reliable military news which it is my object now to let you have. Wilson was in a state of great excitement over the Wilmington & edition and "confidentially'' told me, as he was telling every one else, how two hundred tons of powder were going to blow all Wilmington and its forts high and dry; how Butler had 20,000 picked men, including Weitzel's black division; and how Grant had told him that, for assaulting works, black troops were inferior to none, if indeed not the best in the world. All that he had to say, however, you will get with its results in the papers. I met at the same time, however. Colonel Sharpe, chief of secret information on Grant's staff and on old acquaintance of mine. I told him I wanted material for a letter to you and then had a long talk with him. All that he tells me is reliable. In answer to my questions he told me, that Lee had now 55,000 men in Richmond and that Grant, now that Butler was gone, confronted him with 75,000. Lee is so 'Mug-in" that Grant cannot assault him and he has not sufficient preponderance of force to send a suitable moveable column...233
in about thirty a day from Georgians, Floridians and Mississippians. "Now," said Sharpe, "Lee's difficulty is this: Virginia has raised sixty-two regiments; of these Lee has in his Army fifty-five, and the rest of his Army is largely made up of North Carolinians. If he gives up Virginia and North Carolina, we shall then get the soldiers from those states, and those are the men he can't lose. I asked him about Lee's means of recruiting his Army. He told me he had none; our armies overran the South and no more men were to be had. "As to their arming the negroes," he said, "that's out of the question. In the first place, let me tell you, in two years I have examined thousands of our men who have... 235
help them escape, and if they put arms in their hands, by 9 those devils would paddle over to us so quick they couldn't catch them. Besides this arming the blacks would just disarm the 22,000 fierce rebels that Lee has left, for those are the remains of the men who fought for slavery."
Grant he assured me was now in excellent spirits. He wants more men, but he considers that, except in his present defences, Lee hasn't got one week's fight left in him. Sherman has demonstrated that the rebellion is a shell. Thomas' victory leaves Lee only to contend with, and Lee's destruction is a question only of material and time, unless he leaves Virginia and retreats into the Gulf states. There he might yet, by rallying around his Army the remnant of Hood's, make a new front. Accordingly it is just as well to prevent his getting out of Virginia. Of forage, the enemy has none. Their cavalry has been sent down dismounted to Georgia. Of iron they have been so short as to be unable to manufacture shot requiring to be made of malleable iron. Finally, said he, "Lee can keep his Army just where it is, but he can't attack, nor can he fight a battle. Victory or defeat would be alike ruinous. As for Hood, they've got to get rid of him anyhow; for even if he wins, he is killing the rebellion by his very loss of men." The Army of the Potomac, he told me, was sadly reduced from what we had once known. "But people say it has accomplished nothing! This year in ruining itself in nine pitched battles, it...236
was told me by a man as well informed as Grant himself, and from it you may safely draw your inferences
of the future. Charleston is left to Sherman, and Butler, if successful, is to press into the interior and operate on Lee's conmiunications on one side, while Sheridan presses them from the other — the Army of the Potomac meanwhile watching him in his works...237
London, December 30. 1864
Sturgis came out one evening quite exuberant, and "What will you give for the news?" says he. It was that of Sherman's arrival at the coast, and Hood's defeat at Nashville. You may judge of our exultation. It seems at last that this war is going to come to its end. This last campaign will, I suppose, narrow the field of the war to the Atlantic States, and when that is done, the result is inevitable and must come soon. What a fellow Sherman is! and how well Grant is managing! The combinations of this war are getting so tremendous that there will be nothing left for us in a foreign war except to make the moon a basis, and to march our armies overland to conquer Europe. The result has thrown great consternation into the minds of the English, and with reason. This Canadian business is suddenly foimd to be serious, and the prospect of Sherman marching down the St. Lawrence, and ...238
CFA to his Father
Grant's great movement was already under way and General Weitzel, to whom I reported, ordered me to get out to the front with no delay. The regiment was...259
chafing for an hour, I had the satisfaction of getting in motion at last. I had about one thousand mounted
men and a battery. I got out to the Darbytown road, and by this time heavy explosions were heard towards
Richmond, like the sound of heavy, distant fighting. Finding the enemy's lines deserted and no orders coming I concluded something was up and it was best to push ahead; so we went through the lines and took the Richmond road. Then came an exciting march, not without vexations; but nine o'clock found me in the suburbs of Richmond. Of my march through the city I have written the details to John and he will doubtless forward the letter to you. I am still confounded at the good fortune which brought me there. To have led my regiment into Richmond at the moment of its capture is the one event which I should most have...261
far as I could see, behaved admirably. I got to Petersburg at nine o'clock and reported to General Hartsuff. He gave me until next morning to get the regiment together and rest it, and then sent me out here to cover the South Side Railroad. Here I am on classic ground and see a good deal of the inhabitants. The rumor today is that Lee has surrendered. If this is so the fighting is over. Johnston must follow suit and there will hardly be another skirmish. Even if the rumor is false, however, I am persuaded the war is really over. For the first time I see the spirit of the Virginians, since these last two battles, completely broken; the whole people are cowed — whipped out. Every one is now taking the oath of allegiance. By the first of June you will not be able in these parts to find any confederates. The war is really over. These indications are new to me. Li all former times these people might be broken, but they would not bend. Now they cower right down before us. My present line runs right through both camps of the two armies. It is a curious region of desolation. I have ridden all through it and it seems to have been swept with the besom of destruction. All landmarks are de-faced, not only trees and fences, but even the houses and roads. It is one broad tract, far as the eye can reach, dotted here and there with clumps of trees which mark the spot where some Head Quarters stood, and for the rest covered with a thick stubble of stumps of the pine. You ride through mile after mile of deserted..263
houses are gone so that even their foundations can no longer be discovered. Forts, rifle-pits and abattis spring up in every direction, and in front of Petersburg the whole soil is actually burrowed and furrowed beyond the power of words to describe. There it all is, freshly deserted and as silent as death; but it will be years and years before the scars of war disappear from this soil, for nature must bring forth new trees and a new race of men must erect other habitations. So much for my experiences, so far in the most interesting bit of campaigning it has yet been my fate to take part in. As you will imagine I have been and am happy and contented enough. This continual change and movement, without the crush and drive of a fierce campaign, is most delightful. It is also most fortunate; for to have been forced into the field at once would have utterly ruined my regiment. As it is, it has now an excellent chance. Li a word, my usual good fortune has accompanied me. I seem once more to have landed on my feet in just the right moment and at just the right place. . . .
Charles Francis Adams to his Son
London, April 28, 1865
Your letter from Richmond was sent by John, as you desired, over to us. I read it with the greatest interest, and sent it off to your mother at Rome. It was a singular circumstance that you, in the fourth generation of our family, under the Union and the constitution..264
May 2, 1865
I was well enough satisfied that nothing could come of it, for I knew what my orders were and what had been done by me; but it was both vexatious and annoying.
I was, in fact, buried alive and could get no replies to any of my letters or communications. At last tired of waiting, on the 22d I resolved to force the fighting somehow and sent in an application to be avowed to go to Richmond. Not waiting for an answer to that on the 24th I sent in another to be released, and, before I heard from either, on the 26th, General Ord came down to see his family at the Fort and I then requested a personal interview. This I obtained. At last, then, in the thirteenth day of my arrest, I had got my hand in. Whether I played it out or not, you will now judge.
In May orders came for an expedition large enough to crush out all resistance in Texas. Colonel Adams, though reluctantly, determined to remain with his regment, believing that he owed something to his position and that ''it would not do for a Colonel to set the example of resignation in the face of a distant and dangerous expedition." A large cavalry force, under the command of Sheridan, was to reduce to submission
or destroy Greneral Kirby Smith's army. The raiment prepared for transportation and only awaited final orders, when Colonel Adams' health again broke down, through exposure, and on June 1st he set out for Quincy. After five days of trying experience he reached that place, much reduced in weight, wretchedly weak, unable to take up any work or project, mentally depressed and quite broken in spirit. For more than a month he remained in this state when a stay at St. Johns and the Isles of Shoals quite restored him. His military career was ended by his discharge, August 1, after an active service of three years, seven months and twelve days. He turned to civil occupations, practically beginning life anew. The rest is characteristically related in the "Autobiography.".. THE END ..270
Charles Francis Adams Jr. published works relative to observations of Grant:
User Review by antylyzyk - "A brilliant polemic correcting John Adams' grandson assertion that the Boer War was similar to the Confederate revolt, and that therefore the rational course for the Boers was to cease all resistance as the South had done. The historical references to the American revolution alone make this short essay extremely congenial reading."
"....You say Lee's example influenced the other southern leaders. But it was Grant's example, the fair and honorable terms, which were the real influence, the real power that was accomplishing this result. It was very American and possible only among Americans. The English are too stupidly violent ever to achieve such a result as that...."p.25
"Shall Cromwell have a statue?" : Oration ... before the Phi Beta Kappa Society of the University of Chicago, Tuesday, June 17, 1902
"Shall Robert E. Lee have a Statue ? I propose also to offer to your consideration some reasons why he should, and. assuredly, will have one. if not now then presently..p.5. ...If Robert E. Lee was a traitor, so also, and and indisputably were George Washington. Oliver Cromwell, John Hampden. and William of Orange...p.7
He had but to close his hand, and his opponent was crushed.
Think what then might have resulted had those two men been other than they were, — had the one been stern and aggressive, the other sullen and unyielding.
Most fortunately for us, they were what and who they were — Grant and Lee. More, I need not, could not say: — this only let me add, — a people has good right to be proud of the past and self-confident of its future when on so great an occasion it naturally develops at the front men who meet each other as those two met each other then. Of the two, I know not to which to award the palm. Instinctively, unconsciously, they vied not unsuccessfully each with thy other, in dignity, magnanimity, simplicity." pp. 36-37
Brother Henry, apparently, had an opposite view on a "statue for Lee" -
Lee at Appomattox, and other papers (1902)
In the course of his letter, General Alexander further said," The gist of my argument to General Lee was that the governors of the Southern States might make some sort of Terms, which would bar trials for treason, etc. ; and it was based on the as sumption that Grant would demand unconditional surrender. And I certainly think, too, that Grant deserves equal praise and gratitude for his highmindedness in his liberal treatment of his foe more absolutely at his mercy than was Buckner at Fort Donelson, or Pemberton at Vicksburg." pp. 20-21
The quote can be found on several online websites including the
(See pages 25-45 for various classmate, instructors and fellow soldiers rememberances of and opinions of Grant and his abilities and character.)]
"...in 1869, the United States was itself the interested observer of an insurrection in the neighboring island of Cuba ; and, moreover, the new President was not backward in expressing the warm sympathy he felt for the insurgents against Spanish colonial misrule. He wished also to forward their cause. That wish would find natural ex pression in a recognition of belligerent rights. General Grant was a man of decided mind ; he was very persistent ; his ways were military ; and, as to principles of international law, his knowledge of them can hardly be said to have been so much limited as totally want ing. He inclined strongly to a policy of territorial expansion ; but his views were in the direction of the tropics, the Antilles and Mexico, rather than to wards Canada and the north. As the event, however, showed, once his mind was finally made up and his
feelings enlisted, it was not easy to divert him from his end. In the matter of foreign policy, the course he
now had in mind, though neither of the two at first realized the fact, involved of necessity and from the
outset a struggle with Mr. Sumner ; and, to one who knew the men, appreciating their characteristics and
understanding their methods, it was plain that the struggle would be bitter, prolonged and unrelenting.
As different in their mental attributes as in their physical appearance, while Mr. Sumner was, intellectually, morally and physically, much the finer and more imposing human product, Grant had counterbalancing
qualities which made him, in certain fields, the more formidable opponent. With immense will, he was
taciturn ; Sumner, on the contrary, in no way deficient in will, was a man of many words, a rhetorician.
In action and among men, Grant's self-control was perfect, amounting to complete apparent imperturbability. Unassuming, singularly devoid of self-consciousness, in presence of an emergency his blood never seemed to quicken, his face became only the more set tenacity personified ; whereas Suinner, when morally excited, the rush of his words, his deep, tremulous utterance, and the light in his eye did not impart conviction or inspire respect. Doubts would suggest themselves to the unsympathetic, or only partially sympathetic, listener whether the man was of altogether balanced mind. At such times, Mr. Sumner did not appreciate the force of language, nor, indeed, know what he said ; and, quite unconsciously on his part, he assumed an attitude of moral superiority and intellectual certainty, in 110 way compatible with a proper appreciation of the equality of others. In the mind of a man like Grant, these peculiarities excited obstinacy, anger and contempt. Thus, an agitator and exponent of ideas, Mr. Sumner might and did stimulate masses, but never, man or boy, was he a leader among equals. Moreover, as one of his truest friends and warmest admirers said of him, he was prone to regard difference of opinion as a moral delinquency. Grant, on the contrary, not retentive of enmities, regardless of consistency, and of coarse moral as well as physical fibre, moved towards his ends with a stubborn persistency which carried others along with him, and against which a
Some phases of the civil war; an appreciation and criticism of Mr. James Ford Rhodes's fifth volume, 1905
Mr. Rhodes incidentally remarks that the work of the navy was " unrelieved by the prospect of brilliant exploits " ! Nor do the names of those identified with our naval triumphs thunder in the general index. Judged by that test, six lines suffice for the allusions to Farragut, and five for those to Porter ; while four solid columns are judged scarcely adequate for Grant, and two for Sherman. This, I submit, is dispropor-
"The topic is that Virginia campaign which made sadly memorable the spring and summer of 1864; the individual, General B. F. Butler. To my mind Mr. Rhodes has neither done justice, nor fully meted out justice, to the episode or to the man. And, primarily, in the matter of Grant's strategy in that famous campaign. It seems to me to have been much better considered, and more creditable to him, than would be inferred
from Mr. Rhodes' s narrative. Mr. Rhodes then, secondarily, as I see it, fails to place where it belongs the grave responsibility for the failure of Grant's plan of campaign, wilh the awful loss of life that failure involved. My understanding has always been that Grant's plan assumed the active and harmonious co-operation of three distinct armies, — that of the Potomac, under General Meade ; that of the James, under
General Butler ; and, finally, the Ninth Corps, 15,000 strong, under the command of General Burnside.
Mr. Rhodes gives no hint of it. He treats the campaign as if it had developed on the lines originally in-
tended. If so, and I am right in my understanding, this does Grant great strategic injustice. His campaign failed, — failed in the beginning, and failed through the gross military incompetency of the General commanding the Army 'of the James. p.34
"...to put such an important operation as this under the charge of a civilian who had never made any military reputation was really an unwarrantable piece of folly. If, as Badeau says, Mr. Lincoln insisted upon it on political grounds, it would have done Mr. Lincoln no harm for General Grant to have reminded him, in distinct and not to be misunderstood speech, that the Congress of the United States had placed him, Grant, in charge of the armies of the United States for the very purpose of seeing to it that this sort of thing should
not occur in the future, as it had so often in the past." (J. C. Ropes, Papers of Military Historical Society of Massachusetts, vol. iv. p. 369.) p. 36
utterly. In each case incalculable disaster ensued. My point is that, in the narrative of Mr. Rhodes, Butler does not figure as the Grouchy of the Wilderness. It is obvious enough now, and, when too late, was plain enough to Grant then, that a blunder of selection entailing infinite detriment was made. In planning his campaign of 1864 Grant should have taken no chances ; and it is safe to say that at no subsequent period would he have entrusted to Butler any military operations...."p.37
"The recollection of events and talk of more than forty years ago was the sole basis for the statements made in the text, and the conclusions drawn therefrom. Throughout the period in question I was attached in a subordinate capacity to the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac, and was, almost of necessity, more or less familiar with operations then going on in the field, and the views generally held at and about headquarters of them, and of those who had had them in charge.
But, however vivid and distinct it may be, the memory of what was asserted, or actually occurred, more than the lifetime of a generation ago is no basis for any historical statement. While revising this paper I have therefore sought to refresh my memory - and verify my recollections by consulting portions of the vast mass of material put in print since 1865, especially the War Records, Grant's Personal Memoirs (1885), Butler's Book (1892), Roman's Military Operations of General Beauregard (1884), W. F. Smith's Chattanooga to Petersburg (1893), and, on the whole as illuminating as any, our late associate John C. Ropes's paper (1884) entitled Grant's Campaign in Virginia. While from these authorities I have learned much I did not before know as to details, I have come across nothing affecting the general correctness of the impressions
I at the time received...."p.38
Lee's centennial; an address by Charles Francis Adams, 1907
"The unfortunate Pemberton there was simply not in the same class as Grant and Sherman, to whom he found himself opposed. Results there followed accordingly. So, in Virginia, Lee and Jackson made an extraordinary, a most exceptional combination. They outclassed McClellan and Bumside, Pope and Hooker; outclassed them sometimes terribly, sometimes ludicrously, always hopelessly: and results in that case also followed accordingly. That we were not utterly destroyed constitutes a flat and final refutal of the truth of Napoleon's aphorism. If we did not realize the facts of the situation in this respect, our opponents did. There was, however, one point of great interest in [the rapid succession of the Federal commanders], and that was our amazement that an army could maintain even so much as its organization under the depressing strain of those successive appointments and removals of its commanding generals. And to-day (1903) I, for one, regard the fact that it did preserve its cohesion and its fighting power under, and in spite of such experiences, as furnishing impressive demonstration of the high character and intense loyalty of our historic foe, the Federal Army of the Potomac."pp. 25-26
"...what Lee and Grant had done at Appomattox on April 9 could not be wholly undone even by the deed in Ford's theatre of April 14; much had been secured. Of Appomattox, and what there occurred, I do not care here to speak. I feel I could not speak adequately, or in words sufficiently simple; for, in my judgment, there is not in our whole history as a people any incident so creditable to our manhood, — so indicative of our racial possession of Character. Marked throughout by a straightforward dignity of personal bearing and propriety in action, it was marred by no touch of the theatrical, no effort at posturing. I know not to which of the two leaders, there face to face, preference should be given. They were thoroughly typical, the one of Illinois and the New West, the other of Virginia and the Old Dominion. Grant was considerate and magnanimous, — restrained in victory; Lee, dignified in defeat, carried himself with that sense of absolute fitness which compelled respect. Verily ! — "he that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city " !
The lead that day given by Lee proved decisive of the course to be pursued by his fellows with arms in their hands. At first, and for a brief space, there was in the Confed erate councils much diversity of opinion as to what should or could be done. Calm and dignified in presence of overwhelming dis-aster, the voice of Jeflferson Davis was that of Milton's "scepter'd king:'' — My sentence is for open war!" Lee was not there; none the less, Lee, absent, prevailed over Davis. The sober second thought satisfied all but the most extreme that what he had done they best might do. Thus the die was cast. And now, forty years and more after the event, it is appalling to reflect what in all human probability would have resulted had the choice then been other than it was, — had Lee's
Studies military and diplomatic, 1775-1865, 1911
Compilation of two of the articles above plus American Revolution campaigns-battles, and Cavalry analysis, and the Battle of New Orleans...
The Battle of Bunker Hill 1
Battle of Long Island 22
Washington and Cavalry 59
The Revolutionary Campaign of 1777 114
The Battle op New Orleans 174
The Ethics of Secession 203
Some Phases of the Civil War 232
Lee's Centennial 291
An Historical Residuum 344
Queen Victoria and the Civil War 375
it was in me, under proper conditions of time, place and occasion, to do, or be, something rather noticeable. I have never thought so since. Seeing myself face to face through fifty years cured me of that deception. I felt that no human being who, between fifteen and twenty-five, so pictured himself from day to day could, by any possibility, develop into any thing really considerable. It was n t that the thing was bad or that my record was discreditable; it was worse! It was silly. That it was crude, goes without saying. That I did n t mind ! But I did blush and groan and swear over its unmistakable, unconscious immaturity and ineptitude, its con ceit, its weakness and its cant. I saw myself in a looking-glass, and I said "Can that indeed be I!" and, reflecting, I then realized that the child was father of the man ! It was with difficulty I forced myself to read through that dread ful record; and, as I finished each volume, it went into the fire; and I stood over it until the last leaf was ashes. It was a tough lesson; but a useful one. I had seen myself as others had seen me. I have never felt the same about myself since. I now humbly thank fortune that I have almost got through life without making a conspicuous ass of myself."
To The Editor Of The Nation, 1916:
Sir: I have Just finished Charles Francis Adams's autobiography. It was so interesting that I read it to the last page. He did not appear to realize when criticising his father's life and actions, his lack of social qualities, coldness, industry, and great ability, that he was his father's son and inherited all of the traits of mind and character from which came his alleged failures during his life. I can fully agree with him that in some of his actions, during his younger days, he was, as he frankly admits, "simply an ass."
He evidently did not consider the fact that the prestige that came to him from his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather opened to him all the avenues of success in school, college, and business, opening with no solicitation on his part, the doors to honorable positions in civil life and commissions during the Civil War. He had none of the qualities of Inspiration, enthusiasm, the instincts of a real soldier.
His opinions of some of the generals of the war were sometimes correct and often amusing. Grant, he says, was of a coarse fibre and did not impress him with a sense of character, and he might have added vindictive. Any strictly impartial man would have the same opinion, but he gives Grant more credit than was due him when, in his castigation of Butler, he charges him with breaking Grant's plan of campaign.
It was Robert E. Lee, not Butler, that smashed Grant's plans.
I have always believed that if Gen. McClellan had been placed in command of the Army of the Potomac, with a force that exceeded Lee's by more than two to one, and relieved of the Interference of Stanton and Halleck, he would have captured Richmond in three months; which it took Grant eleven months to accomplish.
Meade, he says, was irritable, petulant, and dyspeptic (true, at times), but as commander in battle he was cool, collected, and self-poised.
Warren left in him a sense of lightness; that might be true at times, but he, Adams, did not recognize, apparently, the fact that at the battles of Bull Run 2d and Gettysburg he exhibited remarkable force and energy and the skill of a great soldier. For a won
der, Adams gives Hancock the praise that he well earned. Sheridan, he thought, "lacked character"; he might have added that he was arbitrary, vindictive, and cruel. His statements regarding "Joe Hooker," "Dan Butterfield," and Dan Sickles about hit the truth. A despicable trio!
I think he overestimated the ability of Gens. Sedgwick and Humphreys in comparison with other generals. The reason for that probably was that they (especially Humphreys) were his personal friends.
Andrew Slap - 2006
Brooks D. Simpson - 1996"In this lively work of revisionism, Brooks D. Simpson offers a new understanding of Henry Adams's political career, looking beyond the oft-quoted Education of Henry Adams to discover the historian, journalist, and political gadfly as he truly was. In doing so, Simpson challenges portrayals presented by Adams's many biographers and reassesses positions of major historians. He demonstrates the unreliability of The Education as a factual account of post-Civil War American politics, cautions those who represent Adams as a typical political reformer, and discusses why Adams's fervent desire to achieve political success ended in abject failure.
Arguing that Adams sought political influence and power, not office, Simpson follows the young republican's struggle to reconcile the dictates of family heritage with his own personal inclinations by carving out a career as a political journalist and behind-the-scenes manipulator of reform politics. But his arrogance and sarcasm, according to Simpson, doomed him to offend the very people he sought to influence and forced him to the margins of the reform movement. Simpson contends that even as Adams wrote about his failure in The Education of Henry Adams, he sought to conceal its true causes behind a facade of witty, derisive remarks about American politics and politicians. In contrast, Simpson places the blame for Adams's failure squarely on Adams himself, concluding that personality rather than politics thwarted his promising career."
books.google.com/books?isbn=9004100547Allan Stanley Horlick - 1994
books.google.com/books?isbn=0674716086Thomas K. McCraw - 1984
""The English," Charles Francis Adams, Jr., wrote in 1864, "are getting to understand the art of biography for they let a man tell his own story and reflect his own character in his own words." By writing numerous books, articles, an autobiography, extensive diaries, and voluminous letters punctuated by acid comments and emotional outbursts, Adams enabled Mr. Kirkland to apply this formula, which he does most skillfully. Indeed, considering the wealth of material and Adams's stature-not merely as John Adams's great-grandson but as a railroad reformer and administrator, as a historian and an important "patrician" reformer-it is amazing that Mr. Kirkland is his first biographer.It is also fortunate; Mr. Kirkland handles the complexities of Adams's business career, particularly his managing the Union Pacific Railroad, as adroitly as Adams managed a Quincy town meeting. Kirkland's admiration and even "certain affection" for Adams does not blind him to Adams's failings; he is friendly but not adulatory, sympathetic but not apologetic, probing but not psychoanalyzing. The result is an absorbing and instructive biography.
After a rather negative start-he seemed to hate everything connected with his first thirty years, including home, God, and father-Adams resolved to play the sophist and direct public sentiment toward railroads. Railroad reform was a shrewd choice, for the rapidly developing rail system created problems the Gilded Age never quite solved. In 1869 the Massachusetts General Court passed his "railroad commissioners bill," and Adams, by pulling every available wire, was appointed to the commission, which he dominated for the next ten years. Numerous states modeled their railroad commissions upon that of Massachusetts, thanks to Adams's gifts as a publicist, and his "school master," not "constable," approach had a "penetratime and pervasive" influence on the national regulatory movement. Though his success on the commission was considerable in standardizing incorporating and accounting procedures and in codifying legislation, Adams never did solve the central railroad problem of rates. He recognized that competition failed to regulate rates, and he rejected government tinkering and regulation. The nation, however, preferred legislative t:nkering to Adams's prescription of an "informed and impartial agency" that would "investigate abuses" and "persuade railroads and the public to accept its findings."
Railroad reform was not as important to Adams as makng money. He grew rich dangerously. Kirkland shrewdly observes that though Adams "habitually characterized Wall Street men as 'jockeys and gamblers' ... it is hard to see how Adams's way of making a fortune greatly differed from that he censured. He borrowed and he gambled on the price of stocks, sometimes outrageously."
When in 1884 Adams became president of the Union Pacific Railroad, he had a new opportunity to shape a national railroad policy, but failure marked his administration. To induce Congress to fund the Union Pacific's debt to the government Adams agreed to give the 1888 Republican and
Democratic national committees $50,000 each, $20,000 down and the balance on1 passage of the bill, and ascertained the price of Senators Preston Plumb ($50,000) and George F. Edmunds (a retainer). Neither Plumb nor Edmunds received their bribes, the funding bill did not pass, and Adams -ironically, considering his pose as a political reformer-regretted his shortcomings as a corruptionist. As a railroad reformer he condemned rebates, lower rates for longer hauls than for shorter ones, lobbies, and free passes; but as Union Pacific president he could not end those abuses.
Competition with other lines made unilateral reform impossible without bankrupting the road, and Adams could not prevent local officials from violating his general regulations. To strengthen the Union Pacific Adams expanded into the Pacific Northwest and secured a Chicago connection.
But Jay Gould's Missouri Pacific Railroad was threatened, and he began a drive to depose Adams. The drive succeeded in 1890; weakened by the floating debt his expansion produced, Adams surrendered.
There was a good deal more to Adams than railroads and making money. He took an active part in Quincy affairs by rehabilitating the town meeting,reforming the schools, rejuvenating the public library, and giving the town Merrymount Park. Before Adams left Quincy in 1884, the unwelcome inlflux of tradesmen and Irish Catholics had made him an alien in the town of his fathers. Indeed Adams was alienated from American society at large and disillusioned with politics, since there was "no place for men of his tyPe." He soured on democracy when it rejected his dream of intellectually eite leaders. Nevertheless Adams continued to serve society and to serve it well as head of the Metropolitan Park Commission, as a member of the Harvard Board of Overseers, and as a historian of significant influence.
Three Episodes in Massachusetts History gave Adams ample opportunity to be secular and anti-filiopietistic (perhaps his greatest contribution), to use primary sources, to widen the conventional range of history by dealing with the social as well as the political, and to fuse the literary tradition with scientific history. We are indebted to Mr. Kirkland for introducing us to another distinguished "failure" of our greatest family."
Charles Francis Adams, Jr.: the Intellectual as Businessman in the Gilded Age, David Hardesty Hickman, Harvard University, 1963