Saturday, March 29, 2008

ON THIS DAY: Saturday, March 29, 1862

“I Will Come Out Triumphantly”

Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, in his headquarters at Savannah, Tennessee, writes “Dear Julia” today.

About two-thirds of Union soldier deaths in the Civil War will be from disease, not wounds. Illness—most of all, from typhoid—will strike everyone from the highest commander to the lowest private. In time, even those living in the White House will discover they are not exempt.

For weeks, Grant has been suffering from diarrhea, chills, and fever, but he has fought sickness and won. “I am again fully well,” he writes Julia. He has not suffered alone. “All on my staff are now well, though most of them have suffered same as myself.”

This quiet, self-effacing, almost meek and congenitally honest little man (ordinarily, he weighs about 135 pounds and is about 5’7” tall) is, under the skin, a ferocious fighter and neither disease nor the Confederates are going to defeat him. He just doesn’t think that way. Throughout the war, close observers—most of all William Tecumseh Sherman—will try to figure out what gives Grant his extraordinary powers. Sherman will conclude there is a deep well of extraordinary confidence—optimism, even—hidden inside this man. You can’t rattle him, and he never gives up.

Grant concludes today’s letter with a detailed explanation of his recent suspension from command, by Halleck. Grant notes that some in the eastern press have written hurtful speculation about the cause, none of it true. But even in this Grant is optimistic.

“You need not fear but what I will come out triumphantly. I am pulling no wires, as political generals do, to advance myself. I have no future ambition.

“My object is to carry on my part of this war successfully and I am perfectly willing that others may make all the glory they can out of it.

“Give my love to all at home. Kiss the children for me.”

Oh, for more commanders like Grant!

IT’S COMING SOONER THAN YOU THINK: April 12, 2011—less than 3½ years from now!—will be the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of the Civil War. In 1861, April 12 was the day Confederates opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

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