The eighteenth President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant, earned his popularity with the North through his leadership in the Civil War. He was the general who met with Robert E. Lee at Appomattox and accepted the Confederate’s surrender. There are many interesting stories about Grant’s life before the Civil War. In one account, he showed his ingenuity by placing artillery in the bell-tower of a church during the Mexican-American War. From the elevated position, Grant’s troops were able to assail targets that were much further away, thereby providing cover for his men who had until then, been the recipients of the artillery fire.
It is clear that Grant attempted to maintain stability for his family between his service in both the Mexican-American and Civil Wars. He worked on a farm for a period of time selling oats and corn. Having grown tired of the farm life, he partnered with his father running a leather shop just before entering the Civil War. The letter below reveals Grant’s political and moral leanings in the tumultuous year of 1861. South Carolina had recently seceded along with other southern states, Fort Sumter was fired upon, Lincoln was inaugurated President, and Grant, looking to make a difference, wrote this to his father…
“April 21st, 1861
We are now in the midst of trying times when every one must be for or against his country, and show his colors too, by his every act. Having been educated for such an emergency, at the expense of the Government, I feel that it has upon me superior claims, such claims as no ordinary motives of self-interest can surmount. I do not wish to act hastily or unadvisedly in the matter, and as there are more than enough to respond to the first call of the President, I have not yet offered myself. I have promised, and am giving all the assistance I can in organizing the company whose services have been accepted from this place. I have promised further to go with them to the State capital, and if I can be of service to the Governor in organizing his state troops to do so. What I ask now is your approval of the course I am taking, or advice in the matter. A letter written this week will reach me in Springfield. I have not time to write to you but a hasty line, for, though Sunday as it is, we are all busy here. In a few minutes I shall be engaged in directing tailors in the style and trim of uniform for our men.
Whatever may have been my political opinions before, I have but one sentiment now. That is, we have a Government, and laws and a flag, and they must all be sustained. There are but two parties now, traitors and patriots and I want hereafter to be ranked with the latter, and I trust, the stronger party. I do not know but you may be placed in an awkward position, and a dangerous one pecuniarily, but costs cannot now be counted. My advice would be to leave where you are if you are not safe with the views you entertain. I would never stultify my opinion for the sake of a little security.
I will say nothing about our business. Orvil and Lank will keep you posted as to that.
Write soon and direct as above.