70                                  HISTORY OF THE SEVENTY-EIGHTH REGIMENT O.V.V.I.


After the victory to our arms at Fort Donelson, General Grant became popular and known in the nation, and rose to great favor in the army.

           Four years ago, and months after the war began, the name of General Grant was unknown to the world. He had a list of acquaintances no longer than any other citizen, and it does not appear that he stood high among those who knew him. He was thought to be an ordinary sort of person, who would never "set the river a-fire," as the saying is. He tried to get a small scientific employment in the State of Missouri, but the gentlemen who had the place in their gift decided that he was not fit for it! Such was their estimate of a man, who, if he could not serve a county, was to show that he could save a country.

           The truth is, great men must have great occasions, or their greatness will remain unknown, and in most cases as unknown to themselves as to all the rest of the world. The poet Gray speaks of flowers that are born to blush unseen, and which waste their sweetness on the desert air; and so it is with some men. They have the intellect that is necessary to achieve the fame that comes from doing famous deeds, but the opportunity for doing such deeds never comes to them. So it would have been in the case of General Grant, in all probability, if the slaveholders had not sought to destroy the country. That led to a great war, and as war is the business for which General Grant is preeminently qualified, he achieved the first place in it. The hour came, and the man was not wanting to it.

           General Grant had some difficulty in getting military employment. His path to usefulness and eminence was beset with even more than the usual difficulties. His earlier actions did not indicate any marked degree of superiority; and many men seemed to be his superiors whom he has long since passed, and thrown into the shade, by the magnitude and value of his achievements. He has had to pay for the development of his talents, which are of the grave and solid order, not showy and superficial. As ladies say of cloths, his abilities "wash." They are not of the kind that disappear under showers, nor do they fade in the sun.

           It was not until the second year of the war was closing that men began to hope that the long-expected coming man had come at last. General Grant's services as commander never were called for until a case become desperate, and then he set matters right. We had failed in the South-west, and he was required to assume command there. He obeyed, and after defeating the enemy in half a dozen battles, he shut up their army in Vicksburg, and compelled it to surrender. He was then ordered to Chattanooga, where the rebels had our forces at bay, and he obeyed, and there he served Bragg as previously he had served Johnston, storming positions which had been considered impregnable, and opened the way for General Sherman's grand march to the sea-shore, conquering Georgia and the Carolinas as he went "marching on." He was ordered to Virginia, where we had been baffled through three years. To hear was to obey, with him, and in the spring of '64 the conqueror of Johnston was measured against Lee. What followed is well known. He drove the enemy to Richmond, after a series of bloody battles; shut them up in their lines; defeated all their attempts to better their condition; maintained his hold on the Confederacy's throat with unflinching tenacity; and finally compelled the rebels to abandon Petersburg and Richmond, and then to surrender in the field, the "invincible" Lee himself signing articles of capitulation. These were his

Intro Previous Next ToC Index