I have just finished reading Joan Waugh’s new book on Ulysses S. Grant, “U.S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth.” Released earlier this month, by The University Press of North Carolina, it has been a very interesting read. A full review is forthcoming, but many quotes struck me as I was reading the book. While an avid reader of Grant’s life, and having read his Personal Memoirs, more than once, I have found much new material in Waugh’s book. The following quote is one I really enjoyed, and will put in proper context.
“When I look for brave, noble characters in the war, men whom death has surrounded with romance, I see them in characters like (James B.) McPherson, and not alone in Southern armies……While I would do nothing to revive unhappy memories in the South, I do not like to see our soldiers apologize for the war.”(i)
Written late in Grant’s life, this quote was directed not just to the northern public, but to the entire United States citizenry. By the 1880′s Federal soldiers, of the recent war, were caught in a whirlpool of Southern sympathy – sympathy that was tied to the “Lost Cause.” Grant categorically denied the “Lost Cause” tenet that both sides were fighting for equally just causes. Robert E. Lee’s reputation, by this time, was rocketing heavenward, while the reputation of Grant, the “butcher” general, was languishing. Worse, in Grant’s mind, was that the brave Northern soldiers were becoming apologists for the Civil War. Grant believed that the Southern soldiers were very brave, but fought for a terrible cause. He believed that history would provide relief for the Northern armies and felt terrible that so many of the brave Yankee soldiers were apologizing to their Southern counterparts for their part in the recent war.
(i) Waugh, Joan, U.S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth, published by The University Press of North Carolina in 2009, Pg. 191.