Page images
PDF
EPUB

bowed in sorrow at his bier and every southern bullet melted into a tear drop which mingled with our own as rivers blend with the sea. Veterans who have lived to see this day, cast your eyes upon this multitude and view those to whom you entrust this monument-behold your sons and daughters, your kinsmen and your people—and as you recall the unselfish patiotism of mothers, wives, and children in days more dark than this, you will need no further assurance that your own blood and your own people will cherish your

commander as their own and that this impartial city, which to-day accepts this gift, will ever harbor and protect Grant's memory and his monument, and from the inspirations of patriotism that are drawn from the contemplation of the silent sentinel, upon this beautiful shore shall arise higher ideals of civic virtue, loftier standards of public duty, a deeper and profounder love for a common and glorious country. Yes, well may it be said, in life "the silent man,” in death dum tacet, loquitur

General W. Q. Gresham, the orator of the day, was then introduced by Mr. Dreyer in the following words :

I have now the honor of introducing you to one who was honored by the friendship and confidence of General Grant, who was his companion in arms and one of our distinguished citizens, the Honorable Walter Q. Gresham, the orator of the day.

MR. CHAIRMAN, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN :

It is hardly necessary on this occasion to enter upon any minute account of the life and deeds of the man to whose memory this beautiful statue has been erected. They are part of the history of our country, and in the minds of the people are as familiar as household words. Wherever its history is read, in whatever nook and corner of the habitable globe, there exists an intelligent interest in the strength and perpetuity of our institutions, the name and fame of the illustrious soldier, who was at once their product and their preserver, have preceded aught that may now be said of him. In this audience, at the metropolis of the state in whose borders the war found him poor and obscure, and gave him an opportunity for a career, are many who knew him intimately, and there are few incidents of his public or private life that are unknown to them. But without dwelling indiscriminately on the mass of biographical details, there are some of them which are entitled to our special attention and will hear frequent repetition, because they serve to illustrate personal characteristics which made him, in many respects, an ideal citizen of our democratic republic, and are worthy of our constant emulation. Many of these traits of character are strictly individual, and are interesting only because they belong to a striking and distinguished personality, while there are others that have special qualities, which ought to be regarded with favor by his countrymen, for they are such as are essential to the maintenance of popular institutions.

Even a critic so captious and exacting, as the late Matthew Arnold discovered much in Grant's modest suppression of his own participancy in the historical events of which he gives an account in his official reports of them, and in his autobiography. He was remarkably free from that vanity and conceit which have been the weakness of many great minds, and which seem to be the peculiar vice of men who have risen, like him, from humble antecedents to a lofty eminence. He had none of the strut of the First Napoleon, as it was revealed in his private letters, his turgid addresses to the armies of France, and his egotistical assumption that he was a man of destiny; and none of the boastfulness with which Cæsar announced his victories in Asia Minor to the Ro. man Senate, ever manifested itself in the speech or writings of the victorious leader of our armies. Greatness was never more unconscious of itself, than it was in him. In the flush and heat of victory, after a long and desperate struggle for it, when the blood is up and the nerves are tense, the equilibrium of the calmest and steadiest men is apt to be disturbed, and ebullitions of their extreme satisfaction with themselves are not severely censurable. But the triumphs of Grant from Belmont to Appomattox never destroyed his balance, or affected the habitual moderation of his utterance or demeanor.

There is nothing of the braggart in any of his official reports or dispatches, there is no arrogance, no regard for dramatic effect, no parade of himself. They are plain and simple statements of fact without any waste of words or rhetorical display, and might have been prepared by any competent and unimpassioned onlooker. The obvious and uniform purpose of all of them is to give the authorities at Washington a faithful and accurate account of the situation at the front, and nothing more. Even with the Confederacy at his feet, as a final testimony of his skill and prowess as a military chieftain, he was not betrayed into anything like exultation, and stopped the jubilant firing of a salute in his command as soon as the sound of the cannon reached his ears. The glittering uniform of the conquered leader of the Confederate armies contrasted strangely with the plain and much worn habiliments of the con queror; but Grant was more intent upon the results of the conference between them than upon his own appearance in it. And it was not the result of a surrender of the Confederate armies and final cessation of hostilities upon the North or upon partisan politics that occupied his mind. In that supreme moment he ceased to be the leader of the Union army only, and thought and acted with broad and enlightened statesmanship and patriotism for the whole reunited country. He thought of the feelings and sensibilities of the vanquished, and of making the road towards patriotic citizenship easy for them. He thought of the waste lands and impoverished communities of the South, which were again under the old flag, and quickened a returning sense of obligation to it, by restoring to every Confederate soldier the horse or mule which had belonged to him, and might be used again in making and garnering the crops on which he and his family would depend for their sustenance. He thought more of giving an impulse to the pursuits of peace and industry amongst a disorganized people, of aiding them in the maintenance of themselves, of bringing them back into social as well as political relations with the rest of the country, than upon his own part and lot in the accomplishment of these salutary ends.

The great Confederate General was shown the respect that generous natures always accord to misfortune bravely borne, and proved by his conduct and bearing the truth of the remark, that the greatest reverses are most easily sustained by the dignity that belongs to them. He and those who fought under him, with unsurpassed courage, were touched by the victor's delicate consideration for their feelings and welfare.

Grant's magnanimous nature was incapable of anything else. In the struggle that ended in final capitulation, he was never actuated by the spirit of revenge or hate, or by aught else than a high sense of patriotic duty. Wrong as they were, and as they will ever be rated by impartial history, he did not question the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us.” “I should like to see impartial history written,” he said, also: “Such history will do full credit to the courage, endurance, and soldierly ability of the American citizen, no matter what section of the country he hails from, or in what ranks he fought.” The failure of the Southern people was not due to any lack of courage or persistence, or leadership in the field, but it was the inevitable result of their having undertaken an impossible task. It is natural that men who were capable of such an effort should be cemented together in bonds of sympathy and friendship, and so long as they are loyal to the flag of the Union, brave and generous men will not censure them for cherishing an affectionate regard for one another, and for strewing flowers on the graves of their fallen comrades.

The suppression or effacement of one's self is not always, and invariably, highly meritorious. A modest estimate of one's powers may be quite justified by the facts. An underestimate of one's powers may be a fault. Grant had extraordinary abilities, and while he never dwelt upon, or thought about their greatness, or measured or compared them with the abilities of others, he knew just what they were, their extent and limitations, what might be accomplished by them, and what was beyond their reach. was never misled by rating himself too high or too low. The timid distrust with which he entered

upon

the engagement at Belmont rapidly disappeared as his powers were tested in subsequent campaigns and battles. In Mexico he had shown unmistakable sense and courage in a subordinate capacity, but in our late war he began the study of himself as a commander and leader of men, and he soon mastered the lesson.

As he became conscious of his powers he relied with unshaken confidence upon his own judgment. He held few if any councils of war. He succeeded in great emergencies by his native strength of will and intellect, and his resolute persistence, where men of more learning and better versed in military science, but with less natural capacity, would have failed. What they are obliged to learn, he seemed to know intuitively. He disregarded elementary maxims of war without hesitation when they were plainly the outgrowth of conditions radically different from those which confronted him. He was equal to any command or emergency. But there was no affection of dash or brilliancy about his movements. The boldest of his campaigns and battles were not determined upon without deliberation, and an intelligent comprehension of the obstacles in his path, and the means at his command for overcoming them. · And having once entered upon the execution of his plans, reverses which would have discouraged less resolute and far-sighted men, never impaired his confidence in ultimate success, or disqualified him for seizing upon unexpected advantages and profiting by them. Obstacles which seemed insurmountable to others only served to inspire him with determination to overcome them. “Peril strengthened his resolution and brightened his intellect.” He saw facts and situations as they really were, and acted with reference to them as realities. Napoleon's genius may have been more active and brilliant, but if he had been endowed with judgment as strong and unerring, he would never have ventured upon the disastrous Russian campaign. With a definite end always in view, without wavering or vacillation, and ever ready, with large resources, to adjust his plans to any change of circumstances, Grant pressed determinedly on to an invariably successful termination. He never lost the fruits of victory through inactivity. The final movement on Vicksburg was begun at a time when many patriotic people in the North were losing confidence in the ability of the government to suppress the rebellion by arms, and some of them were ready to terminate the Aow of blood, and the lavish expenditure of money, by compromise. Voluntary enlistments had nearly ceased. Delay was never more dangerous, and he realized that a speedy capture of the strongly fortified city and the opening of the Mississippi river from its source to its mouth were essential to Federal success. He boldly placed the great river behind him, while it was in possession of the

enemy, both above and below him, and with a vigor and skill which have never been surpassed by the great soldiers of any age or country, he threw his army against the divided forces of Pemberton, confusing and defeating them at all points, and ended with the investment and capture of the enemy's stronghold. The campaign was begun and prosecuted amid the virulent censure of himself, popular clamor for his removal, the jealousy of martinets, and the doubts and misgivings of some of his faithful and trustworthy subordinates ; but it went steadily on until it reached a triumphant conclusion. Its end sealed the fate of the Confederacy, restored confidence in the efficiency of our armies throughout the North, and among loyal people everywhere, and all but the quiet and undemonstrative soldier, who had brought it about, and for whom it was a personal triumph, as well as a Union victory, gave way to a delirium of joy and exultation. No success ever

« EelmineJätka »