Some Quotations from the Personal Memoirs of
Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885)
compiled by Hugo S. Cunningham
first posted 000715
last updated 000715
Source of all quotes listed here:
Ulysses S. Grant, Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant (edited with notes by E.B. Long, new introduction by William S. McFeely), reprint by Da Capo Press Inc/Plenum Publishing Corp, New York, 1982.
"I do not believe I ever would have the courage to fight a duel. If any man should wrong me to the extent of my being willing to kill him, I would not be willing to give him the choice of weapons with which it should be done, and of the time, place and distance separating us, when I executed him. If I should do another such a wrong as to justify him in killing me, I would make any reasonable atonement within my power, if convinced of the wrong done. I place my opposition to duelling on higher grounds than any here stated. No doubt a majority of the duels fought have been for want of moral courage on the part of those engaged to decline."
Invokes what would later be called "living Constitution" reasoning to justify suppression of rebellion, 1861-1865:
"The fact is the constitution [of the U.S.A.] did not apply to any such contingency as the one existing from 1861 to 1865. Its framers never dreamed of such a contingency occurring. If they had foreseen it, the probabilities are they would have sanctioned the right of a State or States to withdraw rather than that there should be war between brothers.
Stories about ingenious "foraging" during Sherman's march from Atlanta to the sea (Dec 1864):
"The framers were wise in their generation and wanted to do the very best possible to secure their own liberty and independence, and that also of their descendants to the latest days. It is preposterous to suppose that the people of one generation can lay down the best and only rules of government for all who are to come after them, and under unforeseen contingencies. At the time of the framing of our constitution the only physical forces that had been subdued and made to serve man and do his labor, were the currents in the streams and in the air we breathe. Rude machinery, propelled by water power, had been invented; sails to propel ships upon the waters had been set to catch the passing breeze --- but the application of steam to propel vessels against both wind and current, and machinery to do all manner of work had not been thought of. The instantaneous transmission of messages around the world by means of electricity would probably at that day have been attributed to witchcraft or a league with the Devil. Immaterial circumstances had changed as greatly as material ones. We could not and ought not to be rigidly bound by the rules laid down under circumstances so different for emergencies so utterly unanticipated. The fathers themselves would have been the first to declare that their prerogatives were not irrevocable. They would surely have resisted secession could they have lived to see the shape it assumed."
"I suspect most of them" [these anecdotes] "consist chiefly of the fiction added to make the stories better. In one instance it was reported that a few men of Sherman's army passed a house where they discovered some chickens under the dwelling. They immediately proceeded to capture them, to add to the army's supplies. The lady of the house, who happened to be at home, made piteous appeals to have these spared, saying they were a few she had put away to save by permission of other parties who had preceded and who had taken all the others that she had. The soldiers seemed moved at her appeal, but looking at the chickens again they were tempted and one of them replied: 'The rebellion must be suppressed if it takes the last chicken in the Confederacy,' and proceeded to appropriate the last one."
On meeting Confederate General Robert E. Lee before the surrender at Appomattox VA, 9 April 1865:
"I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us."
The full text of the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant has been posted at
by Richard Jensen, Professor-Emeritus of History at U-Illinois Chicago
for the Center for the Study of the Presidency (CSP)
The "Ulysses S. Grant network" maintains a large collection of informative links at
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