March 19, 2012

historical bromances delight me

My love for USG continues unchecked. Actually, as many history buffs know, he was born Hiram Ulysses Grant, and his name was accidentally changed for him when he enrolled at West Point. So we'll call him HUG, because those are his initials, and because that's what I want to do to him.

Also in love with HUG? Abe Lincoln. Lincoln was crazy about HUG, and told him so as often as possible. All his previous generals, he said, had wanted him to make the large tactical decisions, which he felt unqualified to do, being a lawyer from Springfield. Grant wanted nothing from him but a free rein, which he was happy to give to the man who finally wanted the Union to fight the war. Lincoln used to visit Grant at the front to get away from the pressures of Washington. A curious mini-break, but one I would have loved to tag along on. Not since Adams and Jefferson have two presidents been more enamored with each other.

One of my favorite stories about HUG happened right after he got a promotion and had a new crop of underlings to meet. When he went to meet George Thomas, who was commanding the Army of the Cumberland, they had dinner together and then sat by the fireside. Neither of them spoke for about 30 minutes, and Thomas' staff was afraid that they were in a fight. In fact, they were kindred stoic spirits, and were enjoying sitting in silence.

Also in love with HUG? Everybody who ever served under him. He was the everyman's general. He was usually wearing a soldier's pants and shirt, "tucked into muddy boots," with his officer's insignia pinned to his shirt. He liked to walk around and talk to the men, or ride around the camp on horseback inspecting preparations. His hero was Zachary Taylor, who also dressed down, and interacted with his troops as often as possible, and was similarly unfussy about battle. It may be said that Zachary Taylor's influence on Grant was his greatest contribution to American history, far outshining his time as president. Men who served with both of them were stunned by how closely HUG modeled himself after Old Rough and Ready.

At this point in my reading of the biography, the war is over and Grant is aiding in Reconstruction when necessary (which is a lot). I feel that the second half won't contain as much guts and glory, but I also wish I could read about Grant forever.

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