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tv   The Presidency Ulysses Grant Bicentennial Dinner  CSPAN  May 28, 2022 3:40pm-5:06pm EDT

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are here great those of you who are here virtually great and everybody will be able to get this. go and watch it at another time. today we honor president grant. as a military leader. who fought to preserve the union? as a president who present fought to preserve the values of our union. and thank you all for being here. and being part of this effort. have a great day.
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welcome everyone. good evening. i want to thank you all for joining us tonight. on the evening of general and president ulysses s grant's 200th birthday. this historic milestone comes at a time when grant star is rising. ulysses s grante is being commemorated and proclamations and other special messages issued by states across the nation the district of columbia and living us presidents. we have included in our dinner programs. just one of the proclamations from grant's birth state of ohio and all presidential messages that were available at the time of printing. what stands out in these messages?
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also stands out in history's understanding of grants during the 21st century. appreciation of his accomplishments is no longer confined to his military career in which he was the principal author of union victory during the civil war. it now extends to his presidency which included benchmarks in peace and equality that merit him a place in the pantheon of great presidents. grants contemporaries had no hesitation elevating him to the standing of george washington and abraham lincoln. it's no coincidence that his funeral in 1885 saw at roughly 1.5 million the largest gathering of people at any one time and place in the history of the north american continent or that he is entombed in the largest mausoleum in the western hemisphere.
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sometimes that level of fame does not age well over time. but in grant's case it should be even clearer now than ever. that he represented a cause agency put it with characteristic modesty and his memoirs whether deservedly so or not. that was superlatively important to this country. it was important first in the nation's survival. and then the cause became a matter of among other things the most profound constitutional developments in our country's history. no, single american leader was more prominent in what is often called the second founding the civil war reconstruction era then grant was his public career from the realization of the emancipation of enslaved people by military victory to his success in securing the 15th amendment protecting the right to vote regardless of race.
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promoted and witnessed a more sweeping transition in the status of african-americans than that of any of his his peers in american history. our country almost did not make it through its first century intact. 160 years after the bloodiest war in american history for all of its challenges this nation has not only endured but thrived it never again approached a civil war. and even jim crow's tragic dismantling of equality did not last. enough of the legal architecture grant helps to build for the protection of equal rights survived to enable the achievements of the civil rights movement of the 20th century. there is no story quite like it. president grant emerges as a founding father of our multiracial republic and grant
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birthday dinners like this one provide an occasion when americans who may starkly differ with each other in our own polarized society can come together and put their differences aside in an act of shared patriotism. ulysses s. grant's service imparts to us the need for unity to overcome division. the grant monument association the successor to the group of the same name that built grants tomb and administered it until the national park service took over in 1959 was formed primarily to advance the preservation of that site. but commemoration is also part of our mission. and there's a history behind these grant birthday dinners. during the late 19th century there were at times more than one banquet held to mark grant's birthday in new york. one of these was sponsored during the 1890s by the grant banquet association.
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that merged into the grant monument association in 1898. in our revived format the focus of these dinners is education and scholarship which is why we are holding every year's dinner. as a scholarly colloquy. before we get to that. in the spirit of education the grant monument association recently sponsored an essay contest among 12th graders at frederick douglass academy, which is located near grant's tomb. yes, please. thank you. the students were asked to write an essay about president grant with winners receiving a scholarship prize, and i'm very pleased to call up the winners of this contest to acknowledge them and to to give them something reflecting their achievement. so what i call your name if you
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come right up the first name, i would like to call for the third place prizes dante maybank. dante please come up. second place those two your jarrus peguero.
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finally, i'd like to recognize the first place winner, sean riley. i should add that the frederick douglass academy has produced a strong share of admissions to west point. which of course was the training ground of ulysses s grant and so many future leaders. although by his own description the most trying days of his life were at the military academy.
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grant would look back on that formative period with great esteem for west point which he called the best school in the world and the most thorough in its discipline. west point organized a wonderful tribute to our 18th president at grant's tomb earlier today. they were joined by brooks simpson the keynote speaker at the ceremony and a stellar biographer of grant who for more than 30 years has helped us her in a new era of grant scholarship. we are honored to have professor simpson with us here tonight along with a strong contingent of cadets from west point. stand up folks. i wish also to acknowledge the many other military trainees and active military who are with us here tonight.
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from these ranks come our future leaders. what do we do to commemorate? an occasion like this the bicentennial of a preeminent. american figure many of us would say the preeminent soldier america's contribution to the pantheon of great captains of history you asked who the most capable general was of those who have been tried by war i think. the majority of historians would answer. it was ulysses s grant. and in 1976 for the bicentennial of our nation. congress in a special gesture posthumously promoted the
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commander who became our first president to the us army's highest rank general of the armies of the united states. and i think it is only fitting. that to commemorate the bicentennial of ulysses s. grant's birth that he be given the same recognition a promotion to general of the armies of the united states. this proposal is in fact pending in this congress we have information about it outside. i encourage you to pick up. to write your members. i also want to inform you something that i was just told is that there was a birthday resolution that just passed the senate marking the occasion of grants 200th birthday. the posthumous promotion legislation will come later after he defense department review, but i think that combined with the voices of concerned citizens will push
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this thing over the finish line. now we should all feel calls during grant this grant bicentennial. to do our part to advance education on his life and legacy and to embrace the highest principles of service to country that he embodied. so let's keep telling students of history now and for the next 200 years the story of this extraordinary general and president. speaking of those who who have told this story. we are honored to have with us tonight. two very distinguished nationally recognized historians who have done just that with superb skill intensive research and first-rate prose. i am talking of course about our colloquy guests ron chernow and ron white. here to introduce them and to
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lead this colloquy. is a very special part of the grant monument association family who has so generously given of himself to lead the colloquy at our grant birthday dinners every year. general david petraeus is a partner at kkr and chairman of the kkr global institute, which he established in 2013. prior to joining kkr he served over 37 years in the us military culminating his career with six consecutive commands five of which were in combat including command of the surge in iraq command of us central command and command of coalition forces in afghanistan. following retirement from the military and after senate confirmation by unanimous vote of 94 to nothing. he served as director of the cia during a period of significant achievements in the global war on terror the establishment of important agency digital initiatives and significant investments in the agency's most
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important asset. it's human capital. general petraeus has earned numerous honors awards and decorations including four defense distinguished service medals the bronze star medal for valor two nato meritorious service medals the combat action badge the ranger tab and master parachutist and aerosol badges. he's also been decorated decorated by 13 foreign countries. so please join me in welcoming america's greatest living commander general david petraeus and ron chernow at ron white. please come up for our colloquy for grant's bicentennial.
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that was an example of general petraeus demonstrating the airborne skills. well testing one two three. and testing one two three well good evening to you all sorry for the little drama of the
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announcement there. you have to make an entrance every now and then. thank you frank for the characteristically kind introduction. i hope that c-span will cut that part of the film. thank you. also frank for not mentioning in my bio that i was. runner up for time man of the year since the man who beat me out in 2007 was none other than vladimir putin. but good evening to all of you how wonderful it is to be in a room with? real people and real faces it is great of you to be here to support the grant monument association. hi, thanks again as always to ed hockman and especially to our president frank's couturo. and the grant monument association team that has pulled this evening's event together.
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as we celebrate the 200th birthday of the man who saved the union during the most perilous moment our country as ever experienced. first this evening a quick comment on our two extraordinary leaders fred frank and ed. i learned during my time in uniform at the cia and then the private sector that leadership truly does matter. it can literally be crucial in the difference. it makes and what frank it also ed have done for multiple decades for the grant monument and the association. has done so much to restore the monument. that at the time that it was originally visited by a young student at columbia at frank's couturo was trash during and graffiti covered. their leadership has been instrumental in restoring the monument to the condition. it should have been and along
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the way to helping to restore the reputation of the great man whose final resting place is there. so frank and ed. thank you for all that you have done for decades in this labor of love. we appreciate it. and how nice it is frankly to celebrate this bicentennial. at the club that was founded when new yorkers sought to support the union clause during the civil war remember it was not universally applauded as our head of military history at west point will a farm. i'm sure they're actually were draft riots in this city. and this particular club was founded. when a group broke off from the union club on the upper east side. refuse to cast robert e lee out of its membership.
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as he was leading the war against the union. so this intrepid group formed this club, of course clubs union league clubs have also been established in philadelphia and chicago around the same time, but it seems to me so fitting. that we should celebrate this very important event here at this very special club and with this wonderful staff and we thank the union league club. now i know that we recognized already the presence of cadets from west point and also are you midshipmen at the us merchant marine academy? tell me what you are. okay? actually wanted to bring to your attention someone who is here tonight who truly exemplifies the excellence that those at
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each of those great institutions cherish. she just happens to be the first captain of the core of cadets and just a few weeks ago. she was selected as a rhodes scholar and we'll travel to oxford after graduation this summer stand up, please. that's what dropping the dime is all about or something like that. shout outs at the union league club. again, a tremendous privilege obviously to have with us this evening two of the greatest living biographers of ulysses s grant the two ron's ron white and ron chernow, and of course to have in the audience as well professor brooke simpson. each of the two runs has of course headlined a past grant
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monument association dinner, and i was privileged to interview them during those dinners and it's beyond wonderful to have both of them on the stage evening. you will undoubtedly know each of them but to quickly remind you of their extraordinary work in the past. ron chernow has written exceptional biographies. of the warburgs john d rockefeller the house of morgan george, washington alexander hamilton and ulysses s grant and for that his honors include a pulitzer prize for biography the national humanities medal and the national book award for nonfiction among many others, and he's a product of yale and cambridge university. ron white is similarly accomplished. subjects of his best-selling biographies included abraham lincoln about whom he has written no less than four different books. grant with the wonderful title american disease and soon to be published a biography of josiah
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chamberlain joshua chamberlain. excuse me, the hero of the battle of the little round top at gettysburg. and again that will come out in the next few months and we hope to have you at the new york historical society when that happens, so he has earned the baron desk lincoln award at christopher award and many other honors and of note as well. he is a fellow princeton phd it is fair to observe. i believe that because of these two great biographers more than any others frankly. it can be said that grant is having his moment. and i say that of course noting that ron chernows biography was the hamilton moment or perhaps maybe yes, it was the the play it that we heard the rapping and singing in rhyming couplings that really brought hamilton to the four. but in all seriousness when i was first privileged to attend the grant monument association annual dinner.
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neither of these biographies have been published. and many of us felt that it was imperative that grant b returned to the very high regard in which he was held before a succession of southern sympathizers and lost cause adherence had taken turns elevating robert e lee and disparaging ulysses s grant some of you may recall my observation in fact that general grant in my view and i'll check with the head of military history after these remarks. that he is the only american general in our history to have performed brilliantly in combat. at the tactical operational and strategic levels of warfare. no one else in my view has done it. certainly, no one has done it at the level that he did demonstrating the strategic leadership in particular after virtually all the other senior lead union leaders had had a triad and had failed at the task
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and it was his design of the overall strategy that in 1864 achieved the victories that ensured that abraham lincoln was reelected. and that was why he is known as the man who saved the union and i might add that of course running against lincoln was a man who had failed not once but twice as the senior union general that being general mccullough. then of course came the two runs and their great biographies of grant established in briefly eloquently and convincingly like it needed to be restored to the pedestal and which had been placed after the civil war and two terms in the white house. finally each of these exceptional biographers is known not just for exhaustive historical research and measured thoughtful treatment of their subjects. but also for how exceptionally readable lively and indeed enthralling their works are they
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are in essence brilliant storytellers as well as brilliant biographers, so welcome back, ron and ron and let's begin. so rancher now as you were writing your great work on grant. what was it that you most wanted to convey to readers about the great man? who's 200th birthday? we celebrate this evening, but first general i want to say just what an honor it is be part of this birthday celebration and how privileged i feel to share the stage with ron white and in general portrays, and i have to tell you general much as i admire you this is as grand his life does not in my my move to a hip-hop beat. in any event is hamilton moment will be without having to play. i think you know to go back to what frank's guturo was saying that i wrote this book because i wanted to explain to a new generation readers. why the ulysses s. grant monument was the largest
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muslim in north america why it was actually the single greatest tourist attraction in new york city for a long time and why the people of that era of venerated grant regard it was born wonder he was considered to be part of this holy trinity of american greats that included george washington and abraham lincoln and i think that at this moment of racial reckoning that going through i think they were actually in a perfect position to appreciate grant anew everyone in this room knows that he was the victoria's general in the in the civil war, but i want to talk about what his role was with the african-american community because during the war grant became the chief figure in recruiting equipping and train african-americans, we had nearly 200,000 african-americans fought in this civil war many of them having been born into slavery and that really i think provided, you know, a decisive
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edge grant like all of the union generals was at first quite skeptical about the fighting ability of black soldiers, but in june 1863 to place called milliken's bend in louisiana black soldiers resisted a confederate assault on a federal supply depot and when grant learned about the bravery and courage and competence that these black soldiers had shown he became the single greatest champion of black recruitment during the war then let's build over into the postwar period because what happens is after lincoln dies. it's really ulysses as grant who assumes the mantle of abraham lincoln really assumes his legacy and the two great acts of the obama the civil war and reconstruction ulysses has grant is the one figure the one great figure who kind of connects the two the two periods. so almost everything that happens between 1861 and 1877
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ulysses has grant is right at the at the center of a and i think you know, we now can see clearly that you s grant was the single most consequential president for the african-american community between abraham lincoln and lyndon maine's johnson frank rattled off some of these things before grant was really instrumental behind the passage of the 15th amendment which was this single greatest event in the country's history since it's founding he presided over the civil rights act of 1875, which provided for which ended discrimination in transportation public accommodations schools and juries the supreme court knocked down in 1883. really didn't get back to that until the civil rights act of 1965 and most importantly and i hope we have time together into this as we talked grant took the
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newly formed justice appointed a crusading attorney general. from georgia named amos akerman and crushed the original ku klux klan, which i think is not only grand single greatest accomplishment as president, but i think is one of the greatest accomplishments of any american president ever. and of course ron he his service really during president johnson's period that turbulent period he was the rock he was the he was the one who resisted some of the worst inclinations. oh, absolutely, you know when period of grants life that is a always overlooked that between the end of the civil war on the time that he became president that four year period he was still general in chief. now this was especially important because during that period the south was carved up
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into five military districts all five of those military commanders were reporting directly to grant his general in chief and grand phantom himself presiding over civil rights revolution in the south. let me just give you one example, and i was very startled. you know when i first came upon this and grant's papers, i think it was in 1867 grand gets a message from phil sheridan in new orleans and sheridan says dear general we desegregated. accommodations this week in new orleans 1867. he said up until that time blacks and whites had been riding on separate streetcars. he said that the blacks in protests started writing on the white streetcars the streetcar companies then appealed to sheridan who insisted that they integrate the streetcars. now, this is like 90 years before rosa parks. it's a piece of american history. we don't hear about all of this that happened already. there was a major civil rights
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revolution in the south and that's civil rights revolution between the end of the civil war and the beginning of grants presidency. it was presided over over his presided over by ulysses s grant in the teeth. yes of opposition from his own president andrew johnson. yeah, really great extraordinary. will ron white what was it that you most wanted to ensure that your readers took from american ulysses and what a great title too. well, let me begin with my thanks for everyone who's here for ed and frank and general petraeus and ron were good friends and what a marvelous opportunity. well grant was a part of my lincoln biography. and so actually my editor said don't you think he's due for an upgrade? and so i started in but then i realized after about five or six months. i had to make a personal confession. i didn't really know the man. and i felt that so many americans did not we knew what he did certainly in the civil
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war, but we didn't know who he was and if i may because i don't want to misquote him in the 1930s. there was an amazing book of books of on the american political leaders, and they tapped william hazeltine of the university of wisconsin a prominent american historian to write a biography of grant. and this is what he said. his mental endowment was not great. and he filled his state papers with platitudes instead of thoughts. you also think god say he was not a great writer. well, ron and i were both be able to use the papers of ulysses s grant which were never fit not finished until 2017. so previous biographers did not have those papers. so i wanted to know who was this man and then it was a number of puzzles what formed his life. we remember that grant was not a great public speaker. he's not abraham lincoln. but there are certain values. i think that kind of push him
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forward. i think of him as a late bloomer. i think when he finally goes across the isthiness of panama on his way to oregon and california is a leadership arises the whole thing is falling apart people are dying of cholera in within 24 hours. he steps forward to lead. so i want to find out who was this person? and especially who was this person as president because i felt that was the place where he in the eyes of the historians and in the popular imagination had so fallen short. so ron has spoken eloquently about his advocacy for the freedmen and what this meant we've had this recent episode. i hope it's just an episode and not episodes of taking the names of people off of public schools of misquoting the way frederick douglass spoke about abraham lincoln at the freedom memorial in 1876. well grant was spoused by frederick douglass even more than douglas espous lincoln. doug frederick douglass
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campaigned for grant in both 1868 and 1872 and i'm reminded of the story that at the end of the election in 1872 a group of african americans from philadelphia came to the white house and they said they wanted to come to thank president grant what they said was you are the first president elected by the whole people you represent finally that epitome of our republican values. well grant responded and he said well i fully empathize with what you're saying. it seems to me that every person should have a right to travel on any conveyance railroad that they want and then he made this really remarkable statement, but i believe that every american should have the right to vote. because when ron talks about the ku klux klan, they're real effort was to stop the voting. this was voter suppression. this is a white terrorist organization to stop voter suppression of why because they would vote republican.
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they would vote 80 to 90 percent republican. so grant then goes on to say and i hope this moment will come when every american has the right to vote. he concluded it must come. you would be 90 years 90 years before we would come to the civil rights movement. martin luther king john f kennedy lyndon baines johnson. so who was this person? what were the values of him? that would allow him to do what he did i wanted to get behind what he did to who he was the way you can see just after the first two questions why we are so privileged to have these two individuals on stage this evening run turner you had already written about a number of indisputably consequential figures when you decided to write about grant. i'm just curious. what was it that led you to spend years of your life focusing on him. but this will sound a bit strange general but one of the things that most attracted me to
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this story was the element of failure in the in the life, you know, because i had written books about jp morgan and johnny rockefeller sigman warburg, alexander hamilton george washington, and as i was writing those books i felt that all of those individuals if i can put it this way. we're billed for a success. they had kind of a drive focus intelligence kind of enterprising character so that as you're studying their life or is you're reading the biography, you know, even when they're in their teens or early 20s that they're going to succeed mightily at something because as i say they were built for a success grant was not built for a success and in fact before the civil war it looked like he was doing to language and obscurity forever. he had no vaulting ambition. in fact, i was amused to learn that when he graduated from west point his highest ambition was to be an assistant math
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professor at the academy not not mind you a full mattress and assistant math professor. that was as high as he aspired and it turned out that grant was one of these rare cases in history where it required a very specific set of circumstances to reveal these sterling qual. that he had and i speculate in the the book because it seems like a paradox at the pre-war life is so filled with failure and then everything then suddenly is general in chief with a million men under his commands of any is a two-term president. it seems like that these two parts of his life. don't fit together. but anyway, they do because i think that the the years of coping with failure gave him a sense of fortitude and perseverance and he had fought many private battles before he fought the public battles of the civil war so that interested me and really sat him apart from the other figures that i had
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written about and from a human standpoint. this was a story that had an emotional charge for me. that was very different from the other books and after all let's face it. i mean some of us get to deal with success in life we all get to deal with failure in life, which is a much more universal experience and one that i was interested. probing that's a wonderful perspective actually. ron white we know that you came to him by way of abraham lincoln. of course, but what did you see as the greatest misconception about him as you conducted your research of this great, man? well, certainly there's a caricature of grant. yeah that he is not mentally endowed and this begins really with his finishing 21st out of 39 at west point. it needs to be said that when he entered he had a much larger class. and so that set in motion the perception in his lifetime. that he was not a thoughtful
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person not an intellectual person. not a reader. now that then becomes countered in our own time when we have these two wonderful annotated versions of grants memoirs, and i believe that grant good writers are inevitably good readers, so i was curious to find out was grant a reader. you may recall if you've read his memoirs that he will say something like i must apologize for his 21st out of 39. i spent my time reading novels. so i read the novels that he read and don't do that anymore. point which was they were not in the library. so grant contacted the publishers even a week before his graduation. he wrote a second letter. he said where are those two books? and as he read edwin bullard has he read james fenimore cooper as he read sir walter scott some of these communicated to him the
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difference between appearance and reality. and some of these books have not survived into the 20th century. so let alone the 21st century because they were very didactic. but i can imagine grant sitting in his room because the writer would say and young reader. the writer would actually say that to the person who was reading and grant was that young reader. so i think to put beginning to end. is that those novels said to me that here was a person of much more depth of thinking of what i would call intellectual curiosity than we adhere to foreseen and i think this again is a clue to the leader that he becomes of course a lot of those are sort of heroic. oh, they're very heroic novels and their other fed me a lot right and sometimes their son fighting against father to do what he wants to do in the world and right right and so he took at least that from that i think he did. he was the most unheroic of heroic figures. yeah that probably ever were the
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uniform. yeah. yeah. in fact as i recall, he didn't even wear the uniform he had he didn't have the straps of a general right? wasn't it a private you were a private uniform most of just the time. yes. run, what was your what did you come to believe as the greatest bisque conception? well, you know when i started working on the book my friend harold holser. who's one of the great living authorities on lincoln said to me said, you know, it would be nice to settle the drinking business once and for all because you know grant's reputation had been dogged by the label that he was a drunker and i found that term drunkard very revealing because what a drunkard says is that it's a moral failing something. that's sort of being leafly indulged by the individual. whereas today. we think of alcoholism as a chronic medical.
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condition, but there have been this kind of very moralistic attitude about it. and so i took a harold's advice and devoted enormous amount of research to grant and drinking and i came by the conclusion that he indisputably was an alcoholic that he had a classic symptoms of an alcoholic that by his own admission. he could never have just one drink and also that people who observed him after drinking notice that there was a personality change ritual so is a very typical of alcoholism. the reason that i think that bogdres had so much difficulty with this issue is the grant was there's a binge drinker he was an episodic drinker he could go for three four months without touching a drop of liquor and then he would go off on what was called the spree, you know in those days, but this was something that he took very very seriously throughout his adult life even when he was in his he
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was a member of temperance society. so this was something that he himself struggled with. this was not something that he was in a cavalier way indulging and then he does something quite remarkable during the civil war. he knew young lawyer from galena, illinois named john roland's whom he invited to be his effectively chief of staff during the civil war and roland says to grant that he rollins will serve as chief of staff on one condition that grand promise. he will never touch a drop of liquor grant agrees to that. i mean that's kind of an index of how seriously he took this problem. well the relationship between rollins and grant which to take it ron white's point. i mean we have almost on a daily basis rollins riding to his fiancee namaste every letter. there's a reference to this situation granted labs and the situation that developed was that john rollins would privately chide grant with publicly.
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him because he came to feel that the fate of the union army and hence the fate of the nation was writing on the shoulders of the army, but you know, and i would tell friends and aa this story they would say well that's great grand had his own sponsor. i took him on i took him on his staff and the amazing thing. is that a grand largely conquers the problem. there was a very active rumor mill before there were uncertainly during the war about his drinking but during two term presidencies in a goldfish ball in washington. they're almost no stories and in fact at state dinners at the white house, he would turn his glass over when they came to field one. so i found that rather than this being a shameful thing and i think people who admired grant always felt the need to kind of deny that there was any drinking problem. i think that by sort of acknowledging that there was this is yet another heroic battle and yet another one that he won very good. and of course that when lincoln
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was told that grant drank. he said i find out what he drinks. yeah, the other that's right. yeah. at least he fights. yeah, and i think it had not been through all the rumors about the drinking. i think that lincoln would have brought grant east much sooner because you know in in the east lincoln has one fail general after another the western theater, which is very much dominated by ulysses and grant this one winning one battle after another so the question is why didn't lincoln not bring him earlier and there were these this constant rumor mill that was going on in washington. yeah, and for the cadets one of the great episodes, i think maybe the greatest episode in the west is of course the battle of vicksburg. which was so risky. that his most trusted lieutenant general sherman insists that an official letter but in the file saying that he sherman believes it's too risky now. this is that the two who were
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like this remember what supposedly sherman said? yes. i stood by grant while he was drunk. he stood by me while i was crazy. i was crazy sherman did have some issues as well and grant was the stabilizing force but a fascinating episode i want to stay with you ron turn now you again you've already mentioned i think that you assessed that grant was a considerably better president than he was regarded as being what are the key elements of that that stand out? yeah. well, i mean kind of you know, the second term being marked by you know for the cartoon of grant is president for a long time. was it administration, you know riddled by cronyism and nepotism. i mean, this should have been a vast change in the estimate of grant is president, you know when they started doing polls and presidential historians. there was one in 1948 that ranked grant next to last the only president who was considered worse was warren g
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harding at that time, but in the stock market of historic reputations grand shares have been soaring. i think not only because of you know our bodies, but there been a number the almost all the books that written the last 20 30 years have reevaluated grants presidency. so in the most recent poll, i think granted risen to number 21 among 46 presidents. so what's the change the corruption scand? in granted administration which were mostly confined to the last two years of his second term. i document them in the book they did they did happen but a few points to emphasize grant was not personally involved in them. he did not condone them and he prosecuted them quite vigorously. i think the most significant one was the the whiskey ring and he brought 350 indictments, you know against it but so, you know, the correction scandals
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were real. i think a lot of it was after the democrats regained control. of congress in 1874 in order to decent discreditary construction. they began to focus on the corruption scandals as a way of discrediting grant, but i think that's kind of the miners story of the administration the major wonders. i said the crusade against the klan now the clan starts. in 1866 in place called pulaski, tennessee. it starts at its confederate social club. other similarly clubs bring up across the south and they take on an increasingly militaristic tone. you know, is is ron white was saying the big fear was that because the blacks were significant part of the vote in almost all of these southern states and i think in two of them, south carolina and mississippi blacks actually the majority of the population so blacks dared to organize politically.
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and vote they would, you know come to paris. so ryan white was saying exactly right that the clan violence was targeted against black political organizing and voting and there were thousands of blacks. you know who were murdered in the south of had any prosecutions? in fact, the clan really created such a reign of terror was called the invisible empire. there was no southern sheriff who would dare to arrest a member of the klan. there was no southern right who had testify against a member of the jury that would convict a member of the clans so grant very ingeniously points amos ackerman of georgia as attorney general it was it was the one southern appointment even though ackerman had grown up in in new hampshire ackerman brings 3000 indictments gets a thousand convictions, and this was really very revolutionary because it
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meant actually used us soldiers to arrest clan members they were pride in in federal court and grant felt so strongly about this issue that was unusual at the time for the president and his cabinet to go. little hill and lobby for measure grant took his cabinet up to capitol hill. april 1871 got the ku klux and ku klux klan act passed. and what the clan act enabled the president united states to do was to in cases where southern states were not protecting black citizens from harassment or violence gave the president the power to declare martial law. to spend the rate of heaviest corpus and to send in federal troops. these were obviously very extreme measures. grant had to take them a number of times. there was finally a loss of northern support, you know for doing this it was a kind of as a
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tragic situation, but grant crushed the clan and the clan that unfortunately is still with us in various forms. that was from the revival of the clan in the 19 teens and the 1920s and the imitated a lot of the clothes the symbols the ideology of the original plan, but the original ku klux klan was crushed by ulysses s grant. yeah. brian did you merge with the same conviction about grant as president? research i did and some of the earlier biographies or even articles were focusing mostly on grant's general. so he really hadn't given the focus on what it meant that grant was present. when he became president originally he thought he was simply going to be a kind of conciliatory presidency present. he wasn't really thinking himself as leader of the republican party. but he was a quick learner and he had a learning curve. and he stepped forward abraham lincoln has this wonderful story of two men who were wrestling
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and the more they wrestle they wrestle out of each other's clothes into the close of the other. and lincoln shows that to show how the parties had changed places. well, this is what was taking place the democratic party then was the party of state's rights today. it's the party of a strong central government. the republican party today is the party of state's rights under lincoln and grant it was the party of a strong central government. and so grant didn't begin. i think with that point of view, but as ron is laid out in a wonderful way the advent of the clan the terrorism that they produced grant had to step forward interestingly even as his own republican party was stepping back. there's a biblical verse about people growing weary and well doing and all the republicans get the credit and they should for the 13 14th and 15th amendments by the time grant steps forward. his own party is stepping back let the south solve this problem. so iran has said ackerman is
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appointed interestingly a man who had spent most of his life in the south understood this dramatically. what the attitude of the south was and i think this is a big part of it, but there's other parts of it too in his fur in his inaugural address in 1868 he suggests that the america has not treated the american indian fairly. and he convenes a group of people and who are those people he reaches out to all of the protestant denominations and the catholic church, and he says you have mission agents. this is the kinds of people they are would you come to the white house? i want to get this done now i have to say personal confession that my editor made me reduce my biography by 150 pages, so i didn't i didn't i've been criticized. i accept the criticism. i didn't tell the final story of grant in the indians because he started off well, but he didn't finally stay with it as much as he could also. there was a huge hard to
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understand now anti-england feeling england had been the place that had built the confederate rating ships. and so but grant understood that england going forward into the 19th century even early 20th century could possibly be should be our greatest ally and so he used the whole court of arbitration which was taking place in geneva to suggest that this is the way to solve these problems. we have to get beyond our phobia against england. yes, they will pay an amount of money because of what they had done in damage to both our military and our merchant fleet, but grant saw forward. what we would be wanting to do with england. so there's many i totally agree that the friedman and the standing up for african-americans was i think the central part which which gives him residents today. but i think there were many aspects of his presidency that we need to look at and value and appreciate and let me just put a footnote in here.
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ron mentioned 21st in the c-span surveys. there's been four c-span surveys in the 21st century presidential historian surveys. they're done every time there's a change of presidents you can gossip this to your friends. grant has risen third 13 places there 13 places in the 21st century. dwight eisenhower is second. he's risen poor places, but this tells you how grant is on the rise in 200. and and you have helped. in no small measure because of what the two of you have done and but certainly others but what you have done in particular and once frank scaturro turns us all into lobbyists and we get that fifth star for grant. i'm sure he'll rise a few more
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runs on that. ladder ron as as you heard. we obviously have several dozen cadets and midshipmen here with us this evening. what do you think they should take from grants example? well, let me say that one of the great joys unexpected after completing my biography of ulysses s. grant was to be contacted by general petraeus and to do for now five events together. so i'm learned from you and i know your favorite story. is that story at the end of the first day at shiloh? when yes, the union army had almost been pushed into the tennessee river. and general petraeus loves to tell the story that here is grant. i don't think he wants to go into the field hospital where men are having their legs and arms amputated. he's standing under a tree the rain is coming down sherman comes upon him and says to the effect why we have really been beaten today. and grant says amen, a few words.
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yes, but we'll whip them tomorrow. think of one other really remarkable moment. this was when the grant starts out on may 4 1864 in the overland campaign. the first place they enter is the wilderness. he has an army at least twice as large as leave, but once he enters that wilderness, and i've walked that wilderness it's this compacted scrubbo. trees four five feet high and his advantage in cavalry is gone. his advantage in artillery is not possible. the term is not yet present, but friendly fire begins to take place as men fall out of line and begin shooting not exactly sure who they're shooting and then in the middle of the day the forest catches fire. begins to burn and men are burned to death. or they shoot themselves before they will be burned to death.
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so at the end of the second day a general rides in because lincoln had given grant command, but the soldiers hadn't given him command. they were waiting and seeing. and whispering. they said he hasn't fought bobby lee. he's never met bobby lee shiloh, vicksburg, chattanooga to the members of the army of the potomac was the minor league. so the general rides in and says, well, i know what lee is going to do he's going to do with this that the other and horace porter records grant's words grant the silent rises slowly and says, i am heartily tired of hearing what lee is going to do. what i want to know is what are we going to do? and then he gives that order the next that morning not to be given by me till 8:30 that night and they march towards the chancellorsville junction. and smoke is still there. but the men understand grants writing his hall 17 foot high
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horse cincinnati. they begin to move towards that chancellorville junction, too if grant turns left as four armies had turned in the past. he will go back to washington if he turns right. he will go to richmond. and he gets to that moment. i don't know if he paused or not, but he turned right. and an illustrator was there who caught this in the men through their hats in the air and it was a singing army, aren't we glad to get out of the wilderness? and that was the moment. i believe that grant was given command not by lincoln, but by the men of his army. that's a wonderful story. yeah. and of course not long after that he writes his situation report sit rep back to president lincoln. yes, and has the famous words. we will there will be oh and before that henry wing the young 24 year old says goes over to lincoln somebody to offer a thousand dollars who will get
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through to lincoln henry winks his i'll try goes over to grandy's. do you have any word for president lincoln and he said simply say this there will be no turning back. that's a that's ulysses s grant. that's the way you presented lucia. that's great. there will be no turning back. and he then writes to lincoln himself. and says i intend to fight it out all summer on this line if that's what it takes and of course it took all summer all fall all winter and until april 1865 and appomattox. i should note for the cadets for what it's worth that when we were in some of the really tough days of the surgeon rock when the casualties very very difficult. we had a particularly horrific day. 150 innocent iraqi civilians killed in three separate market bombings we'd lost soldiers. the rockies had lost soldiers. it was about as bad as it got.
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and i remember the story again of shiloh and that first night. and just recounted that to those that were in the command post. except that i also added the cigar that he had in his mouth when sherman came up and said well we had the devil's own day today, didn't we grant? and grant said, yep lick them tomorrow, though. and that became a metaphor really? for what we sought to do and in fact our great men and women in uniform did just that. um, ron, what do you think cadets should take? from your depiction of grant well, i was thinking about this because i assume that the cadets and the midshipmen and women who are here. i assume that you study grant's brilliant tactics and strategies and we could talk all night about that subject, but i thought that one thing that should be emphasized because it
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was such an important part of grants influence on the roar. it was really his character. he had a he had a patriots sense of honor. he had a soldiers sense of duty this carried him through the war, you know, i think that lincoln had to deal with a series of generals who headed the army of the potomac they were whining procrastinators. they were self-promoters. they tried to stab him in the back politically they constantly, you know complained that they needed more men, you know more material his attraction to grant was not only the grand kept winning battle after all out west which was very different from the situation in the east but grant never asked for more he always made do with what he did. if he suffered a set back, he blamed other people. if he went a victory, he never
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crowed in victory. he did his business and i think this is just such a wonderful. model for any young person in the military the way he did things in a kind of quiet unassuming business like way it was not in this look at me how terrific i i am. it was the character and you know, it amazes me we've gone so far in the discussion without the the word appomattox coming up, so i'll bring it up. you know at appomattox court house. it's grants a character as well as wisdom. that comes through that he could have for instance asked robert e lee robert lee was wearing his dress sword. he could have asked lee to surrender his sword as part of surrender. he didn't because he did not want to humiliate the league he of course, you will know the story provided very generous terms. the officers could keep their sidearms in their horses. the armies were the soldiers
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were paroled. the confederate soldiers was starving grant immediately issued orders to for 25,000 rations to be provided, but i think what's so remarkable about grants behavior. is that here at this supremely happy moment for him in the soldiers. he doesn't allow, you know any gloating or celebration to take place, you know, no 100 gun salutes or anything like that. in fact his wife. julia had urged him after the fall of richmond the confederate capital julia had urg, to go in as the conquering hero which i think many and other generals would gladly have done and grand turn to julia and said no julia. i can't do that. don't you realize how bitter defeat already is for these people without my lording it over them? i think that only someone who had suffered so much defeat in its own private.
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understand this psychology of a defeated people and i think one of the great grand stories is after the the war there was a proposal, you know in the rotunda of the capital where they're large, you know historical paintings. there was a proposal to have such a painting that would show these surrendering to to grant and grant said, no, we're not going to have a painting like that because that would only in bitter and humiliate the south further and he felt that it would prevent a reconciliation between north and south. so again, i think that grant learned things from his failure all his setbacks before the the war that really enabled him to deal humanely with the defeated people. well, i mean at the end of the day, he was a relatively mild and unassuming individual and that was the essence of his character as well. although inside that again particularly for the cadets.
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was this yes quiet but indomitable. sheer determination absolute will that he would demonstrate at the really tough moments on the battlefield such as again that terrible first day at shiloh and you know, you mentioned lee actually i want to alert that first captain in the corps of cadets, by the way. you're going to get the one question from the floor. so i want to i at least i didn't spring it on you completely so you have a few minutes here to to get ready to ask that question. but since you've mentioned lee i do think it is important to write number one lee had extraordinary qualities had been brevited in the mexican war a hero of that war. he was the fastest rising. he's the only cadet that ever has zero demerits. i think at the time again many many extraordinary capabilities qualities knowledge attributes and all the rest of this. but we should be very clear that
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at the end of the day. he lost and grant one. and you know, it wasn't just that the industrial might of the north ground down the south it was that lee missed the biggest of the big ideas, which is that he the south could only win by prolonging the war and defeating lincoln in the 1864 election so that whoever it was it would oppose him who presumably would sue for peace and mcclellan committed to that and yet gambled at gettysburg in a number of other cases where the casualties were so large that they were unsustainable ultimately for the south and grant where no other union commander had before him came up with the strategy that produced the victories that ensured
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lincoln's re-election in 1864. and again, i think we sometimes missed that even when i was a cadet at west point the military history books at that time were much more about the industrial strength of the south that somehow gave grant who is a butcher and war of attrition and so forth. they you know, they sort of finally were able to defeat lee for all of his greatness. it's you know, it's amazing because of the strength of the, you know, lost causes of stars. i mean was amazing that for so long, you know lee was considered in contestably the greater general, but this is s grant captures three entire confederate armies during the war first did fort donaldson, right? then it vicksburg and then it appomattox court house. he captures three entire confederate armies robert union never captured a single union army during the course of the war. i mean, there's kind of such an imbalance but it shows you know the power of the mythology of the defeated south having to
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come up with the version of the the war that would kind of, you know, sue the wounds that the south and suffered. yeah, that's the lead was extraordinary general, but i think brilliant tactician, but i think that you're right that lee just felt he had to prolong the world long enough that the northern public would tire of it whereas, you know, grant had to exercise strategic brilliance, which he did and finally coordinating five different armies president enormous right of front and as was it grant who said this or sherman that you know, lee's world encompassed to stay, you know, grand strategy had to encompass a continent. yes, very very apt. well, let's offer the first captain of the corps of cadets an opportunity. to show why she is a rhodes scholar. first optimum and thank you so much for being here tonight and allowing us to share in this
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moment with you. the one of the things i admired the most about grants not just the relationship he had with his soldiers but the relationship he had with his subordinate officers, and i know there's a lot of navigation in terms of the politics at the time interacting with individuals like need who have been kind of outcasts from the position. so if you just to how he was able to develop those relationships with the sub board and officers and really navigate some of the intricacies of politics at the time. and it's a very good point. it's a brilliant point because the point about mead of course mead. sort of prevailed and gettysburg, but because lee got away he knew that lincoln was not pleased. he did own the battlefield at the end, but it wasn't the kind of victory and mead fear that grant might actually send him to the pentagon or something or whatever. it was at the time obviously not built in and yet that was not the case. his treatment of mead was was
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really quite brilliant. well, and thank you for your question and for who you are one one attributor this was that there was often a real rivalry or animosity between the regular officers and the volunteers but not with grant. grant treated the volunteers with respect. they understood that they were not used to that and that often also set him apart it again says something about his character, but he treated the volunteers who were the vast majority of the union army and i think this has an awful lot about how he understood you used the term subordinate officers that these were in one sense subordinate sure there were political generals that were appointed by lincoln who were not not so good, but there were incredible volunteer officers like josh lawrence chamberlain who grant treated with terrific respect and i think it said a lot about him. now ron you have turned your
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sights your next you've been spending years with another man a contemporary of grant who played a very important role in grants life toward the end by the way, we should mention of course grants memoirs. don't talk about his time in the presidency. i mean the war ends and so do the memoirs. yeah, and of course twain plays a key role in that in ensuring that grant could provide for a family that had you know, gone broke yet again, he put his faith in the wrong person. it was essentially swindled. what do you hope to convey in this biography and i guess in particular about the relationship with grace. yeah. i think you know the the one component of the biography the thing will be special interest this evening is of course trains relationship with grant mark twain had just established his own publishing company in 1884 called charles webster and company the first two books that they published a little novel called huckleberry finn and the other was the memoirs of ulysses s grant the greatest bestseller
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of the 19th century? i mean talk about starting starting strong. and so i've learned so much more about the relationship than i knew at the time that i was writing the biography of grant and it's fascinating to look at it from mark twain's point of view because mark twain had been born into a slaveholding family in the slave-holding town hannibal, missouri and yet it's very interesting and has not been a remarked upon by trained biographers that he suddenly is publishing the memoirs of the victorious general, you know union general in the war and he also published memoirs by phil sheridan and george mcclellan even the widow of george armstrong custer. he did not publish a single memoir by a confederate general or politician even though mark twain himself had fought for two weeks and then kind of a regular confederate militia in missouri, and then he and his brother fled
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to the nevada territory and sat out the remainder of the war. so i think that the relationship with grant really reflects a very very profound transformation in mark twain in terms of his attitude, you know towards the south slavery reconstruction and a lot of other issues, but you know, i've come hadn't she might ask you about this i brought along some quotes and because mark twain said so many beautiful things about grants and ron, you know, how after you publish your book then you find the best stuff, you know, you wish that's kind of an occupational hazard. and so these are kind of quotes that i wish i had had when i was doing the book on grant. about 10 years after grant died mark twain was asked in mark. twain had met everyone in the world i said reporter said who's most impressive person you've ever met. and twain answered i think above woman. i would put general grant. his was a grand figure and his
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was a noble nature. it was so simple and yet so beautiful. standing face to face with him. you looked at a man with a mighty record and yet it was not the knowledge of the fact, but the man's latent power that was so impressive with him. it was the perseverance of the man that distinguished him above others and then around the same time he said in a lecture ulysses s. grant was the greatest man. i have ever had the privilege of knowing personally. and i have not known a man with the kinder nature or a pure character. he was called the silent man the sphinx and he was that in public but not in private. there he was affluent and able-talker with a large sense of humor and most rare gift of compacting meaty things into phrases of stunning felicity along with his other great gifts. he had that rare sort of memory the memory which remembers names and faces and then in the final
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weeks of grand slide, you probably know the story. he was up. own and cottage in mount mcgregor near saratoga springs. he was dying in great agony. he was completing the memoir and mark twain went to visit him at mount mcgregor and he was profoundly profoundly moved by grants enormous courage in completing this this book and under dreadful circumstances and twain writes a letter home to his wife livi and he says this of the dying grant. he said that grant was quote this placid serene and self-possessed as ever. manifestly dying is nothing to a really great and brave man. wonderful beautiful. wow, you know twain also, of course though persuaded as i recall grant was going to publish with another publishing house and it was the terms weren't all that great.
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yeah and right, you know the century magazine did the civil war series on call battles and leaders. they had they signed up grant to do for articles. they paid him a ridiculously small amount of money and then they were in negotiations the same century company to publish his memoirs. we'll twain found out about this and he found out that they were offering him a 10% royalty, which was ridiculous because this is clearly going to be playing thought accurately the greatest bestseller of the 19th century, so he went to speak to grant and he said to grant i will pay you. they're robbing. you said i'll pay you 20% royalty or if you don't want that. i'll pay you 70% of the of the profits. grant had such a pure nature. he had not signed a contract yet, but he felt the kind of moral obligation because he had been discussing this with the century people. and twain said something sarcastic to him like you'll get two halos in heaven, you know
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for for that, but he really felt that the century people were low bullying it and it's very characteristic of grant it may seem like a small thing. took the 70% of profits rather than the 20% royalty. why because he felt that. if the book did not do well if the book lost money he was getting a profit participation then. mark twain wouldn't you know lose any money either whereas if he took, you know got the royalties he would get the royalties regardless of whether the book had earned out or not. so it was just kind of very characteristic of the man that took a lot of persuasion on mark twain's part to convince him that the century people were grossly underpaying him for the memoir and chris mark twain turned that to be right and in the year after ulysses s grant died. julia was handed a check. to checks by mark twain for
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450,000 the two-volume set so 300,000 sets or 600,000 copies. he handed our check for $450,000 which in contemporary dollars would probably be at least around 10 million dollars. so grant was so concerned that he was going to leave. julia grant impoverished because they had lost all their money with the grant and ward debacle and he actually left was a very rich woman until she died in 1902. general voice from above last question one more question. yep. and obviously this is for ron white ron you've spent the last few years of your life since publishing american ulysses on joshua chamberlain. and so i'd like to give you the last word. what it is you'll seek to convey and does is there some relationship with grant? you will also. be able to offer in that book.
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well, just to refresh your memories josh of orange chamberlain was the one who won the battle of little round top defending the far left of the union line on july 2nd 1863. he was a 32 year old bowdoin college professor. he was watching what he called the boys in his classroom go off to war and he said this war cannot simply be bought by boys. this has to be fought by men of my stature the faculty didn't want him to do that. they offered him a two-year sabbatical in europe. everybody said you can't do this. he went off. anyway, the governor said i'll make you colonel. he said no, i don't deserve to be colonel make me lieutenant colonel and maybe one day i will deserve to become colonel. after the battle of gettysburg, he goes to petersburg the year later and he is so severely wounded that the two surgeons who come upon him. tell him you will die. and he writes a letter to his wife telling her he is dying and she reads his obituary notice in the newspaper. grant promotes him on the spot
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on the spot because of his great heroism. when the war is over in 1865? chamberlain learned that grant is in portland, maine so he invites him to come to bowden college and he earns an honorary degree and stays with grant in his home. at the grant funeral procession in manhattan in 1885 grant chamberlain comes down there. he's no longer in the military. he'd become governor of maine four times president boden college. hancock who's in charge of the procession says you need to be towards the front. he said no. i'm just a private citizen. this is a remarkable man. he learned seven languages in college. seven he then went to theological seminary and earned two more. he is a phenomenal writer and speaker. he he survived those wounds but as a person is written recently. we've talked about the outer wounds amputation. he had inner wounds six
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surgeries that somehow he lived to be 86 years old the grand old man of maine and died from the infections of his wounds from petersburg. i think he's this forgotten person who's been restored in the movie gettysburg and the ken burns civil war series and i think he's a person who needs to be known. but we don't like heroes so there's been a recent pushback. i'm told that some of the park service people at gettysburg 15 20 years ago underneath their park uniforms had a t-shirt that said joshua who but if you go to gettysburg today little round top is by far the most visited place why because of joshua lawrence chamberlain, so he is a remarkable figure well, ladies and gentlemen. i hope that you now agree what an inspired decision it was on the part of our president frank scaturro and ed hochman to invite these two incomparable biographers and students of us
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grant to help celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of the man who truly did save the union and whose reputation and legacy these two great biographers helped retrieve so wonderfully. thank you ron cherno and thank you ron white
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