Friday, March 8, 2013

General Ulysses Grant meets Abraham Lincoln, March 8,  1864
General Ulysses Grant was named General-in-Chief of the Army in March 1864,  Historian Jean Edward Smith wrote: "The White House had designated a welcoming committee to meet the train and escort him to his hotel, but the arrangements fell through and no was on hand when he arrived on the afternoon of March 8...."

He and his son Fred, 13, checked in Willard's Hotel on March 8, 1864. The travel-weary and unprepossessing union officer was not recognized on signing in and was assigned to an undesirable room on the top floor before the clerk read his signature. Grant simply did not look like the highest-ranking officer in the Union Army. 
Ulysses Grant

Lobby of Willard Hotel
His appearance in the Willard's dining room caused a stir -- especially after Congressman James Moorhead announced: "Ladies and gentlemen: The hero of Donelson, of Vicksburg, and of Chattanooga is among us. I propose the health of Lieutenant-General Grant." 

A chant of "Grant! Grant! Grant!" was soon taking up by the diners, who rushed to his table to congratulate him. When it became evident that a peaceful dinner was out of the question, the general and his son retired to their room.
"That evening, as it chanced, was the occasion of the usual weekly reception at the White House, and thither General Grant went by special invitation," a reporter, Noah Brooks, wrote. "Thither too went throngs of people when it was known that he would be on view with the President. So great was the crowd, and so wild the rush to get near the general, that he was obliged at last to mount a sofa, where he could be seen, and where he was secure, at least for a time, from the madness of the multitude. People were caught up and whirled in the torrent which swept through the great East Room. Ladies suffered dire disaster in the crush and confusion; their laces were torn and crinolines mashed; and many got upon sofas, chairs, and tables to be out of harm's way or to get a better view of the spectacle. It was the only real mob I ever saw in the White House. It was an indescribable scene of curiosity, joy, and pleasure. For once at least the President of the United States was not the chief figure in the picture. The little, scared-looking man who stood on a crimson-covered sofa was the idol of the hour. He remained on view for a short time; then he was quietly smuggled out by friendly hands."

Grant's son remembered: "As my father entered the drawing-room door at the White House, the other visitors fell back in silence, and President Lincoln received my father most cordially, taking both his hands, and saying, "I am most delighted to see you, General."

In his memoirs, Grant wrote: "I never met Mr. Lincoln until called to the capital to receive my commission as lieutenant-general. I knew, however, very well and favorably from the accounts given by officers under me at the West who had known him all their lives. I had also read the remarkable series of debates between Lincoln and Douglas a few years before, when they were rival candidates for the United States Senate. I was then a resident of Missouri, and by no means a 'Lincoln man' in that contest; but I recognized then his great ability."

The next day, with Fred, Rawlins, and Comstock in tow, he made his way first to Halleck's office, then to Stanton's, and then back to the White House, arriving in time for the one o'clock ceremony." Grant aide Porter wrote: "The next day, March 9, the general went to the White House, by invitation of Mr. Lincoln, for the purpose of receiving his commission from the hands of the President. Upon his return to Willard's Hotel, I called to pay my respects. Curiosity led me to look at the hotel register, and the modesty of the entry upon the book, in the general's handwriting, made an impression upon me. It read simply, 'U.S. Grant and son, Galena, Ill.'" 

Lincoln aide Edward Duffield Neill, who worked on the second floor of the White House, wrote: "About two o'clock in the afternoon of the 9th of March, 1864, a messenger told me to look out of the window of my room and I would see General Grant. I went, and saw a plain, round-shouldered man in citizen's dress, with a lad, his eldest son, by his side, walking away from the house, where he had been to pay his visit to the President." 

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