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Lee and Grant

April 15, 2012
Sue Eckhoff - Grundy County Heritage Museum , Reinbeck Courier

The two most famous names of the Civil War, on opposite sides of the war, both men had so many of the same fine traits that they could have been friends under any other circumstances.

General Robert E. Lee once said, "It is well that war is so terrible or we should get too fond of it." Defeated at the end of the Civil War, he surrendered with grace and dignity to General Grant, and said of the war, "I have fought against the people of the north because I believed they were seeing to wrest from the South its dearest rights. But I have never cherished towards them bitter or vindictive feelings, and I have never seen the day when I did not pray for them."

Following the war Lee swore his renewed allegiance to the United States and by doing so persuaded thousands of his former soldiers to do the same. Weary, sick, and without work, in the summer of 1865, an insurance company offered him $50,000 just for the use of his name. He turned it down, stating he couldn't consent to receiving pay for services he did not render. He accepted a position of President of Washington College, (later known as Washington and Lee College) a tiny school barely able to financially keep its doors open. There, for the rest of his life, he demonstrated time and again that one could lose as well as win with grace. Congress refused to pardon him, or restore his citizenship, but he never complained. He also never returned to his old home in Arlington.

Lee never forgot Grant's magnanimous treatment him at Appomattox. Once a professor said something disrespectful about Grant, and Lee replied, "Sir, if you ever again presume to speak disrespectfully of General Grant in my presence, either you or I will sever its connection with this University."

Lee suffered a stroke on September 28, 1870, and died October 12, 1870 from effects of pneumonia. He is buried underneath Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia.

The qualities that served Grant in war deserted him in peace time. He entered the White House as president, pledged to peace, honesty and civil rights. Yet, corruption tainted his two terms, although it did not touch him personally. After leaving the presidency he joined a Wall Street brokerage firm. Shortly thereafter a partner in the firm stole millions from the shareholders, and bankrupted the Grant family. At about the same time he was found to be suffering from inoperable cancer of the throat. He set about writing his memoirs. Unable to eat or speak, he sat on his front porch laboring over his book. He finished his manuscript on July 16, 1885, and died one week later.

Four Confederate companies marched in his funeral procession, and General Simon Bolivar Buckner who had surrendered Fort Donnellson to Grant was among the pallbearers. His funeral procession stretched for seven miles through the streets of New York to Riverside Park on the Hudson River. President Grover Cleveland led some 60,000 marchers while a million people lined the route. Grant's wife Julia was so devastated by his death she was unable to attend the funeral. He and his wife Julia are both buried at his National Memorial located in Manhattan, New York.

In his memoirs, Grant wrote, "I feel we are on the eve of a new era when there is to be great harmony between the Federal and the Confederacy. I cannot stay to be a living witness to this prophecy, but I feel it within me that it is so." Grant's book was published by Mark Twain.



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