The first time I met Grant he was a colonel commanding the Twenty-First Illinois Infantry. You see in the early days of the war we thought it was going to last for 90 days, so most men enlisted for 90 days. And, well, it was nearing the 89th day and Grant was afraid most of his unit would be heading home for want of action. A friend suggested that Grant invite John A. McClernand and me to speak to his boys hoping to inspire them to re-enlist. McClernand agreed.  Grant seemed reluctant when I also agreed to speak.. Maybe he had read those newspapers accusing me of being a Copperhead, but he agreed. After McClernand spoke, I took the podium and started with a joke: “Boys, you can’t fall out now. If you go home to your wife Mary she will say, ‘Why Tom, are you home from the war so soon?’ When you answer, ‘Yes,’ she will ask, ‘How far did you get?’ and all you can say is ‘Mattoon!’” What kind of soldier are you?

I then told them a dozen passionate stories about the brilliance and bravery of the volunteer soldier and his role in creating and sustaining the Union! I spoke for two hours whipping these boys, and myself, into a lather! I guess I performed well enough, for Grant said I “breathed a loyalty and devotion to the Union which inspired [his] men to such a point that they would have volunteered to remain in the Army as long as any enemy of the country continued to bear arms against it. They entered the service almost to man.”


6. First Bull Run