The General And The Bottle


My next anxiety was to communicate with the escort. They were spread out over the bottom for a half mile circling about in search of the general, fully expecting to find him lifeless. One of the men at last came within hailing distance (John Walters if my memory is accurate) and answered my call. I ordered him to proceed directly to headquarters and report at once to Rawlins—and to no one else—and say to him that I wanted an ambulance with a careful driver, sent to me immedately—and that he (Walters) must guide them back to me as soon as it could be done. It was entirely dark by this time and I had no fear of discovery except from some straggling bummer, but I was prepared to cut off his shoulder-straps instantly if anyone approached. After an hour’s sleep he arose and wanted to start to Camp. I took him by the arm, walked him back and forth, and kept up a lively rather onesided conversation, till the ambulance arrived.

This became another source of contention. The general refused to get in it, and insisted on riding to camp on horseback. We compromised the question by my agreeing to ride in the ambulance also, and having our horses led by the orderly. On the way he confessed that I had been right, and that he had been wrong throughout, and told me to consider myself a staff officer, and to give any orders that were necessary in his name.

We reached headquarters about midnight, and found Rawlins and Col. John Riggin waiting for us at the driveway. I stepped out of the ambulance first, and was followed promptly by Grant. He shrugged his shoulders, pulled down his vest, “shook himself together,” as one just rising from a nap, and seeing Rawlins and Riggin, bid them good-night in a natural tone and manner, and started to his tent as steadily as he ever walked in his life.

My surprise nearly amounted to stupefaction. I turned to Rawlins and said I was afraid that he would think I was the man who had been drunk.

But he replied in suppressed tones through his clenched teeth: “No, No. I know him, I know him. I want you to tell me the exact facts—and all of them—without any concealment. I have a right to know them, and I will know them.” The whole appearance of the man indicated a fierceness that would have torn me into a thousand pieces had he considered me to blame.

So I began with Grant’s transfer to the Diligence , stated his condition and my fruitless endeavors to prevent his getting liquor, and told him fully and truthfully of my usurpation of authority. I said to him that I knew it to be in violation of all military rights and rules—that I considered these in the outset and deliberately resolved to do as I had done, and to accept the personal consequences, whatever they might be. That Gen. Grant could send me out of the Department in disgrace—possibly would do so—but that I had treated him precisely as I would thank anyone for treating me, should I ever be found in a similar condition.

“He will not send you out of the department while I remain in it,” was the reply to this. After asking me questions in detail, and having me repeat some of my statements, as if to fasten them in his memory, Rawlins thanked me warmly for what I had done; told me to dismiss all fear of disagreeable consequences to myself on that account; and bidding me “good night,” walked away to his tent.

But in spite of these assurances I was somewhat in doubt as to the view of the matter Gen. Grant would take next day. I slept very little that night rather expecting to be summoned to his presence next day. I purposely kept out of his way for twenty-four hours to spare him the mortification I supposed he might feel, or the necessity for any explanation or apology. The second day afterward I passed in and out of his presence as though nothing unusual had occurred. To my surprise he never made the most distant allusion to it then, or ever afterward.

There was a perceptible change in his bearing towards me. I was always recognized and spoken to, as if I had been regularly gazetted a member of his staff. My comfort and convenience was considered; a tent pitched and struck for me whenever and wherever I chose to occupy it; in all provisions for transportation and subsistence I was counted as a member of the staff; on several occasions he introduced me to others as a member of his personal staff; later on I often performed staff duty in carrying orders and dispatches; and was also later on furnished with orders to all guards and all picket guards, in all the armies of the United States, to pass me at any hour of the day or night, with horses and vehicles; to all Quartermasters of transportation to furnish me transportation on demand for myself, horses and servants; and to all Commissaries of subsistence to furnish me subsistence on demand for myself, horses and servants. (These orders, or passes, still exist among a few of my precious possessions.)