The United States are united through a shared culture, ideals, and belief in the liberty of the individual. But this country is often far from united, seemingly in a state of chaos teetering on the brink of utter catastrophe. Yet it always seems to persevere, largely on the strength of its people and their leaders.
This is the Forgotten History of Grant’s Second Civil War.
Ulysses S. Grant was tired. Tired from a presidency that was beset by scandal that Grant himself played no role in. He was tired of his aides betraying him. He was tired of his treatment in the press. He was tired of politics.
He was a soldier, and he missed the battlefield. Sure, he fought the Ku Klux Klan and other Democratic forces that opposed Reconstruction and equality for newly freed slaves, but he missed the camaraderie he had with his fellow soldiers.
There, they were united in fighting for a common cause; a cause that they all believed in with all their hearts. They fought to end slavery to be sure, but mostly they fought to preserve the nation that they loved so much.
To Grant, America wasn't so much a union of states but a union of common values, and keeping its people united in upholding those values was the battle that Grant never stopped fighting.
But he was tired, by September of 1875, as his besieged presidency dragged on, he relished the chance to again speak to his soldiers. During a speech at the annual reunion of the Army of the Tennessee in Des Moines, Iowa, he expressed his gratitude to again feel the camaraderie of his war days.
"It always affords me much gratification to meet my old comrades in arms of ten or fourteen years ago, and to live over again in memory the trials and hardships of those days — hard-ships imposed for the preservation and perpetuation of our free institutions," he said. "We believed then, and believe now, that we had a good government, worth fighting for, and, if need be, dying for.
"How many of our comrades of those days paid the latter price for our preserved Union! Let their heroism and sacrifices be ever green and in our memory. Let not the results of their sacrifices be destroyed. The Union and the free institutions for which they fell, should be held more dear for their sacrifices."
Grant recognized that the fight that now divided America was a fight against ignorance.
"If we are to have another contest in the near future of our national existence," he noted, "I predict that the dividing line will not be Mason and Dixon's, but between patriotism and intelligence on the one side, and superstition, ambition, and ignorance on the other."
Grant noted that America's centennial was coming up the following year, and expressed his hope that Americans always would stand on the side of patriotism and intelligence and never give in to the temptation to destroy the results of America's sacrifice as it fought to uphold its ideals.
"Let us all labor to add all needful guarantees for the more perfect security of free thought, free speech, and free press, pure morals, unfettered religious sentiments, and of equal rights and privileges to all men, irrespective of nationality, color, or religion."
If there were to be a Second Civil War, Grant reasoned, it would be between the forces who believed in these ideals and who would fight to protect them and the forces who would not; who believed instead that America could never live up to these ideals and never did.
In essence, Grant predicted a war that America has never stopped fighting.
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