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In the camp at Cairo, it was noticed that Grant made no display of bright buttons and shoulder-straps, plumes and gold-lace. Instead of the regulation-hat with the gold cord and acorns, he generally wore a citizen's common felt hat and a blue blouse. He put on none of the airs, and made none of the pretensions, of little greatness. A few of the soldiers, who had been in Mexico, were reminded of Gen. Taylor, " Old Rough and Ready," who, when a Mexican officer of high rank was suddenly announced at his headquarters, found himself in an old brown linen coat and straw hat, and had to dive down to the bottom of his trunk, and search some time, before he could find the elegant coat, sash, and chapeau of a major-general, which the army regulations required him
Rev. J. L. Crane, the chaplain of the regiment of which Grant was colonel, thus writes of camp-life at this time:
"Grant is about five feet ten inches in height, and will weigh a hundred and forty or forty-five pounds. He has a countenance indicative of reserve, and an indomitable will and persistent purpose.
"In dress he is indifferent and careless, making no pretensions to style or fashionable military display. Had he continue colonel till now, I think his uniform would have lasted till this day; for he never used it except on dress-parade, and then seemed to regard it a good deal as David did Saul's armor.
"His body is a vial of intense existence;' and yet, when a stranger would see him in a crowd, he would never think of asking his name. He is no dissembler. He is a sincere, thinking, real He is always cheerful. No toil, cold, heat, hunger, fatigue,
or want of money, depresses him. He does his work at the time, and he requires all under his command to be equally prompt. This promptness is one of Grant's charateristics, and it is one of the secrets of his success.
"On one of our marches, when passing through one of those small towns where the grocery is the principal establishment, some of the lovers of intoxication had broken away from our lines, and filled their canteens with whiskey, and were soon reeling and ungovernable under its influence. While apparently stopping the regiment for rest, Grant passed quietly along, and took each canteen, and, wherever he detected the fatal odor, emptied the liquor on the ground with as much nonchalance as he would empty his pipe. On this point, his orders were imperative: no whiskey nor intoxicating beverages were allowed in his camp.
"Grant belongs to no church; yet he entertains and expresses the highest esteem for all the enterprises that tend to promote religion. When at home, he generally attended the MethodistEpiscopal Church. While he was colonel of the Twenty-first Regiment, he gave every encouragement and facility for securing a prompt and uniform observance of religious services; and was generally found in the audience listening to the preaching.
'Shortly after I came into the regiment, our mess were one day taking their usual seats around the dinner-table, when he remarked,
'Chaplain, when I was at home, and ministers were stopping at my house, I always invited them to ask a blessing at the table. suppose a blessing is as much needed here as at home; and, if it is agreeable with your views, I should be glad to have you ask a blessing every time we sit down to eat.'"
Reconnoissances and skirmishes took place occasionally; and prisoners were taken, concerning the exchange of whom the following correspondence took place with Major-Gen. Polk:—
TO THE COMMANDING OFFICER AT CAIRO AND BIRD'S POINT,
I have in my camp a number of prisoners of the Federal army, and am informed there are prisoners belonging to the Missouri
State troops in yours. I propose an exchange of these prisoners, and for that purpose send Capt. Polk of the artillery, and Lieut. Smith of the infantry, both of the Confederate-States army, with a flag of truce, to deliver to you this communication, and to know your pleasure in regard to my proposition. The principles recognized in the exchange of prisoners effected on the 3d of September, between Brig.-Gen. Pillow of the Confederate army, and Col. Wallace of the United-States army, are those I propose as the basis of that now contemplated.
Respectfully your obedient servant,
L. POLK, Major-Gen. commanding.
This is an innocent-sounding letter: but Gen. Grant was not to be entrapped into recognizing any Southern Confederacy, or conceding the rights of belligerents, by an exchange of prisoners; and returned the following answer, showing himself thoroughly acquainted with the legal bearings of the points in discussion:
GENERAL, Yours of this date is just received. In regard to an exchange of prisoners, as proposed, I can, of my own accordance, make none. I recognize no Southern Confederacy myself, but will communicate with higher authorities for their views. Should I not be sustained, I will find means of communicating with you. Respectfully your obedient servant,
U. S. GRANT, Brig.-Gen. commanding.
To Major-Gen. POLK, Columbus, Ky.
The rebels were gathering troops and supplies in great force at Columbus, on the Kentucky shore of the Mississippi, below Cairo, and sending them across the river, through Belmont, to the rebel Gen. Price in Missouri.
Grant had several times suggested an attack on Columbus. Finally, on the evening of the 6th of
November, Grant embarked for a reconnoissance with 2,850 men upon four transports, convoyed by the gunboats❝Tyler" and "Lexington,” and dropped down to Island No. 1, eleven miles above Columbus. Early the next morning, the troops were landed at Hunter's Point, on the Missouri shore, and marched about three miles to Belmont. Grant had no purpose to hold Belmont, which is on low ground, and every inch of it commanded by the rebel guns on the right bluff at Columbus opposite. His design was to stir up the rebels, scatter their camp, and capture the munitions. The rebel camp was in an open space, protected by fallen trees.
The line of battle was formed with Col. Fouke in the centre, Col. Buford on the right, and Col. Logan on the left. These divisions advanced together, each contending for the honor of first planting the stars and stripes in the rebel camp. The fight was very severe for about four hours. Grant was in advance with the skirmish-line, and had his horse shot under him. But the Union troops drove the enemy foot by foot, and from tree to tree, back to their encampment.
There were about 6,000 rebels. At last, Grant ordered a charge; and his whole force, now less than half the number of rebels, with loud cheers, drove the enemy, at the point of the bayonet, through their camps; and thousands took refuge on their transports on the river's edge. The troops, some of whom had never been armed as soldiers until three days before, flushed with victory, gave themselves up to rejoicing. Officers began making stump-speeches for the Union. There were no wagons to move the captured property; and the rebel tents were fired, consuming their blankets and all their camp-equipage.
Major-Gen. Polk, who commanded at Columbus, opposite, had now decided that something must be done. The heavy fire from the guns which he had brought to bear had not stopped the victorious advance of Grant. He accordingly sent over three regiments under Gen. Pillow, and three more under Gen. Cheatham. The latter were landed between our troops and their boats to cut off their retreat. Grant had observed these movements, and had commenced his return-march to re-embark with his men disorganized by their victory. When the troops met in the woods the soldiers of Cheatham, they shouted, "We are surrounded!" and were thrown into confusion. A raw officer, in much excitement, made the announcement to Grant:
"General, we are surrounded. What can we do?" "Cut our way out, sir, as we cut our way in," said Grant.
To some of the soldiers, who seemed to think themselves captured, Grant said, "We whipped them once, and we can whip them again."
Grant, here and always, acted on the principle so well expressed by an Irish soldier in the Ninth Massachusetts, who on one occasion, after being informed several times, by a comrade at his side, that they were defeated, at last shouted impatiently, "Niver b'leive y're whipped, man, till y're whipped yourself!"
Logan, who afterwards became so distinguished, placed the colors in front, and moved at once upon the enemy.*
* Hon. John A. Logan was a Douglas Democrat, a member of Congress from Illinois, at the opening of the war. On the day of the first battle at Bull Run, he rode down from Washington as a visitor, but, on reaching the