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Wednesday, June 12, 2013 @ 7 p.m.
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable Players
Grant and Lee at the White House
It is not widely known that Robert
E. Lee visited Ulysses S. Grant in the White House during Grant's
first term as president. Little is known about this meeting,
what was discussed, or how either man felt about meeting with his
old adversary. The following account comes from Anthony
Dead Presidents blog:
On May 1, 1869, President
Ulysses S. Grant welcomed the president of Washington College,
Robert E. Lee, to the White House. Lee had considered inviting
President-elect Grant to visit Washington College before Grant was
inaugurated, but Lee didn’t want to make a request that his busy
former adversary felt obligated to accept. After Grant was
inaugurated in March 1869, he learned of Lee’s interest in
visiting with him, and the President invited Lee to the White
House. Unfortunately, there are no definitive answers to what was
said between President Grant and General Lee. They two men only
spent about 15 minutes together, and one observer suggested that
there was a bit of sadness when the two men saw each other.
Perhaps it was because of what they put each other through five
years earlier, but perhaps it was the fact that the two former
generals were older and in much different places.
What’s remarkable about the
short meeting is that Robert E. Lee may have been the only
American in history to visit the White House after being stripped
of his citizenship. A bill to restore General Lee’s American
citizenship was passed by Congress in 1975 — 110 years after the
Civil War ended — and President Gerald Ford signed off on the
restoration of Lee’s citizenship in a ceremony at Arlington House,
the home that Lee lived in before it was occupied by Union
soldiers during the Civil War and turned into a National Cemetery.
After just fifteen minutes on
May 1, 1869, President Grant and General Lee once again parted
ways. We don’t know what they said or how they felt or what they
thought as they parted. The two men who had been such a huge part
of each other’s lives would never see each other again. Perhaps
the most amazing thing is that Grant and Lee could come together
at all after chasing each other throughout the country and killing
thousands of Americans while trying to destroy each other. It’s a
tribute to the two men that they were living in a country still
needing time to heal, and they stepped forward — leading the way
just like they did while waging war — to model for Americans how
to wage peace
Well, bad news for historians is
good news for the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable Players who will
perform an original one act play free to speculate on what Lee and
Grant might have said to each other that day. Join us for what
should be an entertaining and educational close to another fine
Portraying Robert E. Lee will be CCWRT past president Mel Maurer,
while Ulysses S. Grant will be portrayed by CCWRT Secretary and
Treasurer-elect, Chris Fortunato. Acting as reporters and
provocateurs for the evening's festivities will be CCWRT past
presidents William F.B. Vodrey and John Fazio.
To make a reservation:
Use the Dinner Reservation Form on
this website, send an email to
or call 440-449-9311 and leave a message on the voice mail.
Meeting place: Meetings
are held at Judson Manor at the corner of East
107th Street and Chester on University Circle in downtown Cleveland.
Map to Judson Manor
Life and Letters
of General George Gordon
Act Natural Lee
May 2, 1869.
To Mrs. George G. Meade
Today I accompanied General Howard whom you
will remember from West Point to attend services at his church the First
Congregational at 10th and G streets. The regular minister preached his final
sermon on Sunday last and has since departed under a cloud, taking half the
congregation with him and alleging many improprieties by Howard who claims the
cause of the split is to be found in their different desires for the future of
the Negro race, a question of integration versus independent development. He
has always been quite the radical and remains a familiar of the Grant
administration for whom he heads the Bureau of Freedmen.
Speaking of Grant, I shall not soon forget
the events of yesterday morning. The President was ensconced in the lobby at
Willard’s and somehow espying me through the fog created by cigars and brandy
even at such an early hour, insisted that I accompany him to the White House
as he was expecting a person of great importance and of both our acquaintance.
As we walked the two blocks of the city Grant confided in me that the best of
his former army staff such as Rollins, Dent, Porter and Badeau were either
with him at the White House or were named Sherman, which he found vastly
amusing. Upon reaching his new home he inadvertently called the doorkeeper
“Meade” although that worthy servant politely corrected him to “Pendel” more
than once as he slipped the chain to allow us entry to the second floor.
Leaving me quite alone in the secretary’s
anteroom Grant went into his office and closed the door. To my surprise, only
one hour later John Motley our former Ambassador to the Austrians came into
the room followed within a few minutes by none other than General Lee and a
civilian couple. I rose at once and held out my hand but he only gave me his
hat, understandably confusing me with the absent secretary. All four
personages then entered Grant’s office and the door was once again closed.
Grant made loud and boisterous sallies about destroying southern railroads,
the inexplicable result at Gettysburg, had Lee visited the new cemetery at
Arlington and the like but Lee is soft-spoken and I was unable to hear his
necessarily brief replies if any.
After no more than ten minutes, a visibly
embarrassed General Lee and his party took their leave and he his hat from me
with a brief word of thanks. Grant emerged also flushed in the face to say
that he’d forgotten my presence but hoped I had enjoyed almost catching up
with Lee for a change, before once again vanishing into his office. I sat for
a time bemused by his behavior and then left to return to the hotel and my
abandoned breakfast plans.
As I walked I fell to pondering why a
subordinate commander humiliated at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg should
obtain the honor of having a university named after him and a good position
within a presidential administration, while another and more significant
leader who shone at those same battles may receive no more recognition than a
gold medal of Congress, an honorary law degree from Harvard and an onerous
My business here in that most tiresome matter
of Reconstruction being almost concluded I anticipate returning to
Philadelphia on Tuesday next.
Editor's Note: In the more than 100
years since his decease, the General has been busy reconstructing from memory
his secret, lost letters which shed new light on topics of great interest to
the members of the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable. He currently is living in
Bloemfontein South Africa working on a complimentary biography of General D.
E. Sickles (decs'd) and may be contacted at
Majgenlmeade @ aol.com.
New On the Bookshelf
Recent Additions to
the Civil War Literature
A Review of
Justice in Blue and Gray by Stephen C. Neff
Reviewed by William F.B. Vodrey
Every now and then I get into
arguments with people about the law of war.
“There’s no such thing as the law
of war,” they say (or words to that effect). “War is hell. Anything
goes. The only thing that matters is winning.”
“Oh, really?” I reply. “So you’d
have no problem with, say, an officer ordering his men to kill all
the unarmed civilians in a foreign town they occupy after it
surrenders? Or, as a matter of policy, to always shoot prisoners
after they surrender? Or work them to death in a concentration camp?
Or torture or rape them? That’d all be fine, right, because there’s
no law of war?”
“Uh…no,” they reply.
Clearly there is a law of war – but
just how widely-observed it is, and just how effective it actually
is, varies from war to war. In Justice in Blue and Gray: A Legal History of the Civil War
University Press 2010), Scottish legal scholar Stephen C. Neff
explores the law of war as it existed and was honored, or more than
occasionally breached, during the American Civil War.
Both the United States, as a
republic under the rule of law, and the Confederate States, as a
group of states attempting to secede from that republic and win
independence in its own right, intended from the outset to wage war
within the bounds of the law as it was then understood. Both wanted
to maintain domestic support and win international backing, and
being perceived as lawless or ruthlessly unprincipled would not be
helpful in achieving those goals.
From the Charger
the Cleveland CWRT
U.S. Grant Boyhood Home
By William F.B. Vodrey
On April 6, Mel Maurer, Chris
Fortunato, and I went to Georgetown, Ohio to attend the ceremonial
rededication of U.S. Grant’s boyhood home. Georgetown is just east
of Cincinnati, about four and a half hours’ drive from Cleveland.
arrived to find a large tent set up in the backyard of the home; a
dozen Civil War-era replica flags snapped in the breeze. Burt Logan,
the Ohio Historical Society’s executive director, and Mike DeWine,
Attorney General of Ohio, made some dedicatory remarks, as did
several local bigwigs, and then it was time to tour the house. It is
two stories tall and, after a multimillion-dollar restoration
project, looks great both inside and out. The house was built in
1824 for U.S. Grant’s father, Jesse Grant, when the future general
was just two years old. "Sam" Grant lived there from 1824-39, when
he left for West Point; the family moved away the next year. The
house changed hands several times over the years and was eventually
in danger of being razed when it was bought by John and Judy
Ruthven, local benefactors, who eventually donated it to the Ohio
Historical Society. It is now run by the U.S. Grant Homestead
Association and was named a National Historic Landmark in 1985. We
saw, from an OHS sign, that we were parked on the nearby site of the
long-gone Grant tannery, and had the pleasure of meeting former CWRT
President Jon Thompson’s brother, Jerry, and his wife, Louella.
small glimpse into the Civil War era
Dear to Democracy
By David A. Carrino
I am nervous every time I present one of
these history briefs, because I know that the knowledge of history possessed
by every member of this Roundtable far exceeds my own. But tonight my level of
trepidation is at a record high, because tonight's speaker, Harold Holzer, is
without question one of the most eminent historians of today. With that in
mind, I grappled mightily with how best to present a history brief that is
palatable to a renowned historian like Harold, and I came up with three
I thought that I might try flattery, but then
I realized that Harold is such an accomplished historian that no matter how
much hyperbole I injected into any flattery, nothing I said would be an
exaggeration. I also thought that I could plead ignorance, which in my case is
entirely plausible, since I have no formal training in history. I am honored
to be the Roundtable's historian, but I will never understand why the
Cleveland Civil War Roundtable chose a biochemist to be its historian. When I
was in college, history was a course that those of us majoring in science took
only because it was a requirement. Because I feared that flattery and pleading
ignorance did not provide a sufficiently high likelihood of success, I decided
upon a third tactic. I will present a history brief that has as its focus
Harold's own words.
The passage that I selected for the history
brief comes from the Introduction for a book titled Lincoln on Democracy. This
book is a compilation of various writings by Abraham Lincoln that was edited
by Harold Holzer and Mario Cuomo, and Harold wrote the Introduction. There is
an anecdote in this passage about Venezuela that occurred in 1957. This
anecdote is particularly appropriate because it demonstrates that Lincoln's
words still have power in modern times. The motivation for the book Lincoln on Democracy was a desire by some Polish schoolteachers for documents about
American democracy that could be used to educate students in Poland during the
early 1990s when that country was transitioning to democracy. Eventually the
book, meaning Lincoln's writings, was translated into Polish. The last part of
this passage conveys succinctly and brilliantly why history is relevant and
also expresses, much better than I ever could, why this biochemist has done an
about-face on his college-age opinion that history is just an unpleasant and
burdensome mandate and has instead come to enjoy and appreciate history. The
last part of this passage includes some Lincoln quotes woven into text that
Harold wrote. I won't indicate the quotes because doing so makes this passage
sound clumsy when it is read aloud. If this history brief is posted on our web
site, then everyone can see which words are Harold's and which are Lincoln's.
What I think is interesting about that part of the passage is how seamlessly
Harold's and Lincoln's words are woven together, as if Harold and Lincoln are
of one mind.