2021年4月10日 星期六

What Ulysses S. Grant thought about Robert E. Lee’s surrender

A short note on the anniversary of Appomattox.
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By Jamelle Bouie

Opinion Columnist

On Friday, 156 years ago, Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at the home of Wilmer McLean in Appomattox Court House, Va., effectively ending the Civil War. I want to mark the anniversary with one of the great passages from Grant's memoir, itself one of the great works of writing from an American president. It concerns Lee's surrender.

First, Grant says a little about his history with Lee:

I had known General Lee in the old army, and had served with him in the Mexican War; but did not suppose, owing to the difference in our age and rank, that he would remember me; while I would more naturally remember him distinctly, because he was the chief of staff of General Scott in the Mexican War.

He then describes the moments leading up to the surrender:

When I had left camp that morning I had not expected so soon the result that was then taking place, and consequently was in rough garb. I was without a sword, as I usually was when on horseback on the field, and wore a soldier's blouse for a coat, with the shoulder straps of my rank to indicate to the army who I was. When I went into the house I found General Lee. We greeted each other, and after shaking hands took our seats. I had my staff with me, a good portion of whom were in the room during the whole of the interview.

It's at this point that Grant turns his focus to Lee and gives us what I think is one of the most memorable passages in American letters.

What General Lee's feelings were I do not know. As he was a man of much dignity, with an impassable face, it was impossible to say whether he felt inwardly glad that the end had finally come, or felt sad over the result, and was too manly to show it. Whatever his feelings, they were entirely concealed from my observation; but my own feelings, which had been quite jubilant on the receipt of his letter, were sad and depressed. I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us.

Within a few decades of Grant's death, the Lost Cause view of the war would become conventional wisdom to most white Americans. But here, in his memoir, Grant offers the view that should have been the basis for national reconciliation: that however you view Lee or the individual Confederate soldier, the truth of the matter is that the Confederate cause was "one of the worst for which a people ever fought."


What I Wrote

My Tuesday column was another take on the Georgia election law, this time parsing the analogy to Jim Crow and showing why it works, even if it isn't as precise as I'd like.

This brings us back to the Georgia law. To the extent that it plays at neutrality while placing burdens on specific groups of voters on a partisan (and inescapably racial) basis, it is, at least, Jim Crow-adjacent.

I also spoke about my column in a segment on CBS News. You can watch that here.

My Friday column was on the recent Republican crusade against "woke capital," and why most of it is just culture war posturing.

To the extent that "woke capital" even exists, it involves real questions of political economy. Simply put, there are few countervailing forces in American life to corporate speech, corporate money and corporate political action. If "woke capital" is a real problem, then the solution is to reanimate those countervailing forces, which is to say, to put life back into organized labor.

Now Reading

Perry Bacon Jr. on how the Republican Party isn't rebranding after 2020, at FiveThirtyEight.

Matt Zoller Seitz on the latest Godzilla and King Kong films for Vulture.

Annalee Newitz on the myth of civilizational collapse in The Washington Post.

Jessica Dunn Rovinelli on the cinematography of David Fincher's "Mank" for Filmmaker Magazine.

Rev. Jacqui Lewis on Lil Nas X in Harper's Bazaar.


If you're enjoying what you're reading, please consider recommending it to your friends. They can sign up here. If you want to share your thoughts on an item in this week's newsletter or on the newsletter in general, please email me at jamelle-newsletter@nytimes.com. You can follow me on Twitter (@jbouie) and Instagram.

Currently Doing

Jamelle Bouie

Apropos of Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House, I took this photo six years ago at the 150th-anniversary commemoration of the event. It's of the Lee and Grant re-enactors, having a coffee and making their way to the main location for their performance.


Now Eating: Roasted-Mushroom-and-Broccoli Grain Bowls

From Francis Lam for The New York Times's Cooking section, this is an easy, filling, and reasonably healthy meal that works well for a weekday lunch.


  • 1½ pounds broccoli
  • Salt
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • 1 pound portobello or other mushrooms, in ¾-inch pieces
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups cooked grains (wheat berries, brown rice, farro, quinoa, couscous, wild rice, etc.), warm
  • Lemon-herb buttermilk dressing, to taste (see recipe)
  • Toasted almonds or peanuts, for garnish (or toasted bread crumbs, or potato sticks, or wasabi peas, just anything you'd like for crunch)


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Make the vegetables: Cut the broccoli into bite-size florets. Peel the stems, and cut these into ¾-inch pieces. In a large bowl, season the broccoli well with salt, and toss with 3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil to coat. Spread it out in one layer on a sheet pan. Season and oil the mushrooms the same way, and spread them out on a separate sheet pan. Roast the vegetables until the mushrooms are browned but still juicy and the broccoli has charred edges, 25 to 30 minutes.

Make the omelet ribbons: In a small bowl, beat the eggs with a couple of pinches of salt. Heat a large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat until hot. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of oil. When the oil slips around the pan like water, add half the egg, and swirl to coat the pan. Cook until set, about 30 seconds. Use a spatula to roll the omelet up like a jellyroll toward the edge of the pan, then turn it out onto a cutting board. Repeat with the rest of the egg. Slice the omelets into ¼-inch-thick ribbons.

In a mixing bowl, season and dress the warm grains with salt and the dressing to taste. Divide among bowls. Top the grains with some mushrooms and broccoli, drizzling on a little more dressing. Top with the omelet ribbons and your crunchy garnish, and eat. Use the leftovers to make this again.

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