I was giving you a new view of President Ulysses Grant, once commander of the Union Armies in the American Civil War, as recounted by the celebrated Victorian military “hero” and adventurer, Sir Harry Flashman, VC, KCB. Flashman is meeting the president, with a view to intervening for an old comrade in arms, but the motives are not altruistic but borne out of a desire to cause mischief. Its been a while since the last, so you catch on the last from: https://vahshatedil.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/sam-grant-as-portrayed-by-flashman-iv/
I will continue the account…..
~~ I’m possibly the only man who’s ever seen Ulysses S. Grant with his eyes wide open. His mouth, too.
“Then hell you say! What are you talking about – escort? What’s the matter with you?” He stared at me, suspiciously. “I thought you were a friend of his?”
“Indeed, sir. I hope that wouldn’t prejudice me, though.”
“Prejudice?” He looked nonplussed. “Now see here, lets get this straight. I’m not denying that Custer’s a competent cavalry commander – ”
“Jeb Stuart gave him the right about at Yellow Tavern,” I mused. “But the, Stuart was exceptional, we know -“
“The hell with Stuart! What’s that to the matter? I don’t understand you, Flashman. I am not disputing Custer’s professional merits, within limits. I’m aware of them – no man better… Escort, indeed! What did you mean by that, sir?”
“Well, perhaps that was coming in a bit raw,” I admitted. “I’ve always thought, though, that George was a trifle excitable… headstrong, you know… inclined to play to the gallery…”
“He’s given enough proof of that!” says Grant warmly. “Which is one reason I intend to send out a man who won’t use the campaign as an excuse for gallivanting theatrically to impress the public for his own ambitious reasons.”
“Ah, well, that’s not my province, you see. I can only talk as a soldier, Mr President, and if I have… well, any reservations about old George – I daresay that having come up with the Light Brigade and Jeb Stuart I tend to – “
“You and Jeb Stuart! ‘Jine the cavalree!” He snorted and gave me another of his suspicious squints. “See here – have you got it in for Custer?”
“Certainly not, sir!” I was bluff indignation at once, and tried a contemptuous snort of my own. “And I’m absolutely not one of those cheap fogies who can’t forget he came foot of the class at West Point – “
“I should hope not! We know what that’s worth.” He shook his head and glowered a bit. “I came twenty-first out of thirty-nine myself. Yeah. First in horsemanship, though.”
“I never knew that, ” says I, all interest.
“Yes, sir.” He looked me up and down with a sour grin. “You dandy boys with lancer figures think you’re the only ones can ride, don’t you?” He hesitated, but being Sam, not for long. “Care for a drink?”
He poured them out, and we imbibed, and after he’d got the taste of it and ruminated, he came back to the matter at hand, shaking his head. “No, I’d be the last man to belittle Custer as a soldier. Escort! I like that! But as to seeing him – no, Flashman, I can’t do it. ‘Twould only make bad worse. I know what you mean by excitable,you see. Impassioned appeals to me as an old brother-in-arms – I won’t have that.” He gulped his drink and sighed. “I don’t know. We’ll say no more about it, then.”
Taking this for dismissal, I was ready to be off, well satisfied with having thoroughly muddied the waters, and he saw me to the door, affably enough. Then a thought seemed to strike him, and he coughed uncertainly, glancing at me sidelong. Suddenly he came out with it, peering under his brows.
“Tell me … something I’ve often wondered, but never cared to ask. Would you be…. that is, were you…. the Flashman in Tom Brown’s Schooldays?”
I’m used to it by now, and vary my reply according to the inquirer. “Oh yes, don’t you know,” says I. “That’s me.”
“Oh.” He blinked. “Yes, I see… well.” He didn’t know which way to look. “Uh-huh. But… was it true? What he says, I mean… about you?”
I considered this. “Oh, yes, I’d say so.Every word of it.” I chuckled reminiscently. “Great days they were.”
He scratched his beard and muttered, “I’ll be damned!” and then shook my hand, rather uncomfortably.. and stumped off, with an anxious glance or two over his shoulder.
And that’s all for now…….