Some days ago, I had introduced you to the erstwhile commander of the Union Armies in the American Civil War and later the two-term 18th President of the United States, Ulysses S.Grant, or ‘Sam’ Grant as his former subordinate, Sir Harry Flashman recalls him. While we are not privy to what they got up to during the war, we first see them both meet (in the Flashman memoirs, that is) in what has been published as “Flashman and the Redskins'” – an account of Sir Harry’s travels and travails in the US in the late 1840s and then the 1870s. You can read about Sir Harry encountering the “burly, surly bargee” here: https://vahshatedil.wordpress.com/2011/03/28/the-600th-post-sam-grant-as-portrayed-by-flashman/ and in the five or six posts that follow.
However, in the skewed sequence I read the Flashman series, my encounter with Sam Grant in the Flashman universe was in the first book I read, but the penultimate book of the series – “Flashman and the Tiger”, which is unique in not being one continuous narrative but three – one long and two short episodes. Allow me to share with you, the then ex-President Grant’s appearance, as Flashman recorded it (I do really have a soft spot for Grant)
~~ That by the way. It was at the back end of ’77 that the unlikely pair of Blowitz and Sam Grant, late president of the United States, put me on the road to disaster, and (as is so often the case) in the most innocent-seeming way.
Like all retired Yankee bigwigs, Sam was visiting the mother country as the first stage of a grand tour, which meant, he being who he was, that instead of being allowed to goggle at Westminster and Windemere in peace, he must endure adulation at every hand, receiving presentations and the freedom of cities, having fat aldermen and provosts pump his fin, which he hated of all things, listening to endless boring addresses, and having to speechify in turn (which was purgatory to a man who spoke mostly in grunts) , with the crowd huzzaing wherever he went, the nobility lionising him in their lordly way, and being beset by admiring females from Liverpool laundresses to the Great White Mother herself.
Hard sledding for the sour, little bargee, and by the time I met him, at a banquet at Windsor to which I’d been bidden as his old comrade of the war between the states, I could see he’d had his bellyfull. Our last encounter had been two years earlier, when he’d sent me to talk to the Sioux, and lost me my scalp at Greasy Grass, and his temper hadn’t improved in the meantime.
“It won’t do, Flashman!” barks he, chewing his beard and looking as though he’d just heard Lee had taken New York. “I’ve had as much ceremony and attention as I can stand. D’you know they’re treating me as royalty? It’s true, I tell you! Lord Beaconsfield has ordanined it – well I’m much obliged to him, I’m sure, but I can’t take it! If I have to lay another cornerstone or listen to another artisan’s address or have my hand tortured by some worthy burgess bent on wrestling me to the ground….” He left off snarling to look round furtive-like in case any of the Quality were in earshot. “At least your gracious Queen doesn’t shake hands as though she purposed to break my arm,” he added grudgingly. “Not like the rest of ’em.”
“Price of fame, Mr President.”
“Price of your aunt’s harmonium!” snaps he. “And it’ll be worse in Europe, I’ll be bound! Damnit, they embrace you, don’t they?” He glared at me, as though daring me to try. ……
To be continued…..