MOST MEN who saw U. S. Grant during the Civil War felt that there was something mysterious about him. He looked so much like a completely ordinary man, and what he did was so definitely out of the ordinary, that it seemed as if he must have profound depths that were never visible from the surface. Even Sherman, who knew him as well as anybody did, once remarked that he did not understand Grant and did not believe Grant understood himself. In general, people simply agreed with Abraham Lincoln's admiring comment, "Wherever he is, things move!"
This was baffling, because the quality in him that made things move seemed to be beyond analysis. There was one officer, however, who saw a good deal of Grant at Chattanooga in the early winter of 1864, who believed the general's success was chiefly due to "his fine common sense and the faculty he possesses in a wonderful degree of making himself understood."
That is perhaps as good a judgment as any. Common sense, to be sure, is actually such an uncommon trait that nobody is ever quite able to define it, but the interesting thing about the Chattanooga officer's finding is the balance of the sentence—the reference to Grant's uncommon ability to make himself understood.
No one can read the letters herewith presented without agreeing that U. S. Grant was one of the most articulate of all American soldiers. He knew how to present exactly what was on his mind. Whether he was writing to his wife, explaining what was happening to him and what he wanted to do next, or composing an order that would set armies marching and lead to great battles, he was always lucid. You