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Vicksburg Visitation

Grant a man of average height for his time but a little less than average in ours. Not a thin man but one with an average frame. I realized I might be the more intimidating one. I as calmly as a panicked man can, spoke, “General Grant I may be dreaming or we may both be dreaming, but I am not of your time. When I came into this room, it was many years past July 4th, 1863.” He looked with me with a steady but even more curious gaze. I inquired, “It is the 4th of July in 1863?”
Grant softly said, “yes, of course.”
I had been taking photos. I pulled my display out of my jeans pocket and presented them to him. He was stunned.
“There have been advances in telegraph and photography. I could send this photo to my wife back in Chicago. She would be able to see it in a couple of minutes.”
Grant paused, then carefully examined me, “Odd clothes, odd words, all odd.”
Grant continued, “I am going to pretend you’re not real and I am dreaming. Maybe I and the army are still over in that sickening swamp, and I am delirious.”
“Yes, a logical course and I am hoping when I walk out the door. I wake up, not encounter Allard and Earp.”  I added with a smile.

Union Reenactors

July 4th 1863 - Union troops capture Vicksburg

As disconcerting as this all was, I felt rather calm and in no immediate danger. I said, “Congratulations on your victory here. You will get a promotion to rank in the regular army and this campaign will be studied at West Point.”
Grant grinned, “Well spirit of yet to come, how does this all end?”
I said, “The Union wins, but there will be many more terrible battles. It will be another two years before the rebellion is completely crushed. You personally will gain more promotions. President Lincoln has come to appreciate your success and is disregarding some of the rivalry and attacks against you.”
Grant nodded, “Yes, his man Dana was here. I liked him; seems to believe we are doing the best we can. I’ve never met Lincoln, but I think he is managing a terrible storm. So, Spirit what else would you tell me.”
“History will look upon this day as the turning point. Lincoln and the War Department won’t yet know of your victory; word hasn’t reached Cairo. Do you know Gettysburg Pennsylvania?”
Grant, “no, what of Pennsylvania?”
 “You will soon learn of Gettysburg. General Meade was put in command of the Army of the Potomac while Robert Lee was conducting a campaign into Pennsylvania.  Lee consolidated his three corps to meet the approaching Union Army. Gettysburg is a hub of many roads it is where they converged. They battled for three days beginning on July first.
I can relate the general outlines of the battle if you would like ---”
Grant, “Yes, did Meade win?”
“Yes, the Union held at the end. On the morning of the first day Buford’s cavalry fought a delaying action against A.P. Hill’s corps. They deployed and fell back several times until General Reynolds corps came in support. Reynolds was hit by either sniper or stray bullet, but he is dead. Later on, during the afternoon of the first day Richard Ewell’s corps arrived on the right flank of the Union position north of Gettysburg. Hancock and Howard had begun a fall back position south of Gettysburg; the engaged troops retreated to it as the Rebels overwhelmed the Union right late in the afternoon. Those troops along with the arriving corps began to fortify that position.
The second day Lee attacked the Union position first trying to take a now strongly fortified hill on the Union right. Longstreet’s Corps was arriving, and he organized an attack on the Union left in the afternoon. It was a fierce assault repulsed with the Union hastily deploying forces as they arrived. At the end of the day both armies occupied the same positions more or less. Lee decided to attack the center of the Union position on the third day. Longstreet put Pickett’s division, just arrived, to lead this assault. It was repulsed with nearly 50% casualties.  General Hunt in charge of all Union artillery had positioned and commanded the Union cannon to devastating effect. Today Lee is preparing to retreat back across the Potomac to Virginia. The casualties of both armies’ total around 50,000. Lee’s rebels losing more but still Union losses are over 20,000 men.”
Grant had listened intently seemingly visualizing ghastly scenes. He added “Twice Shiloh, two more years, Meade didn’t stop Lee’s retreat?”
“No, Lee will get back to Virginia to regroup. Much to President Lincoln’s distress. History will reveal a letter written but never sent expressing his disappointment.”

Gen Hunt

General Henry J Hunt Army of the Potomac

Grant drew in a slow and thoughtful breath, “Yes, it will continue as long as their armies can fight. Two more years means the Southerners will hold out until their armies are whipped, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, they will, the war ends after the armies of the Confederacy are crushed.”
Grant withdrew a cigar slowly he began to more chew on it, he didn’t light it, “I have another question. These Africans the Freedmen they are eager to help. They held on at Milliken’s Bend, I think will they be good soldiers. Will we use them?”

 “Union forces will enlist many Black troops. Lincoln is ready to wrestle the politics. They are quite capable and have the great motivation of liberation. They will want equal pay to sacrifice their lives equally. Train and treat them fairly your army will benefit from their determination.”

US Colored Troops

African Americans added thousands of soldiers to the Union Cause


“I worked with Jones and freed him. A man like anyone else. He cared about family, a hoped-for family. He had a woman, but she was sold south to Arkansas. He hoped to work with horses and as a blacksmith to earn enough to buy her. He knew the slave man’s name and where folks said he was from; I don’t know what became of him. You know that place in Pennsylvania is going to be frightful. I asked God after Shiloh, then other scrapes, and all that sickening swamp over there, how could this go on? Then I see men, how mean they sometimes are in this slave land. Well that’s done, but what will become of them, these colored folks?”

“They will do just fine, if they can. Most want to farm their own place to feed family. They desperately want school for their kids and themselves. They all want their three Rs, some want far more than that. They would be just fine if White people would just give them a fair shot.”

“The mean folks won’t will they?”

“No after the war there will be a new struggle a brutal one.  It will not be a war of armies, but it will carry on a long time, a very long time.”


Hardscrabble Grant's Farm

Grant built Hardscrabble Cabin

Grant gazed imperceptibly with a slight nod.

“You will continue to rise in rank in the regular army from now on.”
Grant smiled, “That is good for the family and restores me in this army business. I wasn’t really seeking a military life.”

I was beginning to feel an odd sensation. I added, “You do excel at command in spite of what you sought.”

“Get your army to the right place with what they need and push the enemy. I suppose we need to concentrate on the East now that the river will be open. It is a simple business just a rather grim one” Grant half smiled. “What of Port Hudson?”

“Port Hudson will surrender soon. When they learn of Vicksburg’s surrender.”

A strange feeling, I knew I should return, “I can only say you will make mistakes, but you are on the right course. America needs you in command and after the war will very much need your service to our country. The war is getting deadlier the armies are learning very well how to kill. As the commander you will learn, too. I feel I must go now. If Allard and Earp have me when you come out, maybe don’t shoot me as a spy. Could you let me live quietly?”

“I never want more blood. I will put Rawlins in charge of you, he’d see that you behave. Would you make a good clerk?”

I was heading to the door. I felt impelled to do so, “I would sir, but I hope I awake outside the door. Thank you, sir, you are the necessary man.”


Gen John Rawlings

General John Rawling Grant's Chief of Sttaff

 I opened the door it was not stuck but I felt as if I walked through a wall of molasses. At least not sticking to me. I slowly became aware of being back in the hall, it was cooler as my head cleared. No one seemed any different than before and no one noted my appearance. Maybe I had never left the hall. I decided to slowly leave. I had had a vision, maybe I had had a stroke. I felt fine, so not likely. I went outside bought a lemon shakeup at a stand. I waited and took a shuttle down to the river, the river as it was in modern times. I walked a couple blocks to my car and went back to the motel. Even though it was only afternoon I laid down and took a deep nap. I was asleep for almost for four hours. I awoke through fitful dreams, never quite becoming fully conscious. I would slip to sleep and dream again. When I did awake, I was relieved to leave the dream. A dream filled with screams and stench. Desperate looks of fear, rage, anger, many people so many filled with loneliness and fatigue. I was covered in sweat as if a fever had broken. By the time I had showered and dressed it was nearly eight. A restaurant was open across the street. I walked over feeling out of place. I should be hungry by now, but food seemed off-putting. It was good but just a little overwhelming, I ate less than I normally would. I came back to the motel and went into the bar. I sat at a booth; a server came for my order.
What will it be?
I will have a whiskey.
What brand?
I smiled and replied, “I forgot to ask” As the server looked for a better answer I said, “Maker’s Mark from the great neutral state of Kentucky and a glass of water”
The server left with the look of someone who knew the town was full of eccentrics.
I sat there as still as Grant staring out the window. The server added it to my room. I looked over to my invisible companion and toasted him. “Well General Grant it was quite a day, I think it was anyway.  Not sure of anything, but I am glad you whipped them.”


Forgottonia is a place where you can endlessly wander the lonely roads, and never once miss the fast lane. The name Forgottonia captures an image of a region, off the beaten path, which is very true of Western Illinois.

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