“Lick ‘Em Tomorrow Though”

by Phil Spaugy



On this the 192nd birthday of  Lt. General and 18th President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant, I thought I might share my favorite “Sam” Grant story with you. The following comes from the book “Grant Moves South” by the incomparable Civil War author, Bruce Catton about the meeting on the battlefield of Shiloh, the night of April 6th, 1862 between General William Tecumseh Sherman his friend and and commander, Ulysses “Sam” Grant. To me this story perfectly describes the character and tenacity of the man who would rise to Lieutenant General, commanding the Armies of the United States, and to the office of President of this great country.

It was a horrible night for everyone – a night of black darkness, insisent rain, jarring noise and acute physical discomfort. Thousands and thousands of men had been wounded, and the ones who had not been were thoroughly exhausted  and had no chance to get a decent rest……….Grant tried to make a go of it, lying under a trees near the landing, but the pain in his injured ankle [injured in a  fall of his horse before the battle] kept him awake and along toward midnight he hobbled to a log house that was supposed to be his headquarters. It has been put into service as a hospital, it was full of moaning wounded men with many more lying outside awaiting attention, and after one look at it all Grant went back into the rain. Years later, recalling all of it he wrote: “The sight was more unendurable than encountering enemy fire, and I returned to my tree in the rain.”

Late that night tough Sherman came to see him, Sherman had found himself in the heat of the enemy’s fire that day, but now he was licked, as far as he could see, the important next step was “to put the river between us and the enemy, and recuperate,” and he hinted up Grant to see how the retreat could be arranged. He came across Grant at last, at midnight or later, standing under the tree in heavy rain, hat slouched down over his face, coat collar up around his ears, a dimly glowing lantern in his hand, cigar clenched between his teeth. Sherman looked at him, then “moved” as he put it later, ” by some wise and sudden instinct” not to talk retreat, he said: “Well, Grant, we’ve had the Devil’s own day, haven’t we?”

Grant said “Yes”,  and as his cigar glowed in the darkness as he gave a quick hard puff at it, “Yes. Lick ’em tomorrow, though.”

So ended, April 6th, 1862.


For more on the Battle of Shiloh and U.S. Grant, follow the links below: