Six Months at the White House/XVIII
General Grant reached Washington, after his nomination to the Lieutenant-Generalship, the evening of March 8th, 1864. His reception at Willard's Hotel, unaccompanied by staff or escort, was an event never to be forgotten by those who witnessed it. Later in the evening he attended the Presidential levee, entering the reception-room unannounced. He was recognized and welcomed by the President with the utmost cordiality, and the distinguished stranger was soon nearly overwhelmed by the pressure of the crowd upon him. Secretary Seward at length mounting a sofa, pulled the modest hero up by his side, where he stood for some time, bowing his acknowledgments to the tumultuous assemblage. He subsequently remarked that this was "his warmest campaign during the war."
The next day at one o'clock. he was formally presented by the President with his commission as Lieutenant-General. The ceremony took place in the presence of the Cabinet, the Hon. Mr. Lovejoy, and several officers of the army, and was very brief and simple, as became the character of each of the illustrious chief actors.
On the day following General Grant visited the Army of the Potomac, and upon his return to Washington he made preparations to leave immediately for the West. At the close of a consultation with the President and Secretary of War, he was informed that Mrs. Lincoln expected his presence the same evening at a military dinner she proposed to give in his honor. The General at once responded that it would be impossible for him to remain over,--he "must be in Tennessee at a given time." "But we can't excuse you," returned the President. "It would be the play of 'Hamlet' with Hamlet left out, over again. Twelve distinguished officers, now in the city, have been invited to meet you." "I appreciate fully the honor Mrs. Lincoln would do me," replied the General, hesitatingly, knocking the ashes off the end of his cigar; "but--time is very precious just now--and--really, Mr. President, I believe I have had enough of the ' show ' business!"
The dinner was given; the twelve officers did full justice to it; but it is needless to add, the Lieutenant-General was not one of the number.