Daily Story Page – Blacksmith and Fizzle

Daily Story

Upon one occasion when the President was at my [U.S. Grants’s] head-quarters at City point [22 June 1864], I took him to see the work that had been done on the Dutch Gap Canal. After taking him around and showing him all the points of interest, explaining how, in blowing up one portion of the work that was being excavated, the explosion had thrown the material back into, and filled up, a part already completed, he turned to me and said: “Grant, do you know what this reminds me of?” Out in Springfield, Illinois, there was a blacksmith named —-. One day, when he did not have much to do, he took a piece of soft iron that had been in his shop for some time, and for which he had no special use, and starting up his fire, began to heat it. When he got it hot he carried it to the anvil and began to hammer it, rather thinking he would weld it into an agricultural implement. He pounded away for some time until he got it fashioned into some shape, when he discovered that the iron would not hold out to complete the implement he had in mind. He then put it back into the forge, heated it up again, and recommenced hammering, with an ill-defined notion that he would make a claw hammer, but after a time he came to the conclusion that there was more iron than was needed to form a hammer. Again he heated it, and thought he would make an axe. After hammering and welding it into shape, knocking the oxydized iron off in flakes, he concluded there was not enough of the iron left to make an axe that would be of any use. He was not getting tired and a little disgusted at the result of his various essays. So he filled his forge full of coal, and after placing the iron in the center of the heap, took the bellows and worked up a tremendous blast, bringing the iron to a white heat. Then with his tongs he lifted it from the bed of coals, and thrusting it into a tub of water near by, exclaimed with an oath, “Well, if I can’t make anything else of you, I will make a fizzle, anyhow.”

Ulysses S. Grant in Allen Thorndike Rice, Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln by Distinguished Men of His Time, p. 2-4.