In 1877, soon after retiring as president, Ulysses S. Grant embarked with his wife on a two-year tour of the world. At almost every location, he was greeted as a modern-day hero. What did America in the aftermath of the Civil War represent to the world? In England, the son of the duke of Wellington greeted Grant as a military genius, the primary architect of victory in one of the greatest wars in human history, and a fitting successor to his own father, the general who had vanquished Napoleon. In Newcastle, parading English workers hailed him as the man whose military prowess had saved the world’s leading experiment in democratic government, and as a “Hero of Freedom,” whose commander-in-chief, Abraham Lincoln, had vindicated the principles of free labor by emancipating America’s slaves. In Berlin, Otto von Bismarck, the chancellor of Germany, welcomed Grant as a nation-builder, who had accomplished on the battlefield something— national unity—that Bismarck was attempting to create for his own people. “You had to save the Union,” Bismarck commented, “just as we had to save Germany.”
A redesign of the American flag proposed in 1863 illustrates the linkage of nationalism and freedom that was solidified by the Civil War. The thirty-five stars forming the word “free” include the eleven Confederate states.