Note: Older books often abbreviated words as contractions, and printed them as superscripts; for example, Publi^ns for Publications. This style is used in this text and the ^ symbol represents the beginning of the contraction and superscript.
LETTERS OF ULYSSES S. GRANT TO HIS FATHER AND HIS YOUNGEST SISTER, 1857-78
Edited by his Nephew
JESSE GRANT CRAMER
There has of late years been a tendency, as a result of the teachings of certain historical authorities, to minimize the influence of the leadership of the so-called Great Men, and to question the importance of their work as a factor in shaping the history of the time. Great events are referred to as brought about by such general influences as "the spirit of the time" (Goethe's Zeitgeist), the "movement of humanity," or "forces of society." If we accepted the theories of the writers of this school, we should be forced to the conclusion that generations of men move across the world's stage impelled by forces entirely outside of themselves; and that as far as the opportunity of individual action is concerned, that is for action initiated and completed under his own will-power, man might almost as well be a squirrel working in a revolving cage. The squirrel imagines that he moves the cylinder, but the outsider knows that the movement is predetermined, and that there is no change of position and no net result from the exertion.
A large number of people hold, notwithstanding, to the old-time feeling expressed, and doubtless exaggerated and over-emphasized, in such books as Carlyle's Hero Worship. They are unwilling, and in fact they find it practically impossible, to get away from the belief that the thought of the time is directed by the great thinkers, and that the action of the community is influenced and largely shaped by the power, whether this be utilized for good or for evil, of the great men of action.
In any case, men will continue to be interested in the personalities of the leaders whose names are connected with the great events of history. The citizens of each nation look back with legitimate pride upon the patriotic work of those who have helped to found the state, or to maintain its existence.
Among the national leaders whose names will always hold an honorable place in American history is Ulysses S. Grant, the simple-hearted man and capable soldier, to whose patriotism, courage, persistence, and skill was so largely due the successful termination of the war between the States, the contest which assured the foundations of the Republic. We are interested not only in learning what this man did, but in coming to know, as far as may be practicable, what manner of man he was. It is all-important in a study of development of character to have placed within reach the utterances of the man himself. There is no utterance that can give as faithful a picture of a man's method of thought and principle of action as the personal letter written, with no thought of later publication, to those who are near to him.
The publishers deem themselves fortunate, therefore, in being able to place before the fellow-citizens of General Grant who are appreciative of the great service rendered by him to the country, and who are interested also in the personality of the man, a series of letters written to members of his family or to near friends. These letters, dating back to the time of his youth, give a clear and trustworthy impression of the nature of the man and of the development of character and of force that made possible his all-valuable leadership.
The plan for the publication of these letters had received the cordial approval of General Grant's son, the late General Frederick D. Grant, and it is only because of his sudden death, which has brought sorrow upon a great circle of friends and upon the community at large, that the publishers are prevented from including with the volume a letter from the General as the head of the Grant family, giving formal expression to his personal interest in the undertaking.
This collection of letters will constitute a suitable companion volume to Grant's Personal Memoirs and to the accepted biographies of the Great Commander whose memory is honored by his fellow-citizens not only for the patience, persistence, and skill of the leader of armies, as evidenced in the brilliant campaigns that culminated with Vicksburg, Missionary Ridge, and Appomattox, but for the sturdy integrity of character, modest bearing, and sweetness of nature of the great citizen.
GEO. HAVEN PUTNAM.
NEW YORK, April 25, 1912.
ULYSSES SIMPSON GRANT (Frontispiece) From a photograph by W. Kurtz, New York.
JESSE ROOT GRANT, AETAT. 69 Father of Ulysses Simpson Grant. From a photograph.
MRS. HANNAH GRANT Mother of Ulysses Simpson Grant. From a photograph by Landy, taken in Cincinnati.
FACSIMILE OF A LETTER WRITTEN BY ULYSSES SIMPSON GRANT TO HIS FATHER
FACSIMILE OF GENERAL GRANT'S PROCLAMATION TO THE CITIZENS OF PADUCAH
GENERAL ULYSSES SIMPSON GRANT From a photograph taken in 1865 by Gutekunst, Philadelphia.
ULYSSES SIMPSON GRANT From a photograph taken during his second term as President.
Letters of Ulysses S. Grant
[In 1843, at the age of twenty-one, Ulysses S. Grant was graduated from West Point with the rank of brevet second lieutenant. He was appointed to the 4th Infantry, stationed at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis. In May, 1844, he was ordered to the frontier of Louisiana with the army of observation, while the annexation of Texas was pending. The bill for the annexation of Texas was passed March 1, 1845; the war with Mexico began in April, 1846. Grant was promoted to a first-lieutenancy September, 1847. The Mexican War closed in 1848. Both this war and the Civil War he characterizes in his Memoirs as "unholy."
Soon after his return from Mexico he was married to Julia Dent. The next six years were spent in military duty in Sacketts Harbor, New York, Detroit, Michigan, and on the Pacific coast. He was promoted to the captaincy of a company in 1853; but because of the inadequacy of a captain's pay, he resigned from the army, July, 1854, and rejoined his wife and children at St. Louis. In speaking of this period Grant says, "I was now to commence at the age of thirty-two a new struggle for our support."
The first chapter in this new struggle was farming. The following letter was written to his youngest sister Mary, then sixteen years old, afterward Mrs. M.J. Cramer. "Jennie," afterward Mrs. A.R. Corbin, was the second sister, Virginia.]
St. Louis, Mo., August 22nd, 1857.
Your letter was received on last Tuesday, the only day in the week on which we get mail, and this is the earliest opportunity I have had of posting a letter.
I am glad to hear that mother and Jennie intend making us a visit. I would advise them to come by the river if they prefer it. Write to me beforehand about the time you will start, and from Louisville again, what boat you will be on, direct to St. Louis,—not Sappington, P.O.—and I will meet you at the river or Planter's House, or wherever you direct.
We are all very well. Julia contemplates visiting St. Charles next Saturday to spend a few days. She has never been ten miles from home, except to come to the city, since her visit to Covington.
I have nothing in particular to write about. My hard work is now over for the season with a fair prospect of being remunerated in everything but the wheat. My wheat, which would have produced from four to five hundred bushels with a good winter, has yielded only seventy-five. My oats were good, and the corn, if not injured by frost this fall, will be the best I ever raised. My potato crop bids fair to yield fifteen hundred bushels or more. Sweet potatoes, melons and cabbages are the only other articles I am raising for market. In fact, the oats and corn I shall not sell.
I see I have written a part of this letter as if I intended to direct to one, and part as if to the other of you; but you will understand it, so it makes no difference.
Write to me soon and often. Julia wears black. I had forgotten to answer that part of your letter.
Your affectionate Brother,
P.S. Tell father that I have this moment seen Mr. Ford, just from Sacketts Harbor, who informs me that while there he enquired of Mr. Bagley about my business with Camp, and learns from him that the account should be acted upon immediately. Camp is now at Governor's Island, N.Y., and intends sailing soon for Oregon. If he is stopped he may be induced to disgorge. Tell father to forward the account immediately.
[White Haven was the name of the Dent homestead near St. Louis. Grant has rented out his own farm, and taken that of his father-in-law.
Written to his sister Mary.]
White Haven, March 21st, 1858.
Your letter was received one week ago last Tuesday, and I would have answered it by the next mail but it so happened that there was not a sheet of paper about the house, and as Spring has now set in, I do not leave the farm except in cases of urgent necessity. Father's letter, enclosing Mr. Bagley's relative to the Camp business, was received one or two weeks earlier, and promptly answered. My reply was long, giving a detailed account of my whole transactions with Camp, and a copy of which Father can have to peruse when he comes along this way next.
Julia and her children are all well and talk of making you a visit next fall,—but I hardly think they will go. But if any of you, except Father, should visit us this spring, or early summer, Julia says that Fred. may go home with you to spend a few months. She says she would be afraid to let him travel with Father alone; she has an idea that he is so absent-minded that if he were to arrive in Cincinnati at night he would be just as apt as not to walk out of the cars and be gone for an hour before he would recollect that he had a child with him. I have no such fears however. Fred does not read yet, but he will, I think, in a few weeks. We have no school within a mile and a half, and that is too far to send him in the winter season. I shall commence sending him soon however. In the meantime I have no doubt but that he is learning faster at home. Little Ellen is growing very fast, and talks now quite plainly. Jesse R. is growing very rapidly, is very healthy and, they say, is the best looking child among the four. I don't think however there is much difference between them in that respect.
Emma Dent is talking of visiting her relatives in Ohio and Penn^a this Summer, and if she does, she will stop a time with you. Any talk of any of us visiting you, must not stop you from coming to see us. The whole family here are fond of planning visits, but poor in the execution of their plans. It may take two seasons yet before any of these visits are made; in the meantime, we are anxious to see all of you. For my part I do not know when I shall ever be able to leave home long enough for a visit. I may possibly be able to go on a flying visit next fall. I am anxious to make one more visit home before I get old.
This Spring has opened finely for farming and I hope to do well; but I shall wait until the crops are gathered before I make any predictions. I have now three negro men, two hired by the year and one of Mr. Dent's, which, with my own help, I think, will enable me to do my farming pretty well with assistance in harvest. I have however a large farm. I shall have about twenty acres of potatoes, twenty of corn, twenty-five of oats, fifty of wheat, twenty-five of meadow, some clover, Hungarian grass and other smaller products, all of which require labor before they are got into market, and the money realized upon them. You are aware, I believe, that I have rented out my place and have taken Mr. Dent's. There are about two hundred acres of ploughed land on it and I shall have, in a few weeks, about two hundred and fifty acres of woods pasture fenced up besides. Only one side of it and a part of another has to be fenced to take the whole of it in, and the rails are all ready. I must close with the wish that some of you would visit us as early as possible. In your letter you ask when my note in bank becomes due. The seventeenth of Apl. is the last day of grace when it must be paid.
Give Julia's, the children's, and my love to all at home and write soon.
[When a boy Grant suffered severely from fever and ague. This attack now lasted a year and was probably a factor in determining him to give up farming.
To his sister Mary.]
St. Louis, Mo., Sept. 7th, 1858.
Your letter was received in due time and I should have answered it immediately, but that I had mailed a letter from Julia to Jennie the morning of the receipt of yours. I thought then to wait for two or three weeks; by that time there was so much sickness in my family, and Freddy so dangerously ill, that I thought I would not write until his fate was decided. He was nearly taken from us by the bilious, then by the typhoid fever; but he is now convalescing. Some seven of the negroes have been sick. Mrs. Sharp is here on a visit, and she and one of her children are sick; and Julia and I are both sick with chills and fever. If I had written to you earlier it would have been whilst Fred's case was a doubtful one, and I did not want to distress you when it could have done no good to anyone.—I have been thinking of paying you a visit this fall, but I now think it extremely doubtful whether I shall be able to. Not being able to even attend to my hands, much less work myself, I am getting behindhand, so that I shall have to stay here and attend to my business. Cannot some of you come and pay us a visit? Jennie has not answered Julia's letter yet. Did she receive it? I was coming to the city the day it was written to hear a political speech, and it was too late to get it in the post office, so I gave it to a young man to put in the next morning. It is for this reason I asked the question.
Write to me soon. I hope you have had none of the sickness we have been troubled with.
To MARY F. GRANT, Covington, Ky.
[Soon after the date of this letter Grant sold at auction his stock, crops, and farming implements, and gave up farming. His father, Jesse Root Grant, had founded a leather store in Galena with the expectation of establishing his three sons in the business, and withdrawing from all connection with it himself. It is this business opportunity that is referred to here with characteristic independence, "I should prefer your offer to any one of mere salary that could be offered." But it was not until May, 1860, that he went to Galena, nominally as a clerk, in reality as a future partner in the business.]
St. Louis, Oct. 1st, 1858.
I arrived at home on Tuesday evening, and, it being my "chill" day, of course felt very badly. Julia had been much worse during my absence, but had improved again so that I found her about as when I left home. Fred, has improved steadily, and can now hear nearly as well as before his sickness. The rest of the family are tolerably well, with the exception of Mr. Dent whose health seems to be about as when I left. Mr. Dent and myself will make a sale this fall and get clear of all the stock on the place, and then rent out the cleared land and sell about four hundred acres of the north end of the place. As I explained to you, this will include my place. I shall plan to go to Covington towards Spring, and would prefer your offer to any one of mere salary that could be offered. I do not want any place for permanent stipulated pay, but want the prospect of one day doing business for myself. There is a pleasure in knowing that one's income depends somewhat upon his own exertions and business capacity, that cannot be felt when so much and no more is coming in, regardless of the success of the business engaged in or the manner in which it is done.
Mr. Dent thinks I had better take the boy he has given Julia along with me, and let him learn the farrier's business. He is a very smart, active boy, capable of making anything; but this matter I will leave entirely to you. I can leave him here and get about three dollars per month for him now, and more as he gets older. Give my love to all at home.
To J.R. GRANT, ESQ., Covington, Ky.
[After giving up farming Grant engaged in the real estate business in St. Louis, with a Mr. Boggs as partner. The girls referred to are his three sisters. Simpson is the brother next in age to himself.]
St. Louis, Mo., March 12th, 1859.
It has now been over a month, I believe, since I wrote to you last, although I expected to have written again the next week. I can hardly tell how the new business I am engaged in, is going to succeed, but I believe it will be something more than a support. If I find an opportunity next week I will send you some of our cards, which, if you will distribute among such persons as may have business to attend to in the city, such as buying or selling property, collecting either rents or other liabilities, it may prove the means of giving us additional commissions. Mr. Benton was here for some time and used to call in to see me frequently. Whilst he was here I submitted to him some property for sale, belonging to a Mr. Tucker. Since Mr. Benton's departure, Mr. Tucker has called several times and wants me to submit his propositions again, and say that if he is disposed to buy, and pay considerable cash, he will make his prices such as to secure to him a good investment. I enclose with this a list of the property, and prices, as first asked, one third cash, balance one and two years. Please tell Mr. Benton if he feels like making any proposition for any part of this property to let me know, and I will submit it and give him an answer.
We are living now in the lower part of the city full two miles from my office. The house is a comfortable little one, just suited to my means. We have one spare room, and also a spare bed in the children's room, so that we can accommodate any of our friends that are likely to come to see us. I want two of the girls, or all of them for that matter, to come and pay us a long visit soon.
Julia and the children are well. They will not make a visit to Kentucky now. I was anxious to have them go before I rented, but with four children she could not go without a servant, and she was afraid that landing so often as she would have to do in free states, she might have some trouble. Tell one of the girls to write soon. Has Simpson gone South? Are you going to the city to live?
To J.R. GRANT, ESQ., Covington, Ky.
[Orvil is the youngest brother. The appointment referred to was one for the position of County Engineer.
Free-Soilers: "The Whig party had ceased to exist ... ; the Know Nothing party had taken its place but was on the wane; the Republican party was in a chaotic state and had not yet received a name. It had no existence in the Slave States except at points on the borders next to Free States. In St. Louis city and county what afterwards became the Republican party was known as the Free Soil Democracy."—Memoirs.
Professorship of mathematics: When Grant left the Military Academy he had no intention of remaining in the army. He then expected to teach mathematics, and had already applied for such a position at West Point. At Jefferson Barracks his chief interest was the study of higher mathematics with the view of obtaining a professorship. The Mexican War, however, soon drew him into active military life.
The real estate venture was unsuccessful; it was a business even then much overcrowded. Necessity, not instability, dictated the various experiments.]
St. Louis, Aug. 20th, 1859.
On last Wednesday I received your letter, and on the Monday before one from Mr. Burk, from both of which I much regretted to learn of Simpson's continued ill health. I at once wrote to Orvil, whose arrival at Galena I learned from Burk's letter, to urge Simpson to come by steamer to St. Louis and spend some time with me, and if it should prove necessary for anyone to accompany him, I would take him home. Cannot Jennie and Orvil's wife come this way when they start for Galena? We would like very much to see them.
I am not over sanguine of getting the appointment mentioned in my last letter. The Board of Commissioners, who make the appointment, are divided,—three free soilers to two opposed,—and although friends who are recommending me are the very first citizens of this place, and members of all parties, I fear they will make strictly party nominations for all the offices under their control. As to the professorship you speak of, that was filled some time ago. And were it not, I would stand no earthly chance. The Washington University, where the vacancy was to be filled, is one of the best endowed institutions in the United States, and all the professorships are sought after by persons whose early advantages were the same as mine, but who have been engaged in teaching all their mature years. Quimby, who was the best mathematician in my class, and who was for several years an assistant at West Point, and for nine years a professor in an institution in New York, was an unsuccessful applicant. The appointment was given to the most distinguished man in his department in the country, and an author. His name is Shorano. Since putting in my application for the appointment of County Engineer, I have learned that the place is not likely to be filled before February next. What I shall do will depend entirely upon what I can get to do. Our present business is entirely overdone in this city, at least a dozen new houses having started about the same time I commenced. I do not want to fly from one thing to another, nor would I, but I am compelled to make a living from the start for which I am willing to give all my time and all my energy.
Julia and the children are well and send love to you. On your way to Galena can you not come by here? Write to me soon.
[In regard to voting for Buchanan for President, Grant says in his Memoirs that he believed that the election of a Republican President in 1856 would mean the secession of all the slave States and inevitable rebellion. Accordingly, he preferred the success of a candidate whose election would prevent or postpone secession, to seeing the country plunged into a war the end of which no man could foretell. "With a Democrat elected by the unanimous vote of the Slave States, there would be no pretext for secession for four years. I very much hoped that the passions of the people would subside in that time, and the catastrophe be averted altogether; if it were not, I believed the country would be better prepared to receive the shock and to resist it. I therefore voted for James Buchanan for President."]
St. Louis, Sept. 23d, 1859.
I have waited for some time to write you the result of the action of the County Commissioners upon the appointment of a County Engineer. The question has at length been settled, and I am sorry to say, adversely to me. The two Democratic Commissioners voted for me, and the Free Soilers against me. What I shall now go at I have not determined, but I hope something before a great while. Next month I get possession of my own house, when my expenses will be reduced so much that a very moderate salary will support me. If I could get the $3000 note cashed, which I got as the difference in the exchange of property, I could put up with the proceeds two houses that would pay me, at least, $40 per month rent. The note has five years to run, with interest notes given separately and payable annually.
We are looking for some of you here next week to go to the fair. I wrote to Simpson to come down and see me but as I have had no answer from him nor from Orvil to a letter written some time before, I do not know whether he will come or not. I should like very much to have some of you come and see us this fall. Julia and the children are all very well. Fred and Buck go to school every day. They never think of asking to stay at home.
You may judge from the result of the action of the County Commissioners that I am strongly identified with the Democratic party. Such is not the case. I never voted an out and out Democratic ticket in my life. I voted for Buchanan for President to defeat Fremont, but not because he was my first choice. In all other elections I have universally selected the candidates that, in my estimation, were the best fitted for the different offices, and it never happens that such men are all arrayed on one side. The strongest friend I had in the Board of Commissioners is a Free Soiler but opposition between parties is so strong that he would not vote for any one, no matter how friendly, unless at least one of his own party would go with him. The Free Soil party felt themselves bound to provide for one of their own party who was defeated for the office of County Engineer; a German who came to the West as an assistant surveyor upon the public lands, and who has held an office ever since.
There is, I believe, but one paying office in the county held by an American, unless you except the office of Sheriff which is held by a Frenchman who speaks broken English, but was born here.
Write to me soon. Julia and the children join me in sending love to all of you.
[To his brother Simpson. This letter is a naive expression of a fundamental trait in Grant's character, belief in the essential honesty of every man.]
St. Louis, Oct. 24th, 1859.
I have been postponing writing to you hoping to make a return for your horse, but as yet I have received nothing for him. About two weeks ago a man spoke to me for him and said that he would try him the next day, and if he suited, give me $100 for him. I have not seen the man since; but one week ago last Saturday he went to the stable and got the horse, saddle and bridle, since which I have seen neither man nor horse. From this I presume he must like him. The man, I understand, lives in Florisant, about twelve miles from the city.
My family are all well and living in our own house. It is much more pleasant than where we lived when you were here, and contains practically about as much room. I am still unemployed, but expect to have a place in the Custom House from the first of next month. My name has been forwarded for the appointment of Superintendent, which, if I do not get, will not probably be filled at all. In that case there is a vacant desk which I may get that pays $1200 per annum. The other will be worth from $1500 to $1800 and will occupy but little time.
Remember me to all at home. There is a gentleman here who has lands in San Antonio de Bexar County, Texas, that would like to get you, should you go there this winter, to look after them. If you go, and will attend to his business, drop me a line and he will furnish me all the papers, and instructions, to forward to you.
P.S. The man that has your horse is the owner of a row of six three story brick houses in this city, and the probabilities are that he intends to give me an order on his agent for the money on the first of the month when the rents are paid. At all events I imagine the horse is perfectly safe.
[Grant had given up the real estate business and had come to Galena in May, 1860, as has been said, nominally as a clerk in his father's store, but really as a prospective partner in the business.
In March, 1861, Lincoln was inaugurated President. The Confederates proclaimed themselves aliens; South Carolina seceded; other Southern States followed; Fort Sumter was fired upon, and President Lincoln issued his first call for troops, 75,000 volunteers. The quota for Illinois had been fixed at six regiments. Galena immediately raised a company. Grant declined the captaincy but promised his aid in every way possible.]
Galena, April 21st, 1861.
We are now in the midst of trying times when every one must be for or against his country, and show his colors too, by his every act. Having been educated for such an emergency, at the expense of the Government, I feel that it has upon me superior claims, such claims as no ordinary motives of self-interest can surmount. I do not wish to act hastily or unadvisedly in the matter, and as there are more than enough to respond to the first call of the President, I have not yet offered myself. I have promised, and am giving all the assistance I can in organizing the company whose services have been accepted from this place. I have promised further to go with them to the State capital, and if I can be of service to the Governor in organizing his state troops to do so. What I ask now is your approval of the course I am taking, or advice in the matter. A letter written this week will reach me in Springfield. I have not time to write to you but a hasty line, for, though Sunday as it is, we are all busy here. In a few minutes I shall be engaged in directing tailors in the style and trim of uniform for our men.
Whatever may have been my political opinions before, I have but one sentiment now. That is, we have a Government, and laws and a flag, and they must all be sustained. There are but two parties now, traitors and patriots and I want hereafter to be ranked with the latter, and I trust, the stronger party. I do not know but you may be placed in an awkward position, and a dangerous one pecuniarily, but costs cannot now be counted. My advice would be to leave where you are if you are not safe with the views you entertain. I would never stultify my opinion for the sake of a little security.
I will say nothing about our business. Orvil and Lank will keep you posted as to that.
Write soon and direct as above.
[To his sister Mary. Grant organized and drilled the Galena company, then went with it to Springfield, the State capital, and mustered it into the State service. Governor Yates then requested him to remain and assist in the adjutant-general's office, because he realized the value of Grant's former military experience. Shortly after this the Legislature authorized the State to accept the services of ten additional regiments. Governor Yates requested Grant to muster these new troops into the service.
The Aunt Rachel mentioned was a sister of Jesse R. Grant, who lived in Virginia. She had a large plantation and owned many slaves, and was naturally an ardent secessionist. A heated partisan correspondence was carried on during this time between the aunt and the niece Clara, Grant's oldest sister. In the letter referred to, the aunt writes, "If you are with the accursed Lincolnites, the ties of consanguinity shall be forever severed."]
Springfield, April 29th, 1861.
I came to this place several days ago, fully expecting to find a letter here for me from father. As yet I have received none. It was my intention to have returned to Galena last evening, but the Governor detained me, and I presume will want me to remain with him until all the troops are called into service, or those to be so called, are fully mustered in and completely organized. The enthusiasm throughout this state surpasses anything that could have been imagined three weeks ago. Only six regiments are called for here, while at least thirty could be promptly raised. The Governor, and all others in authority, are harassed from morning until night with patriotic men, and such political influence as they can bring, to obtain first promises of acceptance of their companies, if there should be another call for troops. The eagerness to enter companies that were accepted by the Governor, was so great that it has been impossible for Commanders of companies to keep their numbers within the limits of the law, consequently companies that have arrived here have all had from ten to sixty men more than can be accepted. The Legislature on Saturday last passed a bill providing for the maintenance and discipline of these surplus troops for one month, unless sooner mustered into service of the United States under a second call.—I am convinced that if the South knew the entire unanimity of the North for the Union and maintenance of Law, and how freely men and money are offered to the cause, they would lay down their arms at once in humble submission. There is no disposition to compromise now. Nearly every one is anxious to see the Government fully tested as to its strength, and see if it is not worth preserving. The conduct of eastern Virginia has been so abominable through the whole contest that there would be a great deal of disappointment here if matters should be settled before she is thoroughly punished. This is my feeling, and I believe it universal. Great allowance should be made for South Carolinians, for the last generation have been educated, from their infancy, to look upon their Government as oppressive and tyrannical and only to be endured till such time as they might have sufficient strength to strike it down. Virginia, and other border states, have no such excuse and are therefore traitors at heart as well as in act. I should like very much to see the letter Aunt Rachel wrote Clara! or a copy of it. Can't you send it?
When I left Galena, Julia and the children were very well. Jesse had been very sick for a few days but was getting much better. I have been very anxious that you should spend the summer with us. You have never visited us and I don't see why you can't. Two of you often travel together, and you might do so again, and come out with Clara. I do not like to urge anything of the kind, lest you should think that I ignored entirely the question of economy, but I do not do so. The fact is I have had my doubts whether or not it would not be more prudent for all of you to lock up and leave, until the present excitement subsides. If father were younger and Simpson strong and healthy, I would not advise such a course. On the contrary, I would like to see every Union man in the border slave states remain firm at his post. Every such man is equal to an armed volunteer at this time in defence of his country. There is very little that I can tell you that you do not get from the papers. Remember me to all at home and write to me at once, to this place.
[Grant is now assisting in the adjutant-general's office, as requested by Governor Yates. In connection with the call for troops and the enthusiastic response, he says elsewhere, "There was not a State in the North of a million inhabitants that would not have furnished the entire number faster than arms would have been supplied to them, if it had been necessary."]
GENERAL HEAD-QUARTERS, STATE OF ILLINOIS, ADJUTANT-GENERAL'S OFFICE
Springfield, May 2nd, 1861.
Your letter of the 24th inst was received the same evening one I had written to Mary was mailed. I would have answered earlier but for the fact I had just written.
I am not a volunteer, and indeed could not be, now that I did not go into the first Company raised in Galena. The call of the President was so promptly responded to that only those companies that organized at once, and telegraphed their application to come in, were received. All other applications were filed, and there are enough of them to furnish Illinois quota if the Army should be raised to 300,000 men. I am serving on the Governor's staff at present at his request, but suppose I shall not be here long.
I should have offered myself for the Colonelcy of one of the Regiments, but I find all those places are wanted by politicians who are up to log-rolling, and I do not care to be under such persons.
The war feeling is not abating here much, although hostilities appear more remote than they did a few days ago. Three of the six Regiments mustered in from this state are now at Cairo, and probably will be reinforced with two others within a few days.
Galena has several more companies organized but only one of them will be able to come in under a new call for ten regiments. Chicago has raised companies enough nearly to fill all the first call. The Northern feeling is so fully aroused that they will stop at no expense of money and men to insure the success of their cause.
I presume the feeling is just as strong on the other side, but they are infinitely in the minority in resources.
I have not heard from Galena since coming down here, but presume all is moving along smoothly. My advice was not to urge collections from such men as we knew to be good, and to make no efforts to sell in the present distracted state of our currency. The money will not buy Eastern exchange and is liable to become worse; I think that thirty days from this we shall have specie, and the bills of good foreign banks to do business on, and then will be the time to collect.
If Mary writes to me any time next week she may direct here to
[E.B. Washburn was member of Congress representing Galena. Pillow was a Confederate general. He had served in the Mexican War, where Grant had learned to know him.
Grant expresses in this letter the opinion that the war will be of short duration. Many believed with him that the war would be over in thirty days. He continued to think this until the battle of Shiloh. He believed that there would have been no more battles in the West after the capture of Fort Donelson if all the troops in that region had been under a single commander who would have followed up that victory.]
Camp Yates, near Springfield, May 6th, 1861.
Your second letter, dated the first of May has just come to hand. I commenced writing you a letter three or four days ago but was interrupted so often that I did not finish it. I wrote one to Mary which no doubt was duly received, but do not remember whether it answers your questions or not.
At the time our first Galena company was raised I did not feel at liberty to engage in hot haste, but took an active interest in drilling them, and imparting all the instruction I could, and at the request of the members of the company, and of Mr. Washburn, I came here for the purpose of assisting for a short time in camp, and of offering, if necessary, my services for the war. The next two days after my arrival it was rainy and muddy so that the troops could not drill and I concluded to go home. Governor Yates heard it and requested me to remain. Since that I have been acting in that capacity, and for the last few days have been in command of this camp. The last of the six regiments called for from this State, will probably leave by to-morrow, or the day following, and then I shall be relieved from this command.
The Legislature of this State provided for the raising of eleven additional regiments and a battalion of artillery; a portion of these the Governor will appoint me to muster into the service of the State, when I presume my services may end. I might have obtained the colonelcy of a regiment possibly, but I was perfectly sickened at the political wire-pulling for all these commissions, and would not engage in it. I shall be in no ways backward in offering my services when and where they are required, but I feel that I have done more now than I could do serving as a captain under a green colonel, and if this thing continues they will want more men at a later day.
There have been fully 30,000 more volunteers who have offered their services, than can be accepted under the present call, without including the call made by the State; but I can go back to Galena and drill the three or four companies there, and render them efficient for any future call. My own opinion is that this war will be but of short duration. The Administration has acted most prudently and sagaciously so far in not bringing on a conflict before it had its forces fully marshalled. When they do strike, our thoroughly loyal states will be fully protected, and a few decisive victories in some of the southern ports will send the secession army howling, and the leaders in the rebellion will flee the country. All the states will then be loyal for a generation to come. Negroes will depreciate so rapidly in value that nobody will want to own them, and their masters will be the loudest in their declamation against the institution from a political and economic point of view. The negro will never disturb this country again. The worst that is to be apprehended from him is now: he may revolt and cause more destruction than any Northern man, except it be the ultra-abolitionist, wants to see. A Northern army may be required in the next ninety days to go South to suppress a negro insurrection. As much as the South have vilified the North, that army would go on such a mission and with the purest motives.
I have just received a letter from Julia. All are well. Julia takes a very sensible view of our present difficulties. She would be sorry to have me go, but thinks the circumstances may warrant it and will not throw a single obstacle in the way.
There is no doubt but the valiant Pillow has been planning an attack on Cairo; but as he will learn that that point is well garrisoned and that they have their ditch on the outside, filled with water, he will probably desist. As, however, he would find it necessary to receive a wound, on the first discharge of firearms, he would not be a formidable enemy. I do not say he would shoot himself, ah no! I am not so uncharitable as many who served under him in Mexico. I think, however, he might report himself wounded on the receipt of a very slight scratch, received hastily in any way, and might irritate the sore until he convinced himself that he had been wounded by the enemy.
Tell Simpson that I hope he will be able to visit us this summer. I should like very much to have him stay with us and I want him to make my house his home.
Remember me to all.
[Grant has just finished mustering into State service the ten additional regiments authorized by the Legislature. He then returned to Galena whence he wrote to Washington, May 24, 1861, to the adjutant-general, tendering "his services until the close of the war in such capacity as may be offered." He adds, "I would say in view of my present age and length of service, I feel myself competent to command a regiment, if the President in his judgment should see fit to intrust one to me." He never received an answer to this letter; long after, it was found not properly filed. Grant's own comment is, that it was probably barely read by the adjutant-general and certainly could not have been submitted to higher authority.
The day he wrote this letter he returned to Springfield to find that Governor Yates had already appointed him colonel of one of the regiments that he himself had recently mustered into the State service, the 22d Illinois infantry.]
Galena, May 30th, 1861.
I have now been home nearly a week, but return to Springfield to-day. I have tendered my services to the Government and go to-day to make myself useful, if possible, from this until all our National difficulties are ended. During the six days I have been at home I have felt all the time as if a duty were being neglected that was paramount to any other duty I ever owed. I have every reason to be well satisfied with myself for the services already rendered, but to stop now would not do.
All here are well. Orvil or Lank will write to you in a day or two and tell you how business matters stand. Write to me at Springfield.
[After taking charge of his new regiment, Grant was encamped a short time near Springfield. A month was spent in drill and discipline; when the time came for the mustering into the national service of those who were willing to enter, the regiment went in as a body. July 3d he was ordered to Quincy, Mo. While here he was ordered to move against Colonel Tom Harris, a Confederate, who was encamped on a creek with high hills on both sides. Grant approached the place with much uneasiness, expecting to find Harris and his men drawn up ready to meet him. Instead, they had fled. He realized then that Harris had had quite as much fear of him as he had had of Harris. This experience was a valuable lesson to him; remembering it, he never again felt trepidation before encountering an enemy.]
East Quincy, Mo., July 13th, 1861.
I have just received yours and Mary's letters and really did not know that I had been so negligent as not to have written to you before. I did write from Camp Yates, but since receiving yours remember that I did not get to finish it at the time, and have neglected it since. The fact is that since I took command of this regiment I have had no spare time, and flatter myself, and believe I am sustained in my judgment by my officers and men, that I have done as much for the improvement and efficiency of this regiment as was ever done for a command in the same length of time.—You will see that I am in Missouri. Yesterday I went out as far as Palmyra and stationed my regiment along the railroad for the protection of the bridges, trestle work, etc. The day before I sent a small command, all I could spare, to relieve Colonel Smith who was surrounded by secessionists. He effected his relief, however, before they got there. To-morrow I start for Monroe, where I shall fall in with Colonel Palmer and one company of horse and two pieces of artillery. One regiment and a battalion of infantry will move on to Mexico, North Missouri road, and all of us together will try to nab the notorious Tom Harris with his 1200 secessionists. His men are mounted, and I have but little faith in getting many of them. The notorious Jim Green who was let off on his parole of honor but a few days ago, has gone towards them with a strong company well armed. If he is caught it will prove bad work for him.
You no doubt saw from the papers that I started to march across the country for Quincy. My men behaved admirably, and the lesson has been a good one for them. They can now go into camp after a day's march with as much promptness as veteran troops; they can strike their tents and be on the march with equal celerity. At the Illinois River, I received a dispatch at eleven o'clock at night that a train of cars would arrive at half past eleven to move my regiment. All the men were of course asleep, but I had the drum beaten, and in forty minutes every tent and all the baggage was at the water's edge ready to put aboard the ferry to cross the river.
I will try to keep you posted from time to time, by writing either to you or to Mary, of my whereabouts and what I am doing. I hope you will have only a good account of me and the command under my charge. I assure you my heart is in the cause I have espoused, and however I may have disliked party Republicanism there has never been a day that I would not have taken up arms for a Constitutional Administration.
You ask if I should not like to go in the regular army. I should not. I want to bring my children up to useful employment, and in the army the chance is poor. There is at least the same objection that you find where slavery exists. Fred. has been with me until yesterday; I sent him home on a boat.
[Shortly after the date of the last letter, Grant was ordered to Mexico, Mo. General Pope then commanded the district between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers with headquarters at Mexico. Grant was assigned to command a sub-district embracing the troops of the immediate neighborhood. In regard to the hospitality which Grant mentions receiving in this secessionist district, we may note that the regiments before his accession to this command had visited houses without invitation and had helped themselves to food or had demanded it. Grant at once published orders forbidding soldiers to go into private houses unless invited, or to appropriate private property.]
Mexico, Mo., Aug. 3d, 1861.
I have written to you once from this place and received no answer, but as Orvil writes to me that you express great anxiety to hear from me often, I will try to find time to drop you a line twice a month, and oftener when anything of special interest occurs.
The papers keep you posted as to army movements, and as you are already in possession of my notions on secession nothing more is wanted on that point. I find here however a different state of feeling from what I expected existed in any part of the South. The majority in this part of the State are secessionists, as we would term them, but deplore the present state of affairs. They would make almost any sacrifice to have the Union restored, but regard it as dissolved, and nothing is left for them but to choose between two evils. Many, too, seem to be entirely ignorant of the object of present hostilities. You cannot convince them but that the ultimate object is to extinguish slavery by force. Then, too, they feel that the Southern Confederacy will never consent to give up their State, and as they, the South, are the strong party, it is prudent to favor them from the start. There is never a movement of troops made, that the secession journals through the country do not give a startling account of their almost annihilation at the hands of the State troops, whilst the facts are, there are no engagements. My regiment has been reported cut to pieces once that I know of, and I don't know but oftener, whilst a gun has not been fired at us. These reports go uncontradicted here and give confirmation to the conviction already entertained that one Southron is equal to five Northerners. We believe they are deluded, and know that if they are not, we are.
Since I have been in command of this military district, (two weeks), I have received the greatest hospitality and attention from the citizens about here. I have had every opportunity of conversing with them freely and learning their sentiments, and although I have confined myself strictly to the truth as to what has been the result of the different engagements, the relative strength, the objects of the Administration, and the North generally, yet I think they don't believe a word.
I see from the papers that my name has been sent in for Brigadier General. This is certainly very complimentary to me, particularly as I have never asked a friend to intercede in my behalf. My only acquaintance with men of influence in the State was whilst on duty at Springfield, and I then saw so much pulling and hauling for favors that I determined never to ask for anything, and never have, not even a colonelcy. I wrote a letter to Washington tendering my services, but then declined Governor Yates' and Mr. Trumbull's endorsement.
My services with the regiment with which I now am have been highly satisfactory to me. I took it in a very disorganized, demoralized and insubordinate condition, and have worked it up to a reputation equal to the best, and, I believe, with the good will of all the officers and all the men. Hearing that I was likely to be promoted, the officers, with great unanimity, have requested to be attached to my command. This I don't want you to read to others for I very much dislike speaking of myself.
We are now breaking up camp here gradually. In a few days the last of us will be on our way for the Missouri River, at what point cannot be definitely determined, wood and water being a consideration, as well as a healthy, fine site for a large encampment. A letter addressed to me at Galena will probably find me there. If I get my promotion I shall expect to go there for a few days.
Remember me to all at home and write to me.
[President Lincoln asked the Illinois delegation in Congress to recommend some citizens of the State for the position of brigadier-general. They unanimously recommended Grant first on a list of seven.
Since the date of the last letter he has been promoted to the rank of brigadier-general. He was then ordered to Ironton, Mo., seventy miles south of St. Louis.
To his sister Mary.]
Ironton, Mo., August 12th, 1861.
Your letter directed to me at Mexico, Missouri came to hand yesterday at this place.
A glance at the map will show you where I am. When I came here it was reported that this place was to be attacked by 8000 secessionists, under General Hardee, within a day or two. Now Hardee's force seems to have reduced, and his distance from here to have increased. Scouting parties however are constantly seen within a few miles of our pickets. I have here about 3000 volunteers nearly all infantry, but our position being strong, and our cause a good one, it would trouble a much larger force of the enemy to dislodge us. You ask my views about the continuance of the war, and so forth. Well I have changed my mind so much that I don't know what to think. That the rebels will be so badly whipped by April next that they cannot make a stand anywhere, I don't doubt. But they are so dogged that there is no telling when they may be subdued. Send Union troops among them and respect all their rights, pay for everything you get, and they become desperate and reckless because their state sovereignty is invaded. Troops of the opposite side march through and take everything they want, leaving no pay but scrip, and they become desperate secession partisans because they have nothing more to lose. Every change makes them more desperate. I should like to be sent to Western Virginia, but my lot seems to be cast in this part of the world.
I wanted to remain in St. Louis a day or two to get some books to read that might help me in my profession, and have my uniform made. Mine has been a busy life from the beginning, and my new-made friends in Illinois seem to give me great credit. I hope to deserve it, and shall spare no pains on my part to do so.
It is precious little time I shall have for writing letters, but I have subscribed for the Daily St. Louis Democrat to be sent to you, through which you may occasionally hear from me.
Write to me often even though your letters are not answered. As I told father in my last I will try to have you hear from me twice a month if I have to write you after midnight.
I told Julia she might go to Covington and board whilst I am away but I don't know but that she had better stay where she is. The people of Galena have always shown the greatest friendship for me and I would prefer keeping my home there. I would like very much though, if you would go and stay with Julia.
If I get a uniform and get where I can have my daguerreotype taken, your wish in that respect shall be gratified.
[From Ironton, Grant was next ordered to Jefferson City, Mo., to take command there. There were much confusion and lack of discipline here. "There was no system existing as to recruiting and the city was filled with fugitives. These, driven by guerilla bands to take refuge with the national troops, were in a deplorable condition." In a week or two order was restored. He was then recalled to St. Louis, to receive important instructions.]
Jefferson City, Mo., August 27th, 1861.
Your letter requesting me to appoint Mr. Foley on my staff was only received last Friday night, of course too late to give Mr. Foley the appointment even if I could do so. I remember to have been introduced to Mr. Foley Sr. several years ago, and if the son is anything like the impression I then formed of the father, the appointment would be one that I could well congratulate myself upon. I have filled all the places on my staff and, I flatter myself, with deserving men: Mr. J.A. Rawlins of Galena is to be my Adjutant General, Mr. Lagow of the regiment I was formerly colonel of, and Mr. Hillyer of St. Louis, aides. They are all able men, from five to ten years younger than myself, without military experience but very capable of learning. I only have one of them with me yet, and having nothing but raw troops, and but little assistance, it keeps me busy from the time I get up in the morning until from 12 to 2 o'clock at night, or morning.
I subscribed for the Daily Democrat, a staunch Union paper, for you so that you might hear from me often.
There is a good deal of alarm felt by the citizens of an early attack upon this place, and if anything of the kind should take place we are ill prepared. All the troops are very raw, and about one half of them Missouri Home Guards without discipline. No artillery and but little cavalry here.
I do not anticipate an attack here myself, certainly not until we have attacked the enemy first. A defeat might induce the rebels to follow up their success to this point, but that we expect to prevent. My means of information are certainly as good as those of any one else, and I cannot learn that there is an organized body of men North of the Osage River, or any such body moving. There are numerous encampments throughout all the counties bordering on the Missouri River, but the object seems to be to gather supplies, forces, transportation and so forth, for a fall and winter campaign.
The country west of here will be left in a starving condition for next winter. Families are being driven away in great numbers for their Union sentiments, leaving behind farms, crops, stock and all. A sad state of affairs must exist under the most favorable circumstances that can take place. There will be no money in the country, and the entire crop will be carried off together with all stock of any value.
I am interrupted so often while writing that my letters must necessarily be very meagre and disconnected.
I hope you will let Mary go to Galena when Mother returns home. She has never paid us a visit and I would like to have her make a long one. I think it doubtful whether I will go home at all.
[The special instructions which Grant came from Jefferson City to receive, assigned him to the command of southeastern Missouri and southern Illinois. He was to have temporary headquarters at Cape Girardeau during an expedition ordered for the capture of Colonel Jeff Thompson, who was disputing with them the possession of southeastern Missouri. This expedition was broken up on account of General Prentiss leaving his command at Jackson and returning to St. Louis, offended at being placed under a brigadier-general whom he believed to be his junior. Grant says Prentiss' action was a great mistake. "He was a very brave and earnest soldier," he writes long after. "No man in the service was more sincere in his devotion to the cause for which we were battling, none more ready to make sacrifices or risk life in it."]
Cape Girardeau, Mo., August 31st, 1861.
Your letter of the 26th is just received. As to the relative rank of officers (brigadiers) you are right but in all the rest you are laboring under an erroneous impression. There has been no move made affecting me which has not been complimentary rather than otherwise, though calculated to keep me laboriously employed. I was sent to Ironton when the place was weak and threatened with a superior force, and as soon as it was rendered secure I was ordered to Jefferson City, another point threatened. I was left there but a week when orders were sent ordering me to this point, putting me in command of all the forces in S.E. Missouri, South Illinois and everything that can operate here. All I fear is that too much may be expected of me. My duties will absorb my entire attention, and I shall try not to disappoint the good people of Illinois, who, I learn from every quarter, express an enthusiasm for me that was wholly unexpected.—General Prentiss is not a particular favorite as you suspect, nor is there a prejudice against him.
I think all the brigadiers are satisfied with the rank assigned them by the President.
The brigadiers are not all up north as you suspect. I know of but one, Hurlbut, who is there. General McClernand is at Cairo, Prentiss at Ironton, and I presume Curtis will be with the command under me.
General Hunter is at Chicago, but I look upon that as temporary. I have not heard of any command being assigned him as yet, and do not know that he has sufficiently recovered from wounds received in the late engagements in Virginia to take the field. Hunter will prove himself a fine officer.
The letters spoken of by you have not all been received. One sent to Galena I got and answered. My promise to write to you every two weeks has been complied with, and however busy I may be I shall continue to write if it is but a line.
I am now probably done shifting commands so often, this being the fourth in as many weeks.
Your suspicions as to my being neglected are entirely unfounded, for I know it was the intention to give me a brigade if I had not been promoted. Application would have been made to have me assigned arbitrarily as senior colonel from Illinois for the purpose.
I want to hear from you or Mary often. I sent you the Daily Democrat, thinking that would keep you better posted in this section than I could, and it is a cheap correspondent.
I wrote to you that I should like to have Mary go out to Galena and stay some time. I do not want Julia to leave Galena, being anxious to retain my residence after the many kindnesses received from the people there.
I only arrived at this place last night and cannot tell you much about things here. The people however are generally reported to be secessionists.
[September 4th, Grant had removed headquarters from Cape Girardeau to Cairo, Ill. Hearing that the Confederates were about to seize Paducah, Ky., he went there immediately, arriving there a few hours before the enemy, who returned to Columbus. Before leaving Grant addressed a short proclamation to the citizens promising them protection. Troops were left to guard the city.
To his sister Mary.]
Cairo, September 11th, 1861.
Your letter with a short one from Father was received yesterday, and having a little time I answer it.
The troops under me and the rebel forces are getting so close together however that I have to watch all points. Since taking command I have taken possession of the Kentucky bank opposite here, fortified it and placed four large pieces in position. Have occupied Norfolk, Missouri, and taken possession of Paducah. My troops are so close to the enemy as to occasionally exchange shots with the pickets. To day, or rather last night, sixty or seventy rebels came upon seventeen of our men and were repulsed with a loss of two men killed on their side, none hurt on ours. Yesterday there was skirmishing all day. We had but two wounded however, whilst the loss must have been considerable on the other.
What future operations will be, of course I don't know. I could not write about it in advance if I did. The rebel force numerically is much stronger than ours, but the difference is more than made up by having truth and justice on our side, whilst on the other they are cheered on by falsehood and deception. This war however is formidable and I regret to say cannot end so soon as I anticipated at first.
Father asks for a position for Albert Griffith. I have no place to give and at best could use only my influence. I receive letters from all over the country for such places, but do not answer them. I never asked for my present position, but now that I have it I intend to perform the duties as rigidly as I know how without looking out for places for others. I should be very glad if I had a position within my own gift for Al. but I have not.
My duties are very laborious and have been from the start. It is a rare thing that I get to bed before two or three o'clock in the morning and am usually wakened in the morning before getting awake in a natural way. Now, however, my staff are getting a little in the way of this kind of business and can help me.
I have been stopped so often already in writing this that I have forgotten what I was going to write about.
Are you talking of paying Julia a visit? I wrote to you and father about it several times but have failed to elicit an answer on that point. I intended to have Julia, Miss and Jess come down here to pay me a visit but I hardly think it would be prudent at this time. Hearing artillery within a few miles it might embarrass my movements to have them about. I am afraid they would make poor soldiers.
Write to me again soon.
[Simpson: the brother next in age to General Grant. To his sister Mary.]
Cairo, September 25th, 1861.
I have just received your last letter, also another written by you about one month ago, which has followed me around until at length it reached this place. I am very well, but have no news to communicate.
I had extended my lines nearly half way to Columbus and made reconnoissances frequently to within sight of the rebel camps, but my force has to be so reduced that it would be imprudent to make an attack now until I am reinforced.
I hope some day, if I am allowed to retain this command, to give a good account of ourselves. Simpson's death, though looked for for the last two years, causes me a great deal of sadness. The day I heard of it, I received a number of letters from Galena. In two or three of them his arrival at St. Paul was noted, and it was stated that he was no better. Our family has been peculiarly blessed up to this time. But few families of the same number have gone so many years without the loss of a single member.
I expect Father here as soon as Orvil returns to Galena.
[Grant felt sure that Columbus could easily have been taken soon after the occupation of Paducah, and had asked more than once to be allowed to move against it. As time went on it was so strongly fortified that it would have required a large force and a long siege to capture it. General Fremont was in charge of the Department of Missouri.]
Cairo, October 25th, 1861.
Have gone longer this time without writing to you than I intended and have no good excuse for it. I have received two letters, at least, from you and father since my last, one of which wanted special answer. As I have not that letter before me I may fail to answer some points.
As to my not taking Columbus there are several reasons for it which I understand perfectly and could make plain to any one else, but do not feel disposed to commit the reasons to paper. As to the needlessness of the movements of troops I am a better judge than the newspaper reporters who write about it. My whole administration of affairs seems to have given entire satisfaction to those who have the right to judge, and who should have the ability to judge correctly. I find by a little absence for the few last days (under orders) that my whole course has received marked approbation from citizens and soldiers, so much so that many who are comparative strangers to me are already claiming for me promotion. This is highly gratifying but I do not think any promotions should be made for the present. Let service tell who are the deserving ones and give them the promotion. Father also wrote about a Mr. Reed. He is now here and will probably be able to secure a position. I do not want to be importuned for places. I have none to give and want to be placed under no obligation to any one. My influence no doubt would secure places with those under me, but I become directly responsible for the suitableness of the appointee, and then there is no telling what moment I may have to put my hand upon the very person who has conferred the favor, or the one recommended by me. I want always to be in a condition to do my duty without partiality, favor, or affection.—In the matter of making harness I know that a very large amount is wanted. Maj. Robert Allen, Chief Quartermaster for the Western Department, stationed in St. Louis, has the letting of a great deal. Father remembers his father well. He is a son of old Irish Jimmy, as he used to be called about Georgetown to distinguish him from the other two Jimmy Allens. He is a friend of mine also.—This letter has proven so far more one to Father than to yourself, but I direct it to you that you may reply. I write in great haste having been engaged all the evening in writing orders, and still having more to do.—I send you with this the likeness of myself and staff. N^o 1 you will have no difficulty in recognizing. N^o 2 is Capt. J.A. Rawlins, A.A. Gen. N^os 3 & 4 Capts. Lagow & Hillyer, Aides-de-Camps, N^o 5 Dr. Simons Medical Director.
A good looking set aren't they? I expect Julia here the latter part of next week. I wish you could come at the same time and stay a week or two. I think it would pay you well. Won't you try to come? If it were at all necessary I would pay the expense myself to have you come. Give my love to all at home. I think I will send you several more of my photographs, one for Uncle Samuel, one for Aunt Margaret, one for Aunt Rachel and one for Mrs. Bailey.
[The battle of Belmont is the first event of importance after the occupation of Paducah. This was the first time the men and officers were under fire; they behaved like veterans. Here they gained a confidence in themselves that they did not lose throughout the war.]
Cairo, November 8th, 1861.
It is late at night and I want to get a letter into the mail for you before it closes. As I have just finished a very hasty letter to Julia that contains about what I would write, and having something else to do myself, I will have my clerk copy it.
Day before yesterday, I left here with about 3000 men in five steamers, convoyed by two gun boats, and proceeded down the river to within twelve miles of Columbus. The next morning the boats were dropped down just out of range of the enemy's batteries and the troops debarked.
During this operation our gun boats exercised the rebels by throwing shells into their camps and batteries.
When all ready we proceeded about one mile towards Belmont opposite Columbus; then I formed the troops into line, and ordered two companies from each regiment to deploy as skirmishers, and push on through the woods and discover the position of the enemy. They had gone but a little way when they were fired upon, and the ball may be said to have fairly opened.
The whole command with the exception of a small reserve, was then deployed in like manner with the first, and ordered forward. The order was obeyed with great alacrity, the men all showing great courage. I can say with gratification that every Colonel without a single exception, set an example to his command that inspired a confidence that will always insure victory when there is the slightest possibility of gaining one. I feel truly proud to command such men. From here we fought our way from tree to tree through the woods to Belmont, about two and a half miles, the enemy contesting every foot of ground. Here the enemy had strengthened their position by felling the trees for two or three hundred yards and sharpening the limbs, making a sort of abattis. Our men charged through making the victory complete, giving us possession of their camp and garrison equipage, artillery and everything else.
We got a great many prisoners. The majority however succeeded in getting aboard their steamer and pushing across the river.
We burned everything possible and started back, having accomplished all that we went for and even more. Belmont is entirely covered by the batteries from Columbus and is worth nothing as a military position. It cannot be held without Columbus.
The object of the expedition was to prevent the enemy from sending a force into Missouri to cut off troops I had sent there for a special purpose, and to prevent reinforcing Price.
Besides being well fortified at Columbus their numbers far exceed ours, and it would have been folly to have attacked them. We found the Confederates well-armed and brave. On our return, stragglers that had been left in our rear, now front, fired into us, and more recrossed the river and gave us battle for fully a mile and afterwards at the boats when we were embarking. There was no hasty retreating or running away. Taking into account the object of the expedition the victory was most complete. It has given me a confidence in the officers and men of this command, that will enable me to lead them in any future engagement without fear of the result. General McClernand—(who by the way acted with great coolness throughout, and proved that he is a soldier as well as statesman)—and myself each had our horses shot under us. Most of the field-officers met with the same loss, besides nearly one third of them being killed or wounded themselves. As nearly as I can ascertain our loss was about 250 killed, wounded, and missing.
I write in great haste to get this in the office tonight.
[Two days after the battle of Belmont, November 9th, General Halleck supersedes General Fremont in command of the Department of Missouri. General Grant's command is now changed from the District of Southeastern Missouri to the District of Cairo and that of the mouths of the Cumberland and the Tennessee. This is the command he refers to here as the most important one in the department.]
Cairo, Illinois, November 27th, 1861.
Your letter enclosed with a shawl to Julia is just received.
In regard to your stricture about my not writing I think that you have no cause of complaint. My time is all taken up with public duties.
Your statement of prices at which you proposed furnishing harness was forwarded to Maj. Allen as soon as received and I directed Lagow, who received the letter enclosing it, to inform you of the fact. He did so at once.
I cannot take an active part in securing contracts. If I were not in the army I should do so, but situated as I am it is necessary both to my efficiency for the public good and my own reputation that I should keep clear of Government contracts.
I do not write you about plans, or the necessity of what has been done or what is doing because I am opposed to publicity in these matters. Then too you are very much disposed to criticise unfavorably from information received through the public press, a portion of which I am sorry to see can look at nothing favorably that does not look to a war upon slavery. My inclination is to whip the rebellion into submission, preserving all constitutional rights. If it cannot be whipped in any other way than through a war against slavery, let it come to that legitimately. If it is necessary that slavery should fall that the Republic may continue its existence, let slavery go. But that portion of the press that advocates the beginning of such a war now, are as great enemies to their country as if they were open and avowed secessionists.
There is a desire upon the part of people who stay securely at home to read in the morning papers, at their breakfast, startling reports of battles fought. They cannot understand why troops are kept inactive for weeks or even months. They do not understand that men have to be disciplined, arms made, transportation and provisions provided. I am very tired of the course pursued by a portion of the Union press.
Julia left last Saturday for St. Louis where she will probably spend a couple of weeks and return here should I still remain. It costs nothing for her to go there, and it may be the last opportunity she will have of visiting her father. From here she will go to Covington, and spend a week or two before going back to Galena.
It was my bay horse (cost me $140) that was shot. I also lost the little pony, my fine saddle and bridle, and the common one. What I lost cost about $250. My saddle cloth which was about half the cost of the whole, I left at home.
I try to write home about once in two weeks and think I keep it up pretty well. I wrote to you directly after the battle of Belmont, and Lagow and Julia have each written since.
Give my love to all at home. I am very glad to get letters from home and will write as often as I can. I am somewhat troubled lest I lose my command here, though I believe my administration has given general satisfaction not only to those over me but to all concerned. This is the most important command within the department however, and will probably be given to the senior officer next to General Halleck himself.
There are not so many brigadier generals in the army as there are brigades, and as to divisions they are nearly all commanded by brigadiers.
[Footnote 1: Grant's conviction that the essential purpose of the war was not the abolition of slavery as an end in itself, but the preservation of the Union at all costs was identical with that of Lincoln. This letter can properly be compared with the well-known letter written by Lincoln to Greeley on the third of August, 1862, in which Lincoln says: "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and it is not either to save or to destroy slavery." Lincoln understood that the task accepted by him as President as the leader in the contest for national existence made the maintenance of the Union his chief, if not for the time being his only responsibility. He had, however, placed himself on record in many utterances to the effect that if the republic were to be preserved, slavery must be, in the first place, restricted, and finally destroyed. It is probable that in this matter Grant did not go so far as Lincoln. In any case, in common with the President, he devoted himself simply to the duty immediately before him.]
[The battlefield referred to is Belmont. According to the Memoirs, the loss of national troops, killed, wounded, and missing, was 485; that of the Confederates, 642. Number of Union troops engaged was 2500 men; that of Confederates, 7000.]
Cairo, Illinois, November 28th, 1861.
Your letter asking if Mr. Leathers can be passed South, and also enclosing two extracts from papers is received.
It is entirely out of the question to pass persons South. We have many Union Men sacrificing their lives now from exposure as well as battle, in a cause brought about by secession, and it is necessary for the security of the thousands still exposed that all communication should be cut off between the two sections.
As to that article in the Hawk Eye it gives me no uneasiness whatever. The Iowa regiment did its duty fully, and my report gives it full credit. All who were on the battlefield know where General McClernand and myself were, and there is no need of resort to the public press for our vindication. The other extract gives our loss in killed and wounded almost exactly correct. Our missing however is only three or four over one hundred. Recent information received through deserters shows that the rebel loss from killed, wounded, and missing reaches about 2500. One thing is certain,—after the battle about one third of Columbus was used for hospitals and many were removed to houses in the country. There were also two steamboat loads sent to Memphis and the largest hotel in the city taken as a hospital. The city was put in mourning and all business suspended for a day: and the citizens thrown into the greatest consternation lest they would be attacked.
I wrote to you two days ago, therefore it is not necessary to write a long letter.
I believe I told you that Julia had gone to St. Louis. She will pay you a short visit before returning to Galena.
[General D.C. Buell commanded the Department of the Ohio with headquarters at Louisville.
To his sister Mary.]
Cairo, Dec. 18th, 1861.
I have been wanting to write you for some time and am not so indifferent as you would make out. I wish you could be here for a day or two to see what I have to go through from breakfast until twelve at night, seven days in the week. I have now just got through with my mail for to-night, and as it is not yet twelve and the mail does not close until that time, I will devote the remainder of the time in penning you a few lines. I have no war news to communicate, however.
Julia and the children have returned from St. Louis. They will not make you the promised visit whilst I remain here.
Captain Foley arrived to-day and I showed him all the attention I could but I regret to say it was not much. He will excuse it however.
I am sorry you did not come with him. I believe I should have allowed the children to go back with you.
I have learned through private sources that an attack has been made upon Fort Jackson, Louisiana, and that the place has been taken. That is to say such is the report in Columbus, but I do not know whether to credit the report. Something has taken place to call off many of their troops. They still have a much larger force than I have.
Whilst I am writing several Galena gentlemen are in talking. They will remain until the office closes so you must excuse a disconnected letter.
I do not now see that the probabilities are so strong that I will likely be removed. A full disposition seems to have been made of all my seniors.
Father seems to be very much inclined to criticise all our generals. It may have been a little inexcusable in General Buell not to allow troops to stop for a few hours when near their homes. But he should recollect that General Buell was not on the spot to see the circumstances fully, and he does not know what necessity may have existed to have got the troops through by a certain time.
At your request I send a small batch from my cranium. I doubt whether it is big enough for the purpose you want it.
If you will come out here you might spend a few weeks pleasantly and I hope you will not lose such an opportunity as has just occurred.
I will close this. My love to all at home.
[The great expedition into Kentucky:—Early in January, Grant had been directed to make a reconnoissance in favor of Brigadier-General Buell who was confronting the Confederate General Buckner at Bowling Green. One force under General Smith went up the west bank of the Tennessee to threaten Forts Heiman and Henry. McClernand went into west Kentucky, one column threatening Columbus, and another the Tennessee River. Grant went with the latter. The object of the expedition was attained; troops were not sent to reinforce Buckner. Grant was now eager to move against the forts on the Tennessee. This is his errand to St. Louis, to ask permission of General Halleck to move against them. He had long been convinced that the true line of operations was up the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. Once these rivers were held by the Union troops, the Confederates would be forced to evacuate Kentucky altogether. But General Halleck opposed the plan.
To his sister Mary.]
Cairo, Jan. 23d, 1862.
You have seen through the papers notice of my return from the great expedition into Kentucky. My orders were such and the force with me also so small that no attack was allowable. I made good use of the time however, making a splendid reconnoissance of the country over which an army may have to move. I have now a larger force than General Scott ever commanded prior to our present difficulties. I do hope it will be my good fortune to retain so important a command for at least one battle. I believe there is no portion of our whole army better prepared to contest a battle than there is within my district, and I am very much mistaken if I have not got the confidence of officers and men. This is all important, especially so with new troops. I go tonight to St. Louis to see General Halleck; will be back on Sunday morning. I expect but little quiet from this on and if you receive but short, unsatisfactory letters hereafter you need not be surprised.
Your letter asking me to intercede in behalf of Lieut. Jones was received. I have no one of equal rank now to offer in exchange, unless it should be some one of Jeff Thompson's command, but if it should fall in my power to effect Lieutenant Jones' release, I shall be most happy to do so. Write to me giving the first name, where he now is, when taken and under what circumstances.
I think you may look for Julia and the children about the 1st of February.
As I said before the three oldest will be left to go to school. Jess is too small. You will like him the best of any of the children, although he is the worst. I expect he will whip his Aunt Mary the first day. Buck, though never really sick, is very delicate. He is the best child I ever saw and is smart.
Give my love to all at home. I must close.
[After repeated requests Grant secured permission, February 1st, to undertake the campaign up the Tennessee. Fort Henry was captured on the 6th; Fort Donelson, eleven miles away, fell on the 16th. Fort Donelson was on high ground, one hundred feet above the Cumberland River. It was an important position for the enemy. Generals Floyd and Pillow, first and second in command at Port Donelson, escaped during the night of the 15th. General Buckner, who was forced to surrender the fort, said to Grant that if he, Buckner, had been in command Grant would never have reached Donelson as easily as he did. Grant answered, "In that case I should not have tried in the way I did; I relied upon Pillow to allow me to come up within gunshot of any entrenchments he was given to hold." Pillow had been in the Mexican War and he prided himself upon that service. Grant speaks of his own service in the Mexican War as being invaluable to him as he there came to know all the men who, later on, held conspicuous positions in both the Northern and Southern armies; he learned to know their strong points and their weaknesses, and to infer how they would act under given conditions.
To his sister Mary.]
Fort Henry, Tenn., Feb. 9th, 1862.
I take my pen in hand "away down in Dixie" to let you know that I am still alive and well. What the next few days may bring forth, however, I can't tell you. I intend to keep the ball moving as lively as possible, and have only been detained here from the fact that the Tennessee is very high and has been rising ever since we have been here, overflowing the back land and making it necessary to bridge it before we could move.—Before receiving this you will hear by telegraph of Fort Donelson being attacked.—Yesterday I went up the Tennessee River twenty odd miles, and to-day crossed over near the Cumberland River at Fort Donelson.—Our men had a little engagement with the enemy's pickets, killing five of them, wounding a number, and, expressively speaking, "gobbling up" some twenty-four more.
If I had your last letter at hand I would answer it. But I have not and therefore write you a very hasty and random letter, simply to let you know that I believe you still remember me. Whilst writing I am carrying on a conversation with my Staff and others.
Julia will be with you in a few days and possibly I may accompany her. This is barely possible, depending upon having full possession of the line from Fort Henry to Fort Donelson, and upon being able to quit for a few days without retarding any contemplated movement. This would not leave me free more than one day however.
You have no conception of the amount of labor I have to perform. An army of men all helpless, looking to the commanding officer for every supply. Your plain brother, however, has as yet no reason to feel himself unequal to the task, and fully believes that he will carry on a successful campaign against our rebel enemy. I do not speak boastfully but utter a presentiment. The scare and fright of the rebels up here is beyond conception. Twenty three miles above here some were drowned in their haste to retreat, thinking us such vandals that neither life nor property would be respected. G.J. Pillow commands at Fort Donelson. I hope to give him a tug before you receive this.
[After the fall of Fort Donelson Grant was promoted to the grade of major-general. Had this victory been immediately followed up, he believed that the entire southwest would have offered little resistance; and had there been one general who would have taken the responsibility and been in command of all the troops west of the Alleghanies, the duration of the war would have been far briefer than it was.
Corinth was the junction of the two most important railroads in the Mississippi Valley. It was the great strategic position in the West between the Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers, and between Nashville and Vicksburg. If the Union troops obtained possession of Corinth the Confederates would have no railroad for transportation of armies or supplies until that running east from Vicksburg was reached.
The enemy was in force at Corinth, March 17th. He attacked Shiloh, April 6th, was defeated April 7th, and evacuated Corinth May 30th.
Up to this time, Grant had believed that the rebellion would suddenly collapse if a decisive victory could be gained. Donelson and Henry were such victories, but now that the Confederates had collected new armies and assumed the offensive, he gave up all idea of saving the Union except by complete conquest. Hitherto, he had protected the property of both Federal and Confederate. Now he began a new policy; he consumed everything that could be used to support armies, regarding supplies within reach of the Confederates as contraband as arms or ordnance stores. This policy, he says, exercised a material influence in hastening the end.
July 11th, Halleck is appointed to the command of all the armies, with headquarters at Washington. Grant now has his headquarters at Corinth in command of the District of West Tennessee. He is practically a department commander.]
Corinth, Mississippi, August 3d, 1862.
Your letter of the 25th of July is just received. I do not remember receiving the letters, however, of which you speak. One came from Mary speaking of the secessionist Holt who was said to be employed in the Memphis post office. I at once wrote to General Sherman who is in command there about it and he is no doubt turned out before this.