Sunday, October 14, 2012

Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant to Congressman Elihu B. Washburne, February 21, 1862

Fort Donelson, Tennessee,
February 21, 1862.

SINCE receiving your letter at Fort Henry events have transpired so rapidly that I have scarcely had time to write a private letter. That portion of your letter which required immediate attention was replied to as soon as your letter was read. I mean that I telegraphed Colonel C. C. Washburn,3 Milwaukee, Wis., asking him to accept a place on my staff. As he has not yet arrived, I fear my dispatch was not received. Will you be kind enough to say to him that such a dispatch was sent, and that I will be most happy to publish the order the moment he arrives, assigning him the position you ask.

On the 13th, 14th, and 15th our volunteers fought a battle that would figure well with many of those fought in Europe, where large standing armies are maintained. I feel very grateful to you for having placed me in the position to have had the honor of commanding such an army and at such a time. I only trust that I have not nor will not disappoint you. The effect upon the community here is very marked since the battle. Defeat, disastrous defeat, is admitted. Yesterday I went to Clarkesville4 with a small escort, two of our gunboats having preceded me. Our forces now occupy that place, and will take possession of a large amount of commissary stores, ammunition, and some artillery. The road to Nashville is now clear, but whether my destination will be there or farther west can't yet be told. I want to move early, and no doubt will.


3 Cadwallader Colden Washburn (1818-1882), colonel Second Wisconsin Cavalry, October 10, 1861; brigadier general, July 16, 1862; and major general, November 29, 1862. After the Civil War he was elected to Congress and in 1872, became Governor of Wisconsin. Later he was an unsuccessful candidate for the United States Senate. His brother, also a Congressman, wrote the family name with a final "e," but in no instance within the editor's knowledge did Grant ever add that letter when writing to Mr. Washburne

4 Suit was brought after the war for about one hundred and fifty thousand dollars by the owners of whiskey in Clarkesville, destroyed as a matter of precaution by a chosen committee, to prevent its falling into the hands of the victorious Northern army, said to be advancing on the town, — its commander being reported as intoxicated, and utterly unable to control his troops. The owners brought suit in 1865 against the members of the committee, consisting of the wealthiest citizens of the town. At the first trial the jury disagreed as to whether Grant was drunk or sober, the decision in the case turning on that point; in the second the verdict was that the commander was intoxicated, and on the third trial that he was perfectly sober, so that the committee finally lost their case and were compelled to pay, but not the full value of the whiskey, as the parties compromised the case, receiving about twenty per cent. of its value. This statement was received in August, 1897, by the writer, from a United States District Judge of Tennessee, who was one of the counsel employed in the curious case.

SOURCE: James Grant Wilson, Editor, General Grant’s Letters to a Friend 1861-1880, p. 4-5 & 112-3

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