Sunday, October 14, 2012

Major General Ulysses S. Grant to Congressman Elihu B. Washburne, May 14, 1862

Camp near Corinth, Mississippi,
May 14, 1862.

THE great number of attacks made upon me by the press of the country is my apology for not writing to you oftener, not desiring to give any contradiction to them myself. You have interested yourself so much as my friend that should I say anything it would probably be made use of in my behalf. I would scorn being my own defender against such attacks except through the record which has been kept of all my official acts, and which can be examined at Washington at any time. To say that I have not been distressed at these attacks upon me would be false, for I have a father, mother, wife, and children who read them, and are distressed by them, and I necessarily share with them in it. Then, too, all subject to my orders read these charges, and it is calculated to weaken their confidence in me and weaken my ability to render efficient service in our present cause.5 One thing I will assure you of, however, – I can not be driven from rendering the best service within my ability to suppress the present rebellion, and, when it is over, retiring to the same quiet it, the rebellion, found me enjoying.  Notoriety has no charms for me, and could I render the same services that I hope it has been my fortune to render our just cause without being known in the matter, it would be infinitely preferable to me.

Those people who expect a field of battle to be maintained for a whole day with about thirty thousand troops, most of them entirely raw, against fifty thousand, as was the case at Pittsburg Landing while waiting for re-enforcements to come up, without loss of life, know little of war. To have left the field of Pittsburg for the enemy to occupy until our force was sufficient to have gained a bloodless victory would have been to leave the Tennessee to become a second Potomac. There was nothing left for me but to occupy the west bank of the Tennessee and to hold it at all hazards. It would have set this war back six months to have failed, and would have caused the necessity of raising, as it were, a new army.  Looking back at the past, I can not see for the life of me any important point that could be corrected. Many persons who have visited the different fields of battle may have gone away displeased because they were not permitted to carry off horses, fire arms, or other valuables as trophies. But they are no patriots who would base their enmity on such grounds. Such, I assure you, are the grounds of many bitter words that have been said against me by persons who at this day would not know me by sight, yet profess to speak from a personal acquaintance.

I am sorry to write such a letter, infinitely sorry that there should be grounds for it. My own justification does not demand it, but you are entitled to know my feelings. As a friend I would be pleased to give you a record weekly at furthest of all that transpires in that portion of the army that I am or may be connected with, but not to make public use of. . . .

5 About the same period the General says in a letter to his father: “You must not expect me to write in my own defence, nor to permit it from any one about me. I know that the feeling of the troops under my command is favorable to me, and so long as I continue to do my duty faithfully it will remain so. I require no defenders.” In his second inaugural address Grant gave expression to his sense of the injustice done to him by shameful and vindictive criticism, saying in conclusion, “Throughout the war and from my candidacy to the present office, in 1868, to the close of the last presidential campaign, I have been the subject of abuse and slander, scarcely ever equalled in political history, which to-day I feel that I can afford to disregard, in view of your verdict, which I most gratefully accept as my vindication.”

SOURCE: James Grant Wilson, Editor, General Grant’s Letters to a Friend 1861-1880, p. 10-12 & 113-4

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