Sunday, October 14, 2012

Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant to Congressman Elihu B. Washburne, January 23, 1862

Head-Quarters District of Cairo,
Cairo, January 23, 1862.

THE bearer, Captain A. S. Baxter,2 who goes to Washington by my order, in hopes of doing something for the relief of this much distressed portion of our Army, is at present my District Quartermaster. I am at last satisfied that I have an efficient and faithful servant of the Government in Captain Baxter, and anything that you can do to further the object of his mission will not only be regarded as a personal favor to myself, but will serve to advance the cause you and I both have so much at heart. Captain Baxter can tell you of the great abuses in his Department here and the efforts I have put forth to correct them, and consequently the number of secret enemies necessarily made. I am desirous of retaining Captain Baxter in his present position, and if promotion to a higher grade is necessary to enable me to do so, I would very much desire that the promotion be given.

2 While the world was honoring General Grant on the seventy-fifth anniversary of his birth, Algernon Sidney Baxter (1819-1897), one of the earliest members of his staff, was dying. He was a son of the Chief Justice of Vermont, and at the age of seventeen went to Boston, the Mecca of most New England boys. When the war began he was a merchant in St. Louis, where he became acquainted with Grant. He immediately abandoned business for the army, serving on the General’s staff at Fort Donelson and Shiloh, with the rank of captain. At Shiloh, Baxter carried to General Lew Wallace that celebrated dispatch which has caused so much dispute. Grant, in his “Personal Memoirs,” says: “Captain Baxter, a quartermaster on my staff, was accordingly directed to go back and order General Wallace to march immediately to Pittsburg by the road nearest the river. Captain Baxter made a memorandum of this order. . . . General Wallace has since claimed that the order delivered to him by the captain was simply to join the right of the army.”  Baxter’s condition of health compelled him soon after to leave the service, when he entered Wall Street, pursuing a successful career in the great metropolis, where he died at the age of seventy-eight. He was the last survivor of those who served on Grant's staff in the battles of Fort Donelson and Shiloh.

SOURCE: James Grant Wilson, Editor, General Grant’s Letters to a Friend 1861-1880, p. 3 & 111-2

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