August 30, 1863.
YOUR letter of the 8th of August, inclosing one from Senator Wilson8 to you, reached here during my temporary absence to the northern part of my command; hence my apparent delay in answering. I fully appreciate all Senator Wilson says. Had it not been for General Halleck and Dana,9 I think it altogether likely I would have been ordered to the Potomac. My going could do no possible good. They have there able officers who have been brought up with that army, and to import a commander to place over them certainly could produce no good. While I would not positively disobey an order, I would have objected most vehemently to taking that command or any other, except the one I have. I can do more with this army than it would be possible for me to do with any other without time to make the same acquaintance with others I have with this. I know that the soldiers of the Army of the Tennessee can be relied on to the fullest extent. I believe I know the exact capacity of every general in my command to lead troops, and just where to place them to get from them their best services. This is a matter of no small importance. . . .
The people of the North need not quarrel over the institution of slavery. What Vice-President Stephens acknowledges the cornerstone of the Confederacy is already knocked out. Slavery is already dead, and cannot be resurrected. It would take a standing army to maintain slavery in the South if we were to make peace to-day, guaranteeing to the South all their former constitutional privileges. I never was an abolitionist, not even what could be called antislavery, but I try to judge fairly and honestly, and it became patent to my mind early in the rebellion that the North and South could never live at peace with each other except as one nation, and that without slavery. As anxious as I am to see peace reestablished, I would not, therefore, be willing to see any settlement until this question is forever settled. Rawlins and Maltby10 have been appointed brigadier-generals. These are richly deserved promotions. Rawlins especially is no ordinary man. The fact is, had he started in this war in the line instead of in the staff, there is every probability he would be to-day one of our shining lights. As it is, he is better and more favorably known than probably any other officer in the army who has filled only staff appointments. Some men, too many of them, are only made by their staff appointments, while others give respectability to the position. Rawlins is of the latter class. My kind regards to the citizens of Galena.
8Henry Wilson of Massachusetts (1812-1875), who in 1872 was elected Vice-President of the United States on the ticket with General Grant.
9Charles A. Dana (1819-1897), Assistant Secretary of War, and late editor of the New York Sun.
10Jasper A. Maltby (1826-1867), lieutenant colonel Forty-fifth Illinois Infantry, August, 1861; colonel, November 29, 1862, and brigadier general, August 4, 1863.
SOURCES: James Grant Wilson, Editor, General Grant’s Letters to a Friend 1861-1880, p. 27-9, 115; James H. Wilson, The Life of John A. Rawlins, p. 434