Saturday, August 3, 2013

St. Louis Correspondence

ST. LOUIS, May 2, 1862.

ALFRED SANDERS, Esq. – Dear Sir:  Reading in the Weekly Gazette of yesterday your editorial on Maj. Gen. U. S. Grant, I am induced to add a word.  I knew Gen. Grant in 1858, was a collector of house rents in this city.  He was then strictly temperate, but of inactive habits.  For coolness and perfect equanimity he is justly noted.  All West Pointers pride themselves on those qualities.  But one who estimates the General with impartial eyes will accord him the possession of even the qualities for “a third rate” commander.  Aside from habits of intemperance which have resumed their sway after an interregnum of some years, the battles of Belmont, Fort Henry, Fort Donelson and Pittsburg Landing have fully tested him.  And curious it is, and sad as curious, to note how the successful results of those fights, so far as successful, have been passed to his credit at Washington.

At Belmont, his utter neglect to protect his rear, and to station a few field pieces to prevent the enemy from crossing, led to a terrible reverse and slaughter of the best of troops, and the Iowa boys poured out their blood like water, in vain.

At Fort Henry Grant was to co-operate with Com. Foote, but failed to get his forces to the rear of the fort for four hours after the surrender.  The rebel infantry instead of being bagged, as they might, had abundant time to “skedaddle,” which they did effectually.

At Fort Donelson he was off the field during all the important part of that bloody Saturday.  His friends say he was conferring with Com. Foote; others say he was intoxicated, but his admirers are compelled to admit that he went to confer with Foote at two or three o’clock Saturday morning, a distance of four or five miles, and did not return to the field till late in the day, when the fortunes of the day had been turned by that advance which, the N. Y. Herald says, was ordered by Capt. Hillyer, of the staff – a mere civilian – on his own responsibility.  Gen. Grant’s ablest advocate says the roads were in such condition he could not return in time – four miles!

Yet, before the facts of the affair at Fort Donelson where known, except the surrender, the President nominates Grant a Major General!  Wittily, though, profanely, has it been said Providence ought to be made a Major General, for it had given us two victories for which Grant got the credit!

But the climax of incompetency – criminal incompetency – was yet wanting.  It was attained at Pittsburg Landing.  Against orders he placed his forces on the west side of the river, on the plea that no good position could be found on the other side, and against all rule he placed the rawest troops of his command in front, under command of Prentiss, a notoriously inefficient officer.  This, too, in the face of an active enemy, distant, at the farthest, only 18 miles.  Add to this that no pickets were kept out at any proper distance, and what more could Beauregard have asked for?

The attempt has been made to show that Prentiss, alone, had no pickets out, but this is disproved by the universal testimony that all the brigades were alike surprised.  None of them had any notice of the enemy’s advance.

I have the information from a rebel surgeon, who was in the advance of the rebel army, that on the Saturday evening before the attack of Sunday morning, he, from his position, saw within his glass the evening parade of one of our regiments, and heard the drums and usual noises of the camp.  He further says that the rebel advance was in readiness to begin the attack on Saturday, but did not, because the reserve were not in supporting distance.  This surgeon is known here by union men as a gentleman, and one who entered the rebel army merely for the purposes of professional advancement, and not for love of the cause.  He has no motive for falsehood, and is corroborated by his fellow prisoners.

Thus the army was surprised and the thousands slaughtered, for whom tears are flowing through half a continent.  It was in Halleck’s fitly chosen phrase, “the heroic endurance” of the troops on Sunday, which saved them from annihilation, that their fresh reinforcements of Monday, that rolled back, but did not rout, their enemies, already weary with slaughter.

Again, before the facts were known, Gen. Grant was officially commended by Mr. Secretary Stanton, who seems to have felt that as somebody had been hurt, somebody deserved praise, and so he caught upon the readiest name and praised it.

I am happy to say that no newspaper of this city has dared, editorially, so far as I know, to say one word in favor or exculpation of Gen. Grant on the field of Shiloh, beyond testimony to his personal bravery.  But enough of General Grant.  The country has had too much of him.  His advancement has been in the teeth of his unfitness, and demerits; his successes have been in spite of disgraceful blunders; let us hope that hereafter, Providence will give us greater victories with good generalship, than those which have been won without it.

General Halleck is in the field now, and his sleepless vigilance, instructed by the late battle, will not permit a second surprise.

The Lion of St. Louis just now is Colonel Jennison, sent here in close confinement by a drunken pro-slavery General of doubtful loyalty, and unachieved promotion.  I refer to Gen. Sturgis, who, after a winter spent at the bar of King’s saloon, alternating between treasonable talk to rebels, and swallowing brandy smashes, now has signalized himself by the attempted disgrace of the peerless foe of Border Ruffians, and bushwhacking secessionists.

Nothing has so stirred up St. Louis for a long time.  The rebels, open and concealed, rejoiced greatly to know that the noted Jayhawker was here in durance vile.  The Republican fairly shrieked for joy.  It counseled indictments, and I know not what treatment.  Here was a noted enemy powerless, and with true rebel cruelty to cowardice, the Republican began to trample on him.  The Union sentiment of the city stoutly demanded that Col. Jennison be allowed his parole, as well as the rebels who parade our streets.  It was soon granted.  The Republican at once softened its tone. – Soon came permission to Col. Jennison to report himself on his parole only by letter; the Republican is mute.  The morning, its last crumb of comfort is in the apologetic card of the cowardly Sturgis, who cowering under the storm of public indignation, now seeks to evade the responsibility of Jennison’s arrest, by showing that he had instigators to do a deed for which he has yet dared to state no reason, and prefer no charges.

Jennison takes matters coolly.  He is a wiry young man, with a keen eye, and a lip of iron; but of gentle manners, and such pleasant address that Gen. Sturgis wrote to the Provost Marshal General, to warn him of the “seductive manners” of his victim!

Jennison has spoken twice in the city.  Many Union men are prejudiced against him, and many fear to be identified with him on account of his fearless avowal that he is a “real fighting abolitionist.”  The Germans regard him highly.  Anti-slavery in their opinions before the rebellion, they are now abolitionists.  Jennison makes war after the fashion of their own hearts.  He says that “rebels have no rights which loyal men are bound to respect.”  No wonder the abused and vilified Germans admire him.

Right or wrong, Jennison has been shamefully treated.  If I mistake not, the country will see him righted.  It will not tolerate the conduct of Sturgis and Denver, and there is reason to suppose they will shortly be relieved of any responsibility for such warriors as Jennison and Montgomery.

Over the capture of New Orleans there is great rejoicing, for vast interests here depend on the resumption of commerce with that city, which must soon happen unless Farragut fails to follow up his success with energy, and does not send his gunboats to co-operate with Foote on Memphis.

The weather is excellent, and reports this morning from below indicate that Halleck is taking advantage of it, and will soon, if not now, be upon Corinth.

Yesterday regiment after regiment of infantry and cavalry moved through our streets, on their way to the transports in waiting to take them, as we suppose, to Pittsburg Landing.  Whence do so many come? is the current inquiry.

Business has revived to some extent, but still suffers.  It cannot prosper till the river is opened to New Orleans, to afford an outlet for our pork and grain.

Rents are rising, and real estate is also on the ascendant.

I hope to soon give you some items relative to the emancipation movement here, but lack time and space to-day.

Yours truly.

– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Wednesday Morning, May 7, 1862, p. 2

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