Saturday, September 14, 2013

Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant to Jesse Root Grant, November 27, 1861

Cairo, Illinois,
November 27th, 1861.

Dear Father:

Your letter enclosed with a shawl to Julia is just received.

In regard to your stricture about my not writing I think that you have no cause of complaint. My time is all taken up with public duties.

Your statement of prices at which you proposed furnishing harness was forwarded to Maj. Allen as soon as received and I directed Lagow, who received the letter enclosing it, to inform you of the fact. He did so at once.

I cannot take an active part in securing contracts. If I were not in the army I should do so, but situated as I am it is necessary both to my efficiency for the public good and my own reputation that I should keep clear of Government contracts.

I do not write you about plans, or the necessity of what has been done or what is doing because I am opposed to publicity in these matters. Then too you are very much disposed to criticise unfavorably from information received through the public press, a portion of which I am sorry to see can look at nothing favorably that does not look to a war upon slavery. My inclination is to whip the rebellion into submission, preserving all constitutional rights. If it cannot be whipped in any other way than through a war against slavery, let it come to that legitimately. If it is necessary that slavery should fall that the Republic may continue its existence, let slavery go. But that portion of the press that advocates the beginning of such a war now, are as great enemies to their country as if they were open and avowed secessionists.1

There is a desire upon the part of people who stay securely at home to read in the morning papers, at their breakfast, startling reports of battles fought. They cannot understand why troops are kept inactive for weeks or even months. They do not understand that men have to be disciplined, arms made, transportation and provisions provided. I am very tired of the course pursued by a portion of the Union press.

Julia left last Saturday for St. Louis where she will probably spend a couple of weeks and return here should I still remain. It costs nothing for her to go there, and it may be the last opportunity she will have of visiting her father. From here she will go to Covington, and spend a week or two before going back to Galena.

It was my bay horse (cost me $140) that was shot. I also lost the little pony, my fine saddle and bridle, and the common one. What I lost cost about $250. My saddle cloth which was about half the cost of the whole, I left at home.

I try to write home about once in two weeks and think I keep it up pretty well. I wrote to you directly after the battle of Belmont, and Lagow and Julia have each written since.

Give my love to all at home. I am very glad to get letters from home and will write as often as I can. I am somewhat troubled lest I lose my command here, though I believe my administration has given general satisfaction not only to those over me but to all concerned. This is the most important command within the department however, and will probably be given to the senior officer next to General Halleck himself.

There are not so many brigadier generals in the army as there are brigades, and as to divisions they are nearly all commanded by brigadiers.


1 Grant's conviction that the essential purpose of the war was not the abolition of slavery as an end in itself, but the preservation of the Union at all costs was identical with that of Lincoln. This letter can properly be compared with the well-known letter written by Lincoln to Greeley on the third [sic] of August, 1862, in which Lincoln says: "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and it is not either to save or to destroy slavery." Lincoln understood that the task accepted by him as President as the leader in the contest for national existence made the maintenance of the Union his chief, if not for the time being his only responsibility. He had, however, placed himself on record in many utterances to the effect that if the republic were to be preserved, slavery must be, in the first place, restricted, and finally destroyed. It is probable that in this matter Grant did not go so far as Lincoln. In any case, in common with the President, he devoted himself simply to the duty immediately before him.

SOURCE: Jesse Grant Cramer, Editor, Letters of Ulysses S. Grant to His Father and His Youngest Sister, 1857-78, p. 68-71

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