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Chapter 7:

    • Grant's activity, policy, and plans.
    • -- the necessity for placing the armies under one efficient commander. -- the man for the place, and the place for the man. -- appointed Lieutenant Genera. -- the honor and the responsibility. -- unsought by Grant. -- all his promotions made without his knowledge. -- called to Washington. -- cordial relations with Sherman and McPherson. -- no jealousy among his subordinates. -- modest appearance at Washington. -- Dislikes the “show business.” -- presentation of his commission. -- President Lincoln's address and Grant's reply. -- a commission worthily bestowed. -- grand reviews and military balls in McClellan's time. -- disapproved by the Lieutenant General. -- he disappoints the ladies. -- reviews for Utility, not show. -- his opinion of the army of the Potomac. -- customs and abuses reformed. -- Reduction of baggage. -- Grant's baggage in the Vicksburg campaign. -- quiet and unostentatious Method of reforming abuses. -- temporary return to the West. -- his first orders as Lieutenant General. -- headquarters in the field. -- with the army of the Potomac. -- confidence of the loyal people. -- entire trust of the government. -- relations between President Lincoln and Grant. -- their letters on the eve of the great campaign.

After the victory at Chattanooga, Grant personally inspected every part of this extensive department, his purpose being so to dispose his troops that he might assume the offensive in the-spring, still making the rebel armies his objective. He sent an expedition, under Sherman, from Vicksburg into the interior of Mississippi, for the purpose of “cleaning out” the rebel forces in that state, and so destroying [90] communications and supplies that large armies could not easily move there; and he kept all his forces well in advance, in order that he and not the rebels might take the initiative in the next campaign. That was Grant's policy always, to assume the offensive; to seek out the enemy, and strike him boldly and vigorously. At this time, too, he projected, as his next campaign, an advance from Chattanooga to Atlanta, and thence, possibly, to Mobile. And from this plan resulted Sherman's brilliant movements to Atlanta, and his grand march to the sea.

But Grant's plans for his own operations in the next campaign were destined to be considerably modified. The government and the people had long felt that in order to secure unity of purpose in the conduct of the campaigns, east and west, and an efficient cooperation between the several Union armies, it was important to have all the forces under the command of one active and able general. The generals-in-chief had thus far been unable to secure such unity of purpose and cooperation, and the country had looked anxiously for the “coming man” who should achieve what the loyal masses resolved upon. But now events pointed unmistakably to the man who was qualified, if any in the army was, for this high command. Donelson, Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga pointed to Grant as the most successful general, while all the movements in his campaigns were seen to be the most prompt, vigorous, and well sustained in the whole progress of the war. Moreover, he was always ready to conform to the policy of the government, and without question to support it earnestly, and to secure its support for others. [91] He had felt no petty jealousies, and he had inspired none in others, and at this time was the one who, of all others, could be promoted to the highest command without causing heart-burnings and insubordination, which would have been dangerous to the efficiency of the army.

The man for the place having thus unmistakably appeared, a measure which had been for some time under consideration in Congress was adopted. The grade of Lieutenant General, which had been first created for Washington, and was conferred by brevet on Scott alone, was revived with great unanimity, and the President was authorized to appoint, with the advice and consent of the Senate, from among those officers most distinguished for courage, skill, and ability, a commander, “who, being commissioned as lieutenant general, shall be authorized, under the direction of the President, to command the armies of the United States.” President Lincoln approved the bill on the 1st of March, 1864, and on the same day nominated Major General Ulysses S. Grant as Lieutenant General. The Senate promptly confirmed the nomination, and thus Grant was promoted to the highest military rank then recognized by law, and to the command of all the armies engaged in crushing the gigantic rebellion.

Such honor had been fully bestowed upon but one man before, and that one Washington; such power and responsibilities had been intrusted to no one. But honors and responsibilities came to Grant unsought, and were accepted with becoming modesty and with hopeful self-reliance, his only aim being to do his duty and serve his country. His position at this time is best [92] described by Hon. E. B, Washburne, of Illinois, a friend who had come to know him well and to fully appreciate him, and who, in a speech in Congress,. said, “No man, with his consent, has ever mentioned Grant's name in connection with any position. I say what I know to be true, when I allege that every promotion he has received since he first entered the service to put down this rebellion, was moved without his knowledge or consent. And in regard to this very matter of lieutenant general, after the bill was introduced and his name mentioned in connection therewith, he wrote to me, and admonished me that he had been highly honored by the government, and did not ask or deserve anything more in the shape of honors or promotion; and that a success over the enemy was what he craved above anything else.”

On the 3d of March he was summoned to Washington; and though he obeyed the order with alacrity, as he did all orders from the government, it was without ostentation or exultation, but with a just sense of the heavy responsibilities which were about to be imposed upon him. His modesty and his justice to the merits of his subordinates are illustrated by a friendly letter, which he wrote at this time to Sherman and McPherson, in which he acknowledged, with perhaps too little credit to himself, how much of his success was due to the energy and skill of his subordinates, and especially to those distinguished officers. The cordial relations and friendship which existed between Grant and his able lieutenants was remarkable. They not only felt no jealousy, but they heartily rejoiced at his promotion. Nor was this feeling confined to the officers who had [93] served under him. General Halleck, whom by his new appointment he superseded, and who was at first slow to acknowledge Grant's merits, sincerely congratulated him on this recognition of his distinguished and meritorious services. General Meade, also, and other prominent officers of the eastern army, recognized his ability, and entertained nothing but respect for the man who by his merits alone had attained to such distinguished honor, and who so modestly wore it.

Grant arrived at Washington on the 8th of March, accompanied by two or three members of his staff and his eldest son, and almost an entire stranger in the city. Quietly entering his name on the register at Willard's Hotel, he modestly took his place among strangers at the table, with his boy, evidently seeking to avoid rather than to court public recognition. The crowd of guests did not see in the unassuming officer, who had come without any heralding, the man who had just been appointed to the highest military rank. But he was at last recognized by one gentleman, and the news passing rapidly through the company, he was greeted With enthusiastic cheers. That evening he attended the President's levee, and there he was the object of more striking demonstrations of enthusiasm, in which the President himself heartily joined. The victorious general who captured Donelson, defeated the rebels at Shiloh, made the brilliant and successful campaign of Vicksburg, and drove Bragg's legions from before Chattanooga, could not escape the grateful plaudits of the people, nor, as the newly-appointed Lieutenant General, fail to receive the most cordial tokens of the confidence and hopes which he inspired. [94]

Deeply impressed by these demonstrations, and grateful for the manifestations of respect and confidence so fully and heartily bestowed, Grant was nevertheless unused to such things, and had a decided aversion to being lionized. As he left the White House he said to a friend,--

“I hope to get away from Washington as soon as possible, for I am tired of the show business already.”

The next day, March 9th, a more impressive scene took place in the Cabinet Chamber of the White House, when President Lincoln formally presented to Grant his commission as Lieutenant General. The presentation took place in presence of the members of the Cabinet, General Halleck, two members of General Grant's staff, his son, Hon. Owen Lovejoy, and one or two others who had been invited to be present. After Grant had been introduced to the members of the Cabinet, President Lincoln addressed him as follows:

General Grant, the nation's appreciation of what you have done, and its reliance upon you for what remains to be done in the existing great struggle, are now presented with this commission, constituting you Lieutenant General in the army of the United States. With this high honor devolves upon you, also, a corresponding responsibility. As the country herein trusts you, so, under God, it will sustain you. I scarcely need add that, with what I here speak for the nation, goes my own hearty personal concurrence.

Receiving the commission, General Grant replied,--

Mr. President, I accept the commission, with gratitude for the high honor conferred. With the aid of the noble armies that have fought in so many fields for our [95] common country, it will be my earnest endeavor not to disappoint your expectations. I feel the full weight of the responsibilities now devolving on me; and I know that if they are met, it will be due to those armies, and, above all, to the favor of that Providence which leads both nations and men.”

Such was the spirit with which this most important commission was given and received — confidence and hope on the one side, patriotism and modest devotion to duty on the other. And never was such a commission, involving so much the honor, safety, and integrity of the nation, more worthily bestowed. For in Grant the country had not only an officer whose ability had been fully proved in long campaigns and on great battle-fields, but one who inspired the truest enthusiasm and confidence of the soldier and the harmony and respect of his subordinate officers, and who himself manifested, without ambition or selfishness, a thorough respect for and deference to the wishes and commands of his superior, the President, and his sympathy with the war policy of his government.

Washington, as the capital of the nation, is of course a place famous for fetes, balls, and all sorts of gay festivities. The war had made little difference in this respect, except that the southern aristocracy did not now rule society there. While McClellan commanded, and the army of the Potomac was waiting before Washington, there had been “grand reviews,” at which the commanding general was “attended by a brilliant staff,” and all the beauty and fashion of the city came out to see and to be entertained at his headquarters, and those of subordinate generals. Pleasant times [96] those for young officers, and equally agreeable to the gay belles who admired such brave cavaliers. Balls in camp followed the grand reviews, and of course gallant officers exerted themselves to make everything charming for their fair guests and distinguished visitors. Pleasure-seeking ladies voted these festivities delightful; and as the gay scenes hid from their view the horrors and sorrows of war,--the battle-field, the hospital, the desolated home,--they were ever ready to contribute their part to such agreeable entertainments. The fashion set in McClellan's time had been duly observed when an opportunity offered.

The appointment of Grant to a superior rank, and his accession to the command of all the armies, seemed to some of the thoughtless a rare opportunity for the revival of the “grand reviews,” and the gay ball to follow it. The. project was buzzed about with approbation at one of the receptions of some official host, at which Grant was present, and a bevy of ladies gathered about him to propose it. They expatiated on the enjoyments of such occasions in the past, and with all their witchery begged him to have another grand review, and allow them to arrange for another military ball to follow it. Grant listened with the quiet politeness which he always shows to ladies, smiling at their eagerness, and putting a few questions relative to former festivities, and the assailants thought they were about to carry the fortress, to secure an “unconditional surrender” to their demands and their plans. But the new Lieutenant General dashed their hopes by saying,--

“Ladies, please stop the agitation of this subject at once, for if another ball is attempted in the army of the [97] Potomac, I shall feel called upon to forbid it by a special order. I appeal to you if this is a time for feasting and dancing among officers of the army, when the stern duties of war are before them? Or are they becoming, when our country is in danger, and so many sick and Wounded soldiers fill our hospitals?”

There was no help for it, and the ladies gracefully surrendered to the quiet and sensible determination of the new Lieutenant General, and the young officers of the army of the Potomac soon forgot their dreams of such gayeties in earnest preparation for the realities of war.

Reviews, however, were had, not that the Lieutenant General might display a brilliant staff either to spectators or the army, nor that he might please the soldiers by complimentary remarks or grandiloquent addresses, but that he might see of what material this noble army of the Potomac was composed, and what was its equipment and discipline. After one of these reviews he was one day asked what he thought of the personnel of the army, and replied,--

“This is a very fine army, and these men, I am told, have fought with great bravery. But I think,” he added, after a pause, “the army of the Potomac has never fought its battles through.”

Whether the opinion was entirely just or not, it illustrated Grant's own character for indomitable energy and persistency, and manifested also his faith in that army which, under his direction, was to display his characteristics, and fight its battles through to the final victory.

The army of the Potomac had been, through nearly all its existence, so near to the national capital, and [98] within such easy communication with the great cities and the manufacturing States of the Atlantic coast, that it was supplied with some comforts and luxuries which were not enjoyed by the western armies. The nature of its campaigns, too, and frequent communication with Washington, had gradually introduced customs which were unknown in western campaigns. The amount of officers' baggage, especially during the months of comparative inactivity, had materially increased, and was much larger than that carried in the campaigns at the west. In the Vicksburg campaign Grant had ordered the amount of baggage, both of officers and regiments, to be reduced to the smallest possible amount, and it was facetiously said that all that the general allowed himself was “a pocket-comb, a tooth-brush, and a brier-wood pipe.”

Another custom had grown up at the east for officers to use ambulances, and even more luxurious carriages, for transportation from one point to another, and many horses and vehicles were thus used without any legitimate authority, sometimes much to the dissatisfaction of the soldiers, who were precluded from such privileges, and not much to the advantage of the officers.

Sutlers, too, and other camp followers, were numerous, making discipline more lax, and interfering with the efficiency of the army in active service.

When Grant assumed the direction of the movements of the army, his first action was quietly to reform these abuses, to reduce the quantity of baggage allowed to officers and regiments, to prohibit the use of ambulances and carriages by officers on ordinary [99] occasions, and to drive out a large number of sutlers and camp followers. These measures were, to the credit of officers and men, acquiesced in without much complaint, and the army was made more ready for the campaign which was to follow. They were carried out, too, by Grant, in his usual quiet way, with a tact and absence of all parade, or public condemnation, which avoided offence, and secured willing cooperation.

When Grant was summoned to Washington to be invested with the command of all the armies of the United States, he expected soon to return to the west, and resume command of the forces which had already achieved such victories under him. But after a council of war had been held at the capital, and Grant. had matured his general plans of the campaigns for all the armies, he determined to remain at the east. As commander-in-chief he might with propriety have established his headquarters at Washington, and directed the various operations from that place. But he felt out of his element in Washington, and preferred to be in the field, directing in person the active operations of one army, while he more indirectly ordered the movements of the others. The campaign in Virginia, where the opposing armies had been so long contending without decisive results, promised to be the most difficult and severe, and gave him the opportunity of rendering the greatest service to his country; and he therefore determined to take the field with the army of the Potomac, the immediate command of which was still held by General Meade. Going west for a short time, to consult with General Sherman, and give directions concerning [100] the campaign there, he issued his first orders, assuming command of all the. armies, at Nashville, on the 17th of March. In those orders he announced, “My headquarters will be in the field, and until further orders, will be with the army of the Potomac.”

This announcement was highly gratifying to the army of the Potomac and to the loyal people, whose confidence in Grant was such that they believed the brave soldiers of that noble but too often unfortunate army, under his able and persistent lead, would achieve a signal success, which should not only foil an invasion of the north by the rebels, but ultimately defeat them utterly and forever.

General Grant, indeed, entered upon his heavy responsibilities and duties under all the advantages of entire trust on the part of the government and a majority of the people, and their determination to sustain him to the extent of their power. Every exertion was made to strengthen the armies, and to give effect to all the measures which he proposed. The nature of his relations with his only superior officer, the President, is shown by the following correspondence, which took place on the eve of the great campaign against Richmond. Those cordial relations were maintained through the life of President Lincoln.

executive Mansion, Washington, April 30, 1864.
Lieutenant General Grant: Not expecting to see you before the spring campaign opens, I wish to express in this way my entire satisfaction with what you have done up to this time, so far as I understand it. The particulars of your plan I neither know nor seek to know. [101] You are vigilant and self-reliant, and pleased with the I wish not to obtrude any restraints or constraints upon you. While I am very anxious that any great disaster or capture of our own men may be avoided, I know that these points are less likely to escape your attention than they would be mine. If there be anything wanting which is within my power to give, do not fail to let me know it. And now, with a brave army and a just cause, may God sustain you.

Yours very truly,

headquarters army of the U. S., Culpepper C. H., Va., May 1, 1864.
Mr. President: Your very kind letter of yesterday is just received. The confidence you express for the future, and satisfaction for the past, in my military administration, is acknowledged with pride. It shall be my earnest endeavor that you and the country shall not be disappointed. From my first entry into the volunteer service of the country to the present day, I have never had cause of complaint, and have never expressed or implied a complaint against the administration or the Secretary of War for throwing any embarrassment in the way of my vigorously prosecuting what appeared to be my duty. Indeed, since the promotion which placed me in command of all the armies, and in view of the great responsibility and importance of success, I have been astonished at the readiness with which everything asked for has been yielded without even an explanation being asked. Should my success be less than I desire and expect, the least I can say is, the fault is not with you.

Very truly your obedient servant,

U. S. Grant, Lieutenant General.

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