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The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant

 

Headquarters, Dist. Of West Tenn.

Pittsburg, April 7, 1862

Major General D. C. Buell

Under the instructions I previously received and a dispatch also today from General Halleck it will not do to advance beyond Pea Ridge.

U.S. Grant, major-general commanding

 

Pittsburg, April 8

Dear Julia,

Again another terrible battle has occurred in which our arms have been victorious. For the number engaged and the tenacity with which both parties held on for two days, during an incessant fire of musketry and artillery, it has no equal on this continent.

Good night, dear Julia.

Ulys

 

Pittsburg, April 9, 1862

Maj. Gen. H.W. Halleck

St. Louis Mo.

There is no doubt but that the enemy intend concentrating on the railroad at and near Corinth all the force possible. They have sent steamers up White River (in Arkansas) to bring down Van Dorn's and Price's commands.

U.S. Grant, maj. Gen.

 

Headquarters, Dist. Of West Tenn

Pittsburg, April 9, 1862

Adjutant General, Department of Mississippi

St. Louis Mo.

On Sunday morning our pickets were attacked and driven in by the enemy. Immediately the five divisions stationed at this place were drawn up in line of battle ready to meet them. The most continuous firing of musketry and artillery ever heard on this continent was kept up until nightfall, the enemy having forced the entire line to fall back nearly half way from their camps to the Landing. At a late hour a desperate effort was made by the enemy to turn our left and get possession of the Landing. There is a deep and impassable ravine for artillery or cavalry and every difficult for infantry at this point. Just at that point Nelson's division of Buell's army arrived. An advance was made up upon the point of attack and the enemy was driven back.

U.S. Grant, Maj-Gen commanding

 

The Impassable Ravine

 

 

 

Pittsburg, April 15, 1862

Dear Julia,

I am now living in camp about half a mile from the river preparing my army for the field. General Halleck is here in command of the whole, Buell and myself commanding separate armies. I am looking for a speedy move, one more fight and then easy sailing to the close of the war. I really feel glad when this thing is over. The battle at this place was the most desperate that has ever taken place on the continent and I don't look for another like it.

Ulys

 

Note: Halleck arrived at the Landing on the evening of April 11. On the 14th he wrote his wife, "This army is undisciplined and very much disorganized, the officers being incapable of maintaining order. To Grant, Halleck wrote, "Your army is not now in condition to resist an attack."

 

Pittsburg, April 25, 1862

Dear Julia,

I am no longer boss. General Halleck is here. I hope the papers will let me alone in future. If the papers only knew how little ambition I have outside of putting down this rebellion, and getting back once more to live quietly and unobtrusively with my family.

Ulys

 

Pittsburg, April 25, 1862

Dear Ihrie (a friend),

There will be another movement here before this reaches you which I hope will wind up the big battles. The papers are giving me fits for the last. This matter will be understood after awhile. It does not seem to be taken into account that with a force less than 35,000 men we kept at bay all day Sunday over 80,000. As to the surprise spoken of we could not have been better prepared had the enemy sent word three days before when they would attack.  Skirmishing had been going on for that time and I could have brought on the battle either Friday (the day he rode out into the forest) or Saturday if I had chosen. My object was to keep it off, if possible, until Buell arrived.

Yours of old, U.S. Grant

 

Note: Here Grant reveals much about his mind-set. He overstates by half the size of the force that attacked him and he admits that he knew the Confederate main body was in his immediate front as early as Friday, April 4th. It is true that he was under direct orders from Halleck "not to bring on an engagement;" i.e., not to be the aggressor. But Grant knew, not only from his West Point training but also from Halleck's message, that Halleck expected him to erect fortifications in front of his camps. He chose not to do this for a reason. He says the reason was to avoid causing a panic among the raw recruits, but it seems more reasonable to conclude the reason was he was intentionally inviting the Confederates to attack his position, gambling that he could hold the west bank of the river until Buell arrived, which is what happened.

 

Pittsburg, April 26, 1862

Dear Father,

As to the talk about a surprise here, nothing could be more false. If the enemy had sent us word when and where they would attack us, we could not have been better prepared. Skirmishing had been going on for two days between our reconnoitering parties and the enemy's advance. I did not believe, however, that they intended to make a determined attack, but simply that they were making a reconnaissance in force. I was also looking for Buell to arrive.

U.S. Grant

 

Note: Again, Grant reveals his true mind-set. He either arrogantly challenged the enemy to make their attack, or he was gambling that Buell would arrive (doubling his numbers) before the enemy could get up the courage to make a "determined attack." Another more practical explanation, however, exists for Grant's conduct. Despite his protests to the contrary, the objective evidence of his conduct leads to the conclusion that Grant was indeed an ambitious man who had no intention of disappearing into obscurity after the war.

 First, having slipped into the key slot for a brigadier general in Missouri (Thanks to Pope and Fremont), he pushed Halleck to allow him, with the Navy's help, to go up the Tennessee River and attack Fort Henry. Halleck allowed this, but with the expectation that Grant would stop there until further orders were received. But, once at Henry, Grant immediately moved across the peninsula and invested Fort Donelson. Halleck reacted to this by shoving reinforcements as fast as possible up the Cumberland River. Relying on the fact that these reinforcements would give him overwhelming power against the rebel garrison in the fort Grant left the front, leaving orders for his division commanders to do nothing in his absence, and they got attacked suddenly by Gideon Pillow and were driven back a mile. With the reinforcements from Halleck, Grant counterattacked after a time and the garrison quickly surrendered. This action made Grant the first major-general of volunteers to be appointed in the West, making him automatically second-in-command in the Department.

Second, being now second-in-command and the man on the scene at the front, Grant naturally found himself commander of the District of West Tennessee, in overall charge of the operations that brought the build-up of Union troops at Pittsburg Landing, though by Halleck's direct orders he was not in field command of the forces that went up the river to camp at Pittsburg Landing. Brigadier-General C.F. Smith, by Halleck's order, was placed in direct command of these troops and their movements. Again, Grant seized upon the opportunity presented by the fact that he was in the field and Halleck was not, induce a battle—in this case, a great battle―that would be recognized as his battle.

So what do we now know about Grant from these facts? He was ambitious. He grabbed the opportunity created by his presence in the field to generate battles which made his name a household word. He relied on avoiding disaster, not by West Point pofessionalism or skill of generalship, but on the cold hard fact that the side with the most men will win the battle in the end.

Finally, it is becoming clear that Grant is not liked by Halleck nor by Lincoln's crowd in Washington, his "board of advisers" made up of West Point professionals. The evidence will show that these men intentionally put Grant on the sideline, leaving him in what they considered for a time to be the least important sector of the theater of war in the West.

Camp in the field, near Pittsburg

April 30, 1862

Dear Julia,

I move from here tomorrow. Before this reaches you probably another battle, and I think the last big one, will have taken place or be near at hand. I mean the last in the Mississippi Valley. You need give yourself no trouble about newspaper reports. I am very sorry to say a great deal of it originates in jealousy. This is very far from applying however to our chief, Halleck, who I look upon as one of the greatest men of the age.

 

You inquire how I was hurt? For several days before the battle there was skirmishing going on with the enemy's advance. My object was to keep the attack off until Buell arrived or I would have gone out and met the enemy on Friday before they could have got in position to use all their forces advantageously. Friday evening I was back at Savnnah and soon after dark a messenger arrived informing that we were attacked. I immedidately returned to Pittsburg and went out into the field on horseback. The night was intensely dark. I found that the firing had ceased and started to go back when my horse's foot caught or struck something and he fell flat on his side with my leg under him.

Good Buy, Ulys

 

Joe Ryan  

 

I

The Origin And Object Of The War

 

II

The War In The West
The Hornets Nest
Union Control of the Mississippi
Papers of Ulysses S Grant

 

III

The War In The East
General McClellan Progression

 

 

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About the author:
Joe Ryan is a Los Angeles trial lawyer who has traveled the route of the Army of Northern Virginia, from Richmond to Gettysburg, several times.
 

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