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The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant

 

Pittsburg, May 1, 1862

Hon. E.M. Stanton, Secretary of War

Everything progressing well. General Halleck has organized his army. General Thomas is in command of the right wing. General Grant as second in command of the whole force, but under Halleck. General McCLernand is in command of the reserve forces.

Thomas A. Scott, Assistant Secretary of War.

 

Note: Scott is essentially Stanton's errand boy, keeping separate tabs on the generals and reporting directly to Stanton what is going on. Halleck has now relieved Grant, once again, of field command, sticking him on the sideline. Thomas, commanding a division in Buell's army, has been detached and placed in command of the Army of the Tennessee. Buell commands the center column and Pope, clearly Halleck's favorite for offensive operations at this point, is in command of the left wing.

 

Unlike McClellan's seige of Richmond, Halleck can get at the railroad

 

       Monterey, Tenn, May 4, 1862

Dear Julia,

Everyone seems very anxious that I should contradict the statements made by the newspapers. The best contradiction in the world is to pay no attention to them. The papers will get done with this thing after a while and look upon the fight at Pittsburg as one of the best resistances ever made. (Wait until General Lee gets McClellan to Sharpsburg and we can talk about "one of the best resistances ever made.") The enemy outnumbered us three to one that day and we held the field.

 

We now have our advance within three miles of Corinth. It is a big job to get a large army over country roads where it has been raining for the last five months. The front must be kept compact and we do well to approach a few miles every day. Yesterday General Pope got possession of the town of Farmington three miles this side of Corinth.

Ulys

 

Note: Is not Grant protesting too much? He also is still pretending that he was grossly outnumbered at Shilo, when in fact the forces engaged were about equal, with the Confederates having a slight edge of perhaps 5,000 men.

 

Near Monterey, May 11, 1862

Maj-General Halleck, commanding Department of Mississippi

Since the publication of Special Field Order No. 35, relieving me from the immediate command of any portion of the Army of the Tennessee, I have my position anomalous. I feel that censure was implied. My position differs but little from that of one in arrest. I ask either for full restoration to duty, according to my rank, or to be relieved entirely from further duty. There has been a persistent studied opposition to me by persons outside of the army and it may be by some in it.

U.S. Grant, Maj-Gen.

 

Note: Grant is undoubtedly correct in his assessment of his status. This is the second time that Halleck has sidelined him from active field command. It is plain that Halleck does not like him, either personally or professionally. And it appears that Halleck is not alone. The military crowd around Lincoln is on Halleck's professional level and they do not like Grant. Indeed, there really is no objective reason at this point to like Grant. He has had no problem getting troops under his command engaged in battle, that's clear, but he has not shown any particular apptitude for handing the troops once he has got them into action. And he demonstrates a complete lack of regard for human life when he is willing to move on fortifications, without taking time to close the open space the troops must pass to reach the enemy lines.

That's why Halleck has got everybody but Grant handling the advance of his three columns on Corinth. Also, there must be an attitude involved here, of keeping Grant from gaining any more notoriety than he has already gained for himself.

 

Camp near Corinth, May 11, 1862

Dear Julia,

I write for probably the last time this side of Corinth. I am thinking seriously of going home, or to Washington. I have been so shockingly abused that I sometimes think it's time to defend myself. But my record in this war will bear scrutiny without writing anything in reply to the many attacks made on me.

Ulys

 

Note: Grant does not tell his wife he has been sidelined. Grant did, in later years, write about his conduct at Shiloh, claiming he was not surprised by the attack.

 

Camp near Corinth, May 13, 1862

 

Dear Julia,

I regard this as the last great battle to be fought in the Valley of the Mississippi. If the war is to be continued I am anxious to go to some other field.

 

We move slow, General Halleck being determined to make shure work. (Grant can't spell) The roads have been so intolerable that it has been very difficult to get up supplies for the army.

Ulys

 

Note: Again Grant does not tell Julia about his situation, explaining his reason for wanting to go elsewhere to the fact that Corinth will be the last full scale battle in the Department of Mississippi. At this time Lincoln's crowd thinks that the troops now garrisoning New Orleans can be used to capture Vicksburg, with the help of the Navy. As we shall see, Lincoln's crowd will leave Grant in command at Corinth while Buell, supported by Pope's (under Rosecrans)  army of the Mississippi, goes off to East Tennessee to capture Chattanooga. East Tennessee is where the action will be. Only when the Confederates effectively block the Union effort does Lincoln swtich emphasis to Vicksburg, dropping another opportunity into Grant's lap to gain national recognition.

Another point to observe here is that Halleck is doing at Corinth exactly what McClellan is doing on the Yorktown Peninsula, yet Lincoln is carping constantly at McClellan and saying nothing to Halleck. Why is this, the record does not say.

 

Camp near Corinth, May 14, 1862

Hon. E.B. Washburne

The great number of attacks made upon me by the press of the country is my apology for not writing to you oftener. To say that I have not been distressed by them is a false statement. All subject to my orders read these charges and it is calculated to weaken their confidence in me and weaken my ability to render efficient service. Notoriety has no charms for me. Those people who expect a field of battle to be maintained for a whole day, with about 30,000 troops, most of them raw, against 70,000, without loss of life, know little of war. To have left the field for the enemy to occupy until our force was sufficient to have gained a bloodless victory would have been to leave the Tennessee to become a second Potomac. There was nothing left for me but to occupy the west bank and hold it at all hazards. Looking back, I cannot see any point that could be corrected.

U.S. Grant

 

Camp near Corinth, May 16, 1862

 

Dear Julia,

We are moving slowly but in a way to insure success. I feel confident myself. What move next after the attack on Corinth is hard to predict. It must depend to a great extent upon the movements of the enemy.

Ulys

 

Note: Grant still has not informed his wife of his situation. His statement, "It must depend to a great extent upon the movements of the enemy" what happens next, is hardly correct. After Corinth falls, any intelligent officer can look at a theater map and recognize that it is the Union armies that will decide what happens next, and that clearly is to shift their weight to East Tennessee for a campaign against Chattanooga, pressing the Confederate heartland at the west end while McCellan presses it at the east end. Once Chattanooga falls, then it will be time enough, if necessary, to deal with Vicksburg. The last general, Halleck and Lincoln's crowd intend to look to, to lead the campaign in East Tennessee, is Grant.

 

Camp near Corinth, May 24, 1862

 

Dear Julia,

My duties are now much lighter than they have been heretofore. General Halleck, being present, relieves me of great responsibilty.

Ulys

 

Corinth, May 31, 1862

 

Dear Julia,

Corinth is now in our hands without much fighting. What the next move is, or the part I am to take, I do not know. I shall apply to go home if there is not an important command assigned to me. My  rank is second in this Department and I shall expect the first separate command and hope it will be to go to Memphis and make headquarters there.

Ulys

 

 

Joe Ryan

 

I

What Happened in May 1862

 

II
The War In The West
The Papers of General Grant

 

III

The War in the East
Seven Pines
The Papers of General McClellan



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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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