March 9, 1864
White House aide Edward Duffield Neill recalled: “About two o’clock in the afternoon of the 9th of March, 1864, a messenger told me to look out of the window of my room and I would see General Grant. I went, and saw a plain, round-shouldered man in citizen’s dress, with a lad, his eldest son, by his side, walking away from the house, where he had been to pay his first visit to the President. To gratify the public and appease the reporters, the President wrote the few words which he had spoken when he gave the General his commission upon a piece of paper, partly torn, and Grant penned a brief reply.” The commissioning ceremony for Grant took place at 1 P.M. in the president’s office. Witnesses included General Henry W. Halleck, Grant aide John A. Rawlins, and Cong. Lovejoy are present. .
Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary: “To-day I received a note from the Secretary of State to be at the Executive Mansion quarter before 1 P.M. The Cabinet was all there, and General Grant and his staff with the Secretary of War and General Halleck entered. The president met him and presented to the General his commission with remarks, to which the latter responded. Both read their remarks. General Grant was somewhat embarrassed.
A conversation of half an hour followed on various subjects, but chiefly the war and operations of Sherman.
Presidential aide John G. Nicolay writes home: “Presentation ceremony of Gen. Grant’s commission as Lieut General took place today at 1 P.M. in the Cabinet chamber. The newspapers give the proceedings and addresses in full. Both the President and the General read their remarks from MSS. The General had hurriedly and almost illegibly written his speech on the half of a sheet of a note paper, in lead pencil, and being quite embarrassed by the occasion, and finding his own writing so very difficult to read, made rather sorry and disjointed work of enunciating his reply. I noticed too that in what he said, while it was brief and to the point, he had either forgotten or disregarded entirely the President’s hints to him of the night previous.
President Lincoln declares in prepared remarks: “The Nation’s appreciation of what you have done, and it’s reliance upon you for what remains to do, in the existing great struggle, are now presented with his 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 to add that with what I here speak for the nation goes my own hearty personal concurrence.”
In reply, Grant read from his prepared remarks: “Mr. President: I accept this commission with gratitude for the high honor confered. With the aid of the noble armies that have fought on so many fields for our 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 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.”
General Ulysses S. Grant remembered of his commissioning ceremony: “The President in presenting my commission read from a paper–saying, however, as a preliminary, and prior to the delivery of it, that he had drawn that up on paper, knowing my disinclination to speak in public, and handed me a copy in advance so that I might prepare a few lines of reply. The President said:
“‘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 to add, that, with what I here speak for the nation, goes my own hearty personal concurrence.’
“To this I 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 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.’
General Ulysses S. Grant remembered: “In my first interview with Mr. Lincoln alone he stated to me that he had never professed to be a military man or to know how campaigns should be conducted, and never wanted to interfere in them: but that procrastination on the part of commanders and pressure of the people of the North and Congress, which was always with him, forced him into issuing his series of Military Orders. He did not know but they were al wrong, and did know that some of them were. All he wanted or had never wanted was someone who would take the responsibility and act, and call on him for all the assistance needed, pledging himself to use all the power of the Government in rendering such assistance. Assuring him that I would do the best I could with the means at hand, and avoid as far as possible annoying him or the War Department, our first interview ended.”
General Grenville M. Dodge wrote in Personal Recollections of President Abraham Lincoln, General Ulysses S. Grant and General William T. Sherman, recalled: “Upon entering the room of the President, all his Cabinet were present with the exception of Mr. Stanton. Soon after the arrival of Secretary Stanton, General Halleck and General Grant entered the room without accosting the President, or any one present, but moved rapidly to the far side of the table, and stopped, facing the table, with General Grant between General Halleck and Mr. Stanton. The President was on the opposite side of the table.
He arose, then took from the table a scroll, turned it carefully, then opened it and took out the Parchment Commission. He then took from the table what soon proved to be his address to General Grant, which he read to General Grant.
“Then upon his conclusion, General Grant took from his vest pocket a paper containing his response to the President. Grant held the paper in his right hand, and commenced reading, having read probably half of it when his voice gave out. Evidently he had not contemplated the effort of reading, and had commenced without inflating his lungs. When General Grant commenced reading he was standing awkwardly, what would commonly be called ‘hipshot.’ When his voice failed, he straightened himself up to his fullest and best form, threw back his shoulders, took the paper in both hands, one at each end – and drew the paper up to proper reading distance and commenced again at the beginning, and read it through in a full, strong voice.
Colonel Fred Grant, who was with his father, says: ‘The papers were prepared the evening before by both the President and General Grant.’
After it was read the members of the Cabinet were introduced to General Grant. None of the members of the Cabinet were introduced to General Grant. None of the members of the Cabinet had met him before. Mr. Lincoln said to General Grant: ‘I have never met you before.’
“General Grant replied ‘Yes, you have. I heard you in your debate with Douglass at Freeport, and was then introduced to you. Of course, I could not forget you, neither could I expect you to remember me, because multitudes were introduced to you on that occasion.’
President Lincoln said: ‘That is so, and I don’t think I could be expected to remember all.’
Mr. Usher said:
Up to that time none of us had had any personal acquaintance with General Grant. We had heard of him from the Battle of Pittsburg landing to the Battle of Iuka and Corinth. The reports were as often disparaging as they were favorable.
John Nicolay writes: “During this afternoon Gov. Chase sent the President a copy of his letter to Judge Hall of Ohio withdrawing his name from the presidential canvass.”
President Lincoln wires General George G. Meade: “New York City votes 9,500 majority for allowing soldiers to vote, and the rest of the State nearly all on the same side. Tell the soldiers.”