President Lincoln Advises General Grant

April 30, 1864

Presidential John Hay writes in his diary: “The President this morning read me his letter to Gen. Grant, an admirable one, full of kindness & dignity at once.” President Lincoln writes General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant: “Not expecting to see you again 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 plans I neither know, or seek to know. You are vigilant and self-reliant; and, pleased with this, I wish not to obtrude any constraints or restraints upon you. While I am very anxious that any great disaster, or the capture of our men in great numbers, shall be avoided. I know that these points are less likely to escape your attention than they would be mine. If there is 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.”

Grant responded to President Lincoln on May 1st 1864: “Your very kind letter of yesterday is just received. The confidence you express for the future, and satisfaction with the past, in my Military administration is acknowledged with pride. It will be my earnest endeavor that you, and the country, shall not be disappointed.

From my first entrance into the volunteer service of the country, to the present day, I have never had cause of complaint, have never expressed or implied a complaint, against the Administration, or the Sec. of War, for throwing any embarassment in the way of my vigerously prossecuting what appeared to me 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 every thin[g] asked for has been yielded without even an explaination being asked. Should my success be less than I desire, and expect, the least I can say is, the fault is not with you.

Presidential aide John Hay writes in his diary: “The President has been powerfully reminded, by General Grant’s present movements and plans, of his (President’s) old suggestion so constantly made and as constantly neglected, to Buell & Halleck, et al to move at once upon the enemy’s whole line so as to bring into action to our advantage our great superiority in numbers. Otherwise by interior lines & control of interior railroad system the enemy can shift their men rapidly from one point to another as they may be required. In this concerted movement, however, great superiority of numbers must tell: as the enemy, however successful where he concentrates must necessarily weaken other portions of his line and lose important position. This idea of his own, the Prest recognized with especial pleasure when Grant said it was his intention to make all the line useful — those not fighting could help the fighting. “Those not skinning can hold a leg,” added his distinguished interlocutor.”

Hay writes in his diary: “A little after midnight as I was writing those last lines, the President came into the office laughing, with a volume of Hood’s works in his hand, to show Nicolay & me the little Caricature “An unfortunate Bee-ing,” seemingly utterly unconscious that he with his short shirt hanging above his long legs & setting out behind like the tail feathers of an enormous ostrich was infinitely funnier than anything in the book he was laughing at. What a man it is! Occupied all day with matters of vast moment, deeply anxious about the fate of the greatest army of the world, with his own fame & future hanging on the events of the passing hour, he yet has such a wealth of simple bonhommie & good fellow ship that he gets out of bed and perambulates the house in his shirt to find us that we may share with him the fun of one of poor Hood’s queer little conceits.”

Former Ohio Congressman Albert Riddle had been visiting Washington. “I went that morning to take leave of the President. I had seen him but once before. I was pained, almost shocked, by the change in his looks and manner wrought during the intervening five months. He looked like a man worn and harassed with petty faultfinding and criticism, until he had turned at bay, like an old stag pursued and hunted by a cowardly rabble of men and dogs. He received me as if he hardly knew whether he had not to ward off a baiting. I came to understand something of this on that Saturday forenoon at the White House.

There were a number of people in the President’s ante-room, and I very soon found that the President himself was undergoing a rude roasting at the hands of those who were waiting for admission to his presence. Even my amiable and excellent friend Worcester, spoke ironically of him as ” that great and good man.” The one most loud and bitter was Henry Wilson, of Massachusetts. His open assaults were amazing. I withdrew to the President’s desk to escape, but was annoyed by it even there, and I turned upon the Senator in indignant surprise, asking why he did not assault him in the Senate, get a seat in the June convention, instead of opening on him in the streets and in the lobbies and offices of the Executive mansion itself. He conceded what I asserted that the entire North stood with the President and would renominate him, and said that, ” bad as that would be, the best must be made of it.” ” Yes, and this is the way you are doing your share of that best work,” was my rejoinder.

I was a little late in reaching the Chase residence in the afternoon. The Secretary and his daughters had left for the station, and Sprague and I followed them.

I was shown to Mr. Chase’s presence in the car set apart for his use. He was alone, and in a frightful rage, and controlled himself with difficulty while he explained the cause. The recital in a hoarse, constrained voice, seemed to rekindle his anger and aggravate its intensity. The spacious car fairly trembled under his feet.

Frank Blair had taken the floor in the house late this same afternoon against Mr. Chase, with added incidents and Blairian fervor and intensity,- had then gone to the Executive Mansion, held a brief interview with the President and received from his hands his old commission, with an order from the Secretary of War, countersigned by Mr. Lincoln, assigning him to the command of a corps, and then had left Washington for the front.

Painter Francis Carpenter introduces women’s rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, leader in women’s rights movement to President Lincoln.

Published in: on April 30, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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