President Lincoln and General Ulysses Grant Travel Up James River

June 22, 1864

President Lincoln “slept aboard the boat which had brought him to City Point,” recalled Union Army Captain Horace Porter, an aide to General Ulysses S. Grant. “He had expressed to General Grant a desire to go up the James the next day, to see that portion of our lines and visit the flagship of Admiral Lee, who commanded the gunboats. All arrangements were made for the trip, and the President’s boat started up the river about eight o’clock the next morning, stopping at Bermuda Hundred to take on General Butler. Admiral Lee came aboard from his flag-ship, and the party proceeded up the river as far as it was safe to ascend. Mr. Lincoln was in excellent spirits, and listened with great eagerness to the descriptions of the works, which could be seen from the river, and the objects for which they had been constructed. When his attention was called to some particularly strong positions which had been seized and fortified, he remarked to Butler: “When Grant once gets possession of a place, he holds on to it as if he had inherited it.” Orders had been sent to have the pontoon-bridge at Deep Bottom opened for the passage of the President’s boat, so that he could proceed some distance beyond that point. His whole conversation during his visit showed the deep anxiety he felt and the weight of responsibility which was resting upon him. His face would light up for a time while telling an anecdote illustrating a subject under discussion, and afterward his features would relax and show the deep lines which had been graven upon them by the mental strain to which he had been subjected for nearly four years. The National Republican Convention had renominated him for the Presidency just two weeks before, and some reference was made to it and to the number of men who composed the Electoral College. He remarked: “Among all our colleges, the Electoral College is the only one where they choose their own masters.” He did not show any disposition to dwell upon the subject, or upon the approaching political campaign. His mind seemed completely absorbed in the operations of the armies. Several times, when contemplated battles were spoken of, he said: “I cannot pretend to advise, but I do sincerely hope that all may be accomplished with as little bloodshed as possible.”

Soon after his return to City Point the President started back to Washington. His visit to the army had been a memorable event. General Grant and he had had so much delightful intercourse that they parted from each other with unfeigned regret, and both felt that their acquaintance had already ripened into a genuine friendship. General Grant, having decided that it would be inexpedient to attempt to carry the works at Petersburg by assault, now began to take measures looking to the investment of that place by leaving a portion of his forces to defend our works, while he moved out with the other portion against the railroads, with the design of cutting off Lee’s communications in that direction. Wright’s entire corps had been sent back from Butler’s front to the Army of the Potomac, and Martindale’s command had been returned to Butler, so that Meade’s and Butler’s armies were again complete. Meade’s corps were disposed as follows, from right to left of the line: Burnside, Warren, Birney (Hancock’s), Wright.

Published in: on June 22, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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