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Thread: 2 letters sent 149 years ago

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    2 letters sent 149 years ago

    Stolen from the excellent Crossroads blog of DR Brooks Simpson


    Executive Mansion

    Washington, April 30, 1864

    Lieutenant General 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 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.

    Yours very truly

    A. Lincoln
    覧覧覧覧覧蘭


    Headquarters Armies of the United States

    Culpepper C. H. Va. May 1st 1864

    The President,

    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 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.

    Very truly

    your obt. svt.

    U. S. Grant

    Lt. Gen.


    Several things jump out at me as I read these notes....and my thoughts were mirrored by commentators on the site.

    The genuine regard these 2 sons of Illinois held for each other.

    The self taught writer's better grasp of grammar and spelling over the formally educated writer.

    Lincoln's comment that he was not going to tell Grant how to suck the egg, just get the egg sucked. And Grant's acknowledgment that he had gotten all the support and he would offer no excuses for any failures.

    And the horrible longview of history knowing how many dead and maimed would result over the next 11 months to come.
    "The genius of you Americans is that you make no clear-cut stupid moves, only complicated stupid moves which make us wonder at the possibility that there may be something to them we are missing." - Gamal Abdel Nasser

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    reading these letters reminds me of the huge contrast between the way Lincoln felt towards Grant and the way he felt towards McClellan, Hooker, and Meade.

    with the last three (and especially McClellan!) Lincoln always felt the need to intrude in some way, or offer some advice, or criticism. none of that here; the absolute trust is marvelous to behold.

    for comparison:

    http://www.gettysburg.edu/dotAsset/269139.pdf

    [From a letter to General McClellan. Washington, 13 October 1862.]

    My dear Sir: You remember my speaking to you of what I called your over-cautiousness. Are you not over-cautious when you assume that you cannot do what the enemy is constantly doing? Should you not claim to be at least his equal in prowess, and act upon the claim? ...one of the standard maxims of war, as you know, is to "operate upon the enemy's communications as much as possible without exposing your own." You seem to act as if this applies against you, but cannot apply in your favor. Change positions with the enemy, and think you not he would break your communication with Richmond within the next twenty-four hours? You dread his going into Pennsylvania; but if he does so in full force, he gives up his communications to you absolutely, and you have nothing to do but to follow and ruin him. If he does so with less than full force, fall upon and beat what is left behind all the easier...We should not so operate as to merely drive him away. As we must beat him somewhere or fail finally, we can do it, if at all, easier near to us than far away. If we cannot beat the enemy where he now is, we never can, he again being within the entrenchments of Richmond.

    =====

    Lincoln's Letter to Hooker

    Major-General HOOKER:

    GENERAL: I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appears to me to be sufficient reasons, and yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which I am not quite satisfied with you. I believe you to be a brave and skillful soldier, which, of course, I like. I also believe you do not mix politics with your profession, in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not an indispensable, quality. You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm; but I think that during General Burnside's command of the army you have taken counsel of your ambition, and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country and to a most meritorious and honorable brother officer. I have heard, in such a way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a dictator. Of course, it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship. The Government will support you to the utmost of its ability, which is neither more nor less than it has done and will do for all commanders. I much fear that the spirit which you have aided to infuse into the army, of criticising their commander and withholding confidence from him, will now turn upon you. I shall assist you as far as I can to put it down. Neither you nor Napoleon, if he were alive again, could get any good out of an army while such a spirit prevails in it. And now beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy and sleepless vigilance go forward and give us victories.


    =====

    Letter From President Lincoln to Major General George G. Meade

    Major General Meade

    I have just seen your despatch to Gen. Halleck, asking to be relieved of your command, because of a supposed censure of mine. I am very--very--grateful to you for the magnificent success you gave the cause of the country at Gettysburg; and I am sorry now to be the author of the slightest pain to you. But I was in such deep distress myself that I could not restrain some expression of it. I had been oppressed nearly ever since the battles at Gettysburg, by what appeared to be evidences that yourself, and Gen. Couch, and Gen. Smith, were not seeking a collision with the enemy, but were trying to get him across the river without another battle. What these evidences were, if you please, I hope to tell you at some time, when we shall both feel better. The case, summarily stated is this. You fought and beat the enemy at Gettysburg; and, of course, to say the least, his loss was as great as yours. He retreated; and you did not, as it seemed to me, pressingly pursue him; but a flood in the river detained him, till, by slow degrees, you were again upon him. You had at least twenty thousand veteran troops directly with you, and as many more raw ones within supporting distance, all in addition to those who fought with you at Gettysburg; while it was not possible that he had received a single recruit; and yet you stood and let the flood run down, bridges be built, and the enemy move away at his leisure, without attacking him. And Couch and Smith! The latter left Carlisle in time, upon all ordinary calculation, to have aided you in the last battle at Gettysburg; but he did not arrive. At the end of more than ten days, I believe twelve, under constant urging, he reached Hagerstown from Carlisle, which is not an inch over fifty-five miles, if so much. And Couch's movement was very little different.
    Again, my dear general, I do not believe you appreciate the magnitude of the misfortune involved in Lee's escape. He was within your easy grasp, and to have closed upon him would, in connection with our other late successes, have ended the war. As it is, the war will be prolonged indefinitely. If you could not safely attack Lee last Monday, how can you possibly do so South of the river, when you can take with you very few more than two thirds of the force you then had in hand? It would be unreasonable to expect, and I do not expect you can now effect much. Your golden opportunity is gone, and I am distressed immeasurably because of it.
    I beg you will not consider this a prosecution, or persecution of yourself As you had learned that I was dissatisfied, I have thought it best to kindly tell you why. Abraham Lincoln
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    Quote Originally Posted by Albany Rifles View Post
    Lincoln's comment that he was not going to tell Grant how to suck the egg, just get the egg sucked. And Grant's acknowledgment that he had gotten all the support and he would offer no excuses for any failures.
    Grant's "go to war with the Army you have" mentality contrasts wholly with George "I ain't got enough troops" McClellan. However, Lincoln's claim that he didn't need to know Grant's plans is one of his sleight of hands - he had the Assistant Secretary of War co-located with Grant throughout the coming campaigns to provide all the details that he needed.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Is there an valid operational reason why Union troops could not finish off Gen. Lee's forces after Gettysburg before he could cross the river?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blademaster View Post
    Is there an valid operational reason why Union troops could not finish off Gen. Lee's forces after Gettysburg before he could cross the river?
    Operational reach. Meade had to resupply the Army of the Potomac before he could truly give chase. There were skirmishes between the lead elements of the AoP and the rear guard of the ANV, but Meade couldn't get at Lee's main body until he had established a tremendously defensible strong point that protected his crossing site. Meade almost pulled the trigger, but after inspecting the earthworks when Lee had abandoned the strongpoint and crossed, the general assessment across the leadership of the AoP was that it was a very good thing that they had not assaulted. I'm sure that AR could provide some details to better illustrate.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Shek,

    Excellent as always and good to hear from you.

    2 key points cause the delay for the Union forces. Shek had already laid out the operational reach issue. The logistics of the AOP was in a shambles Stuart's Raid had at least bourn some fruit....his tearing up of the rail lines between Gettysburg & BALT/DC cause massive supply issues for the Union forces. There are many accounts of cavalry mounts dropping out of starvation and exhaustion. And the hills to the SSE from Gettysburg where retreated to are a fortress. The hills to the south reverberated with continuous fighting for days afterwards as the Union cavarly tried to bring the Confederates to ground. For some Union cavalry regiments the names of Fairfield (July 3), Monterey Pass (July 4–5), Smithsburg (July 5), Hagerstown (July 6 and 12), Boonsboro (July 8), Funkstown (July 7 and 10), Williamsport and Falling Waters (July 6–14) would be some of their proudest battle honors.

    The other key point which is often overlooked is the only field Army in worse shape than the ANV was the AOP. Meade had lost 3 of his 7 corps commanders KIA/WIA...and it could be argued that Reynolds, Hancock and, yes, Sickles were the best of the group in summer 1863. Many division and brigade comamnders were also KIA/WIA. The I & III Corps had been effectively wiped out and the V & XI Crops were in a shambles. II & XII Corps were also badly damaged. The only Corps in decent shape top to bottom was Sedgwick's VI Corps...but they had been broken up into brigade packets and plugged in all around the battlefield as they arrived. Meade spent all day on 4 july reorganizing the AOP. And while he may have received the reinforcement of the Harper's Ferry garrison to use as repalcements in I & III Corps, they were untried troops with little experience. to top it off, Meade lost approx 6,000 more troops over the next 2 weeks as he lost 9 month, 1 year & 2 years regiments whose terms of service were expiring! Added to that Meade was ordered to send over 2,000 men to reinforce the police in during the NYC Draft Riots which broke out at time (see Gangs of New York).

    Meade sent out a recon in force on 5 July under Sedgwick that bumped into the Confederates near Monterey Pass but the defensive works were too strong and foreshadowed what was to come.

    In all, Meade suffered 1,000 more casualties during the retreat while Lee suffered an additional 4600 KIA/WIA/MIA so he did not get away unscathed.
    "The genius of you Americans is that you make no clear-cut stupid moves, only complicated stupid moves which make us wonder at the possibility that there may be something to them we are missing." - Gamal Abdel Nasser

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    So Lincoln and others were in the wrong that Meade could have finished off Lee. If Grant was in command at that time, would he have managed to pull it off and finish off Lee at that point? Would Grant have the foresight to see how the battle would end and make contingency plans if Lee had to retreat and pull off a move that could end the war for good? I know hindsight is 20/20 but I am just wondering that given the combat intelligence, materials, supplies, and men available at that time just prior to Gettysburg, Grant could have set this up in short order to finish Lee for good and end the war two years earlier.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blademaster View Post
    So Lincoln and others were in the wrong that Meade could have finished off Lee. If Grant was in command at that time, would he have managed to pull it off and finish off Lee at that point? Would Grant have the foresight to see how the battle would end and make contingency plans if Lee had to retreat and pull off a move that could end the war for good? I know hindsight is 20/20 but I am just wondering that given the combat intelligence, materials, supplies, and men available at that time just prior to Gettysburg, Grant could have set this up in short order to finish Lee for good and end the war two years earlier.
    The question is when would Grant have had command? Remember that Meade took command on 28 June as the AoP was stretched waaayyy out as it was trying to parallel the movement of the ANV as it moved northward. That Meade pulled the AoP together by 2 July was a solid feat in and of itself. Had Grant been in command for a while, I think that some of the logistical issues might have been smoothed out a little better, and given his tenacity, the pursuit certainly would have been more vigorous. Would that have gotten the job done? I suspect not, although he would have continued the campaign rather than the cat and mouse game that ensued.

    The other piece to think about with these what if drills are the question of war termination criteria. If McClellan had sacked Richmond and the South had capitulated in the summer of 1862, the war would have ended, but would there be peace with the question of slavery still unsettled? That question remains in the summer of 1863, although the Emancipation Proclamation did put Union policy closer to settling the issue (although that was through Presidential fiat using wartime powers and not an act of Congress). That's why I think that "Lincoln" is such a powerful movie - it shows the necessary connection between policy, strategy, and war termination.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    As usual, Shek nailed it.

    You will find no greater can of Grant than myself. That said I do not believe Sam Grant would have been able to command the AOP. He did not do well with poetics and the AOL was rife with politics. Do not forget that his failure to recognize how the game was played almost cost him his career after Shiloh. His success at Vicksburg and Chattanooga gave him the gravitas and credibility to deal with the politics of 1864.

    And let's give Meade his due. He was a damn fine commander who did a hell of a job at Gettysburg.
    "The genius of you Americans is that you make no clear-cut stupid moves, only complicated stupid moves which make us wonder at the possibility that there may be something to them we are missing." - Gamal Abdel Nasser

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    Quote Originally Posted by Albany Rifles View Post
    And let's give Meade his due. He was a damn fine commander who did a hell of a job at Gettysburg.
    But nearly undone by Dan Sickles' performances and costing the Union the destruction of the III Corps. If Union had finished off Lee's forces at Gettysburg, I do not think the war would have been over. The Confeds were still in fighting spirits and would find another commander to replace Lee but it certainly would be a lot less of a meatgrinder than it was for the Union in the last two years of the war.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blademaster View Post
    But nearly undone by Dan Sickles' performances and costing the Union the destruction of the III Corps. If Union had finished off Lee's forces at Gettysburg, I do not think the war would have been over. The Confeds were still in fighting spirits and would find another commander to replace Lee but it certainly would be a lot less of a meatgrinder than it was for the Union in the last two years of the war.

    I am wii g to give Sickles some slack. Ever stood where his corps was assigned? Bottom of a ridge with high ground to his front. What happened to him the last time this happened? Ever hear of Hazel Grove? I understand his decision a lot better and tend to give him some benefit of the doubt.

    After all he was there and I wasn't.
    "The genius of you Americans is that you make no clear-cut stupid moves, only complicated stupid moves which make us wonder at the possibility that there may be something to them we are missing." - Gamal Abdel Nasser

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    shek,

    If McClellan had sacked Richmond and the South had capitulated in the summer of 1862, the war would have ended, but would there be peace with the question of slavery still unsettled?
    IIRC wasn't the idea in 1861 or 1862 that if the Union forces marched in, Lincoln's going in position would have been eventual, compensated manumission?

    i think after antietam this was no longer an option.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    shek,



    IIRC wasn't the idea in 1861 or 1862 that if the Union forces marched in, Lincoln's going in position would have been eventual, compensated manumission?

    i think after antietam this was no longer an option.
    I don't think that the fall of Richmond would make the Confeds capitulate. It was the fall of Atlanta that knocked the wind out of the Confederacy's sails because it was the core economic and ideological base of the Confederacy. Richmond was just the seat of power, not an industrial base. There were three other Confederation standing armies that Lee did not have control over.

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    I don't think that the fall of Richmond would make the Confeds capitulate. It was the fall of Atlanta that knocked the wind out of the Confederacy's sails because it was the core economic and ideological base of the Confederacy. Richmond was just the seat of power, not an industrial base.
    there was no real ideological base; the "birthplace" of the Confederacy was South Carolina, while the first political gathering happened in Montgomery, AL, but moved to Richmond shortly thereafter. thus Richmond remained the political center.

    in 1861 the fall of Richmond would have assuredly meant the fall of the Confederacy. by 1862 when things were less disorganized, there probably would have been an attempted evacuation, but once you get out of the heavily wooded areas of Northern Virginia there aren't massive geographical blocks that would have prevented the Union from moving on down South-- especially given Union control of the sea.

    Richmond was the schwerpunkt.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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