“Neither will I, under any circumstances, exceed my authority, or in any way embarrass the Government”

I responded to Sec. Stanton’s instructions regarding the conference proposal from Lee.

CITY POINT, VA., March 4, 1865-4.30 p.m.

Honorable E. M. STANTON,

Secretary of War:

Your dispatch of 12 p.m. 3rd received. I have written a letter to General Lee, copy of which will be sent to you by to-morrow’s mail. I can assure you that no act of the enemy will prevent me from pressing all advantage gained to the utmost of my ability. Neither will I, under any circumstances, exceed my authority, or in any way embarrass the Government. It was because I had no right to meet General Lee on the subject proposed by him that I referred the matter for instructions.

U. S. GRANT,

Lieutenant-General.

 

The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 14, p 100

O.R., I, xlvi, part 2, p 823-4

“I have no authority to accede to your proposition for a conference”

I wrote to Gen. Lee,

General R. E. LEE,

Commanding C. S. Army:

Your two letters of the 2nd instant were received yesterday. In regard to any apprehended misunderstanding in reference to the exchange of political prisoners, I think there need be none. General Ord and General Longstreet have probably misunderstood what I said to the former on the subject, or I may have failed to make myself understood, possibly. A few days before the interview between Generals Longstreet and Ord, I had received a dispatch from General Hoffman, Commissary-General of Prisoners, stating, in sub-stance, that all prisoners of war who were or had been in close confinement or irons, whether under charges or sentence, had been ordered to City Point for exchange. I forwarded the substance of that dispatch to Lieutenant-Colonel Mulford, assistant agent of exchange, and presumed it probable that he had communicated it to Colonel Robert Ould. A day or two after an officer, who was neither a prisoner of war nor a political prisoner, was executed after a fair and impartial trial and in accordance with the laws of war and the usage of civilized nations. It was in explanation of this class of cases I told General Ord to speak to General Longstreet. ‘

Reference to my letter of February 16 will show my understanding on the subject of releasing political or citizen prisoners.

In regard to meeting you on the 6th instant, I would state that I have no authority to accede to your proposition for a conference on the subject proposed. Such authority is vested in the President of the United States alone.

General Ord could only have meant that I would not refuse an interview on any subject on which I have a right to act, which, of course, would be such as are purely of a military character, and on the subject of exchanges which has been intrusted to me.

U. S. GRANT,

Lieutenant-General.

 

The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 14, p 98-9

O.R., I, xlvi, part 2, p 825

Stanton: “He instructs me to say that you are not to decide, discuss, or confer upon any political question”

I received a response from Sec. Stanton to my inquiry.  He states that the President would prefer that I only deal with Lee on terms that are purely military.  He writes,

WAR DEPARTMENT, March 3, 1865-12 p.m.

Lieutenant-General GRANT:

I send you a telegram written by the President himself in answer to yours of this evening, which I have signed by his order. I will add that General Ord’s conduct in holding intercourse with General Longstreet upon political questions not committed to his charge is not approved. The same thing was done in one instance by Major Key, when the army was commanded by General McClellan, and he was sent to meet Howell Cobb on the subject of exchanges, and it was in that instance, as in this, disapproved. You will please in future instruct officers appointed to meet rebel officers to confine themselves to the matters specially committed to them.

EDWIN M. STANTON,

Secretary of War.

[Inclosure.]

WAR DEPARTMENT, March 3, 1865-12 p.m.

Lieutenant-General GRANT:

The President directs me to say to you that he wishes you to have no conference with General Lee, unless it be for the capitulation of General Lee’s army or on some minor and purely military matter. He instructs me to say that you are not to decide, discuss, or confer upon any political question. Such questions the President holds in his own hands, and will submit them to no military conferences or conventions. Meantime you are to press to the utmost your military advantages.

EDWIN M. STANTON,

Secretary of War.

 

The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 14, p 91

O.R., I, xlvi, part 2, p 802

Lee: “I propose to meet you at such convenient time and place as you may designate”

I have received two letters from Gen. Lee.  The first concerned transfer of prisoners.  The second is proposing a meeting between us to discuss ending the war.  He writes,

Lieutenant General U. S. GRANT,

Commanding U. S. Armies:

GENERAL: Lieutenant-General Longstreet has informed me that in a recent conversation between himself and Major-General Ord as to the possibility of arriving at a satisfactory adjustment of the present unhappy difficulties by means of a military convention, General Ord stated that if I desired to have an interview with you on the subject you would not decline, provided I had authority to act. Sincerely desiring to leave nothing untried which may put an end to the calamities of war, I propose to meet you at such convenient time and place as you may designate, with the hope that upon an interchange of views it may be found practicable to submit the subjects of controversy between the belligerents to a convention of the kind mentioned. In such event I am authorized to do whatever the result of the proposed interview may render necessary or advisable. Should you accede to this proposition I would suggest that, if agreeable to you, we meet at the place selected by Generals Ord and Longstreet for their interview at 11 a.m. on Monday next.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R. E. LEE,

General.

 

I forwarded this to Sec. Stanton and asked for instructions.

CITY POINT, VA., March 3, 1865-6 p.m.

Honorable E. M. STANTON,

Secretary of War, Washington:

The following communication has just been received from General Lee.

General Ord met General Longstreet a few days since, at the request of the latter, to arrange for the exchange of citizen prisoners and prisoners of war improperly captured. He had my authority to do so, and to arrange it definitely for such as were confined in his department; arrangements for all others to be submitted for approval. A general conversation ensued on the subject of the war, and has induced the above letter. I have not returned any reply, but promised to do so at 12 m. to-morrow. I respectfully request instructions.

U. S. GRANT,

Lieutenant-General.

 

The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 14, p 90, 99

O.R., I, xlvi, part 2, p 801-2

“there need not be the slightest apprehension for the safety of the capital”

There have been reports of rebel cavalry on the Rappahannock River.  This is causing great consternation in Washington as they fear another raid.  I wrote Sec. Stanton to put his fears to rest.

CITY POINT, VA., March 2, 1865.

Honorable E. M. STANTON,

Secretary of War, Washington:

If the returns I have of troops in the Department of Washington are anything like correct there need not be the slightest apprehension for the safety of the capital. At this time if Lee could spare any considerable force it would be for the defense of points now threatened which are necessary for the very existence of his army. He would not send off any large body without my knowing it. If they should move toward Washington that would be known also.

With the cavalry General Augur has at his command he can always have notice of any considerable body, and could dispose his force to meet their advance. The fact is, the enemy are reaping such advantages by the way of the Fredericksburg road that they are anxious to avoid attracting attention in that direction.

I have ordered a force, mostly infantry, to prepare to go up the Rappahannock, as soon as transportation can be got for them, for the purpose of breaking up this trade, and shall try to break up the road at the same time. The force I send will draw everything the enemy has on the Potomac below Alexandria and on the Rappahannock, and will give General Augur a good opportunity of breaking the railroad up to the Rapidan. I would direct the force sent from here to do that, but it will be impossible for me to send any considerable amount of cavalry. Infantry cannot get there very well.

It will be necessary to have a good man in command in West Virginia, and even then we cannot prevent occasional parties getting in on the railroad. I have recommended General Crocker for that place, but I believe he has not been ordered in from New Mexico. I wanted that done last fall and supposed until a few days since that he had been ordered in.

Is there not a great mistake in keeping a large number of cavalrymen posted through the city of Washington? It seems to me one-half the force of cavalry in the department is wasted in duties in no way tending to the protection of the place. I may be mistaken, and only call attention to see whether this is not so.

At this time, not until the roads get good, do I think there is the slightest danger of the enemy attempting to blockade the Potomac. They have not got the artillery horses nor men to spare for such an enterprise. On the whole, I think there is not the slightest need of apprehension, except from a dash of a few mounted men into Alexandria, and with proper watchfulness this ought not to occur.

U. S. GRANT,

Lieutenant-General.

 

The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 14, p 83-4

O.R., I, xlvi, part 2, p 781-2

“If the report of the departure of two divisions of Lee’s army can be verified we will try the assault”

Gen. Meade forwarded to me the following telegram.

HEADQUARTERS SIXTH ARMY CORPS, March 1, 1865-10.45 p. m.

(Received 11.25 p. m.)

Brevet Major-General WEBB,

Chief of Staff:

Deserters just in report as follows. Lee gone south with Rodes’ and Gordon’s divisions, leaving Johnston in command, orders signed by latter having been published. No other troops moved. One, a sergeant, was in Petersburg day before yesterday and saw six trains leave by South Side road, loaded with cotton and tobacco. Were hauling such property toward depot. No artillery is known to have been moved from the lines in vicinity of their camp. They repeat the story of a new line which is now said to run from Drewry’s Bluff to some point on Roanoke River. Negroes employed on this line. This a camp rumor not traceable to any reliable source. Artillery horses are said to be in very bad condition; hardly able to draw the pieces. The shooting heard last night was done by order in their brigade, as stated by the sergeant, who says he received the order for the men to cheer when the bands struck up. Reason not given. Could not have been in consequence of news received, or he should have heard ot it. Says the only news from North Carolina is a report that Sherman, instead of marching on Charlotte, is moving on Fayetteville, and that Schofield was moving up the Cape Fear River with troops and transports, to form junction at that place. This report was brought by a man just returned to their army from North Carolina, who must have left about three days ago. The sergeant belongs to the Eleventh North Carolina, and is worth examining.

H. G. WRIGHT,

Major-General, Commanding.

He added,

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, March 2, 1865-11.30 a. m.

Lieutenant-General GRANT:

I have sent you a dispatch, from which you will perceive the reported departure of two of Lee’s divisions is not only not confirmed, but is by no means reliable. Nevertheless I have directed the chief engineer to visit the proposed points of attack and confer with Generals Potter and McLaughlen, and shall make any preliminary arrangement to attack, in case your orders should require it or my judgment justify my recommending it. This judgment will be based on the facts reported by the chief engineer, which I will lay before you as soon as received. I am of the opinion I have enough under my command at present, as the question is not so much one of numbers as of the practicability of carrying entrenched lines. These once carried and overcome, I have men enough to meet the whole of Lee’s army.

GEO. G. MEADE,

Major-General.

If this is true, it could be the opening we have waited for.  I wrote Meade,

CITY POINT, March 2, 1865-12.30 p. m.

Major-General MEADE:

If the report of the departure of two divisions of Lee’s army can be verified we will try the assault on front of each Potter’s and Wilcox’s divisions. I can bring over 15,000 men from north of the James to support them if necessary.

U. S. GRANT,

Lieutenant-General.

 

The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 14, p 77-8

O.R., I, xlvi, part 2, p 774, 785

“I am extremely anxious to hear of your forces getting to the interior of Alabama”

I wrote to Gen. Canby with instructions on how to proceed in his campaign against Mobile.

CITY POINT, VA., February 27, 1865.

Major General E. R. S. CANBY,

Commanding Military Division of West Mississippi:

Bvt. Brigadier General C. B. Comstock, the bearer of this, will report to you for temporary service. Relieve him and order him back to these headquarters as soon as you commence a movement to the interior from Mobile, should that city fall into your possession soon, or when it is clearly ascertained that you are to have a protracted siege. Until recently I supposed that Mobile would probably be surrendered without a struggle. Since, however, I have learned that orders have been given from Richmond to hold the place at all hazards. These orders are now but about a week old, and may have reached there too late. The great length of time that has elapsed since I have heard from you, however, makes it impossible for me to judge whether your campaign has progressed far enough to interfere with a compliance with this order. I am extremely anxious to hear of your forces getting to the interior of Alabama. I send Grierson, an experienced cavalry commander, to take command of your cavalry. At the time he received his orders I did not know that you were intending to send your cavalry from Vicksburg. He was, therefore, directed to report to you in person. I am afraid this will prevent his taking the command I intended, and interfere somewhat with the success of your cavalry. Forrest seems to be near Jackson, Miss., and, if he is, none but the best of our cavalry commanders will get by him. Thomas was directed to start a cavalry force from Eastport, Miss., as soon after the 20th of February as possible, to move on Selma, Ala., which would tent to ward Forrest off. He promised to start it by that day, but I know he did not, and I do not know that he has yet started it.

It but rarely happens that a number of expeditions starting from various points to act upon a common center materially aid each other. They never do except when each acts with vigor, and either makes rapid marches or keeps confronting an enemy. Whilst one column is engaging anything like an equal force it is necessarily aiding the other by holding that force. With Grierson, I am satisfied you would either find him at the appointed place in time or you would find him holding an enemy, which would enable the other column to get there. I think you will find the same true of Wilson, who I suppose will command the forces starting from Eastport.

I directed that you should organize your forces in two corps, one under Steele and the other under A. J. Smith. Both these officers have had experience in subsisting off the country through which they are passing.

I write this now, not to give any instructions not heretofore given, but because I feel a great anxiety to see the enemy entirely broken up in the West whilst I believe it will be an easy job. Time will enable the enemy to reorganize and collect in their deserters and get up a formidable force. By giving them no rest what they now have in their ranks will leave them.

It is also important to prevent, as far as possible, the planting of a crop this year and to destroy their railroads, machine-shops, &c. It is also important to get all the negro men we can before the enemy put them in their ranks.

Stoneman starts from East Tennessee in a few days to make a raid as far up on Lynchburg road as he can get. Sheridan started this morning from Winchester, Va., to destroy the Virginia Central road and James River Canal, and to get to Lynchburg if he can. Each starts with cavalry forces alone.

I am not urging because of any even supposed delay, but because I feel a great anxiety to see everything pushed, and the time it takes to communicate leaves me in the dark as to the progress you are making.

Please write to me fully on receipt of this. General Comstock will give you detailed news from this quarter.

U. S. GRANT,

Lieutenant-General.

 

The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 14, p 61-3

O.R., I, xlix, part 1, p 780-1

“General Sherman’s movements will depend on the amount of opposition he meets with from the enemy”

I received the following from Gen. Sheridan,

HEADQUARTERS MIDDLE MILITARY DIVISION,

February 25, 1865-2.30 p.m.

Lieutenant-General GRANT:

I could not get off to-day, as I expected in a previous dispatch to you, but will be off on Monday. I was delayed in getting the brigade from Loudoun County and the canvas pontoon bridge, which was necessary for me to have, as all the streams in the country are at present unfordable. Where is Sherman marching for? Can you give me any definite information as to the points he may be expected to move on this side of Charlotte? The cavalry officers say the cavalry never was in such good condition. I will leave behind about 2,000 men, which will increase to 3,000 in a short time.

P. H. SHERIDAN,

Major-General, Commanding.

 

I replied,

CITY POINT, VA., February 25, 1865-7.30 p.m.

Major-General SHERIDAN,

Winchester, Va.:

General Sherman’s movements will depend on the amount of opposition he meets with from the enemy. If strongly opposed he may possibly have to fall back to Georgetown, S. C., and fit out for a new start. I think, however, all danger of the necessity for going to that point has passed. I believe he has passed Charlotte. He may take Fayetteville on his way to Goldsborough. If you reach Lynchburg you will have to be guided in your after movements by the information you obtain. Before you could possibly reach Sherman I think you would find him moving from Goldsborough toward Raleigh, or engaging the enemy strongly posted at one or the other of these places, with railroad communication opened from his army to Wilmington or New Berne.

U. S. GRANT,

Lieutenant-General.

 

The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 14, p 53-4

O.R., I, xlvi, part 2, p 701

“I will have an order made prohibiting the use of boats for headquarters”

One of my staff officers has returned from a visit to Wilmington NC and reports that matters are in a bit of disarray.  I wrote Sec. Stanton,

CITY POINT, VA., February 25, 1865 – 1. 30 p.m.

Honorable E. M. STANTON,

Secretary of War, Washington, D. C.:

General Comstock has just returned from Wilmington. He says that General Schofield arrived at the Cape Fear River without his transportation, and as he had to move about on the water asked the quartermaster of there was a boat he could use temporarily as well as not. He was told the Spaulding was doing nothing. When General Comstock left the Spaulding was to be loaded with wounded and some escaped prisoners. I will have an order made prohibiting the use of boats for headquarters.

U. S. GRANT,

Lieutenant-General.

 

CITY POINT, VA., February 25, 1865 – 2. 30 p.m.

Honorable EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of war:

One of my staff officers, who has just returned from Wilmington, says nothing has been done to save the large amount of ordnance and ordnance stores captured in Cape Fear River. I think the Chief of Ordnance should be required to take immediate steps to secure all ordnance stores captured on the coast.

U. S. GRANT,

Lieutenant-General.

 

The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 14, p 43-4

O.R., I, xlvii, part 2, p 562

“There are many reasons which I might give why General Butler should not be placed on duty again”

I have learned that there is a move underway to have Gen. Butler restored to command.  I wrote Sec. Stanton to register my disapproval.

CITY POINT, VA., February 23, 1865.

Honorable E. M. STANTON,

Secretary of War, Washington:

I see by the papers that an effort is being made to induce the President to appoint General Butler provost-marshal of Charleston and South Carolina. I cannot believe this will be done, but write to respectfully enter my protest. There are many reasons which I might give why General Butler should not be placed on duty again, but I think two of them are sufficient-his order to his troops on being relieved from duty, and his Lowell speech.

U. S. GRANT,

Lieutenant-General.

 

The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 14, p 23-4

O.R., I, xlvii, part 2, p 537