“Every body who knows me knows I have no political aspirations either now or for the future.”

I received a letter from Gen. Blair asking about my political aspirations. I replied,

Your letter of the 16th inst. is but just received. It is on a subject upon which I do not like to write, talk, or think. Every body who knows me knows I have no political aspirations either now or for the future. I hope to remain a soldier as long as I live, to serve faithfully any and every Administration that may be in power, and which may be striving to maintain the integrity of the whole Union, as long as I do live.
However far the powers that be may choose to extend my authority I will always endeavor to realize their expectations of me. However much my command may be reduced I will serve with the same fidelity and zeal.
Under no circumstances would I use power for political advancement, nor whilst a soldier take part in politics. If, in the conventions to meet, one candidate should be nominated whose election I would regard as dangerous to the country, I would not hesitate to say so freely however. Further than this I could take no part. Admiral Porter in writing to Asst. Sec. Fox has probably obtained his information from Sherman. Sherman knows my views exactly. On the subject of the Lieut. Generalcy however he has not exactly caught my idea. When the Bill reviving that grade was first proposed I did express doubts as to the effect such a measure might have on my influence over those whom I might have to command, and who after all have all the fighting to do. Rather than to loose the least power to do good, towards crushing out the rebellion in the shortest possible time, I would prefer remaining as I am. I also stated that under no circumstances could I be induced to take an office which would require me to stay in Washington and command whilst the Armies were in the Field.
I hope you will show this letter to no one unless it be the President himself. I hate to see my name associated with politics either as an aspirant for office or as a partizan.
Write to me again.
sincerely your friend
U. S. Grant


The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 10, p 166-7


“the enemy should be held in full belief that an advance into the heart of the South is intended”

I received the following telegram from Gen. Thomas,

TUNNEL HILL, February 26, 1864

General GRANT:

I arrived here last night. Davis and Johnson occupy the pass at Buzzard Roost. They have a force equal to theirs in their front, who outnumber them in artillery. It is not possible to carry the place by assault. Palmer made the attempt to turn it yesterday with Baird’s and Cruft’s divisions, but was met by an equal force, exclusive of their cavalry, and in an equally strong position as a Buzzard Roost. After expending nearly all his ammunition he retired during the night to Catoosa Platform. Our transportation is poor and limited. We are not able to carry more than 60 rounds per man. Artillery horses so poor that Palmer could bring but sixteen pieces. The country is stripped entirely of subsistence and forage. The enemy’s cavalry in much superior to ours. Prisoners taken yesterday report that a portion of Cleburne’s division has returned. I will await the developments of this day, and advise you further.


I replied,

NASHVILLE, February 27, 1864-11.30 a.m.


Tunnel Hill:

It is of the utmost importance that the enemy should be held in full belief that an advance into the heart of the South is intended until the fate of General Sherman is fully known. The difficulties of supplies can be overcome by keeping your trains running between Chattanooga and your position. Take the depot trains at Chattanooga, yours, and General Howard’s wagons. These can be replaced temporarily by returning. Veterans are returning daily. This will enable you to draw re-enforcements constantly to your front. Can you not also take a division from Howard’s corps? General Schofield is instructed to send General Granger to you the moment it is safe to be without him.




The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 10, p 163

O.R., I, xxxii, part 2, p 480

To Julia: “It can only be about a month more that I can remain here with you.”

I wrote Julia,

As I have heard indirectly that you would leave St. Louis on Wednesday next this will be the last letter I will write, unless I should hear from you again that you are not coming. I presume your letters all reach me. Three came at once last week. I had had two before that and one since from Louisa Boggs. You have had a terrible time with your eyes: I hope they have improved sufficiently to allow you to travel. It can only be about a month more that I can remain here with you. I did not go to the front as was anticipated but left Thomas to move his own forces. I have not been very well for the last three or four days but hope to be all right in a day or two. I have been taking quinine enough to make my head buzz and now have taken a large dose of Blue Mass. This I hope will be the last.
Kisses for the children and yourself, and remember me to all the household.

The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 10, p 154-5

“Our troops have Tunnel Hill. Some prisoners, wagons, &c., have been captured from the enemy.”

I wrote Gen. Halleck with a summary of our movements of the past 2 days.

NASHVILLE, TENN., February 25, 1864-1 p.m.

Major General H. W. HALLECK:


On the 23rd General Schofield telegraphed that he had good reason to believe Longstreet was leaving East Tennessee. He started immediately in pursuit, since which I have heard nothing further from him. General Thomas’ force left Chattanooga last Monday to demonstrate against Dalton, to prevent forces being sent from there against General Sherman. Our troops have Tunnel Hill. Some prisoners, wagons, &c., have been captured from the enemy.



NASHVILLE, TENN., February 25, 1864-9 p.m.

Major General H. W. HALLECK, General-in-Chief:

General Schofield has moved to Strawberry Plains, and will follow Longstreet as soon as he can get over the river. He says information received says Longstreet was ordered back to Virginia but does not know if this is the fact. Schofield will follow up vigorously and ascertain his movement as soon as possible.




The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 10, p 152

O.R., I, xxxii, part 2, p 462-3

Schofield: “From the best information I can get [Longstreet] is moving rapidly toward Virginia or Georgia”

I received a letter from Gen. Schofield indicating that Longstreet may be abandoning Tennessee.

KNOXVILLE, February 23, 1864-11 p.m.

Major-General GRANT, Nashville, Tenn.:

I have information, which I believe reliable, that Longstreet has retired from Strawberry Plains. He has also withdrawn his cavalry from the south side of the French Broad. I shall march for Strawberry Plains with all my available force to-morrow morning, leaving a sufficient garrison for this place.



If true, we must take advantage of this opportunity.  I wrote back,

NASHVILLE, February 24, 1864-11 a.m.

Major General J. M. SCHOFIELD,

Knoxville, Tenn.:

Should you discover by your movement on Strawberry Plains that the enemy has retreated eastward and is abandoning East Tennessee, push him as far as practicable with your whole force, destroying effectually the railroads.

Relieve Granger’s troops to return to Chattanooga as soon as you ascertain the enemy is gone and cannot be overtaken by infantry. Sherman’s safety in Mississippi depends upon our efforts here. Thomas in moving with apparent success on Dalton.




I received this reply.

STRAWBERRY PLAINS, February 24, 1864

Major-General GRANT:

Longstreet destroyed the ferry-boat and completed the destruction of railroad bridge and retreated from this place yesterday. From the best information I can get he is moving rapidly toward Virginia or Georgia. As soon as I can cross the river I will push forward as far and as rapidly as possible. His main force has gone toward Goldsborough. The indications are that his whole force is going up the French Broad.




The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 10, p 150-1

O.R., I, xxxii, part 2, p 456-7

“Your dispatch received. Push the enemy as far as possible.”

Gen. Thomas has moved south and is threatening Dalton.  I received the following dispatch.

CHATTANOOGA, February 24, 1864-4 a.m.

Major General U. S. GRANT:

Reports from the front just received. Our skirmishers engaged the enemy for some 4 miles, and drove them through Tunnel Hill on double-quick. A mile beyond town they formed, and brought up a battery of artillery. Colonel Long went within 3 1/2 miles of Dalton, and drove a regiment of infantry out of winter quarters. Our main force encamped within 3 miles of Tunnel Hill last night, and will be on the road to Dalton to-morrow night.



I replied,

NASHVILLE, February 24, 1864-10.30 a.m.

Major General G. H. THOMAS:

Your dispatch received. Push the enemy as far as possible. If unable to carry Dalton, keep, at any rate, a heavy force threatening it so, as to hold all the enemy there. Sherman’s safety may be dependent upon your efforts. Should you drive the enemy out of Dalton, follow him as far as possible. If you have sufficiently recovered your health, I would like to have you go out to the front in person, if only to see the situation of affairs and return.




The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 10, p 151-2

O.R., I, xxxii, part 2, p 458-9

“Cause him all the annoyance you can, either by demonstration or actual attack”

Gen. Thomas is ready to move on Dalton.  Gen. Schofield must be ready to take advantage of any shift by Longstreet to meet this advance.  I wrote Schofield,

NASHVILLE, February 20, 1864.

Major General J. M. SCHOFIELD,

Knoxville, Tenn.:

General Thomas was expected to move toward Dalton one week ago on Monday last at farthest. Rains prevented him. He will certainly move to-morrow.

Bear this in mind in the influence it will have on the enemy. Watch him closely, and if you can take any advantage of his movements do it. I do not think Longstreet should be allowed to quietly withdraw from Knoxville, nor to come up and invest the place without opposition. Cause him all the annoyance you can, either by demonstration or actual attack.




The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 10, p 146-7

O.R., I, xxxii, part 2, p 434

Halleck: “Uncover Washington … and all the forces which Lee can collect will be moved north”

Gen. Halleck has sent me a long letter of response to my plan for a campaign into North Carolina.  In short, he believes it is unwise to transfer troops from in front of Washington and weaken that city’s defenses.  He writes,



February 17, 1864.

Major-General GRANT, Nashville, Tenn.:

GENERAL: Your letter of the 12th instant is just received. I fully concur with you in regard to the present condition of affairs in East Tennessee. It certainly is very much to be regretted that the fatal mistake of General Burnside has permitted Longstreet’s army to winter in Tennessee. It is due to yourself that a full report of this matter should be placed on file, so that the responsibility may rest where it properly belongs.

The condition of affairs in East Tennessee and the uncertainty of General Banks’ operations in Texas and Louisiana have caused me to delay answering your former communication in regard to the operations of the campaign. In one of these you suggest whether it might not be well not to attempt anything more against Richmond and to send a column of 60,000 men into North Carolina. In the first place, I have never considered Richmond as the necessary objective point of the Army of the Potomac; that point is Lee’s army. I have never supposed Richmond could be taken till Lee’s army was defeated or driven away. It was one of Napoleon’s maxims that an army covering a capital must be destroyed before attempting to capture or occupy that capital. And now, how can we best defeat Lee’s army-by attacking it between here and Richmond, on our shortest line of supplies, and in such a position that we can combine our whole force, or by a longer line and with a force diminished by the troops required to cover Washington and Maryland?

Such movement through North Carolina alluded to by you, and also one from Port Royal on Savannah and into Georgia, have been several times suggested here, and pretty fully discussed by military men. It is conceded by those suggesting these expeditions that neither of them can be safely undertaken with a less force than that estimated by you, viz, 60,000 effective men. Some require a still larger force.

If we admit the advantage of either of these plans, the question immediately arises, where can we get the requisite number of troops?

There is evidently a general public misconception of the strength of our army in Virginia and about Washington. Perhaps it is good policy to encourage this public error. The entire effective force in the fortifications about Washington and employed in guarding the public buildings and stores, the aqueduct, and railroads does not exceed 18,000 men. We have a few thousand more in the convalescent and distribution camps, and in the cavalry and artillery depots, but these are mostly fragments of organizations, temporarily here for equipments and distribution, and could contribute very little to the defense of the place. This force is, therefore, less than one-half of what General McClellan and several boards of officers recommended as the permanent garrison. Considering the political importance of Washington, and the immense amount of military stores here, it would be exceedingly hazardous to reduce it still further.

The effective force of the Army of the Potomac is only about 70,000. General Meade retreated before Lee with a very much larger force, and he does not now deem himself strong enough to attack Lee’s present army.

Suppose we were to send 30,000 men from that army to North Carolina, would not Lee be able to make another invasion of Maryland and Pennsylvania? But it may be said that by operating in North Carolina we would compel Lee to move his army there. I do not think so. Uncover Washington and the Potomac River, and all the forces which Lee can collect will be moved north, and the popular sentiment will compel the Government to bring back the army in North Carolina to defend Washington, Baltimore, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia. I think Lee would to-morrow exchange Richmond, Raleigh and Wilmington for the possession of either of the aforementioned cities.

But suppose it were practicable to send 30,000 men from Meade’s army to North Carolina, where shall we get the other 30,000? We have there now barely enough to hold the points which it is necessary to occupy in order to prevent contraband trade. Very few of these would be available for the field. Maryland is almost entirely stripped of troops, and the forces in Western Virginia are barely sufficient to protect that part of the country from rebel raids. The only other resource is South Carolina.

Generals Foster and Gillmore were both of opinion at the commencement of operations against Charleston that neither that place nor Savannah could be taken by a land force of less than 60,000 men. Large land and naval forces have been employed there for nearly a year without any important results. I had no faith in the plan at first, and for months past have ineffectually urged that 10,000 or 15,000 men from Gillmore’s command be sent against Texas or Mobile. And now these troops are sent upon another expedition which, in my opinion, can produce no military result.

I always have been, and still am, opposed to all these isolated expeditions on the sea and Gulf coast. It is true they greatly assist the Navy in maintaining the blockade and prevent contraband trade, but I think the troops so employed would do more good if concentrated on some important line of military operations. We have given too much attention to cutting the toe nails of our enemy instead of grasping his throat.

You will perceive from the facts stated above that there are serious, if not insurmountable, obstacles in the way of the proposed North Carolina expedition. Nevertheless, as it has much to recommend it, I shall submit it with your remarks to the consideration of the President and Secretary of War as soon as troops enough return from furlough to attempt any important movement in this part of the theater of war.

Lee’s army is by far the best in the rebel service, and I regard him as their ablest general. But little progress can be made here till that army is broken or defeated. There have been several good opportunities to do this, viz, at Antietam, at Chancellorsville, and at Williamsport, in the retreat from Gettysburg. I am also of opinion that General Meade could have succeeded recently at Mine Run had he persevered in his attack.

The overthrow of Lee’s army being the object of operations here, the question arises, how can we best attain it? If we fight that army with our communications open to Washington, so as to cover this place and Maryland, we can concentrate upon it nearly all your forces on this frontier, but if we operate by North Carolina or the Peninsula, we must act with a divided army and on exterior lines, while Lee, with a short interior line, can concentrate his entire force on either fragment.

And yet, if we had troops enough to secure our position here, and at the same time to operate with advantage on Raleigh or Richmond, I would not hesitate to do so, at least for a winter or spring campaign. But our numbers are not sufficient, in my opinion, to attempt this, at least for the present. Troops sent south of James River cannot be brought back in time to oppose Lee, should he attempt a movement north, which I am satisfied would be his best policy.

Our main efforts in the next campaign should unquestionably be made against the armies of Lee and Johnston, but what particular lines we shall operate cannot be positively determined until the affairs of East Tennessee are settled, and we can know more nearly time, it will be well to compare views and opinions. The final decision of this question will probably depend, under the President, upon yourself.

It may be said that if General McClellan failed to take Richmond by the Peninsula route, so also have Generals Burnside, Hooker, and Meade failed to accomplish that object by the shorter and more direct route. This is all very true, but no argument can be deduced from this bare fact in favor of either plan of operations. General McClellan had so large an army in the spring of 1862 that possibly he was justified in dividing his forces and adopting exterior lines of operations. If he had succeeded, his plan would have been universally praised. He failed, and so also have Burnside, Hooker, and Meade on an interior route; but their armies were for inferior in number to that which McClellan had tow years ago. These facts in themselves prove nothing in favor of either route, and to decide the question we must recur to fundamental principles in regard to interior and exterior lines, objective points covering armies, divided forces, &c. These fundamental principles require, in my opinion, that all our available forces in the east should be concentrated against Lee’s army. We cannot take Richmond [at least with any miliary advantage], and we cannot operate advantageously on any point from the Atlantic coast, till we destroy or disperse that army, and the nearer to Washington we can fight it the better for us. We can here, or between here and Richmond, concentrate against him more men than anywhere else. If we cannot defeat him here with our combined force, we cannot hope to do so elsewhere with a divided army.

I write to you plainly and frankly, for between us there should be no reserve or concealment of opinions. As before remarked, I presume, under the authority of the President, the final decision of these questions will be referred to you. Nevertheless, I think you are entitled to have, and that it is my duty to frankly give, my individual opinion on the subject. It will no doubt be received for what it may be intrinsically worth; I can ask or expect nothing more.

In regard to the operations of our Western armies I fully concur in your views, but I think the condition of affairs in East Tennessee and west of Mississippi River will require some modification in your plans, or at least will very much delay the operations of your proposed spring campaign.

These, however, are delays and changes which neither of us could anticipate.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,



O.R., I, xxxii, part 2, p 411-3

“Is it possible that Banks will entrust such an expedition to the command of McClernand?”

Gen. Sherman is making great progress in his mission to pacify Mississippi.  However, I have been receiving requests that he cooperate with a possible mission by General Banks up the Red River.  Alarmingly, I am receiving reports that John McClernand may receive overall command.  I wrote to Sherman,

NASHVILLE, February 18, 1864.

Major General W. T. SHERMAN,

Commanding Expedition against Meridian:

Inclosed I send you copy of dispatches between General Halleck and myself relative to a movement up Red River on your return from your present expedition. Whilst I look upon such an expedition as is proposed as of the greatest importance, I regret that any force has to be taken from east of the Mississippi for it.

Your troops will want rest for the purpose of preparing for a spring campaign, and all the veterans should be got off on furlough at the very earliest moment. This latter I would direct even if you have to spare troops to go up Red River.

Unless you go in command of the proposed expedition, I fear any troops you may send with it will be entirely lost from further service in this command. This, however, is not the reason for my suggestion that you be sent; your acquaintance with the country, and otherwise fitness were the reasons. I can give no positive orders that you send no troops up Red River, but what I do want is their speedy return if they do go, and that the minimum number necessary be sent. I have never heard a word from Steele since his department has been placed in the military division. Do not know what he proposes nor the means he has for executing.

The time necessary for communicating between here and Vicksburg being so great, you will have to act in this matter according to your own judgment, simply knowing my views.

Is it possible that Banks will entrust such an expedition to the command of McClernand? I have so little confidence in his ability to command that I would not want the responsibility of entrusting men with him, without positive orders to do so. I send this by special messenger, who will await your return to Vicksburg, and who will bear any letters you may have for me.




The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 10, p 139-40

O.R., I, xxxii, part 2, p 424-5

“Make your contemplated move as soon as possible”

Gen. Schofield has written Gen. Thomas with a report that Longstreet is threatening Knoxville again.  Schofield is worried that his communications will be cut and asks for reinforcements from Thomas.  This would put an end to any movement by Thomas.  Thomas writes,


CHATTANOOGA, February 16, 1864.

Major-General GRANT, Nashville:

I have just received a telegram from General Schofield, dated February 14, stating that he had reliable information that Longstreet had advanced to Strawberry Plains, and had brought up pontoon-boats. Schofield thought that he might intend to make a cavalry raid to cut his communication with Loudon, or that he might advance to attack Knoxville, and asks me to send him re-enforcements as early as practicable. What shall I do? If re-enforcements are sent to Knoxville they will be detained there for the winter, and cannot make an advance on Longstreet until the Loudon and Strawberry Plains bridges are rebuilt. It will also become necessary to give up any demonstration against Dalton. But if Schofield can hold Knoxville the demonstration on Dalton can be made, and I hope with success. Captain Gay, just from Knoxville, and gone to Nashville, does not mention such reports.


Major-General, U. S. Volunteers.

I replied to Schofield and Thomas,

NASHVILLE, February 17, 1864-12.30 p.m.

Major General J. M. SCHOFIELD,


Can you not by proper disposition of your cavalry and Granger’s corps prevent any raid on your communications west of Knoxville? It is highly desirable Thomas should make a move for which he is now prepared, and which will be prevented by re-enforcing you. It is also desirable that the force at Knoxville should be kept at the lowest standard, so as to accumulate supplies for a large force when needed. It is hoped that Sherman’s and Thomas movements will throw the enemy into a position which will leave your army and Thomas’ to act more as a unit.




NASHVILLE, February 17, 1864.

Major-General THOMAS:

Longstreet cannot afford to place his force between Knoxville and the Tennessee. If he does, it will then be time to move against him. The work of a raid on the road can soon be repaired, if it cannot be prevented. Make your contemplated move as soon as possible.




The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 10, p 134-7

O.R., I, xxxii, part 2, p 403, 414