I have received a most puzzling letter from a Barnabus Burns, formerly Col. of the 86th Ohio. He writes,
You will be, no doubt surprised to find yourself addressed by a stranger, upon a subject somewhat foreign to one which has so fully occupied your attention for the last two years or more.
A portion of the Democracy of this, and other states of the North West finding it impossible to co-operate with that portion of the party which oppose the war, and everything which looks to a speedy termination of the war by military power, have formed a separate organization. In Ohio we have fully organized by the appointment of a State Central Committee & of which I have the honor to be Chairman We have a Mass Convention in Columbus Ohio on the 8th of January A. D 1864, to appoint Delegates to a National Convention to be held in Cincinnati in May next, the same steps have been taken in all the North western States, & portions of the Middle and Eastern States.
At the Convention to be held on the 8th Prox. in Columbus, O it may be desireable to express the preference of the ‘War Democracy,’ for some Gentleman for the Presidency. Your Successful military career, your unfaltering devotion to your Country in its darkest hours of trial, your indomitable energy in overcomeing all obstacles, your Consumate skill and dauntless courage on the field of battle, have all combined to call the public mind to you as the man to whom the affairs of this great Nation should be committed at the close of the present incumbents term of office.
I therefore as chairman of the Central Committee of the ‘War Democracy’ of Ohio beg leave to inquire, very Respectfully, whether you will permit your name to be used at the 8th of January Convention spoken of, as a candidate for the Presidency at the approaching Presidential Elections? Your Early answer will be looked for with great anxiety. In the mean time may I be permitted to indulge the hope that your answer will be favorable.
Your letter of the 7th inst. asking if you will be at liberty to use my name before the convention of the “War Democracy”, as can¬ didate for the office of the Presidency is just received.—The question astonishes me. I do not know of anything I have ever done or said which would indicate that I could be a candidate for any office whatever within the gift of the people.
I shall continue to do my duty, to the best of my ability, so long as permitted to remain in the Army, supporting whatever Administration may be in power, in their endeavor to suppress the rebellion and maintain National unity, and never desert it because my vote, if I had one, might have been cast for different candidates.
Nothing likely to happen would pain me so much as to see my name used in connection with a political office. I am not a candidate for any office nor for favors from any party. Let us succeed in crushing the rebellion, in the shortest possible time, and I will be content with whatever credit may then be given me, feeling assured that a just public will award all that is due.
Your letter I take to be private. Mine is also private. I wish to avoid notoriety as far as possible, and above all things desire to be spaired the pain of seeing my name mixed with politics. Do not therefore publish this letter but wherever, and by whatever party, you hear my name mentioned in connection with the candidacy for any office, say that you know from me direct that I am not “in the field,” and cannot allow my name to be used before any convention.
I am, with great respect,
your obt. svt.
U. S. Grant
The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 9, p 541-2
Illinois State Historical Library, Springfield IL