Two Letters

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


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.

9 thoughts on “Two Letters

  1. cc2001 May 1, 2013 / 4:09 am

    Thanks for posting these wonderful letters. Two things struck me. First, the difference in spelling skills between the well educated Grant and the self-taught Lincoln. Second, how horrible it is for us in the future to know the awful slaughter that is to come at the Wilderness and Cold Harbor and other places.

  2. Michael Confoy May 1, 2013 / 5:29 am

    That is why Lincoln loved Grant. No excuses, no complaining about enough troops, etc.

  3. Mark May 1, 2013 / 9:00 am

    I’ve always thought those two letters were so remarkable. The mutual trust and confidence expressed, and the assurance each gave the other surely are rare at such a high level. And Grant’s steady confidence and conviction even under the extreme pressure (and in spite weight of the past) always inspire awe.

  4. Bob Huddleston May 1, 2013 / 10:24 am

    Grant’s reply always reminds me of Ike’s pre-D-Day letter taking responsibility for a failed landing: no excuses, it is all my fault.

  5. John Randolph May 1, 2013 / 10:33 am

    After three years of war with the Confederacy, and unbeknownst to either Lincoln or Grant as they wrote to one another, another year of hard fighting still lay ahead for the Union. Yet, despite the many terrible setbacks and disappointments that were to be faced before Lee’s surrender in April, 1865, the depth of trust and confidence these two men had (and sustained) in one another is remarkable. Lincoln and Grant were truly the team that saved the Union. Furthermore, Grant’s willingness on the eve of battle to take responsibility from Lincoln’s heavily burdened shoulders for the ultimate outcome of his campaign is both admirable and inspiring. It reminds me of the letter Eisenhower drafted eighty years later just prior to D-Day and was to be opened only in the event the Normandy invasion failed. In his letter, Eisenhower assumed full responsibility for the failure. No excuses and no complaining are admirable qualities found in the best leaders.

  6. TF Smith May 1, 2013 / 9:22 pm

    There’s an interesting book that came out in 2012 by a British historian named Andrew Rawson; basically it details the direct “Eyes Only” correspondence between George C, Marshall and DDE, from December, 1943 to the end of the European war. Very similar tone.

    Great post, Dr. Simpson.

  7. Tony May 3, 2013 / 11:04 pm

    What’s notable about the two letters is the sheer amount of horsesh*t therein. Grant had plenty of cause to complain about Lincoln, and Lincoln had obtruded several constraints and restraints upon Grant. 🙂

  8. Christopher Shelley April 30, 2014 / 3:09 pm

    I love the way Ulysses deftly says “Halleck and Stanton have been a pain in my ass, but not you.”

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