Grant and Onions

If we are to believe numerous websites, Ulysses S. Grant telegraphed the authorities in Washington in 1864 as follows:

“I will not move my army without onions.”

Moreover, so the story goes, within a day three trainloads arrived at his command.

You can follow the Google search results here.

This seems a bit odd. The claim is that this demand was issued in 1864. However, if it was issued while Grant was in the west, it would have taken more than a day for a telegraph to be received, acted upon, and have three trainloads of onions make their way to Tennessee. If it was issued between the time Grant came east in March and the commencement of the Overland Campaign, the Army of the Potomac would indeed be supplied by rail; afterwards, such would not be the case.

A search of the Grant papers for 1864 reveals no such reference to onions. See here, here, here, and here, or simply conduct a broader search from here.

Fans of onions have made a big deal out of this claim, as one can see by paging through the search results, but I haven’t been able to find the telegram in question. So, folks, I leave it to you: any truth to this tale?

By the way, I don’t particularly like onions, although I like french onion soup … so long as there aren’t too many onions in it. Go figure.