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After his Costly Victory at Shiloh, Grant Orders Hurlbut to Move towards Corinth
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While under blistering criticism for sustaining so many casualties at the Battle of Shiloh, Grant orders General Stephen Hurlbut to move his 4th division in preparation for the advance on Corinth, Mississippi. The next day, however, Halleck would relieve Grant of command of the Army of Tennessee while nominally promoting him to second-in-command of the Department of the Mississippi. Grant was left virtually powerless. While this order demonstrates Grant’s intentions, Halleck moved so slowly that the Confederate army was allowed to escape. 

ULYSSES S. GRANT. Autograph Letter Signed as Commander of the Army of the Tennessee, to Stephen A. Hurlbut. “Head Quarters, Army of the Ten[nessee],” Pittsburg [Landing, Tennessee], April 29, 1862. 1 p., 7¾ x 10 in.

Inventory #23516       Price: $9,000

Complete Transcript

Head Quarters, Army of the Tenn

Pittsburg, April 29th 1862

Gen. S.A. Hurlbut

Comd.r 4th Div.

            Gen.

                        Move your camp forward to-morrow taking ground in rear or to the right of the 2d Division. Take everything including sick if practicable. Such sick however as are not likely to be fit for duty within the next ten days may be left in your present camp, proper medical attendance being left with them. Make immediate arrangements to have and to keep on hand at at [sic] all times at least two hundred rounds of cartridges including those with regiments.

                        Very Respectfully

                        U.S. Grant

                        Maj. Gen.

                        Com

Historical Background

Major General U.S. Grant found himself heavily criticized in the Northern press for the enormous losses incurred in the Battle of Shiloh on April 6-7, 1862. It was the bloodiest of the war to date with over 13,000 Union casualties including 1,754 killed, 8,408 wounded, and 2,885 captured or missing. The Confederacy suffered similar numbers of killed and wounded. Reporters, many far from the action, began spreading false rumors that Grant had been drunk and General Don Carlos Buell had taken charge during the battle.

In any case, General Henry Halleck, Grant’s immediate superior (who was already ill-disposed towards him), took away his command of the Army of Tennessee on April 29, 1862 and transferred it to George H. Thomas. Although Grant was technically second in command of the three armies assembled to advance on Corinth, Mississippi (an important Confederate railroad junction), he was essentially powerless. He later wrote: “For myself I was little more than an observer. Orders were sent direct to the right wing or reserve, ignoring me, and advances were made from one line of intrenchments [sic] to another without notifying me. My position was so embarrassing in fact that I made several applications during the siege to be relieved.” (Grant, Memoirs, 224).

Calls for Grant’s removal flooded the White House, but Lincoln famously replied: “I can’t spare this man—he fights.”  Halleck’s humiliation convinced Grant that he should resign, but William T. Sherman intervened, convincing Grant to remain in the service.

Halleck’s plodding advance on Corinth helped Grant come back. “Old Brains” (as Halleck’s men called him) moved so slowly and deliberately - a paltry 19 miles in 30 days - that he allowed the Confederate army to escape. War Department investigator Charles A. Dana, sent by Edwin Stanton to report on the debacle, interviewed Grant and told to Lincoln that he found the general “self-possessed and eager to make war.” When Lincoln appointed Halleck General-in-Chief of all Union Armies in July 1862, he placed Grant back in command of the Army of Tennessee. In December 1862, Grant would begin the long process of capturing Vicksburg, Mississippi. He finally succeeded in July 1863: a key Union victory that would cement his reputation and lead to his appointment of Lieutenant-General.

The present order may very well have been Grant’s last prior to his practical demotion. A variant is published in the Papers of Ulysses S. Grant, (Vol. 5, 97-98), notably removing the word “Co[mmandin]g” from the signature.

Provenance

Charles Hamilton, October 8, 1964, Lot 74.

Condition

Fine. Smoothed folds and very minor areas of toning have not detracted from the overall fine condition of this letter.


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