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908401

Ulysses S. Grant

 

Grant notes his acceptance of his commission as a Brigadier General at the start of the Civil War

Ulysses S. Grant, born Hiram Ulysses Grant, 1822-1885.  Union General, American Civil War, 1861-1865; 18th President of the United States, 1869-1877.  Superb Autograph Document Signed in third person, Brig. Gen. U. S. Grant, Jefferson City, Missouri, August 25, 1861.

This is a highly significant document in American military history.  In his own hand, Grant records his acceptance of his appointment as a Brigadier General of Volunteers at the outset of the Civil War—the promotion that launched the career that ultimately won the war for the Union and made Grant President of the United States.

The piece is approximately 3” x 3”.  It reads:

Jefferson City Mo.

August 25th 1861

_______________

 

Brig. Gen. U. S. Grant

U.S.V.

_______________

 

Accepting apt.

August 7. 61—

_______________

The historical record, contained in both Grant’s own writings and those of third parties, verifies the dates and subject of this document.  Grant was indeed in Jefferson City, Missouri, the state capital, at the very time this piece is dated. 

When the Civil War commenced, Grant unsuccessfully offered his services to the War Department and to General General George B. McClellan in Ohio, who unceremoniously turned him down.  He served temporarily as an aide and mustering officer for Illinois Governor Richard Yates, who eventually gave him command of the Illinois 7th Regiment, which later became the 21st Illinois Volunteers.  On June 17, 1861, Grant was commissioned a colonel in the volunteers.  He marched his unit to Quincy, Illinois, and on to Mexico, Missouri, in north-central Missouri, guarding the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad and searching for rebel activity.  He remained a colonel until August 7, 1861.

In Chapter 19 of his Memoirs, Grant recounted that he was stationed in Mexico, Missouri, when he learned that President Abraham Lincoln had asked the Illinois congressional delegation to recommend candidates for brigadier general and that his name was at the top on their list.  Shortly thereafter, due largely to the influence of Illinois Congressman Elihu B. Washburne, his appointment was announced.  See William Farina, Ulysses S. Grant, 1861-1864: His Rise From Obscurity to Military Greatness 40-41 (2007).  His commission was issued as Brigadier General of Volunteers on August 7, 1861, dating from May 17, 1861.

Grant related that, shortly after his promotion, he was ordered to Ironton, Missouri, in southeast Missouri.  His command at Ironton lasted 11 days, from August 7 to August 17, 1861, although Grant said that he was at Ironton from “about” August 8.  Ten days after going to Ironton, he was replaced by another general and started for St. Louis, from where he was ordered to Jefferson City, Missouri.  Grant was in command at Jefferson City from August 17 to August 29, 1861.  See George W. Cullum, II Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy 86 (2d ed. 1868).  Grant recounted that he was then relieved by Colonel Jefferson C. Davis and ordered to report to St. Louis, without delay. 

Grant,  then, was in Jefferson City, Missouri, on August 25, 1861, the day this piece is dated.  The August 7 date that he lists for his appointment was the date of that his commission issued.

This piece has not been on the autograph market since the 1960s.  We understand that it was previously sold framed with an engraving of Grant by Charles Hamilton’s gallery in New York.

We have examined this piece out of the frame.  It is slightly larger than the 3” x 3” mat cut.  It is on laid paper typical of the period. The paper on the backside has light blue lines.  The front of the paper bearing Grant’s handwriting has faded somewhat from the framing but is nevertheless still bold.  There are docketing in red on the front, a pencil note “Grant” in another hand in the center of the piece on the back, and slight stains.  Overall it is in fine condition.

Grant was arguably the preeminent U.S. military figure of the 19th Century.  This is an important piece and one that belongs in the finest Civil War, military, or presidential collection.

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