Wednesday, October 17, 2007

ON THIS DAY: Friday, Oct. 18, 1861

The lot of an army officer is often…paperwork. To manage his district, Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant produces lots of it. He is commander of the District of Southeast Missouri, which extends northerly to Cape Girardeau and westerly to Ironton, both in Missouri. Also attached to Grant’s district are Cairo, Illinois; Fort Holt, Kentucky, and Mound City, Illinois. From his desk in his headquarters in Cairo, Grant sends a steady stream of messages. Today is a relatively light day: first, a reassuring telegram to Western Department headquarters in St. Louis reporting “reliable information” that the notorious Confederate partisan M. Jeff Thompson has fewer armed men in Grant's area than Union headquarters fears. Then a letter to St. Louis headquarters with information on other enemy activity (a movement in Kentucky, illegal Confederate shipping via Union steamers, possible mischief at Columbus, Kentucky). Grant explains that he has sent a gunboat a few miles south on the Mississippi to check out the rumored activity around Columbus. Finally, a letter to one of Grant's officers in the field ordering him to march on Fredericktown, Missouri, where that “ubiquitous individual” named Thompson is said to be throwing up fortifications. With his repeated raids, the energetic, ingenious Mr. Thompson (a former mayor of St. Joseph, Missouri) will prove a continuing trial to Grant.

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