Thursday, January 24, 2008

ON THIS DAY: Thursday, Jan. 23, 1862

Something is Up

Scratch, scratch, scratch, goes the pen of Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, as he spends much of the day in the headquarters of the District of Cairo firing off reports and orders in all directions. Grant is keeping up with business, because he has plans—and hopes.

Today’s business consists of the routine matters that fill each day of a commander. By flag of truce, Grant writes to his Confederate opposite number on Columbus, Kentucky, Maj. Gen. Leonidas Polk, about prisoner exchanges. To Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck’s headquarters in St. Louis, Grant sends an inquiry about troop assignments, a reconnaissance report on the Confederates’ Fort Henry, and a list of officers available for service on courts martial. Orders go to underlings regarding the handling of freight, the management of prisoners’ property, and a squabble over who was in command—and of what—at Cape Girardeau. Congressman Elihu B. Washburne, Grant’s “patron” in Washington, gets a letter about supply concerns.

And, finally, Grant finds time for a short, but telling, letter to his sister, Mary. As if to reassure himself, he ticks off to Mary his military advantages: “a splendid reconnaissance of the country over which an army may have to move,” his belief that “no portion of our whole army [is] better prepared to contest a battle” than his, and that he has “the confidence of [its] officers and men.”

In Grant’s mind, at least, something is up. He tells her that that this evening he will go to St. Louis to see his superior, Major General Halleck, not returning until Sunday morning. Then a heavy hint: “I expect but little quiet from this on and if you receive but short, unsatisfactory letters hereafter you need not be surprised.”

Grant is ready to carry the war to the enemy in a big way. Will Halleck agree?

IT’S COMING SOONER THAN YOU THINK: April 12, 2011—less than 3½ years from now!—will be the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of the Civil War. In 1861, April 12 was the day Confederates opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

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