Grant (December 20, 1863)

Christmas is coming—and in a few short months, so will Ulysses S. Grant. Obviously the papers in late 1863 had much to say about Grant, who had captured Vicksburg back in July and had relieved Chattanooga in November. It is very interesting to read Meade’s take on his fellow general at this stage.

Greeley is Horace Greeley, the activist and somewhat erratic editor of the New York Tribune. It sounds as though the Tribune had attacked Meade for his ties to George McClellan before being forced to retreat from its criticism.

As to the Christmas box you ask about, it is hardly necessary to send it, as the Frenchman who messes me provides me liberally with everything, and these boxes are very expensive. I expect you will have your hands full with the children at Christmas, and I think you had better throw into this fund the amount you would expend on me for a box and mufti.

I have had several visitors recently. One was the Chevalier Danesi, a young Sardinian officer, who has come to this country with a view of serving in our army. The other was an English gentleman, from Liverpool, an original Union man, who desired to see our army in the field. Danesi brought me a letter from McClellan, and the Englishman one from Mr. Seward, Secretary of State. They both spent a day very pleasantly, and I endeavored to be civil to them.

I suppose you have seen Greeley’s apology about the New Jersey letter. After he found it was written to a loyal Republican, he changed his tune about the character of its contents. I wonder what these people want if they are not satisfied with my services and my practical devotion to their cause?

In March Ulysses S. Grant will travel east and become general in chief of the Union armies (Library of Congress).

In March Ulysses S. Grant will travel east and become general in chief of the Union armies (Library of Congress).

You ask me about Grant. It is difficult for me to reply. I knew him as a young man in the Mexican war, at which time he was considered a clever young officer, but nothing extraordinary. He was compelled to resign some years before the present war, owing to his irregular habits. I think his great characteristic is indomitable energy and great tenacity of purpose. He certainly has been very successful, and that is nowadays the measure of reputation. The enemy, however, have never had in any of their Western armies either the generals or the troops they have had in Virginia, nor has the country been so favorable for them there as here. Grant has undoubtedly shown very superior abilities, and is I think justly entitled to all the honors they propose to bestow upon him.

Meade’s correspondence taken from The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Major-General United States Army, Vol. 2, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913), pp. 162-3. Available via Google Books.