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More against Grant. Incapable-drunken-may even take opium. Fremont be better than he. Crux of battle will be in Kentucky or in trying to cross the Ohio. Why bother with taking Charlestown?




letter, McIlvaine, Chase, Civil War, Grant


Steubenville, Ap 21 1863

My dear Mr. Chase,

I don’t know that it will do any good to write to the Treasury about the Army except, it might be, about its pay which happily needs more to write about it, except in congratulations and did I write to any one else in the Govt. about what my spirit is stirred within me to write of. I should fear being considered very intrusive--a Bishop! What does he know of such things. And yet I feel as much as anybody all the interest of the country; and about even its military cause. I know perhaps as much as some of its generals.

But it will do no harm and perhaps may [have] a thought for good somewhere. What I refer to is the keeping Gen. Grant as the head of the most important of all the present army operations--for I hold that the taking [?] of the Mississippi is, as it is certainly regarded by the Rebels, the enterprise on which the speedy putting down of the rebellions most depends. I know nothing of Grant personally, but I have taken much pains to enquire of those who knew him at Shiloh and have had near opportunities of knowing him at Vicksburg[h]--men having no temptations to [unfairness]--men of judgment--and I have heard of army men and civilians but one opinion, and that is that there is no ground of confidence and there is no feeling of confidence in his ability, even as approaching what such an army and such a work demands of its commander. In this case of McClellan those most satisfied of in[?] could not doubt that many officers and civilians of zeal and judgement had a high opinion of his abilities--nor that the [?] of his army was even enthusiastic in its confidence. In the case of Grant, there is one universal misgiving--brave enough, willing enough--but incompetent--and that to a good degree. Besides he has done nothing but what was against him. At Shiloh he had nearly but all his Army and only B[?]’s arrival saved it. [?] meant what! The feeling of the public mind all through these parts is exceedingly in dissatisfaction with his being retained. The nearer you go to whence he came, the more it grows. I have just conversed with an intelligent civilian who has recently come from Vicksburg[h] and has been in civil connections, much about Headquarters. He says that the title “Old Grand Pop” which is the common name given Grant among the troops, is the best expression of how they regard him. [?] as weak and easy and kind and slow and accounting to nothing. Another expression among them is “the post of honor is the post of safety”--meaning the nearer headquarters the more certain not to have any dangerous work to do. This gentleman, in answer to my question whether Grant is intemperate now, said he did not think his former habit of intemperate drinking, as it was at Cairo, contained at present, but that he could not account for some things except on the supposition that he had sub[?] opium. This person said that Grant sometimes continue [?], as in a sort of stupor for 18 or 20 hours together and that sometimes for a week he would be isolated, no communication allowed--and all needful connection with Headquarters carried on through a subordinate. Now supposing even that there is exaggeration in this--these must be truth enough to show that such an army and such work for it to do should be in other hands. More especially as that part of the army is more destitute of reliable subordinates than any other. What is McClernand and what [Graham] but nothing more in name. Who places any confidence in their ability--Sherman I have no doubt is a good officer. Little as I value Fremont’s [?] ability I believe he is worth more than Grant. The rest of the war is to be mainly where the Rebels must work most for supplies--that is in the Mississippi and in Kentucky and on the Ohio--or in their effort to have Kentucky: Cincinnati [?] and in Kentucky is now chiefly the place to prepare for the great struggle remaining. Vast efforts will be made to cross the Ohio this summer. I hope better use will be found for the [?] than in attempting to take Charleston. Of what value is Charleston compared with the [?] of Port Hudson and Vicksburg[h], or at any rate the cutting off of the Texas communication? Or if the [?] be next sent for that work what do we want of Charleston after we have got the fort which commands the outer harbour? And cannot that be done? And this the port be sealed--and at the same time the [?] kept under the necessity of maintaining a large force near the city to prevent over taking it. I hold that the [?] of these ports with two or three ironclads to watch land--batteries in construction against this and a few fast steamers to watch neighboring [?] against blocked [?] and the enemy obliged to keep 20 or 30,000 [?] to defend the city is of more use to us than to to hold Charleston itself and the enemy gone somewhere else.

I hope the War Dept. will get from Gen. [Thomas] the truth as to Grant and some other of his officers. If Rosecrans and Grant should write--would not the letter be the [?]? Maybe not, but awful if it [?] so.

Now that I have written all the above out of pure honest zeal for the cause--if it were not to you I should feel that the reader was exclaiming at the Bishops’ presumption. Well, it is just evidence how many services I believe the case to be that I undertake--with so little hope of any good--to write them.

I most heartily congratulate you on the most gratifying success of all your financial efforts. It is a great success indeed. I should as much like to talk about English affairs--where I may be supposed to know something. I look on the provocation and injustice as most abominable, and [?] free I suppose we should make it “causus belli” so very much like it. But from my knowledge of the state of the English mind--how exceedingly averse the vast [?] of the English people in all classes were to war in [?] times, when they looked on us as the aggression--ready to support the Govt. if war came, but most anxious to avoid it, if possible. I believe that vastly more will they now be averse when they must see how they are the aggressors. Hence I believe that if no such menaces are sent the Eng. Govt. as will commit [?] to what we are not ready for--and will too much hurt the pride of the old lives--if we are patient and slow--waiting for the feeling of the people to work--all will go well--and evidence will be found to satisfy the law--and those ships will be forbid to sail.

Affectionate remembrance to Miss Kate,

Your affectionate friend,

Charles P. McIlvaine

Letter to S.P. Chase



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