In 1865, General U.S. Grant Leads Efforts to Find Employment for Union Soldiers and Sailors Disabled in the Civil War

He calls them “the brave and unfortunate defenders of our country”, and says “I…heartily approve of…devising some plan by which work may be provided.”

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In the immediate wake of the Civil War, there were a great many disabled servicemen who could not find employment, and the problem had become acute. On November 14, 1865, some 20 Union generals and admirals (such as Dix, Butterfield and Parke) determined to seek a solution, and they enlisted Grant’s support....

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In 1865, General U.S. Grant Leads Efforts to Find Employment for Union Soldiers and Sailors Disabled in the Civil War

He calls them “the brave and unfortunate defenders of our country”, and says “I…heartily approve of…devising some plan by which work may be provided.”

In the immediate wake of the Civil War, there were a great many disabled servicemen who could not find employment, and the problem had become acute. On November 14, 1865, some 20 Union generals and admirals (such as Dix, Butterfield and Parke) determined to seek a solution, and they enlisted Grant’s support. They wrote an open letter to Union officers that was published in the December 30 issue of the “Army and Navy Journal” stating: “the great number of discharged and disabled soldiers and sailors without employment causes, and must always cause, regret to every officer who has in any way purchase a paid it in their dangers and sufferings. It has been the duty and privilege of officers while in service to provide for the wants of their men, and now that both have returned from that service, and no longer encounter these dangers, the duty and privilege in a measure remain. It is also an unhappy fact hat many of our officers have become incapacitated for their former occupations by wounds, and that they are undergoing pecuniary privations, and needing our aid and sympathy… We therefore call upon you to meet with us at a public meeting to be held for the purpose of considering the best means of procuring employment for disabled and discharged soldiers and sailors, and for forming some permanent military association which shall have the welfare of our soldiers and sailors as its object.”

But Grant’s plans to attend the meeting thus called for were upset by the issue of Reconstruction in the South. On November 27, 1865, President Andrew Johnson sent General Grant on a fact-finding mission to the South to determine the status of efforts to reconcile the South to rejoining the Union. This trip precluded Grant’s attendance at the meeting. Grant returned from the South with a report that emphasized the willingness of southerners to reaffirm their allegiance, a view that suited Johnson, but did not recommend withdrawal of troops or elimination of the Freedmen’s Bureau, an agency established to care for, and protect, former slaves. Grant believed that reconciliation had to be balanced by justice to the freedmen.

Letter signed, mid to late November 1865, informing the meeting organizers that he could not attend, but providing them with a statement of support. “Gentlemen, I regret that I shall be unable to be present at the meeting of Officers of the Army & Navy, called for the purpose of considering the best means of procuring employment for disabled Soldiers & Sailors etc. I need hardly say that I heartily approve of its object and trust that you will succeed in devising some plan by which work may be provided for all the brave and unfortunate defenders of our country.”

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