Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s Pay For Planning the Battle of Shiloh and Enduring the Calumnies of Jealousy

The original pay voucher for his own salary and expenses during March 1862, signed by him as "Maj. Genl. Commanding Army in the Field".

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In it, he also pays for his servants, 3 of whom were black; An extreme rarity, the first such document we can find having reached the market in a quarter century

The battle of Fort Henry in Tennessee took place on February 6, 1862, and an obscure and virtually unknown brigadier general...

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Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s Pay For Planning the Battle of Shiloh and Enduring the Calumnies of Jealousy

The original pay voucher for his own salary and expenses during March 1862, signed by him as "Maj. Genl. Commanding Army in the Field".

In it, he also pays for his servants, 3 of whom were black; An extreme rarity, the first such document we can find having reached the market in a quarter century

The battle of Fort Henry in Tennessee took place on February 6, 1862, and an obscure and virtually unknown brigadier general named Ulysses S. Grant captured the fort and opened the Tennessee River to Union movements. This early in the war, Union victories of any kind were scarce, and this one was probably the most consequential of the war to date. Grant then moved directly on Fort Donelson, entrapping the place both by land and sea from February 11-16. On the morning of February 15, the Confederate commander, Simon B. Buckner, sent a note to Grant requesting an armistice and asking terms of surrender. Buckner was expecting to give up the fort but get his soldiers paroled so they would not be prisoners of war. Grant refused to give terms, but demanded unconditional surrender. The Confederates surrendered the next day, the 16th. This victory opened the Cumberland River, an important avenue for the invasion of the South, to Union operations, and Grant became instantly famous, earning the nickname "Unconditional Surrender" Grant. President Lincoln took note of the fact that in Grant he had a general who could win. On February 20, 1862, Lincoln promoted Grant to the rank of Major General, a prerequisite to Grant's being able to command a large army.

However, Grant’s very successes at Forts Henry and Donelson incurred the jealousy of his superior, Gen. Henry Halleck, who was in command of the whole Western Theater of war. Grant, not yet realizing the peril Halleck's opposition placed him in, knew Nashville was wide open with little in the way of defensive forces. Though Halleck had expressly forbade him to advance, Grant ordered Union forces to enter Nashville. It fell on February 25 with Gen. Don Carlos Buell accepting the city's surrender. Nashville thus became the first Confederate state capital to fall into Union hands. Over the next week, thousands of Union soldiers poured into the city, and Grant took a boat upriver from Donelson to Nashville to confer with Buell. Halleck saw the taking of Nashville not as Grant recognizing and seizing an important opportunity, but as willful disobedience of an order. And Grant's unauthorized trip to see Buell there only added to Halleck's anger.

So on March 1, 1862, Halleck decided to tie Grant's hands by ordering him to return to Fort Henry and, from there, to launch an expedition up the Tennessee River to the state of Mississippi. The objective was the destruction of several key railroad bridges. Grant was to “avoid any general engagement with strong forces,” and was told that it was “better to retreat than to risk a general battle.” Grant went to Fort Henry as ordered, but did not communicate with Halleck directly. The next day, Halleck complained to Gen. McClellan that he had heard no word from Grant for a week, and that “his army seems to be as much demoralized by the victory of Fort Donelson as was that of the Potomac by the defeat of Bull Run.” On March 4, Halleck relieved Grant from his command, writing him: “You will place Maj. Gen. C. F. Smith in command of expedition, and remain yourself at Fort Henry.” Grant was shocked. “Thus," say Grant's Memoirs, "in less than two weeks after the victory at Donelson, the two leading generals [Halleck and McClellan] in the army were in correspondence as to what disposition should be made of me, and in less than three weeks I was virtually in arrest and without a command.”

Grant turned over command to Smith on March 5. Even as he did so, he felt intensely frustrated and longed for action, writing on the same day, “I have not been well for the last ten days, and don’t see that I will be much better until I can get to moving again.” Grant and Halleck exchanged letters, after which Grant, on March 11, demanded that Halleck relieve him from duty altogether in order to clear his name.  "There is such a disposition to find fault with me that I again ask to be relieved from further duty until I can be placed right in the estimation of those higher in authority."

Perhaps this letter caused a change of mind, or it may be that Halleck just could not risk loss of the popular Grant altogether. In any event, surprisingly, he refused and instead told Grant he would receive a new command, writing him, "You cannot be relieved from your command. There is no good reason for it…Instead of relieving you, I wish you as soon as your new army is in the field to assume the immediate command and lead it on to new victories." Just four days later, Grant was actually given a new command – he was placed in charge of Union forces in Tennessee. He proceeded to Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, and arriving on the 17th, established a wide camp with his forward units around Shiloh Church, some 2.5 miles south of Pittsburg Landing. He wrote, "I at once put all the troops at Savannah in motion for Pittsburg Landing, knowing that the enemy was fortifying at Corinth and collecting an army there under Johnston. It was my expectation to march against that army as soon as Buell, who had been ordered to reinforce me with the Army of the Ohio, should arrive; and the west bank of the river was the place to start from. Pittsburg is only about twenty miles from Corinth…When all reinforcements should have arrived I expected to take the initiative by marching on Corinth, and had no expectation of needing fortifications, though this subject was taken into consideration." He reported to Halleck on his troop dispositions, and imminently awaited reinforcements so he could move against Corinth. Halleck, meanwhile, continued to nitpick at Grant for supposed failure to discipline his troops properly.
The month of March was a significant one in Grant's career, one that saw the tables turn twice on him. First, in the flush of his great successes at Forts Henry and Donelson, he was victimized by jealousy and relieved of command. Then, when all seemed lost, he was given an even greater command. And as he assumed that command and awaited reinforcements so he would move on Corinth, he was unwittingly actually preparing for the Battle of Shiloh, one of the most fateful of the war.

Document signed, Pittsburg Landing, Tenn., April 2, 1862, being a voucher for his own pay and expenses, and those of his four private servants, for the period from March 1 to March 31, 1862. His pay was $220 per month, and he received $52 per month for the pay of his servants. Forage for his seven horses came to $56 for the month. He received $10 per month as a clothing allowance, and he was entitled to "double rations for commanding army in the field," which came to over 1,000 rations for the month. The rations, called "subsistence", cost $316.20. At the end, the document recites that Grant has received a total of $654.20 from the paymaster, and he has signed "U.S. Grant, Maj. Gen., Commanding Army in the field." Interestingly, Grant's four servants are named, and their skin color, height and eye and hair color given. Frank was white; and Dan, Jim and Sam were black. The voucher is docketed on the verso.

This is the first signed voucher for Grant's pay during the Civil War that we have seen. Research in public records going back 40 years discloses one previous monthly voucher having reach the market, and that was a quarter century ago.

On April 6, 1862, just four days after signing this document, the Confederates commenced the Battle of Shiloh by bursting through Union lines and threatening to drive Grant's men back into the Tennessee River. Historians differ on whether Grant was at fault in being surprised, but it is clear that Union forces only escaped being routed with the arrival of Buell's army. The next day, the Union recaptured the initiative and drove the Confederates back in disorder. The battle was essentially a draw, while also being the bloodiest battle yet to occur on the American continent. When the news reached the North, where expectations had been high, a storm of abuse broke out against Grant, who was held responsible. He may well have not deserved the blame, but he admitted reassessing the war after Shiloh. He wrote, “Up to the battle of Shiloh I, as well as thousands of other citizens, believed that the rebellion against the Government would collapse suddenly and soon, if a decisive victory could be gained over any of its armies. Donelson and Henry were such victories…But when Confederate armies were collected which not only attempted to hold a line farther south…but assumed the offensive and made such a gallant effort to regain what had been lost, then, indeed, I gave up all idea of saving the Union except by complete conquest.”

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