The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant: 1837-1861 - Vol. 1

By John Y. Simon | Go to book overview

Introduction

JOHN Y. SIMON

THE LITERARY QUALITIES of Grant's Memoirs have often been praised while little attention has been given to his other writings. The chief reason has been that they were generally unavailable in printed form and difficult to locate in manuscript. As recently as the 1930's one historian concluded that Grant "wrote as little as possible," and "there is no considerable collection of his manuscripts." 1. Biographer William B. Hesseltine complained of "the almost complete lack of Grant manuscripts." 2. Now, however, the Grant Association has material for at least a dozen volumes of his papers.

Grant seems to have made no effort to preserve his private correspondence. Because of his professional military training, his Civil War headquarters records 3. were carefully organized and comprehensive. In the White House, however, no such careful records were kept; in fact, much correspondence was left behind. Some of it became part of the collection of his successor, Rutherford B. Hayes, and four letterbooks remained in the White House until transferred to the Library of Congress in 1921. Although Grant told his fiancée, Julia Dent, that he was saving her letters, they have not been found, and there is no indication that he saved personal correspondence at any other time. Grant ruefully admitted that "the only place I ever found in my life to put a paper so as to find it again was either in a side coat‐ pocket or the hands of a clerk or secretary more careful than myself." 4.

____________________
1.
Frederic Logan Paxson in DAB, VII, 501.
2.
William B. Hesseltine, Ulysses S. Grant: Politician (New York, 1935), p. vii.
3.
Grant's Civil War headquarters records will be discussed in the next volume.
4.
Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant (New York, 1885-86), I, 233.

-xxviii-

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