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The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant: April-September 1861 - Vol. 2

By John Y. Simon | Go to book overview

Introduction

JOHN Y. SIMON

AT THE OUTBREAK of the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant, a few weeks short of his thirty-ninth birthday, was earning a modest living in his father's leather business in Galena. Within eight years a rapid series of promotions carried him to the highest rank in the U. S. Army and from there to the White House, the youngest man inaugurated President to that time. In these crowded years, he was pre-eminently a man of deeds, but he was a man of words as well.

In April, 1861, Grant's experience with army paperwork, acquired during fifteen years of service, brought him his first Civil War appointment from Governor Richard Yates of Illinois. His competent work as aide to the Governor, assigned to the state adjutant general's office, led to a commission as colonel of an Illinois volunteer regiment. After his promotion to brigadier general in August, Grant inaugurated a system of meticulous letterbook records of his orders and correspondence based on conventional army practice which he maintained throughout the war.

The system of letterbooks was based on a fairly simple concept of separating documents by classes. Different letterbooks held copies of general orders, special orders, correspondence with superior officers, and correspondence with subordinate officers. Letters and telegrams received from superior officers were usually copied in the same book with letters addressed to them in order to form an integrated record of correspondence. Letters received from subordinate officers were described in a register of letters received, then the letters themselves were filed for reference.

During his first month of general command, Grant moved his

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