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“I now wish to make the personal acknowledgment that you were right, and I was wrong.”

October 7, 2009

U.S. Grant, standing, not sitting, on the battlefiled.


My Dear General:

I do not remember that you and I ever met personally. I write this now as a grateful acknowledgment for the almost inestimable service you have done the country. I wish to say a word further. When you first reached the vicinity of Vicksburg, I thought you should do, what you finally did – march the troops across the neck, run the batteries with the transports, and thus go below; and I never had any faith, except a general hope that you knew better than I, that the Yazoo Pass expedition, and the like, could succeed. When you got below, and took Port-Gibson, Grand Gulf, and vicinity, I thought you should go down the river and join Gen. Banks; and when you turned Northward East of the Big Black, I feared it was a mistake. I now wish to make the personal acknowledgment that you were right, and I was wrong.

Yours very truly,
A. Lincoln

—from The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume VI, pp. 327-368.

President Abraham Lincoln

N.B.: This letter has always struck me as perfect in its candor. And I cannot help but feel that Lincoln is making apology on behalf of the nation itself: the Northern press had been ridiculing Grant during the Vicksburg campaign, accusing him (again) of drunkenness, and claiming that he would, inevitably, lose his entire army to the Confederates, & so fail to open the Mississippi River, which was of course his aim in this campaign. Those familiar with the history will know that Grant’s success at Vicksburg was such that he was summoned to Chattanooga to save Rosecrans’ army, which he did. Soon after that, Lincoln elevated him to command of all the Union armies.

For another entry in this web-blog pertaining to the Civil War, click here.

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