GRANT, Ulysses S. Autograph letter signed ("U.S. Grant") as General in Chief, to ADMIRAL ADMIRAL DAVID D. PORTER, City Point, Virginia, 25 March 1865. 1 page, 4to (10 1/8 x 7 5/8 in.), very small hole in upper left corner, minor professional repairs, otherwise in fine condition.
IN THE WAKE OF LEE'S LAST OFFENSIVE AT FORT STEDMAN, GRANT REPORTS THAT "QUIET IS ENTIRELY RESTORED"
As the Spring of 1865 began, Robert E. Lee faced a crisis along his lines around Petersburg. The heavy fighting in May and June of the previous year and the ten-month siege around Petersburg had taken its toll on the Army of Northern Virginia. Morale was low, supplies were short and his roster of effective soldiers had dwindled to 50,000. Recent reports had indicated that Grant would have 200,000 Union soldiers at his command when active campaigning began. Realizing that his thin lines would be not hold against such numbers, Lee opted to take the intiative while his army still could. An early morning attack was arranged for March 25. Trusted subordinate John Gordon was chosen to lead the assault with approximately a third of the Confederate Army. The objective was an enclosed Union redoubt only 282 yards from the Confederate trenches known as Fort Stedman.
The assault began at 4:15 in the morning. Union defenders were completely surprised and the Confederates reached the walls and clambered over. A startled Union artilleryman later wrote: "[The] fort was completely surrounded...and the enemy came swarming in at every possible ingress, and swarmed over the breastworks" (Trudeau, The Last Citadel, p. 340). The success of Gordon's attack was fleeting, though, for Union officers reorganized and sent in reinforcements to seal the breech. A counterattack at 7:45 successfully recaptured the fort and approximately 1500 Confederate prisoners, writing "finis" to Robert E. Lee's last major attack of the Civil War.
Here, Grant writes to Admiral Porter countermanding an earlier order issued at the height of the Confederate assault: "I have just returned from the A.P. [Army of the Potomac] front and find your dispatch of this morning. Quiet is entirely restored and there is now no necessity of sending boats up the Appomattox. Sheridan will leave the Chickahominy to-morrow morning so that if boats have not gone up it will be too late." Grant informs Porter of their success: "Everything went off well, we captured about 2000 prisoners and killed and wounded a large number of the enemy."
Provenance: Calvin Bullock (sale, Christie's, 14 May 1985, lot 33).