[LINCOLN & GRANT] LINCOLN, ABRAHAM, President. Autograph letter signed ("A Lincoln") TO GENERAL ULYSSES S. GRANT, Washington, D.C., 12 September 1864. 1 page, 4to, "Executive Mansion" stationery, minor mat burn from old framing evident at edges, yellowed on verso, folds neatly reinforced.
LINCOLN TO GRANT, WITH GRANT'S RESPONSE, PLANNING SHERIDAN'S VALLEY CAMPAIGN: A UNIQUE PAIR OF LETTERS
An exceptional and apparently unique pairing of both sides of an exchange between the Commander-in-Chief and the General-in-Chief of the Union armies. Lincoln writes: "Sheridan and Early are facing each other at a dead lock. Could we not pick up a regiment here and there, to the number [say] of say ten thousand men, and quietly, but suddenly concentrate them at Sheridan's camp and enable him to make a strike? This is but a suggestion. Yours truly, A Lincoln."
GRANT, ULYSSES S. President. Autograph letter signed ("U.S. Grant Lt. Gen.") TO PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN, "Head-Quarters Armies of the United States," City Point, Va., 13 September 1864. 1 page, 8vo, evidence of framing on recto, slightly browned, neat repairs to folds.
Grant writes: "A. Lincoln President of the U. States, It has been my intention for a week back to start tomorrow, or the day following, to see Sheridan and arrange what was necessary to enable him to start Early out of the Valley. It seems to me it can be successfully done. Yours truly."
Writing to Grant, the President, who has begun to take an increasingly active supervisory role in military affairs, offers a politely worded tactical "suggestion" concerning the apparent stalemate in the Shenandoah Valley. A Confederate force under Jubal A. Early had moved into the Valley in a move to relieve Union pressure on Richmond and Petersburg by threatening Washington and Baltimore (an attempt to repeat Stonewall Jackson's brilliant strategic diversion of May 1862). On 12 July, Early moved as close to the capital as Silver Spring and burned the home of Montgomery Blair, and the next day burned Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, withdrawing safely down the Valley. After ineffectual military responses by the Union army, the President's concern mounted. Grant, on 1 August, recommended Sheridan be appointed to command Union forces in the area. While Lincoln and Stanton were at first hesitant--partly due to Sheridan's young age (33)--the appointment was approved. Grant came to Washington on the 5th and gave Sheridan instructions for the campaign, but for most of August, Sheridan remained in a mostly defensive posture. Following Grant's receipt of Lincoln's letter, prompted by the apparent stalemate, Grant determined, as he informs the President here, to visit Sheridan and again discuss the military situation. He did so, shortly afterwards, and fully approved of Sheridan's plans to exploit Early's over-confidence and divided forces. (While Grant was away from City Point, Wade Hampton chose the opportunity to launch his "Beefsteak Raid" on Union lines). Sheridan waited patiently for the ideal opportunity and then struck, decisively, at Early on 19 September at Winchester, following up with another victory at Fisher's Hill, and, finally, at Cedar Creek on October 19, finally ending the long Confederate dominance in the Valley.
Lincoln's letter is published in Collected Works, ed. Basler, 7:548). Grant's response was once part of the Lincoln papers, later given by Robert Todd Lincoln to the Library of Congress; it is highly likely that Robert--a Phillips Exeter graduate--removed Grant's letter from his father's papers to give to the owner of the Lincoln's letter to Grant, thereby creating a unique paired correspondence.
Provenance: Phillips Exeter Academy (sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, 26 April 1983, lot 14). (2)