THE END OF THE CIVIL WAR: IN THE LAST WEEKS OF THE WAR, GRANT DIRECTS HIS GENERALS FOR THE FINAL PUSH ON RICHMOND AND PETERSBURG.
By March, 1865, the Richard-Petersburg campaign was in its ninth month of operation and the Union forces were putting a stranglehold around General Lee’s vaunted Army of Northern Virginia. The Union army was getting reports from Confederate deserters detailing the desperate state of Lee’s army due to lack of food and supplies. It seemed only a matter of time before Lee would have to make a move: either try to flee with his army, or surrender to the Union forces.
The Union forces were in control of the waterways surrounding the Confederate capital of Richmond and began to press their advantage. Norfolk and Ft. Monroe, VA were at the mouth of the James River to the southeast of Richmond, and White House, VA lay to the northwest along the South Fork Shenandoah River and by mid-March Grant was keenly concerned with gathering and organizing his troops along these strategic strongholds. On March 14, Grant sent orders for Colonel Sumner to “report by telegraph his arrival at Norfolk to Gen. Ord” and had ordered Major General Philip Sheridan to move his forces to White House.
In the present letter - sent on March 16 - Grant’s tone changes, reflecting newfound urgency. From his headquarters in City Point, Virginia (at the meeting of the James and Appomattox Rivers, near Richmond), Grant writes to Major General Edward Ord of the mighty Army of the James:
"Maj. Gen. Ord,
You can send a dispatch to F. Monroe and Norfolk directing that when Sumner reaches there he will come up the river without debarking his troops. I think he will not leave White House earlier than tomorrow noon. Last night Sheridan had not reached there.”
Lee’s vulnerability was now at a critical stage and the final push was on. There was no time to waste, no time for the troops to rest at Ft. Monroe and Norfolk, but rather press up the river towards Petersburg and Richmond. Sheridan would reach White House on 18 March and Ord began to coordinate his (and Sumner’s) troop movements with Sheridan’s. On 20 March, Grant felt comfortable enough with the situation to write to his father “I think we will be able to wind up matters about Richmond soon... The rebellion has lost its vitality and if I am not much mistaken there will be no rebel Army of any great dimentions a few weeks hence.”
Grant’s prophecy became true: On April 2, Grant entered Petersburg and Lee’s army was on the run and by April 9, a trapped Lee surrendered his forces to General Grant, effectively ending the war.
The recipient of the letter, General Edward Ord, “was one of Grant’s favorites, a twice-wounded West Point veteran whom he appreciated as ‘skillful in the management of troops... brave and prompt’” (Chernow, Grant). Edwin Vose Sumner, Jr., at the time of this letter, was the colonel of the 1st New York Mounted Rifles. Included in The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant, Vol. 14.
Magnificently framed in a shadow-box style with a portrait of Grant and illustrative engraved plaques.
Autograph letter signed: “U.S. Grant / Lt. Gen.” On official letterhead with “Head Quarters Armies of the United States” printed along top. Dated: “City Point, Va. March 16th 1865” in Grant’s hand. “Sent” written in a different hand in top left corner. Pinhole in top left margin, two mild folds; nearly fine condition with ink strong. One sheet, 7.5 x 10 inches; framed to an overall size of 33 x 30 inches.
A RARE AND IMPORTANT GRANT LETTER CONCERNING TROOP MOVEMENTS DURING THE CLIMACTIC FINAL WEEKS OF THE WAR.
Price: $22,000 .