Research Gen. Charles Griffin's lost manuscript


Feb 7, 2014
New York
Charles Griffin is one of the lesser written about AOP generals who warrants much greater attention. An 1847 West Point grad who spent years on the frontier, Griffin started out the CW as an artillery captain in the middle of the Henry Hill debacle at Bull Run when his battery was overrun and lost. On the Peninsula, he grained transfer to the infantry and promotion to BG of vols (at Lincoln's request), heading a brigade under Fitz-John Porter. Griffin soon reached division leadership in V Corps and ended the war as V Corps commander as the beneficiary of Sheridan's impetuous dismissal of Warren at Five Forks. Griffin was in the middle of a few other controversial moments, including his inadvertently leading his brigade astray at 2nd Bull Run which incident contributed significantly to his friend Porter's demise. Also, Griffin is the star of a notorious incident at the Wilderness reported by Lyman when his invective at his fellow commanders for lack of support prompted the shocked Grant to consider dismissing Griffin before Meade intervened. But the West Pointer was successful too at a number of engagements and an aggressive leader under Warren throughout the Overland and Petersburg campaigns who eventually won Grant's admiration. Griffin is a fascinating figure who hovered around Washington society through the connections of his glamorous young wife from the Carroll family. The Lincolns attended their wedding in Dec. '61, and Sarah ("Sallie") Griffin's presence at an army review in March 1865 near Petersburg was the spark that ignited one of Mary Lincoln's most notorious and embarassing pubic outbursts. Griffin was admired by the men serving under him (one account called him "the enlisted man's friend) but disliked by some brother officers (artillery officer Charles Wainwright despised Griffin). Griffin died from yellow fever at the age of 41 while serving as head of the Freedman's Bureau in Texas. Both his sons died in childhood.

The main reason so little is written about Griffin, I believe, is that no collection of his letters or writings can be located. Yet there once was, and maybe still is, such a manuscript. The history of the Corn Exchange (118PA) regiment written by veterans and first published in 1888 mentions "hitherto unpublished manuscripts of Generals Warren, Griffin and Chamberlain" as sources for its narrative. More recently, in the intro to vol 3 of his AOP history, the late Russell Beattie mysteriously alluded to a Griffin manuscript, perhaps known to private collectors. I've tried many different internet searches, but have come up dry. Has anyone heard of such a collection of Griffin's writings or have any leads to offer?