The Importance of Being Elihu ... Washburne

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contestedground

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As a Republican congressman from Illinois who had the ear of Abraham Lincoln, Elihu B. Washburne positioned himself as the political patron for a retired Army captain named Ulysses S. Grant. During the Civil War, Washburne often pushed Grant's interests and posed as his political spokesman.

This tread offers a place for people interested in Washburne's career to find out more about him.
 
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Canadian

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Interesting topic. How did Grant come to his attention so quickly, given that he was only in Illinois for about a year before the war broke out?
 

wausaubob

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Imagine a politician taking credit for someone else's success. Snooooze. :D Imagine him doing that while the politician's brother has general's commission and is joining the secret detractors of that someone else. Now that is more interesting. :smile coffee:
Then lets think of that same politician getting a handful of nominating votes at a Presidential nominating convention, thereby blocking his alleged protege from being renominated for a third term. Now we are getting into some interesting territory, the kind of stuff William Seward and Abraham Lincoln were familiar with. :frog:
 

wausaubob

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Washburne and his capitalist brother were working for themselves. If they would have left things alone after Chattanooga, someone else would have gotten stuck with responsibility for the Overland campaign.
 
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NedBaldwin

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Interesting topic. How did Grant come to his attention so quickly, given that he was only in Illinois for about a year before the war broke out?
Washburne was the local congressman, running for re-election in 1860 and trying to get out the vote for Lincoln. I’m sure he made a point of meeting the businessmen in town and Galena was not a huge place.
 

David Moore

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Interesting topic. How did Grant come to his attention so quickly, given that he was only in Illinois for about a year before the war broke out?
They both were living in Galena, IL. Grant was a West Point graduate. If either man had lived elsewhere in Illinois they might never have met.
The most detailed treatment is John Y. Simon's essay from Galena to Appomattox. It is however not free on the web. It can be reached via the JSTOR site which requires registration.
https://www.jstor.org/stable/40190286?read-now=1&refreqid=excelsior:283b4061ef369b3446623001b889d391&seq=5#page_scan_tab_contents

Among Simon's sources for how Grant and Washburne met is Augustus Chetlain's book Recollections of Seventy Years which is available on line. Page 70 is cited by Simon.
https://books.google.com/books?id=15klAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=chetlain&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiyj5-mz6zcAhWHc98KHdVcDXEQ6AEIMzAC#v=onepage&q=washburne&f=false

Also from Chetlain in his essay in MOLLUS Illinois Papers Vol. 1 (PG 10 ff.)
https://archive.org/stream/militaryessaysa02illigoog#page/n19/search/washburne

Simon also cites this from Washburne himself (pg 119)
https://archive.org/stream/campfiresketche00derbgoog#page/n127

Washburne in turn had an excellent relationship with Lincoln which facilitated the rise of Grant.
 

O' Be Joyful

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The most detailed treatment is John Y. Simon's essay from Galena to Appomattox. It is however not free on the web. It can be reached via the JSTOR site which requires registration.
https://www.jstor.org/stable/401902...46623001b889d391&seq=5#page_scan_tab_contents
Note: While it costs $10 to download the article, it is Free to register and join Jstor and one may view up to 6 articles in a certain length of time--a year I believe, so choose carefully--my reset to zero is set for the first of the month. And many articles are Free! :smile:

I was able to view this Simon piece by adding it to "my list" and may return to read at my leisure. Thank you for the link David.
 
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David Moore

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Note: While it costs $10 to download the article, it is Free to register and join Jstor and one may view up to 6 articles in a certain length of time--a year I believe, so choose carefully--my reset to zero is set for the first of the month. And many articles are Free! :smile:

I was able to view this Simon piece by adding it to "my list" and may return to read at my leisure. Thank you for the link David.
JSTOR is a great source for articles from academic journals. Thanks for showing how to access the site.
 

David Moore

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Here are links to documentation of Washburne's role in the rise of Grant.

A letter from USG to EBW written Sept 4, 1861
In the PUSG Vol 2 pg 183
http://digital.library.msstate.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/USG_volume/id/16321/rec/2

Here is a written note from Lincoln in which he states " Gen. Grant was appointed chiefly on the recommendation of Hon. E.B. Washburne." (The context of the letter is allegations of drunkenness of Grant.)
PUSG Vol 4 p 119
http://digital.library.msstate.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/USG_volume/id/17403/rec/4
(It is also in Chernow's book on Grant pg 165. https://books.google.com/books?id=wRYcDgAAQBAJ&pg=PA164&lpg=PA164&dq=bross+would+not+knowingly+misrepresent+gen+grant&source=bl&ots=uZkAjEMHZw&sig=zT-smtfbx0_1mRW-TtA9Glz4nDw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiWksLR9q3cAhWmV98KHd2qC4AQ6AEILDAA#v=onepage&q=bross would not knowingly misrepresent gen grant&f=false)


This is from a letter written by Grant's father, Jesse Grant, to Washburne on May 16, 1862.
It is in the Washburne papers in the LOC. Mark Washburne also has it in Vol 2 of his multi volume biography of EBW.
I also cite it in my book. I'm not aware of it being published elsewhere.

“I suppose it was through your [Washburne] influence that he [Grant]was brought before the Jubilee. And I hope you may never have occasion to report the interest you have taken in his favor…”
 
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David Moore

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1862 was a difficult year for Ulysses Grant. The widespread perception of his performing poorly at Shiloh, Iuka, Corinth and Holly Springs caused him to spend much of the year under a cloud of doubt about his personal and military fitness to command. Grant and his family turned to Elihu Washburne for support and Washburne provided it.
In a speech defending Grant after Shiloh in the House of Representatives on May 2, 1862 Washburne said, "“There is no more temperate man in the army than General Grant. He never indulges in the use of intoxicating liquors at all.”
This was a statement Washburne knew wasn't true as John Rawlins had informed him in an earlier letter that “ a gentleman made [Grant] a present of a box of Champagne wine, and on one or two occasions he drank a glass of this with his friends…”
[Congressional Globe May 2, 1862; PUSG Vol IV p116-117]

On May 16, 1862 Grant's father , Jesse, wrote the following to Washburne: “I suppose it was through your influence that he was brought before the Jubilee. And I hope you may never have occasion to report the interest you have taken in his favor…”
Grant's wife Julia wrote the following to Washburne: “It is indeed gratifying to know that he finds in you so true a friend and one who manifests such a ready willingness to exonerate him from the malicious and unfounded slanders of the press….” [Both letters in Washburne Papers LOC]
Gustave Koerner, a US representative, general, diplomat and Lincoln confident, remembered, “Indeed, when the accounts of those who were present at Shiloh were heard, a deep feeling of indignation pervaded the nation. Had it not been for the most strenuous efforts of Washburne, who stood very high at Washington, and the fact that General C. J. Smith, the real hero of Donelson, was then about dying, there is no doubt but Grant would have been deprived of his command.”
[Memoirs of Gustave Koerner Vol 2 pg 216]
One observer who was sympathetic to Grant concluded that Grant “would have been crushed had it not been for the powerful influence of E.B. Washburne.”
[ S.W. McMaster Sixty Years on the Upper Mississippi pg 200]
Grant after the battles of Iuka and Corinth was criticized in the press. Grant not surprisingly felt he was unfairly criticized and turned to Washburne to get his side of the story out: "I do not see my report of the battle of Iuka in print. As the papers in General's Rosecrans interest have so much misrepresented that affair, I would like to see it in print."
[PUSG Vol VI pg 275]
From these examples it is evident that Elihu Washburne was Grant's "fixer" in Washington. The man to whom Grant turned to whenever he was in trouble. This was not a secret.
It also was not a secret that Washburne was the to whom complaints about Grant could be addressed.
Joseph Medill, editor of the Chicago Tribune,wrote Washburne in February 1863: : “No man's career in the army is more open to destructive criticism than Grant's. We have kept off him on your account. We could have made him stink in the nostrils of the public like an old fish had we properly criticized his military blunders.”
[PUSG Vol VII pg 318]
Elihu Washburne's brother General Cadwallader Washburn wrote his brother in April of 1863:
"All of Grant’s schemes have failed. He knows that he has got to do something or off goes his head. My impression is that he intends to attack in front. If he does it may succeed but it is the act of a desperate man and nine chances out of ten are that our Army will be slaughtered. The past six months has been worse than thrown away, as I could show you…..I say to you that I am distressed at our prospects and cannot sleep nights thinking of these things. Time seems to be no object here. I have been here and yet have not been able to get a list of troops to compose my command. You are responsible for Grant. "
[Washburne Papers LOC]

There are probably many ways to "spin" these quotes but I think at least one thing is indisputable: the importance of Elihu Washburne in the rise and survival of Ulyssses Grant.
An interesting question is: Why was Washburne so interested and invested in Grant?
 

cash

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1862 was a difficult year for Ulysses Grant. The widespread perception of his performing poorly at Shiloh, Iuka, Corinth and Holly Springs caused him to spend much of the year under a cloud of doubt about his personal and military fitness to command. Grant and his family turned to Elihu Washburne for support and Washburne provided it.
In a speech defending Grant after Shiloh in the House of Representatives on May 2, 1862 Washburne said, "“There is no more temperate man in the army than General Grant. He never indulges in the use of intoxicating liquors at all.”
This was a statement Washburne knew wasn't true as John Rawlins had informed him in an earlier letter that “ a gentleman made [Grant] a present of a box of Champagne wine, and on one or two occasions he drank a glass of this with his friends…”
[Congressional Globe May 2, 1862; PUSG Vol IV p116-117]

On May 16, 1862 Grant's father , Jesse, wrote the following to Washburne: “I suppose it was through your influence that he was brought before the Jubilee. And I hope you may never have occasion to report the interest you have taken in his favor…”
Grant's wife Julia wrote the following to Washburne: “It is indeed gratifying to know that he finds in you so true a friend and one who manifests such a ready willingness to exonerate him from the malicious and unfounded slanders of the press….” [Both letters in Washburne Papers LOC]
Gustave Koerner, a US representative, general, diplomat and Lincoln confident, remembered, “Indeed, when the accounts of those who were present at Shiloh were heard, a deep feeling of indignation pervaded the nation. Had it not been for the most strenuous efforts of Washburne, who stood very high at Washington, and the fact that General C. J. Smith, the real hero of Donelson, was then about dying, there is no doubt but Grant would have been deprived of his command.”
[Memoirs of Gustave Koerner Vol 2 pg 216]
One observer who was sympathetic to Grant concluded that Grant “would have been crushed had it not been for the powerful influence of E.B. Washburne.”
[ S.W. McMaster Sixty Years on the Upper Mississippi pg 200]
Grant after the battles of Iuka and Corinth was criticized in the press. Grant not surprisingly felt he was unfairly criticized and turned to Washburne to get his side of the story out: "I do not see my report of the battle of Iuka in print. As the papers in General's Rosecrans interest have so much misrepresented that affair, I would like to see it in print."
[PUSG Vol VI pg 275]
From these examples it is evident that Elihu Washburne was Grant's "fixer" in Washington. The man to whom Grant turned to whenever he was in trouble. This was not a secret.
It also was not a secret that Washburne was the to whom complaints about Grant could be addressed.
Joseph Medill, editor of the Chicago Tribune,wrote Washburne in February 1863: : “No man's career in the army is more open to destructive criticism than Grant's. We have kept off him on your account. We could have made him stink in the nostrils of the public like an old fish had we properly criticized his military blunders.”
[PUSG Vol VII pg 318]
Elihu Washburne's brother General Cadwallader Washburn wrote his brother in April of 1863:
"All of Grant’s schemes have failed. He knows that he has got to do something or off goes his head. My impression is that he intends to attack in front. If he does it may succeed but it is the act of a desperate man and nine chances out of ten are that our Army will be slaughtered. The past six months has been worse than thrown away, as I could show you…..I say to you that I am distressed at our prospects and cannot sleep nights thinking of these things. Time seems to be no object here. I have been here and yet have not been able to get a list of troops to compose my command. You are responsible for Grant. "
[Washburne Papers LOC]

There are probably many ways to "spin" these quotes but I think at least one thing is indisputable: the importance of Elihu Washburne in the rise and survival of Ulyssses Grant.
An interesting question is: Why was Washburne so interested and invested in Grant?
Shoddy scholarship marked by selective quotation and a dishonest ignoring of events and facts inconvenient to the goal of propping up one's hero by trying to make a better general who was also a better man look lesser than the truth shows him to be.
 
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wausaubob

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The problem is that they all got second chances. Fremont, Banks, McClellan, Burnside, and Hooker all got new commands after serious defeats. President Lincoln did not treat Grant differently from other Generals. He let General Halleck put Grant on ice for awhile, which probably added a year to the war.
Further, Elihu B. Washburne was not important. Sec'y Seward was important, and if he had Grant on a list of generals in tune with the administration, that was important. If Seward had gone through the West Point graduate list with General Scott and kept track of the people that Scott had commented on, that was important.
Finally, Rep. Washburne and his brother did not help Grant out of kindness in their hearts. They had their own selfish economic and political interests in mind. If they helped Grant they expected to get something from it.
 

wausaubob

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They were all political appointments. Grant, Sherman, Thomas, Meade, and Sheridan all represented a geographical and political mix that demonstrated every state and every religion were important. Sigel, Schurz, and Butler, were also political appointments.
People got chances to perform based on politics. But in the end accountability was ruthlessly enforced by Sec'y of War Edwin Stanton. Stanton knew the forces, the money and the time granted to each command. He got the reports and kept track of the combat casualties and the non-combat casualties.
People lost their jobs because their measurable production was deficient. Each faced different circumstances. But in the end explanations and excuses were not taken into consideration. Halleck and Stanton, and eventually Grant, enforced a real chain of command, with real obligations of subordination and discipline.
 
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As a Republican congressman from Illinois who had the ear of Abraham Lincoln, Elihu B. Washburne positioned himself as the political patron for a retired Army captain named Ulysses S. Grant. During the Civil War, Washburne often pushed Grant's interests and posed as his political spokesman.

This tread offers a place for people interested in Washburne's career to find out more about him.
I would change the title of this thread to "The self-importance of being Elihu . . ."
 
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David Moore

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Did Grant not want the attention and interest Washburne had for him?
Did any prominent person in a position of power (political, military, journalistic) have the confidence in Grant through 1862 and early 1863 that Washburne did?
Could Grant have survived being in command in 1862 and early 1863 without Washburne’s influence?
What was Washburne’s motivation is supporting Grant?

Comments with documentation are always better IMO.
 

DanSBHawk

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1862 was a difficult year for Ulysses Grant. The widespread perception of his performing poorly at Shiloh, Iuka, Corinth and Holly Springs caused him to spend much of the year under a cloud of doubt about his personal and military fitness to command. Grant and his family turned to Elihu Washburne for support and Washburne provided it.
In a speech defending Grant after Shiloh in the House of Representatives on May 2, 1862 Washburne said, "“There is no more temperate man in the army than General Grant. He never indulges in the use of intoxicating liquors at all.”
This was a statement Washburne knew wasn't true as John Rawlins had informed him in an earlier letter that “ a gentleman made [Grant] a present of a box of Champagne wine, and on one or two occasions he drank a glass of this with his friends…”
[Congressional Globe May 2, 1862; PUSG Vol IV p116-117]
The bolded statement accuses Washburne of lying for Grant. This is n0t true. Here is the full letter Rawlins sent to Washburne, and it is clear that both Washburne and Rawlins make a distinction between an occasional social or medicinal drink and the "indulging" in liquor to the point of intoxication:

"Yours of the 21st is at hand. I was no less astounded at the contents of your note than you must have been at the information, reported to you. I thank you for the confidence manifested by you in the frank manner of your inquiry—I feel that you of all other men had the right, as you would feel it your duty to investigate the charge. I know how much you have done for Genl. Grant and how jealous you are of his good name, and assure you it is appreciated by not only Genl Grant but by all his friends.

I will answer your inquiry fully and frankly, but first I would say unequivocally and emphatically that the statement, that 'Genl. Grant is drinking very hard' is utterly untrue and could have originated only in malice. When I came to Cairo, Genl Grant was as he is today, a strictly total abstinence man, and I have been informed by those who knew him well, that such has been his habit for the last five or six years. A few days after I came here a gentleman made him a present of a box of champagne wine, on one or two occasions he drank a glass of this with his friends but on neither occasion did he drink enough to in any manner affect him. About this time General Grant was somewhat dispeptic and his Physician advised him to drink two glasses of ale or beer a day. He followed this prescription for about one or two (2) weeks (never exceeding the two glasses per day), and then being satisfied it did him no good he resumed his total abstinence habits, until some three or four weeks after the Battle of Belmont, while he was rooming at the St. Charles Hotel, Col. Taylor of Chicago, Mr Dubois Auditor of State and other friends were visiting Cairo, & he was induced out of compliment to them to drink with them on several occasions but in no instance did he drink enough to manifest it, to any one who did not see him drink. About this time Mr. Osborne President ofthe 111 C. R. R. Co. our mutual friend J. M. Douglas and several of their friends made a visit to Cairo and gave dinner (or lunch) on the cars, to which the General and I were invited with others; champagne, was part ofthe fare. Sitting near the Genl. I noticed he did not drink more than half a glass.

The fact of his drinking at all was remarked, simply because of his usual total abstinence. But no man can say that at anytime since I have been with him has he drank liquor enough to in the slightest unfit him for business, or make it manifest in his words or action. At the times I have referred to he continuing probably a week or ten days, he may have taken an occasional drink with those gentlemen and others visiting Cairo at that time, but never in a single instance to excess and at the end of that period he voluntarily stated he should not during the continuance of the war again taste liquor of any kind, and for the past three or four weeks, though to my knowledge frequently importuned on visits of friends he has not tasted any kind of liquor.

Ever since I have been with Genl. Grant he has sent his reports in his own hand writing to Saint Louis daily when there was matter to report, and never less than three times a week and during the period above referred to, he did not at all relax this habit. If there is any man in the service who has discharged his duties faithfully & fearlessly who has ever been at his post, and guarded the interest confided to him with the utmost vigilance, Genl. Grant has done it. Not only his reports, but all his orders of an important character are written by himself, and I venture here, the statement, 'there is not an officer in the Army who discharges the duties of his command, so nearly without the intervention of aides, or Assistants as does General Grant.

Some ten or twelve days ago an article was published in the Chicago Tribune, charging frauds on the Quarter Masters Department here, in the purchase of lumber at Chicago. Genl. Grant immediately sent Capt. W. S. Hillyer a member of his staff to Chicago, with instructions to thoroughly investigate & report the facts. That report and a large mass of testimony, substantiating the charge had been forward to St. Louis when orders came from Washington to investigate the charge. The investigation had already been made. Thus time and again has he been able to send back the same answer when orders were received from St Louis in reference to the affairs of this District.

I am satisfied from the confidence and consideration you have manifested in me that my statement is sufficient for you but should the subject be mooted by other parties you can refer them to Col. J. D. Webster colonel of the 1st Illinois artillery. General Grants Chief of Staff, a man who is well known in Chicago as a man of unquestionable habits, a man who has been a counsellor of the General through this campaign, who was with him at and all through the Battle of Belmont, who has seen him daily and has every opportunity to know his habits. I would further refer them to Genl. Van Rensalear, who specially sent to inspect the ttoops, and investigate the condition of this District by Major Genl. McClellan, and Genl's. Sturgiss and Sweeny who were sent here by Major Genl. Halleck for the same purpose. These gentlemen after a full and thorough investigation returned to Saint Louis some two weeks ago.

I know not what report they made; but this I do know; that a few days after their return an order arrived from St Louis creating the District of Cairo a District including SouthEast Missouri Southern Illinois and all of Kentucky west of the Cumberland, a District nearly twice as large as General Grants former command, and General Grant was assigned to the command. I would refer them to Flag Officer A. H. Foote, of the U. S. Mississippi Naval Fleet, a man " whose actions and judgment are regulated by the strictest New England standard, a strict and faithful member of the Congregational Church; & who for months has had personal as well as official intercourse with the General.

If you could look into Genl Grants countenance at this moment, you would want no ether assurance of his sobriety. He is in perfect health, and his eye and intellect are as clear and active as can be. That General Grant has enemies no one could doubt, who knows how much effort he has made to guard against & ferret out frauds in his District, but I do net believe there is a single Colonel or Brig Genl. in his command who does not desire his promotion, or at least to see him the Commanding General of a large division of the Array, in its advance down the Mississippi when that movement is made. Some weeks ago one of those irresponsible rumors was set afloat, that Genl. Grant was to be removed from the command of the District and there was a universal protest expressed against it by both officers & men.

I have one thing more to say and I have done, this already long letter. No one can feel a greater interest in General Grant than I do; I regard his interest as my interest, all that concerns his reputation concerns me; I love him as I love a father, I respect him because I have studied him well, and the more I know him the more I respect & love him. Knowing the truth, I am willing to trust my hopes of the future upon his bravery & temperate habits; Have no fears General Grant by bad habits or conduct will never disgrace himself or you, whom he knows & feels to be his best and warmest friend (& from conversations I have frequently had with him) whose unrequested kindness toward him he will never forget and hopes some time to be able to repay.

But I say to you frankly and I pledge you my word for it, that should General Grant at any time become a intemperate man or an habitual drunkard, I will notify you immediately, will ask t0 be removed from duty on his staff (kind as he has been to me) or resign my commission. For while there are times when I would gladly throw the mantle of charity over the faults of friends, at this time and from a man in his position I would rather tear the mantle off and expose the deformity. Having made a full statement ef all the facts within my knowledge and being in a position to know them all & I trust done justice to the character of him whom you and I are equally interested in I remain your Friend"
 
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