U.S. Grant's New Orleans accident

Joseph A. Rose

Corporal
Joined
Jan 5, 2010
Although this subject has probably been discussed in prior threads, another poster just requested evidence of Grant's binging. His New Orleans accident probably offers the most clearcut and relatively uncontested episode (uncontested, that is, by contemporary participants).

Debarking at New Orleans on September 2nd, Grant reviewed fifteen thousand soldiers at Carrollton two days later. His horse took two men to hold. After a "handsome dejeuner at May’s—music, wine, choruses, &c.” Grant raced back towards New Orleans. One day after the mishap, General Banks wrote his wife how “I am frightened when I think that he is a drunkard. His accident was caused by this, which was too manifest to all who saw him.” ”Several months later, General Franklin explained: "... Grant had commenced a frolic which would have ruined him in body + reputation in a week. For two days he had been on a continual bender, and after his review, he was riding full split along the road, when he + his horse came down." Through “information obtained at Headquarters,” reporter Sylvanus Cadwallader found out that Grant’s “being thrown from his horse … was solely due to his drinking. Mark Twain wrote that Ulysses’ friend Franklin recounted how he “saw Grant tumble from his horse drunk.”

One historian used Lorenzo Thomas’ and Cadwallader Washburn’s silence about drinking in letters written soon afterward to signify Ulysses’ sobriety. The fact that Thomas had been imbibing heavily with Grant and his officers negated that half of an already weak postulation; silence about such tippling that caused an accident would have been expected. As for Cadwallader Washburn, his letter referred to the presidential candidates for 1864 and enlightened his brother the congressman on how “Grant has the prestige of success + so far is the very man, but he is anything but a statesman to say nothing about some other points.” He hoped that a better contender would come along. Less than a week later, a second note reaffirmed his doubtfulness: “I have already told you that I take no stock in [Grant] as a Presidential Candidate. I can tell you why at another time.” Coming after the momentous victory at Vicksburg, the General’s unrevealed shortcomings must have been substantial indeed, with the distinct possibility of alcoholic binging being one of them. And this was the third recorded instance of an intoxicated Grant galloping off on a horse in wartime. Divulging to his fiancée the details of a later bout of inebriation by his boss, John Rawlins hoped, in vain, that “his New Orleans experience would prevent him ever again indulging with this his worst enemy.” Grant’s pledge of abstinence “was broken on several occasions,” recalled Dr. Kittoe, specifically naming New Orleans.

No one there, as far as I know, claimed that Grant was sober.
 

John Hartwell

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
Gen. James G. Wilson gives this account of Grant's September 1863 mishap:

"General Nathaniel P. Banks, who was a perfect rider, was the owner of two beautiful bay chargers while in command of the Department of the Gulf. When, in September, 1863, General Grant visited New Orleans, a review of the Thirteenth Corps, which had recently arrived from Vicksburg, was held in his honor. Banks rode his greatest favorite, Shenandoah, purchased in Virginia, and Grant mounted his other war-horse, Charlie, who had been wounded in the battle of Cedar Mountain. After the review the above officers, with their staffs, and many others, including Lorenzo Thomas, the Adjutant-General of the United States Army, then organizing colored regiments in Louisiana, were invited by a wealthy planter to a lunch-party. Before the entertainment was concluded a trial of speed on the shell road was arranged by General Thomas between Grant, mounted on Charlie, and a young cavalry officer, who was the owner of a Kentucky thoroughbred bay named Donna. As they sped along, neck and neck, on the Carrollton road, the riders, in turning a sharp bend in the road, came suddenly on an approaching train, which, together with the shriek of the locomotive, caused the spirited Charlie to swerve from his course and to throw the General straight over his head. This unfortunate accident confined Grant to his bed for several weeks, and possibly was responsible for the defeat of the Northern army at Chickamauga, when otherwise he would have arrived in season to avert the disaster that overtook the Union forces. As soon as the General was able to move about on crutches he proceeded to Chattanooga, and soon relieved that beleaguered city. For two months after his fall he could not walk without the aid of a cane and crutch. Charlie was brought to the North at the close of the war, and for many years was kindly cared for at the Massachusetts home of General Banks in Waltham, where he died and was buried. The beautiful Virginia bay enjoys the unique distinction of being the only horse that ever unseated the illustrious soldier Grant, who was noted for his skillful riding from early boyhood, and as a West Point cadet." [https://sites.google.com/site/no34warhorses/ ]
 

uaskme

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 9, 2016
Location
SE Tennessee
Grant didn’t get the Request for Troops to go to Chattanooga because he didn’t make it back to his HQ for several days. Correspondence was on his Desk when he Returned.

So, did this incident affect his effectiveness? Was this incident caused by his Drinking?

Rosecrans had a response on his Desk when he got back to Chattanooga on 9/20, the final day of the Battle of Chickamauga. That support was on its way. Information Rosecrans used to decide what to do at Chattanooga.
 
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Joseph A. Rose

Corporal
Joined
Jan 5, 2010
Grant didn’t get the Request for Troops to go to Chattanooga because he didn’t make it back to his HQ for several days. Correspondence was on his Desk when he Returned.

So, did this incident affect his effectiveness? Was this incident caused by his Drinking?

Rosecrans had a response on his Desk when he got back to Chattanooga on 9/20, the final day of the Battle of Chickamauga. That support was on its way. Information Rosecrans used to decide what to do at Chattanooga.

If it weren't for Grant's drunken riding accident in New Orleans, Halleck would have given him greater authority in the West, so that alone could have greatly impacted events.
 
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