Archive for April, 2014

Grant On A Bender

by Andy Mateja

During the Civil War, there were rumors circulating about Gen Ulysses S. Grant’s penchant for drinking to excess. While Grant already had a reputation of overindulging before the Civil War, the rumors escalated as his military successes increased.
It was widely known in the army that Grant was drinking out of loneliness and boredom during the 1850’s when he was stationed in Oregon and Northern California. He resigned his commission on April 11th 1854, the very day he was promoted to captain.
He was known as a poor drinker. He would often get inebriated quickly on just 2 or 3 drinks. Some considered him not truly an alcoholic…just someone who had a low tolerance for spirits.
It was fellow officers and the press who later blamed all his failures on his drinking. President Lincoln however ignored most of the allegations and Grant was doing what Lincoln wanted him to do ….which was WINNING BATTLES.
However early in 1862 when Grant’s “star” was on the ascendency after his twin victories at FT Henry & Donelson, his commanding officer, Maj Gen William H. Halleck became jealous of all the accolades Grant was receiving and want to get rid of him from his command. Halleck went through channels to spread the rumors of Grant being back on the bottle…all the way ups to General-in-Chief George B. McClellan. It was having an impact on Grant, but not enough to relieve him of command.
Months later in Dec 1862, during the evolving Vicksburg Campaign, Grant did start to become frustrated about not being able to get at Confederate commander Lt Gen. John C. Pemberton. President Lincoln & Secretary of War Stanton at first thought the rumors of his drinking might have been true and sent Charles Dana, a former journalist now representing the War Dept, to keep an eye on Grant. Grant wisely befriended Dana and kept no secrets from him. In return, Dana wrote favorably about Grant back to both Lincoln & Stanton.
During this campaign, there was also a reporter from the prestigious Chicago Times traveling with Grant who wrote about a June 1863 incident accusing Grant of drunkenness. He alleges on June 6th Grant traveled by steamer 100 miles northward from his base near Vicksburg to determine if Confederate reinforcements were arriving to relieve the siege.
The reporter, Sylvanus Cadwallader, claimed that when Grant boarded the steamer, he had already been drinking as was already intoxicated. Grant then went to the bar on the steamer and continued to drink.
Cadwallader supposedly threatened the captain of the steamer that there would be “Hell to Pay” for him if he continued to let Grant drink on this ship. Miraculously afterwards Grant “left” the bar and the door was locked and the key was “lost” ….
Cadwallader then claimed he locked himself in Grant’s stateroom with the General and began throwing bottles of whiskey out the portholes of the stateroom and into the river. He said Grant angrily ordered him to leave but Cadwallader instead talked Grant into removing his coat, vest and boots to lie down, which Grant did and soon fell fast asleep.
When the steamer arrived at its northern destination, Grant seemed to be half sober and wanted to go ashore. Cadwallader and others felt it was too dangerous for Grant to go ashore with only a small bodyguard in rebel territory and “convinced him to stay on board while the steamer quickly turned around and headed back toward Grants headquarters. When the steamer initially paused at Haynes Bluff, Grant, now sober, got off the steamer and within an hour, appeared to be intoxicated once again. Cadwallader felt it would be too embarrassing for Grant to return to his headquarters only a few miles away all “liquored up” where Army and Navy brass could see his “condition”. Cadwallader convinced the captain of the steamer to proceed slowly toward Grant’s headquarters, using as many delays as possible in order to give Grant time to “sober up”.
When the steamer finally arrived at Grant’s headquarters at Chickasaw Bayou, another steamer was there which Grant boarded and began drinking again. Cadwallader claims the owner of the steamer promised not to serve Grant any liquor but quickly broke that promise. Grant was finishing a glass of whiskey when Cadwallader ushered him off the steamer and directed him toward his mounted bodyguards.
Unfortunately the horse loaned to Grant at the instance was a “wild” one and immediately took off at a fast gallop after being mounted. The “commanding general” rode wildly through his headquarters camp with Cadwallader and the bodyguard trailing far behind. Being a superb horseman, Grant was able to slow the horse down to a trot and allow Cadwallader to catch up with him. He ultimately did catch up and convinced Grant to take a nap on the spot. Grant was then secreted back to her personal tent in an army ambulance wagon to hide his present condition from his fellow officers.
Staff officer Col John Rawlings, who was entrusted in keeping Grant “sober”, now, had to figure away to keep Grant’s drunken binge a secret. Rawlins had written a letter on June 6th to Grant prior to his steamer trip upriver reminding him that he promised no longer to during alcohol during the campaign. Apparently Grant ignored that promise……
For his part, Cadwallader kept silent for the remainder of the war after becoming an unofficial member of Grant’s staff.
Interestingly, the man chosen by Lincoln and Stanton to keep an eye on Grant – Charles Dana, told a different story of the incident. His version states that Grant was merely “sick” during his trip upriver and HE and the other officers decided to turn the steamer around and head back. No mention of Grant’s liquor intoxication or the wild horse ride and surreptitious ambulance ride to his tent that occurred the next day.
Both version of this escapade were written and released to the public many years after the incident took place and after Grant served as President and passed away. Also no one was aware of this liquor based incident during the remainder of the war except for those who were there. All kept the secret until then.
While the story is still questioned by historians whether it is factual or not, most agree it is more likely to be true…. One thing for certain is that it never impacted his later successes in winning the Civil War and later servicing as President of the United States….

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by Andy Mateja

The March 23rd 1862 Battle of Kernstown was Stonewall Jackson debut as an independent commander and unsuccessful commencement to a period in the Shenandoah Valley that immortalized his incredible winning style that is still discussed by historians and military commanders to this day.
While the battle was a loss for Jackson, he wasted no time in blaming his second-in command; Brig Gen Richard Garnett for the mismanagement of the military affair. A week after the battle, Jackson relieved Garnett of command of the celebrated Stonewall Brigade and pushed for court-martial action against him.
Confederate losses during the battle approached 22% which prompted Jackson to file seven charges against Garnett. Garnett, wanting to clear his name and restore his honor, demanded a speedy trial. Unfortunately for him, high ranking command officers could not be spared from the front at this time as action against invading Union forces were building, both on the Virginia peninsula and in the Shenandoah Valley.
During this time, Garnett had a chance to strengthen his defense against the charges such as not fully supporting the artillery during the battle, falling back instead of holding his ground and issuing retreat orders. White at best some of these charges were partially true, most were not, including the retreat order which was deemed “imaginary”.
Jackson replaced Garnett as commander of the Stonewall Brigade with Brig Gen Charles Winder. He was very unpopular with the men and deemed an “outsider” to the brigade. He was truly a harsh disciplinarian and in some instances considered even harsher that Stonewall Jackson.
Garnett in the meantime was appointed commander of a brigade under James Longstreet and served in that capacity up until Gettysburg. He saw further action at South Mountain and Antietam. Ironically he also served as a pallbearer at Stonewall Jackson’s funeral.
On August 6th, Garnett’s Court Martial took place ….just two days before the battle of Cedar Mountain. Stonewall Jackson himself was the first to testify. Garnet was allowed to question Jackson in detail regarding the seven charges. Jackson weakened his case by providing conflicting testimony. He had to admit that the Confederate forces were outnumbered 4 –to-1 and that he did expect his forces to have do fall back. Jackson also admitted he did not provide his second in command, Garnett, with his (Jackson’s) plan of battle.
The trial ended abruptly two days later at the advent of the battle of Cedar Mountain. It never resumed. This was fortuitous for Jackson as most likely he would have lost his case. Instead attention was diverted to his brilliant victory over Union Maj. Gen John Pope.
Charles Winder was killed at Cedar Mountain a few months after taking command of the Stonewall Brigade. Eight months after Cedar Mountain, Stonewall Jackson was mortally wounded at Chancellorsville. Two months later Richard Garnett was killed at Gettysburg. The matter ceased to be a topic of discussion by Southerners afterwards and is only remembered by historians today.

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