#24 on the list of 150 Most Teachable Lincoln Documents
“Please read and answer this letter as though I was not President, but only a friend….”
On This Date
HD Daily Report, January 19, 1865
Lincoln in 1865
Letter to Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
Robert Todd Lincoln
Mary Todd Lincoln
- Close Readings
Matthew Pinsker: Understanding Lincoln: Letter to Grant (1865) from The Gilder Lehrman Institute on Vimeo.
View in Larger Map
Other Primary Sources
Ulysses S. Grant to Abraham Lincoln, January 21, 1865
Keckley recollection of Mr. & Mrs. Lincoln discussion, 1868
Daily National Intelligencer, February 14, 1865
Robert Todd Lincoln to Abraham Lincoln, April 3, 1865
How Historians Interpret
“Of course Tad was far too young to serve, but twenty-one-year-old Robert was not. Robert was eager to drop out of Harvard and enlist, but his mother adamantly objected. ‘We have lost one son, and his loss is as much as I can bear, without being called upon to make another sacrifice,’ she insisted to the president. Lincoln replied: ‘But many a poor mother has given up all her sons, and our son is not more dear to us than the sons of other people are to their mothers.’ … In January 1865, when the First Lady finally yielded, Lincoln asked Grant to place Robert on his staff:”
— Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (2 volumes, originally published by Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008) Unedited Manuscript By Chapter, Lincoln Studies Center, Volume 2, Chapter 35 (PDF), pp. 3857-3859
Executive Mansion, Washington,
Jan. 19, 1865.
Lieut. General Grant:
Please read and answer this letter as though I was not President, but only a friend. My son, now in his twenty second year, having graduated at Harvard, wishes to see something of the war before it ends. I do not wish to put him in the ranks, nor yet to give him a commission, to which those who have already served long, are better entitled, and better qualified to hold. Could he, without embarrassment to you, or detriment to the service, go into your Military family with some nominal rank, I, and not the public, furnishing his necessary means? If no, say so without the least hesitation, because I am as anxious, and as deeply interested, that you shall not be encumbered as you can be yourself.