Letter to Ulysses S Grant (January 19, 1865)


#24 on the list of 150 Most Teachable Lincoln Documents

Annotated Transcript

“Please read and answer this letter as though I was not President, but only a friend….”

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On This Date

HD Daily Report, January 19, 1865

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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


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Searchable Text

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. 
Yours truly