The Peacemakers, 1868, depicting William T. Sherman, Ulysses S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln and David Dixon Porter
American General Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) distinguished himself during the Civil War and also excelled in his post-war duties as he supervised Reconstruction, protected the western frontier and liquidated war surpluses. As President Andrew Johnson’s term drew ignominiously to a close, Grant’s enormous popularity as commander of the victorious Union Army made him the Republican Party’s obvious choice to run for president. He served eight years, from 1869-1877.
Upon leaving the White House, Grant and his wife, Julia, sailed to Europe for an extended vacation that evolved into a world tour lasting more than two and a half years. The former president was hailed as a hero by cheering crowds, met numerous heads of state in both official and unofficial diplomatic capacities, and travelled throughout Europe, the Middle East, India, Russia and the Far East. The journey captured America’s imagination and did much to elevate the country’s prominence in international affairs. It also afforded Grant the foreign policy experience he lacked as he considered another presidential run.
The Grants arrived in San Francisco on September 20, 1879. Greeted by city officials and a cheering public, they traveled east to visit Yosemite, the Utah Territory and Nebraska before stopping in Chicago where Sherman and 80,000 veterans received Grant on November 12 and 13.
This November celebration, organized by the Society of the Army of the Tennessee, of which Sherman was president, included an annual business meeting, a parade marshalled by Philip Sheridan and a formal dinner at the Palmer House, operated by Potter Palmer (1826-1902). During the dinner speeches were delivered by Grant, Mark Twain, and General John Mason Loomis (1825-1900). Loomis had traveled on merchant ships to India and China in his youth, settled in Chicago, and in 1861, raised and led the 26th Illinois Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War. He was the finance chairman for the Society of the Army of the Tennessee. General John A. Logan (1826-1886), who served under Grant during the Civil War, chaired the society’s local executive committee and also spoke at the dinner. Logan was prominent in Republican post-war politics, representing Illinois in Congress for nearly 20 years beginning in 1867. As a leader in the Grand Army of the Republic, he called for establishing Memorial Day as a public holiday. At the Society’s annual meeting on November 12, 1879, Walter Q. Gresham (1832-1895), who served under Grant during the war and was appointed to an Indiana judgeship when the general became president, gave an address that “received thorough and well merited attention from the entire audience – in which were many of the ablest men of the country – during the entire time of delivery. He was frequently applauded most heartily. The Society [of the Army of the Tennessee] has been heretofore exceedingly fortunate in the selection of orators, and General Gresham fully maintains the record, ranking with the ablest and best,” (Report of the Proceedings of the Society of the Army of the Tennessee).
Strong, our letter’s recipient, entered the Civil War in 1861 as a captain and left as a brigadier general, and settled in Chicago. In 1872, he was a member of the expedition to explore the new Yellowstone National Park, along with Grant’s Secretary of War William Belknap, Army officer and explorer Randolph B. Marcy and others.
A graduate of West Point and veteran of the Mexican War, Grant gave Sherman command of the Military Division of the Mississippi in 1864. Sherman immediately set out with the Armies of the Cumberland, Ohio and Tennessee to invade Georgia. His siege of Atlanta led to its surrender on September 2, 1864, after which Sherman began his famous “March to the Sea,” a scorched earth campaign that culminated in the capture of the port of Savannah. Sherman’s infamous campaign is credited with breaking the Confederacy resulting in its surrender four months later.
In 1869, upon General Grant’s election as president, Sherman assumed command of the entire U.S. Army, remaining in that post until 1883. Although the Republican Party repeatedly begged him to run for president, he declined with the immortal expression, “If nominated, I will not accept. If elected, I will not serve.” Sherman and Grant’s relationship was unquestionably one of the most important military partnerships of the Civil War.
American Navy rear admiral David Dixon Porter (1813-1891) was descended from a prominent naval family and served in the Mexican and Civil wars. He was instrumental in the 1863 Siege of Vicksburg, and by gaining control of the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers, he completely cut the city off – an action referred to in our letter. Porter was later an extremely influential advisor to Grant, a subject of some controversy. He became an admiral in 1870 and, despite having reached mandatory retirement age in 1875, remained on active duty.
As stated in our letter, John Grimes Walker (1835-1907), served under Porter during naval operations against Vicksburg. After the war, he was promoted to commander and appointed assistant superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy. From 1881 to 1889, Walker was chief of the Bureau of Navigation. He was later involved in several schemes to find a route for a canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Our letter, outlining preparations for the 1879 Chicago reunion, also mentions two of Sherman’s eight children, Eleanor “Elly” (1859-1915) and Rachel (1861-1919).
Written on lined Army Headquarters stationery, with a partial blind embossed seal in the upper left corner. Folded and lightly stained; a small pin hole and purple ink checkmark in the upper margin, otherwise fine.