President Grant’s Secretary of War John Rawlins to Union General McPherson at the Beginning of the Vicksburg Campaign

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[RAWLINS, JOHN AARON. (1831-1869)]. Union officer and President Grant’s secretary of war. Secretarial Ms. 1p. Oblong 12mo. Holly Springs, Mississippi, [Dated “3rd,” suggesting, perhaps, the date of December 3, 1862]. A draft telegram written in pencil in the hand of an unknown secretary to Union General JAMES B. MCPHERSON (1828-1864), the second highest ranking Union officer killed during the war.

Cars are on the way to your Head Quarters loaded with supplies…”

A native of Galena and a staunch supporter of the Union, Rawlins helped organize the 45th Illinois Infantry to which he was appointed a major. In early August 1861, he accepted Ulysses S. Grant’s offer of a commission as a lieutenant in the 21st Infantry and his aide-de-camp, rising quickly through the ranks to become Grant’s “principal staff officer and most intimate and influential advisor,” (DAB). In May 1862, he was promoted to assistant adjutant general of volunteers. In addition to his other duties, it fell to Rawlins to “prevent… Grant from drinking too much,” (Who was Who in the Union, Sifakis). Closing out the war as a major-general, Rawlins served as Grant’s first secretary of war, but died after only six months in office, a loss deeply felt by the president.

A graduate of West Point, McPherson served on General Henry Halleck’s staff before his assignment to General Grant in September 1862 who placed him in charge of the important railroad junction of Corinth, Mississippi. For his bravery at the Battle of Shiloh, McPherson was promoted brigadier general, after which he replaced General W. T. Sherman as commander of the Army of the Tennessee. He died at the Battle of Atlanta – the second highest ranking Union officer killed during the war.

General Grant ordered Major General McPherson to command the center of the Army of the Tennessee as it marched south through Mississippi, towards Vicksburg, and entered Holly Springs in mid-November, 1862. Holly Springs was a strategic point on the Mississippi Central Railway that Grant used as a forward supply depot and headquarters while planning his assault on Vicksburg, several hundred miles to the southwest. It was just two weeks later, on December 17 that Rawlins, in Holly Springs, signed Grant’s infamous General Order No. 11 that called for the expulsion of all Jews from the Department of the Tennessee, within 24 hours. This act, which caused lasting damage to General Grant’s reputation, led to such an outcry in the press and congress that President Lincoln revoked it on January 4, 1863. Three days after Rawlins issued the order, December 20, 1862, Holly Springs fell into Confederate hands, with the surrender of 1500 soldiers and the supplies that the commanding officer, Colonel Murphy, had neglected to destroy. This defeat forced General Grant to retreat from Corinth, Mississippi west to La Grange, Tennessee.

Written in pencil on lined paper with a slightly irregular bottom and right edge. Light folding and in very good condition.

President Grant’s Secretary of War John Rawlins to Union General McPherson at the Beginning of the Vicksburg Campaign


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