September 2, 1861: Grant has a little command problem

Benjamin Prentiss
Benjamin Prentiss

A couple of dispatches from General Grant on September 2 show first a routine communication to General Prentiss, followed by official notice to the commanding general Fremont that Prentiss refused to take orders from Grant and put himself under arrest. Both Grant and Prentiss had been appointed brigadier general on August 9 by Lincoln, but Grant’s previous rank in the Mexican-American war (regular army captain, as opposed to Prentiss’ captaincy of volunteers) gave him seniority. Prentiss didn’t believe it, and went to St. Louis to argue his case with Fremont.


HEADQUARTERS U. S. FORCES,
Cape Girardeau, Mo., September 2, 1861.
Brigadier General B. M. PRENTISS, Cape Girardeau, Mo.:
My instructions say that the rebels are fortifying Benton. It may be that they have moved to that point some heavy ordnance, which could not be taken away in the hurry of their departure. It would be well, therefore, to make inquiries in passing through whether such is the case. Should any be found at the point, put it under the charge of some secessionist of property, who will be held responsible for its safety until removed by authority.
Should anything come to my knowledge of the enemy’s movement likely to affect your movement, I will communicate with you as early as practicable, either by way of this place or by some point on the river below. Should you learn anything of importance, keep me informed, if practicable. I would recommend the reading of General Fremont’s order (Special Orders, Numbers 106) to the troops before
leaving Jackson.
U. S. GRANT,
Brigadier-General.

HEADQUARTERS U. S. FORCES,
Cairo, Ill., September 2, 1861.
I left Cape Girardeau at 10 o’clock this morning. General Prentiss raised the question of rank, and finally refused to obey my orders. Last night he tendered his resignation after being refused a leave of absence, but said he would command as directed until your decision. To-day he positively refused, and reported himself in arrest. I have

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placed Colonel Cook in command, with directions to remain at Jackson until further orders. I propose ordering General McClernand to that command if not prohibited.
Thirty thousand rations were sent to Jackson last night and this morning. I will forward by to-morrow’s mail a copy of all orders issued to General Prentiss, together with charges.
U. S. GRANT,
Brigadier-General.
Major General JOHN C. FREMONT,
Commanding Western Department, Saint Louis, Mo.

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