Halleck, as part of his ongoing feud with his subordinate Grant, had censured him for allowing plundering at Fort Donelson, and then taking an unauthorized trip to Nashville afterward to confer with Buell. Grant was restored to command, but in this dispatch he was still defending his actions to his superior.
From the Official Record:
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF WEST TENNESSEE,
Savannah, March 24, 1862.
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
Saint Louis, Mo.:
Your letter inclosing correspondence between yourself and Adjutant-General Thomas is just received. In regard to the plundering at Fort Donelson, it is very much overestimated by disappointed persons, who failed in getting off the trophies they had gathered. My orders of the time show that I did all in my power to prevent marauding. To execute these orders I kept a company on duty searching boats about leaving and to bring off all captured property found. My great difficulty was with the rush of citizens, particularly the Sanitary Committee, who infested Donelson after its fall. They thought it an exceedingly hard case that patriotic gentlemen like themselves, who had gone to tender their services to the sick and wounded, could not carry off what they pleased. Most of the wounded had reached hospitals before these gentlemen left Cairo. One of these men (a Dr. Fowler, of Springfield) swore vengeance against me for this very act of preventing trophies being carried off. How many more did the same thing I can’t tell.
My going to Nashville I did not regard particularly as going beyond my district. After the fall of Donelson, from information I had, I knew that the way was clear to Clarksville and Nashville. Accordingly I wrote to you, directed to your chief of staff, as was all my correspondence from the time of leaving Fort Henry until I learned you were not hearing from me, that by Friday following the fall of Donelson I should occupy Clarksville, and by Saturday week following should be in Nashville, if not prevented by orders from headquarters of the department. During all this time not one work was received from you, and I accordingly occupied Clarksville on the day indicated, and two days after the time I was to occupy Nashville General Nelson reported to me, with a division of Buell’s army, they being already on transports; and knowing that Buell’s column should have arrived opposite Nashville the day before, and having no use for these troops myself, I ordered them immediately to Nashville. It is perfectly plain to me that designing enemies are the cause of all the publications that appear and are the means of getting extracts sent to you. It is also a little remarkable that the Adjutant-General should learn of my presence in Nashville before it was known in Saint Louis, where I reported that I was going before starting.
I do not feel that I have neglected a single duty. My reports to you have averaged at least one a day since leaving Cairo, and there has been scarcely a day that I have not either written or telegraphed to headquarters. I most fully appreciate your justness, general, in the part you have taken, and you may rely upon me to the utmost of my capacity for carrying out all your orders.
U. S. GRANT,