December 14, 1863: Hunter’s report on Grant

Gen. David Hunter

David Hunter reports to Secretary of War Stanton. First, he gives a glowing report of Grant’s character and ability — including a note calculated to assuage fears about his rumored alcoholism: “he only took two drinks during the three weeks I was with him”. He goes on to suggest a march through the heart of the Confederacy. He’s not the first to come up with the idea, and he won’t be given the command of such an expedition, either.

Official Records:


LOUISVILLE, KY., December 14, 1863.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War, Washington:

DEAR SIR: I arrived at Chattanooga a month since, and was received by General Grant with the greatest kindness. He gave me his bed, shared with me his room, gave me to ride his favorite warhorse, read to me his dispatches received and sent, accompanies me on my reviews, and I accompanied him on all his excursions and during the three days of the battle. In fact, I saw him almost every moment, except when sleeping, of the three weeks I spent in Chattanooga.

I mention these, to you otherwise very unimportant facts, to show you that I had a first-rate opportunity of judging of the man. He is a hard worker, writes his own dispatches and orders, and does his own thinking. He is modest, quiet, never swears, and seldom drinks, as he only took two drinks during the three weeks I was with him. He listens quietly to the opinions of others and then judges promptly for himself; and he is very prompt to avail himself in the field of all the errors of his enemy. He is certainly a good judge of men, and has called round him valuable counselors.

Prominent as General Grant is before the country, these remarks of mine may appear trite and uncalled for, but having been ordered to inspect his command I thought it not improper for me to add my testimony with regard to the commander. I will also add that I am fully convinced the change of commanders was not made an hour too soon, and that if it had not been made just when it was, we should have been driven from the Valley of the Tennessee, if not from the whole State.

There is now crowded into the States of Alabama and Georgia near 2,000,000 of negroes, furnishing 400,000 fighting men, all ready, willing, and anxious to be drafted, and making much better soldiers than most of the men who require $600 and $700 to induce them to volunteer. Twenty thousand, 15,000, or even 10,000 men, marched rapidly into these States, without baggage, without artillery, subsisting on the country, carrying arms and ammunition for the negroes, and officers enough for 100,000 men, could go without serious opposition directly from Vicksburg to Charleston. The Southern heart could thus be beautifully fired and in a very short time consumed.

I think you will find that this small force can now well be spared, and I am confident it could march from the Mississippi to the Atlantic without serious opposition. A general rebellion among these crowded negroes would certainly produce great demoralization throughout the rebel army.

The corn crop is very abundant, and if we can get nothing else we can certainly live on the corn; we certainly should be able to do whatever the rebels can.

The negroes would know every path, and as they make most of their visits in the night, we should be able to march just as well in the night as in the day.

I beg that you will telegraph me to this place authority to take charge of an expedition of this kind.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,

D. HUNTER,
Major-General.

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