Sandyville, West Virginiaa: 1861. Disbound. This three-page letter was written by A. C. McKitrick in response to a friend, J.W. Boos. It is datelined “May 31st 1911. / Sandyville W. Va.” and details the first few weeks of then Colonel Ulysses S. Grant’s first eight weeks of command of the 21st Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the spring of 1861. A note in the extreme left margin of the first page reads, “I want to have sheets bound on the ends.” The binding sheets are no longer present; however, the typed transcript of the letter is still attached in the rear. In nice shape.
The letter reads in part:
“I was with the regt only two months when shot through the neck by the accidental discharge of a gun . . . discharged early in 1862. “Grant was a low heavy set man, heavy whiskers closely trimmed, Rather dark complexion. Our first duty after organization was to march to Quincy on the Mississippi. Thence by rail to Macon Mo. Then south to Mexico in Audrain Co. [Missouri], where we drilled a few days. Grant was a very strict disciplinarian. He took us out on a beautiful prarie to drill. Beyond the prairie was a large farm house with porch above and below. Our drill ground was right in front of that house. On one occasion a lady came out on the upper porch dressed in white and seated herself on a chair. She was a conspicuous figure with her feet on the banisters. Of course she drew our attention . . .. Grant called the company officers to him lectured them. Finally he drew us up with the lift wing toward the house. And instead of dressing to the right we wanted to dress to the left. . .. Grant caught on and he yelled out as wicked as a wild cat “Eyes right off of that woman, G-d d---- it.”. .. Then he drilled us for about a half hour. Sun up in 90 degrees. Oh were glad when we were sent to our quarters. . ..
“He was an inveterate smoker. He always had a cigar in his mouth. Upon a certain occasion when we were down the Mississippi Grant had occasion to lecture a raw recruit about his duty when he was on guard at his headquarters. shortly after, this same recruit was on guard on board of a steam boat laden with powder &c. with orders not to allow any one to come nearer than fifty feet with a lighted cigar while on guard, he saw General Grant coming puffin a cigar. At a certain distance he called our “halt.” At the same time he brought his gun to his shoulder. Grant stopped. He said I have orders to allow no one on this boat with a lighted cigar. Grant looked at him dropped the cigar in the water. The guard brought his gun to a salute. Grant passed on to the boat. . ..”. Very good. Item #010107
An uncommon first-hand description of Grant’s first Civil War command from a private in the regiment. At the time of listing, nothing similar is for sale in the trade. Also, nothing similar has come up for auction per the Rare Book Hub, nor is held by institutions per OCLC. However, both databases indicate that a number of autographed letters signed by Grant as the commander of the 21st have been sold at auction and are in academic collections..