McClernand, John. Letter on the Battle of Belmont from Cairo, Illinois, 1861 | Illinois History and Lincoln Collections
This collection contains a printed letter from John A. McClernand (1812-1900) of the Brigade Head Quarters in Camp Cairo, Illinois, to Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885), dated November 12, 1861. An unknown author added a handwritten note at the bottom of the last page.
John A. McClernand was a Democratic politician from Shawneetown, Illinois. He served with Abraham Lincoln in the Illinois General Assembly in the 1830s and was eventually elected to the United States House of Representatives. In 1861, McClernand accepted a commission as brigadier general of Volunteers for service in the Civil War. Many of his contemporaries, including General Ulysses S. Grant, found McClernand incompetent in the field. Grant was McClernand's commanding officer during the Battle of Belmont in southeast Missouri, which was initially a success. However, the retreating Confederate troops received reinforcements from Columbus, Kentucky, and took back their camps in Belmont. Grant relieved McClernand from his military duties in 1863, after McClernand gave a report to the press without approval. After dismissal, he continued his political career in Illinois and served as district judge of the Sangamon District.
This collection consists of a printed letter from John A. McClernand to Ulysses S. Grant, dated November 12, 1861, five days after the Battle of Belmont in southeast Missouri. McClernand described the events of the battle in detail, praising the efforts made by soldiers under his command and by Grant himself. He also recounted many deaths following the Battle of Belmont, including Polish American aide-de-camp Captain Alexander Bielaski. McClernand closed his letter stating, "In closing this report, unavoidably somewhat imperfect, I cannot refrain from bearing testimony to the gallantry and good conduct of every arm on your force... I cannot but sympathize in the just pride with which their valor has inspired you, as their victorious commander." Below McClernand's printed signature is a handwritten note titled "Principal Characters." The author of the note found the letter arrogant and conceited, listing how often McClernand mentioned himself.
The Library purchased this collection in 2021 with support from a gift given by Mary Sue Schusky in memory of her father, Irving Dilliard, Class of 1927.