My Dear Col Gantt,
Your two letters gave me much pleasure, amongst other things they relieved
me of the feeling that I had imposed upon you the sacrifice of much
labor and time. That I have not written you sooner in reply is because,
mainly, that I wished first to form some judgment on the effects of the
Cincinnati nominations. You will remember that I suggested the possibility
of that nomination, but I thought it highly improbable: not so much on
the level of availability -- altho I doubted that -- as on the results
that might follow success at the polls. On the surface it looks now as
if an easy victory lay before us. If the election were to take place this
month it would be doubly be gained. But as McTilden says of his own case,
if at the date of nomination two thirds of the voters are democratic, government's
influence alone can by election day reduce the advantage to an equality!
and the campaign is not yet organized. We have it is true certain conditions
in our favor. The dissatisfaction of the republican party, and the vulnerability
of its candidate. Then the rejection of Grant has evidently greatly, if
not mortally offended, its most unscrupulous and audacious faction, of
that are which devised and successfully executed the conspiracy to seize
the presidency in Washington after losing it in the States in 1876-7. "When
rogues fall out honest men &c" We may hope that thatfaction
undertake try this game again, in the interests
of the other one. Still the "great novel idea" that the 'Nation'
would be in danger if the wicked democrats were in power would easily prevail
over such a trifle as 'principles', in case they should see their profit
in again usurping the presidency.
If however our majority should prove too large for this, it will also prove that the fullness of time has come, and that the shrewd knaves, who have frightened honest fools about a 'solid south' (which they themselves know -- they acted on this knowledge in 1876 -- could not be kicked into another war) have lost their hold. Such being the case 'Tilden and Hendricks' would have swept they county, Hendricks is the great winner in the matter, but 'Tilden & ___ would have answered the purpose it should have been made even if Tilden was physically incapable of serving efficiently. He could have resigned and so turned over to Hendricks or why not? Hancock as v.p.-- but Tilden was a principle, so much of a principle: that a 'lion-hearted' party would have gone down and 'come upagain' ? it. There was an immediate and powerful effect produced here by McTildens letter, and when the bulletin announcing Hancocks nomination was placed in the board it acted as a 'wet blanket' on the assembled crowd. One of the officers who was present told me that all showed disappointment, many disgust, some declared they would not vote for him. There is no 'enthusiasm' yet, but the State is safe!
I wish I could agree with you as to Hancock. I think he is in himself weak, and but quite sure that he did not write the 'Peace' in any other paper requiring much knowledge or sustained logic. What Lucan(?) Says of Caesar. (I take yr. version I cannot quote the original for my studies at a frontier-post-school as a preparation for West Point did not -- mores the pity -- lie in that direction.) That he "importunately pressed upon the favor of the Gods and pushed success to its extremes" is true of Hancock, who had moreover the advantage over Caesar that in modern war the newspaper reporter follows close upon the battle, and is easily subsidised(sic), or rather influenced. His quotation of Worth "now the battle is over, the fighting will begin" shows that his mind was alive to the change of condition. I do not think his military record will bear close investigation. In separate commands he was rarely if ever successful, as a subordinate he was greatly favored with opportunities.
I doubt too if his civil record would -- if closely examined in connection
with certain facts
would be much benefit him
to his credit personally. But he possesses in an eminent degree the art
of success, and I trust that he will in the future exhibit as much shrewdness
as he has in the past, and place himself under good guidance. Fortune may
then greatly favor him, Grant and others have taken his measure, and I
would not be surprised if they turned their whole attention to securing
for him an adverse or divided congress, in the expectation that as president
he will then ruin himself. If they elect their president much will be expected
from the democratic party. It went far to reconcile me to the result of
the electoral commission; that McTilden would have had a divided congress
to thwart him. From the dangers I most apprehend the nomination of Tilden
would have saved us. If Hancock can now win, McTilden would have except
the country, C'est là mon avis, but I don't know that my
opinion is worth much.
It is but fair to say to you that our personal relations, his & mine, may affect my judgment of H. but I think not. My object has been not to injure H. but to vindicate myself against charges made by him incidentally to his "storming the Gods with his importunities." As you know, I have been engaged in a controversy with him about the battle of Gettysburg, part of which has been published by Congress. My reply to his last indictment of me, (which was aided so far as they could aid it, by Gen Sherman and the Secretary of War) is prepared and filed in the War Dept but I would not publish it myself until after the convention was over. Now of course I will not publish it until forced to do so - until the campaign is over. I almost (but in mercy to you forbore) inflicted a perusal of the manuscript copy upon you when I wrote you. It treats of the battle of Gettysburg, necessarily dissects on of the great incidents of that battle and illustrates one of the peculiarities of & to which I have merely alluded in the body of this letter. I hope that the published part of our controversy (congr. document) will not attract the notice of the politicians, nor be used in the canvass. His last paper is so very sweeping and positive in its statements -- which will not hold water -- that I should be sorry on my own account not to meet it if reproduced and equally sorry to meet it on his account for I earnestly desire his election, as I deprecated(?) his nomination.
I regret with you the loss of the old "lion-hearted" quality of the democratic party. Faced by a party determined to 'rule or ruin' it was compelled to be silent during the war under penalty of wrecking the country by weakening the hands of the administration. But at the close of the war it should have avowed its ancient principles as to the constitutional rights of the states, the finances, commerce etc. Had it declared against 'protection' advocates a return to the principles of the 'sub/ act' &c &c and maintained that position it would have lost nothing, as it turned out and the country would by this time have been instructed in sound principles. What do those who have reached, in the North, the voting age within the last twenty years, know of the great constitutional principles that were in issue from 1830 to 1860? All the work must be done all again and the democratic party reconstructed on its ancient constitutional principles. In order to do this timidity must be discarded and our ablest and best men 'brought to the front.' The work of the Chicago and Cincinnati conventions recalls to my recollection Thos H. Bentons denunciation of the 'convention system' of choosing a candidate, I have no books of reference, and have not seen it since the first publication, when I was ever so young, but it seems to me that events have justified him. It was stated hereexultingly in a public speech a few days since, that the 'galleries' dictated Hancocks nomination, that their excitement and demonstrations, (occasioned by the speech of an 'unauthorized' nomination) descended to the floor of the convention and swept every thing before them. We know how it was in Chicago, and what a mess they made of their ?! I think the Cincinnati convention also "made a mess" of it. The "Convention" on the floor and the "Jacobin Club" in the galleries, is not a pleasant basis for government. How well the Jacobins must have felt then, the convention after ignominiously expelling them from the floor, yielded to their clamors, and nominated their candidate! No wonder that Kelly offered his 'Kiss of Peace" and that it was accepted, avec effussion! Oh! for a little of the "old lion-hearted quality"! Is it not quite time to consider Benton's views and go back to the old practice of receiving the nomination from the trusted leaders in Congress, who can consult and act with deliberation, i.e. if I am right as to his views.
It is a piece of presumption in me to read you a homily on 'political'
matters I being out of the world and with no associates with whom I can
converse, and so clarify my ideas. And apropos of this I am heartily
sick of the service. A "Commanding officer" no longer 'command's but is
'general agent' to the staff officers at Dept. Headqrs. Hence his labors
are four fold what they used to be. He must coach them, so as to enable
them each in his own specialty to instruct him how to do his own
proper duty. I believe Gen Pope was perfectly right in saying that the
army costs are third more than necessary, owing to fault of administration
& I will add organization. Then as you know a comdg. officer is necessarily
an elderly person, where ? is made greater by the want of community of
feeling between the officers of the 'Old' army and of the present one.
Frequent ? presents his ?? association with civilians. When I do go to
Washington, which is seldom, it is a relief for I there meet some old friend,
and if I find John Lee in town I mark the visit 'with a white stone.' We
went together a few weeks since to spend a Sunday morning with Jo. Johnston.
It is the first time I had meet the latter since the war and I am sorry
to say that I met him but short time, as he left town the next morning
for Nashville. These two meetings and my visit to you in St. Louis are
about all the occurrences of the last year that has carried me back to
the world to which we properly belong. And if I had remained in
Atlanta I would have seen mor of Johnston for he game here on a visit and
on my return I found invitation to meet him. And so I want to
and settle down somewhere -- I'm tired of being a 'stranger' -- but having
nothing but my pay and six children to educate, I can't do it, not with
my present rank, and I have no prospect of reaching a higher grade. A compulsory
retirement law would force me out and I think I would then be content
if forced, I would welcome it, if it were as full pay, or
another grade or two - which I think ought to be given after more than
40 years service at least to those who served in Mexico. Doubtless
my ideas of the deserts(?) of Mexican ? have the same origin as those of
Mirabeau's when describing the qualifications that a prime minister ought
to possess. You remember the question asked him, but still it is worthy
of repetition on occasion, "Should he not also be well pitted
with the small pox?"!
On the occasion of that Sunday morning visit with Jo Johnston, of Lee and myself, we had a long gossip over old affairs and old times: and amongst other things, our ancient friend Hitchcock came upon the topic. Do you remember the evening I was in your tent with Key, the first day of Hitchcock's visit to Yorktown? I remember giving you a long account of certain matters in Florida, told me by Gen Worth in Mexico, which with Hitchcock's doings in Mexico made me very suspicious as to his business with the army and McClellan. I had quite a long talk with McClellan before I saw you and seamed him to be on his guard, that H. was a dangerous man, and to be very careful, McC. rather laughed at me as retaining recollections of the Scott, Worth-Pillow-Duncan-Hitchcock imbroglio, and I told him that he as a member of ? Division probably had a very high - the old armyopinion - of H. -- but that I knew him better and would advise McC. to be very cautious. I was glad to hear that McC. was very careful in their interview, and Ingalls told me that during that three ? muddy boggy drive in which he took Gen H. back to Cheeseman Landing, H. was ? in a ? ? of McClellan. He went back as you will remember and wanted McClellan tried for disobedience of orders! I believe I never spoke to you afterwards on this subject-- You were rather ? at the time of the visit of H. to the army -- as he had always stood so high in St Louis -- but I never happened to think of the matter when we met afterwards. We had it all over with Jo. Johnston who remembered all the Florida matter with some points I had not heard or forgotten, but I told Lee I was glad to have my recollections confirmed, and I then remembered my having told them to you so long ago. Doubtless you remember the circumstance for Hitchcock's doings in the matter - his presidency of the "Council-of-War" which reported McC's neglect to furnish for the defense of Washington, and this occasioned McDowells retention at Fredericksburg -- his 'service' on Fitz John Porter's Trial &c &c brought his character out in full relief and clearly justified Norths view of it. What an infinite deal of mischief, such an able, talented, smooth ? aid, ? is capable of doing, and what an apt instrument he can be ? for the purposes of such men as Stauton & Holt. Holt as Judge Advocate and Hitchcock as a member of such a tribunal were enough to condemn it and all its doings.
Yes it was a pity, and as it turns out an act of folly as was as of cowardice ? that the Fitz John Porter case was not pushed, and Garfield allowed to make his speech. It would have made his present position uncomfortable. There are many, very many republicans in ? and elsewhere who are ? enthusiastic friends of Porter, converted recently and therefore their minds are peculiarly open to conviction, Garfield was a member of Porters Court. It was his ? duty to hold his tongue. He could hardly open his mouth with out "declaring or ?" both the vote and opinion of one member of the court. He is indeed represented as having said when the Schofield Board was altered, that the court came within one vote of hanging Porter" I supposed so, since remember, -- five could convict, it required six to sentence to death -- which accounts for the 'incongruity' of the ''finding' and 'sentence'! --
I am afraid I have 'gossiped you' to death. You demanded a long reply. I must stop some where, and do it here as I write in the midst of constant interruptions, you will see my letter is disjointed. Besides the weather is fearfully hot. You say that next to conversing face to face writing comes (line missing). I find it so - and when you are disposed to write, will always be glad to hear from you.
Please remember me to McGarrett, whom I met in 1873, and believe so. As ever, Truly Yours
Henry J. Hunt