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CENTURY V32 N05: General Grant’s Reasons for Relieving General William F. Smith by J. B. Erhardt

General Grant’s Reasons for Relieving General William F. Smith.1

THE CENTURY of May publishes a letter from General William Farrar Smith in reply to General Grant, in which he states:

“… I sought an explanation from him on the day of my return, and he was as reticent in assigning any cause for his action then as he was twenty-one years after, when, in preparing a contribution to the history of the war, he again passed sentence upon me without assigning a reason of any kind for his condemnation. I am to-day as ignorant of the causes for his action as I was then.”

The following is an extract from a letter which has never been made public:

“COLLEGE POINT, L. I., July 30, 1864.


“DEAR SENATOR: I am extremely anxious that my friends in my native State should not think that the reason of General Grant relieving me from duty was brought about by any misconduct of mine, and therefore I write to put you in possession of such facts in the case as I am aware of, and think will throw light upon the subject. . . .

“On my return from a short leave of absence, on the 19th of July, General Grant sent for me to report to him, and then told me that he ‘could not relieve General Butler,’ and that as I had so severely criticised General Meade, he had determined to relieve me from the command of the Eighteenth Corps, and order me to New York City to await orders. The next morning the General gave some other reasons, such as an article in the ‘Tribune’ reflecting on General Hancock, which I had nothing in the world to do with, and two letters which I had written, before the campaign began, to two of General Grant’s most devoted friends, urging upon them to try and prevent him from making the campaign he had just made. . . . Very truly yours,

“WILLIAM F. SMITH, Major-General.”

The above may refresh General Smith’s recollection.

Joel Benedict Erhardt.

The Century Magazine, Volume 32, Number 5, p. 783:



  1. Erhardt, Joel Benedict. “General Grant’s Reasons for Relieving General William F. Smith” The Century Magazine, Volume 32, Number 5, p. 783
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