Lot 15: U. S. Grant handwritten signed letter
10th October 2018
ALS signed "U. S. Grant, General," one page, lightly-lined, 5 x 5, December 21, 1866. Letter to Major General Winfield Scott Hancock. In full: "If you have not sent a company to Lexington, you need not do so. If it has been sent withdraw it." Attractively double-cloth-matted and framed with an engraved portrait to an overall size of 14 x 22. In very good condition, with scattered foxing and toning. Accompanied by two full letters of authenticity from PSA/DNA. Despite the brevity of this letter, the circumstances from which it arose are utterly fascinating and of tremendous historical interest. After the Civil War, Winfield Scott Hancock was put in command of Fort Leavenworth as the leader of the Department of the Missouri. Violence flared across the state throughout 1866, led by the so-called 'bushwhacker' guerrilla forces-comprised primarily of self-organized bands of former Confederate soldiers-that would develop into some of the most notorious gangs of the Old West. Beginning in 1866, Archie Clement led his gang-which included the likes of Jesse James and Cole Younger-to take up the profession of bank robbery, targeting banks associated with Missouri Unionists. Lexington was a particular target-after robbing a bank there at the end of October, they returned on election day to intimidate Republican voters. They withdrew after being threatened by state militia, only to return on December 13, 1866, one week before Grant dispatched this message. A detachment of state militia pursued Clement, who was wanted for leading the bank hold-up, and a wild gunfight ensued in which he was shot dead in the street. The governor of Missouri had the militia remain in Lexington to suppress the bushwhackers, while Grant ordered federal troops to the city from Fort Leavenworth in order to 'keep the peace.' Governor Fletcher was upset by Grant's actions in sending in regular troops without recommendation or consultation, claiming that it undermined his authority as the state's executive. Rather than stir up more controversy about state versus federal powers, Grant withdrew his order in this letter to Fort Leavenworth's commander. A truly exceptional letter implicitly addressing some of the greatest postwar issues confronting the United States.
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