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    Grant Requests a Position for the Architect of the Sultana Disaster

    Ulysses S. Grant Autograph Letter Signed "U.S. Grant." One page, 7.75" x 11.75", Fortress Monroe [Virginia], July 31, 1864. Addressed to Maj. Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs, quartermaster general of the U.S. Army, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant writes regarding a position for Lt. Col. Reuben B. Hatch, "whom I have been acquainted since the beginning of the war, and who has been relieved from duty as Chief Qr. Mr. of the 13th Army Corps, that Crops being broken up" and who "expresses a desire to be assigned to duty in New Orleans in charge of water transportation if not as Chief Qr. Mr." He continues: "I would in no instance recommend a chief for any staff Dept. to a Dept. Commander desiring always to be in a condition to hold commanders responsible for short comings within their commands. If however you can assign Col. Hatch to the second choice here leaving the Dept. Commander to say who shall have the first, I will be pleased." The letter shows some areas of paper loss, especially at the right edge of the lower fold, and has been professionally laid down on a backing sheet. Staining throughout the middle does not detract.

    Reuben Benton Hatch (1819-1871) had already had trouble with authorities earlier in the war when he was caught buying supplies cheaply and selling them to the government for an inflated price, pocketing what money remained. Lucky for him, connections with powerful men, including President Lincoln (his elder brother, Ozias M. Hatch, was Illinois secretary of state and a close friend of the president), had him cleared of any misconduct. Despite charges of corruption, by April 1865, Hatch was quartermaster at Vicksburg.

    The SS Sultana arrived at Vicksburg from New Orleans for repairs to leaky boilers. In the meantime, Hatch, as quartermaster, helped arrange over 2,000 passengers, most of whom were former Union POWs returning home, for passage aboard the ship -- which was designed to hold no more than 376. The ship was in need of a new boiler, but, in an effort to save time, the old boiler plate was removed and an inferior one was bolted into place. Loaded down with passengers, the Sultana began her journey up the Mississippi on April 24. On April 27, at two o'clock in the morning, three of her boilers exploded in succession. The ship sank killing some 1,700 people - the worst maritime disaster in American history. Hatch resigned shortly after the disaster and, until his death in 1871, ignored several subpoenas from the U.S. Army.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    December, 2014
    12th Friday
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