Just before the Army of the Potomac set out for what would be the Mine Run campaign in late November 1863, word reached the men of the Union victory at Chattanooga. Between Nov. 23-25, the Federal armies of the Tennessee and the Cumberland, under the overall command of Ulysses S. Grant, swept the Confederate Army of Tennessee from its besieging position around the city. “That’s good news to march on,” proclaimed a member of the Army of the Potomac’s 39th Massachusetts.
Weeks passed before Army of the Potomac commander George Gordon Meade—who ended up stymied in his own campaign—found opportunity to express his thoughts about his Western counterpart’s success. He shared his views in a Dec. 20 letter to his wife:
You ask me about Grant. It is difficult for me to reply. I knew him as a young man in the Mexican war, at which time he was considered a clever young officer, but nothing extraordinary. He was compelled to resign some years before the present war, owning to his irregular habits.
I think his great characteristic is indomitable energy and great tenacity of purpose. He certainly has been very successful, and that is nowadays the measure of reputation. The enemy, however, have never had in any of their Western armies either the generals or the troops they have had in Virginia, nor has the country been so favorable for them there as here. Grant has undoubtedly shown very superior abilities, and is I think justly entitled to all the honors they propose to bestow upon him.