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THE LAST YEAR
HE necessity of a change in the chief direction of the armies of the United States had, for a considerable ti time, been apparent both to the officers and soldiers of the army, and to the people of the country. The brilliant and most important successes of General Grant in Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia, which were due to his military genius and his admirable persis'tence, pointed him out as the man best fitted for command. But General Grant had but just been appointed to the regular army, and the jealousies of rank were to be avoided, if possible. Congress composed whatever difficulty might thus arise, by passing a bill to revive the full grade of Lieutenant General, the brevet of which had already been conferred upon General Scott. The President approved the bill on the 29th of February, 1864. The act provided that the person to fill the position should be selected from among those officers in the military service of the United States not below the grade of Major General, most distinguished for courage, skill and ability." "Being commissioned as Lieutenant General," he was to be
*Major General, July 4, 1863.
thorized, under the direction and during the pleasure of the President, to command the armies of the United States." The President immediately appointed General Grant to fill the honorable post, and on the 2d of March the appointment was confirmed and the commission issued. General Grant was summoned to Washington, and on the 9th the President, in the presence of the Cabinet and several distinguished personages, formally gave into the hands of the successful officer the commission which he had so bravely won. The wishes of the country and of the army had become so unmistakable, that General Halleck went through the formality of requesting to be relieved. On the 12th, General Grant was assigned to the "command of the armies of the United States," and on the 17th, he assumed the command, in General Orders. Headquarters were to be in the field and with the Army of the Potomac. Order, vigor, a settled purpose and plan at once took the place of the feeble and unstable policy which had characterized the previous administration of military affairs.
The discussion of this and other similar questions in Congress and among the people had directed the public attention to the necessity of vigorous measures. It was determined to fill the depleted corps of the different armies to their maximum number. Great exertions were made during the winter of 1863-64 to place the entire army upon a basis of enduring strength, and to give to it such efficiency as would make the approaching campaign the great and final campaign of the war. With an effective army and able officers, the nation indulged the hope of complete success. The victories of the past were full of promise for the future. If the army was put into the field at the proper time, with proper materiel and a sufficient number of men, the result would be a glorious triumph. General Sherman was to conduct operations in the West, and his great march was already projected in the mind of General Grant. The Army of the Potomac was to fight over its old ground for its long desired object. General Grant was determined to crush the strength of the rebellion by the utter defeat
of the rebel Army of Northern Virginia. General Lee was to share the fate of Generals Buckner, Pemberton and Bragg. On what field was the Ninth Corps to win fresh laurels? The answer to that question was not long left in doubt.
On the 7th of January, General Burnside was again assigned to duty as commander of the Ninth Corps. His special task was to "recruit and fill up the old regiments" of the Corps, and to increase its strength to the number of "fifty thousand men for such service as the War Department" might "specially designate." The field of this duty was in the New England States, New York, Michigan and Pennsylvania, so far as the regiments from those States already in the Corps were concerned. Old regiments were first to be increased at least to their minimum strength, after which new regiments were to be raised. The details of the work required frequent conferences with the Governors of the above named States, and General Burnside soon found himself very busily engaged in travel and labor. The task of recruiting, though in competition with other favorite corps, was carried forward with great activity and commendable success.
During the months of January, February and March, General Burnside was constantly employed in gathering recruits and in organizing them into their proper commands. The Governors of the different States gave their full cooperation, and wherever he went, the people greeted him with enthusiasm and cordiality. In some instances, the Legislatures of the States which he visited were in session, and public receptions were tendered him with every expression of respectful and even affectionate interest. Massachusetts, always forward to recognize the worth of faithful public service, and Maine, always loyal to the defenders of the Republic, gave him a public welcome which was peculiarly gratifying to his feelings. The Ninth Corps had thus the promise of a substantial support and reënforcement. In addition to the white troops that were to be raised, it was decided-in consonance with General Burnside's recommendation-to annex to the Corps a sufficient number of