Lincoln’s letter to Grant: ‘You were right, and I was wrong’

This letter from President Lincoln to Major General Ulysses Grant in July 1863 might be the last documented instance of a president apologizing for anything:

My dear General

I do not remember that you and I ever met personally. I write this now as a grateful acknowledgment for the almost inestimable service you have done the country. I wish to say a word further. When you first reached the vicinity of Vicksburg, I thought you should do, what you finally did — march the troops across the neck, run the batteries with the transports, and thus go below; and I never had any faith, except a general hope that you knew better than I, that the Yazoo Pass expedition, and the like, could succeed. When you got below, and took Port-Gibson, Grand Gulf, and vicinity, I thought you should go down the river and join Gen. Banks; and when you turned Northward East of the Big Black, I feared it was a mistake. I now wish to make the personal acknowledgment that you were right, and I was wrong.

Yours very truly

A. Lincoln

After reading Edmund Morris’s trilogy on the life of Theodore Roosevelt I made TR my new favorite president, but I think I have to revert back to Lincoln.

h/t Michael Wade

2 responses to “Lincoln’s letter to Grant: ‘You were right, and I was wrong’”

  1. Lincoln was certainly an expert communicator. While on the subject of Civil War correspondence, I submit to you a contender for best letter ever: Sherman’s letter to the mayor of Atlanta. In the attached scan from my American Literature course (a favorite subject of mine until the Common Core ate it), please find the mayor’s plea for avoiding the destruction coming his way and Sherman’s eloquent yet straight reply. Now that’s good writing!

    1. I understand why southerners loathe Sherman, but as a born and bred Yankee I love the guy! People don’t write like that anymore.