University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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John McClernand Letter (Digitized Content)

The digitized content of the John McClernand letter consists of one printed letter from Camp Cairo, Illinois, to Ulysses S. Grant, dated November 12, 1861. An unknown author added a handwritten note at the bottom of the last page.

John A. McClernand (1812-1900) was a Democratic politician from Shawneetown, Illinois. He served with Abraham Lincoln in the Illinois General Assembly in the 1830s and was eventually elected to the United States House of Representatives. In 1861, McClernand accepted a commission as brigadier general of Volunteers for service in the Civil War. Many of his contemporaries, including General Ulysses S. Grant, found McClernand incompetent in the field. Grant was McClernand's commanding officer during the Battle of Belmont in southeast Missouri, which was a Union loss. Grant relieved McClernand from his military duties in 1863, after McClernand gave a report to the press without approval. After dismissal, he continued his political career in Illinois and served as district judge of the Sangamon District.

The digitized content consists of a printed letter from John A. McClernand to Ulysses S. Grant, dated November 12, 1861, five days after the Battle of Belmont in southeast Missouri. McClernand described the events of the battle in detail, praising the efforts made by soldiers under his command and by Grant himself. He also recounted many deaths following the Battle of Belmont, including Polish American aide-de-camp Captain Alexander Bielaski. Below McClernand's printed signature is a handwritten note from an unknown author, who recounted how many times McClernand mentioned himself in the letter.

The Illinois History and Lincoln Collections unit at the University of Illinois Library manages the physical items of the John McClernand Letter on the Battle of Belmont from Cairo, Illinois, 1861 (MS 1100). The collection was completely digitized in 2022. For more information, contact an archivist at